Brexit and Aviation 51

On Friday last, we sat on the ground in Duesseldorf.  Having boarded BA945 ahead of time, we sat waiting for the instruction to go.  We sat on the ground for an hour given the high winds that battered London Heathrow.  That was our intended destination.  As a passenger, this was frustrating, but I know it’s a safe way of managing the large volumes of European air traffic.

Without a doubt, Brexit or no Brexit we have a far from perfect air transport systems in Europe.  Capacity is limited by the dated infrastructure we have in place.   Safety is assured by managing the system as a cooperative effort.  London Heathrow is a challenge given that such large numbers of international aircraft movements take place at a two-runway hub airport.

Since 2011, the European Union has had a Network Manager[1].  This is what was previously called the Central Flow Management Unit (CFMU) based at EUROCONTROL[2] in Brussels.  The Network Manager Operations Centre is a vital part of Europe’s Air Traffic Management (ATM) system.  If you want to peek at what’s happening there’s a public portal showing the current state of the system[3].

In some respects, Summer 2018 pushed the European aviation system to its limits and Summer 2019 promises to present even more challenges.  I cannot conceive of any situation where European ATM will not be of interest to the UK.  Indeed, there’s no indication of the withdrawal of the UK from EUROCONTROL.  Nice as this might sound, Brexit is going to have the impact of pulling the UK out of the major decision-making that that takes place within Europe.

Today, EU regulations determine operations, safety regulation and performance monitoring.  If Brexit goes ahead, the UK will no longer have a leading influence over these EU regulations.  People are starting to plan for how to manage the Summer of 2019.  You might want to think seriously about your holiday choices next year.  We all know what its like to be stranded at airports living out long delays.

News has come in on a matter of great interest about the almost mythical Article 50.  The European Court (ECJ) has sided with petitioners both *against* the European Council/Commission and *against* the UK government.  The UK is free to unilaterally revoke the notification of its intention to withdraw from the EU – Case C-621/18 Wightman #Brexit[4].

This does open an option to the UK.  With such deadlock amongst the politicians and a big campaign to bring about a #PeoplesVote that would seem the wise course of action to take.

[1] COMMISSION REGULATION (EU) No 677/2011 of 7 July 2011 laying down detailed rules for the implementation of air traffic management (ATM) network functions and amending Regulation (EU) No 691/2010.

[2] The European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation (EUROCONTROL)





Brexit and Aviation 50

Just back from 4-days in Cologne.  It’s one of the best times of the year to be in the city.  The Christmas Markets are in full swing.  As we flew out of Heathrow the debate on the UK Parliamentary vote was running on.  As we flew back into Heathrow the same debate was going on with the same predicable ups and downs.  It’s a wonder that anything new can be found to be said.  Like a special industry to keep the media on its toes maybe perpetual motion isn’t an impossibility.

There will be a rally in London on Parliament Square this coming Tuesday, 11th to coincide with the Brexit vote.  The signs are that the vote will be lost.  Mrs May’s deal will fall.  From that moment on all becomes unpredictable although there are many who would tell you they know what will happen.

To concentrate minds 29 March gets ever nearer.  Action to rescind Article 50 could happen but who would make it happen?  A cliff edge Brexit, without a deal could happen but who would allow it?  Both the Economist and the Times leaders back a People’s Vote.  With the UK Parliament completely deadlocked the best option would be to put the question back to the people.

The Brexit Monopoly Board is full of traps.  Every shake of the dice is a risky manoeuvre.   There’s no get out of jail free card.   Yes, the cards can change your fortune, but a lot of luck is needed.

My observations from having a few days in Cologne are again full of mixed messages.  On the one hand, the almighty wheels of business as usual continue to turn.  On the other hand, signs of disaffection and disconnection are slowly growing.   Numerous Brits I’ve worked with over the years now have more than one passport.  A few are planning to return to the UK.   Most have given-up on hoping the whole Brexit fiasco will go away.

Domestic British obsessions do catch the news in Germany.  Like a Shakespearean tragedy unfolding in slow time but much as a Carnival side show unrelated to real events.  Yes, we all need each other in Europe but not so much as to total indulge one group or another.

Friday was International Civil Aviation Day.  Connecting people across the global.  Helping people move freely is one way to make a better world.  Aviation is a great example of successful human cooperation and effective global partnership.   The UK is home to many aerospace companies and leading research organisations.  The UK needs a place in Europe and a place in the world NOT one or the other.   A vague political declaration is no substitute for the Membership of the EU we (UK) has now.

I wonder what next Tuesday will bring for the UK?

If you are looking for light relief from the unending speculation and continuous news cycle, listen to the Dead Ringers Christmas Special on BBC Radio 4[1].


Brexit and Aviation 49

One of the challenges with stopping Brexit is the oil tanker effect.  The machinery of the UK Government has been pointed in one direction for a couple of years.  Grinding away, preparing the steps, being buffeted left and right but heading in one direction – towards 29 March 2019.

What this has meant has changed numerous times as the machinations of the Conservative Party have shaped policy.  The ludicrous snap General Election didn’t help one little bit.  It took a divided nation and made it a more divided nation.  So much for the Prime Minister’s judgement.  Here we are in December 2018, just about ready for another pivotal moment on the rocky road.

The latest UK Government Minister to resign is Sam Gyimah @SamGyimah.  He’s the MP for East Surrey and local to me.  He has declared he will vote against the Government’s EU Withdrawal Agreement.  Having resigned as the Universities, Science, Research and Innovation Minister it will be interesting to see what his next moves are.  His resignation statement is worth a read[1].

Gyimah’s reasoning starts with the negotiations over Galileo, the EU’s Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS).  Back in May this year, the UK Government stated its unwavering commitment to European security meaning it should be able to continue to fully participate in #Galileo now and in the future.  The reality has become that the UK Government pulled out of negotiations on this key subject.  A failure.

Building a uniquely UK GNSS will be expensive.  It will take 20 years and have a big annual cost to keep it working.  All for what?

Back to the oil tanker that needs turning around, or at least stopping before it hits the rocks.  This analogy has a lot of millage in it given that the Brexit result could look much like a giant oil spill.  Damaging to all involved.  Costing a fortune to clean-up.  Living in the memory for a long time.

About UK Statutory Instruments (SIs), the draft Aviation Safety (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 has been laid before the UK Parliament[2].  This SI uses powers in the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 to correct “deficiencies” in derived aviation safety legislation coming from the act of withdrawal.   The intention is here to ensure that the UK legal framework on aviation safety continues to function after the March exit day in the event of a No-Deal[3].  This is a lot of work coming from the UK Department of Transport.  To nationalise legislation, in many places the legal text is changed by ignoring: “at both Union level and national level”.

Gyimah is saying that post-Brexit: the UK will end up worse off, transformed from rule makers into rule takers.  I think he’s right.  It’s time to turn the oil tanker around.