Rules, Rules, Rules

IMG_3794Let’s unbox this rule-taker verses rule-maker dichotomy.  For one it’s NOT a binary choice.  In so far as international aviation safety rule making is concerned I have seen small, well informed organisations have a major impact of new rules and large powerful Countries asleep at the wheel.

It’s an illusion to assume that rulemaking process and procedures are static.  However, this is where political machinations have a significant impact.  It may or may not be the case that the parties to rulemaking fully understand the technical issues under consideration, but it’s nearly always the case that everyone has a view on the process and procedures.

I’ve sat in high-level meetings and listened to most ridiculous things being said about important technical issues and realised the room is divided between those who knew what’s going on and those who didn’t have a clue.   So, its not surprising that the default is that people often focus on process and procedures rather than issues.  Perhaps that’s where Brexit has gone off the rails.

Consensus based rulemaking moves slowly often to the frustration of all involved.  I could say; if you are going to make a thick glue, that binds, it takes a lot of mixing.  Outcomes generally succeed or fail not only subject to the good-will of the participants but based on the hard work and quality of both leadership and secretariat.  Perhaps that’s where Brexit has gone off the rails.

In fact, a secretariat can have the greatest soft power regardless of the disposition of votes amongst the membership of a group.  The great art and skill of finding a set of words that captures the essence of a proposal, standard or report is much underestimated.

Despite having written what I have above, it remains better to have a vote than not to have a vote.  Even if the UK continues to be able in its exercise of soft power its difficult to be convinced that long-term best interests are served by becoming a rule-taker.  International rules are made by Countries working together.  The bigger the coalition you have on your side the better.  Europe working together has much more weight than a fragmented approach from individual Countries.  Considering Mr Trump’s “divide et impera[1]” world view it would be wise to have close working partners.

Today, Britain has set a course for a soft Brexit.  In the short-term that can work.  Over the horizon, its large regional trading blocks that will dominate.  Please EU Member States, throw the UK Government a life-line.  If instability continues, a real chance of another General Election or even a referendum on the deal exists.  That may be needed but its sure going to be a rocky ride.

[1] Divide and rule (or divide and conquer)

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