Brexit & Aviation 59

I’d like to congratulate the UK Civil Servants who have been set an impossible task.  The stream of publications for UK nationals living in the European Union (EU), the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland if the UK leaves the EU without a deal on 29 March is impressive.  Basically, they say the UK Government continues to negotiate Brexit even if that’s one sided.  There’s a dose of reality in some of the statements, like: “The rules for travel to most countries in Europe will change if the UK leaves the EU with no deal.”  There’s always a disclaimer asking the reader to note that the information provided is a guide only.   There’s also a reassuring note that; in the event of changes to rules or processes after 29 March 2019, the UK Government will update this page as soon as information is available.

Now, there’s 57 days remaining on the clock.  Informed analysis says that there’s no time left to be able to paper over all the cracks that will appear on Brexit day[1].  UK MP’s are talking about putting in extra hours.  Nevertheless, it would be extraordinary if all the topics that needed to be covered were covered in such a short time[2].  There’s also UK MPs talking of “a technical extension” of Article 50, if a new deal can’t be legislated for in time.  Nothing is fixed.

So, the reality is that we have one of the world’s mature democracies, influential States with a long history is heading into an abyss.  Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plans have been chaotic and dysfunctional from day one.  But there’s been plenty of time to make mistakes, learn from them and then put it right.  Unfortunately, this has not been done, held back by political arrogance.

In the aviation industry one of the great successes over decades has been the ability to make mistakes, learn from them and then put it right.  It’s one the reasons that flying is as safe as it is across the globe.  A culture where people can honestly admit to error and sit down with their colleagues to fix problems is an advanced one.  In the long-term, this approach works to the benefit of everyone concerned.  In aviation, those who are looking for partnerships and business opportunities value stability, a level playing field and the rule of law.

Back in 2016, some campaigners said – not a single job – would be lost due to Brexit.  That statement, and many like it, now appear extremely foolish and dishonest.  To date, the UK’s referendum has delivered nothing to the advantage of UK citizens.  In a graphic illustration of how strangely ridiculous the situation has become, this TV clip from the BBC’s News at Six showing archive footage of Second World War aircraft, joke or not, is in bad taste to say the least[3].





Brexit & Aviation 58

I must confess that I never thought that the situation would become as bad.  To a limited extent, it hasn’t yet got that far – yet.  Some have taken the view that a No Deal Brexit is off the table and exits only as a scary story to push discussions forward.  The problem is that this view is optimistic when considering the performance of the negotiating parties over the last couple of years.

The cold facts are that preparations for a No Deal Brexit outcome are being stepped-up.  Radical Leave supporters are celebrating the prospect of a No Deal Brexit.  This is done without any consideration of the consequences of such an irresponsible approach.

After the failed vote of this week we now have an elaborate lobbying exercise going on, but I don’t see compromise coming out of any cross-Party talks in Westminster.   It’s highly probably that the UK will be a “third country” without any extant arrangements or deals from 30 March 2019, 00:00h (CET).  With 70 days to go this is a tragic situation.

There’s an opportunity on this coming Monday for the UK Prime Minister to turn this around.  But it would mean removing “red lines” that have so constrained discussions.

In the airworthiness world the impact of a No Deal Brexit is being spelt out[1].  There’s no precedent for this situation.

EASA certificate for products, parts and appliances issued to holders in the UK will no longer be considered as certified in accordance with EU rules.

Certificates issued, before the withdrawal date by the UK CAA, in accordance with EU rules will no longer be valid.  Over night, UK engineers would lose the right to sign off EU aircraft.

There’s more that impacts aircraft operations.   I imagine this will prompt a stream of people and organisations contacting EASA to find out what can be done.  None of this work is productive.  None of this work will enhance aviation safety.  None of it would be needed if a comprehensive agreement is forged or Brexit is abandoned.



Brexit & Aviation 57

It’s reported that the Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce said: “There are no more words to describe the frustration, impatience, and growing anger amongst business after two and a half years on a high-stakes political rollercoaster ride that shows no sign of stopping.[1]

I’m sure that those words would be echoed by a great number of people in the aviation sector.

A defeat of 230 votes is massive.  MPs have rejected the Prime Minister’s proposals by the biggest UK Government defeat in modern history.  That ought to be a signal to change direction but we have yet to see if a new approach will be forthcoming.

Beyond the political hoo-ha there’s the need to act.  A great deal of implementing legislation needs to be passed through the UK Parliament, whatever the destination.  Naturally, this is needed if the Article 50 letter is not withdrawn and the whole Brexit process stopped.

The European Union (EU) continues to flourish despite having faced innumerable hard problems thrown at it over many decades.  This is not Greenland[2], this is a large and prosperous Country giving up its membership of the EU.  Thus, the avoidance of the loose-loose scenario, of a No Deal Brexit should be at the top of everyone’s priority list.  Meanwhile large sums of money, that could have been used growing European businesses are being pumped into contingencies.

If this Withdraw Agreement (WA) is not acceptable as it stands then it may return as WA2 but don’t expect that to be substantially different from what’s already on the table.  Alternatively, there could be public vote to consider the options.

The e-mail subscriptions to “SkyWise[3]” is useful to stay up-to-date with news, safety alerts, consultations, rule changes and airspace amendments from the UK CAA.  The site has a section for EU exit alerts.

There is useful material out there, but it indicates a poor state of readiness given all the caveats and unknowns that exist.  Just as business leaders are warning, the UK is like a super-tanker heading for the rocks.   72 days isn’t long to put that right.






Brexit & Aviation 56

On the 23 June 2016, the United Kingdom (UK) voted in an advisory referendum to leave the European Union (EU).  74 days to go before the date scheduled for Brexit and the Country is still vacillating.

As time ticks away its not a bad idea to have an eye on priorities.  If there’s some issues that rank above others in importance.  This is recognised throughout aviation.   It’s the way we construct an Aircraft Flight Manual (AFM).  Top of the list in an AFM are the Emergency Procedures.  It seems to me that we need a set of Brexit Emergency Procedures.  The future relationship between the UK and EU remains unclear and may do so for a long time.  That said, I’m not alone in considering what might happen in the different scenarios that can come into play[1][2].

Having made this proposition what would be in such a set of procedures?  Here’s a non-exclusive list of major topics that can not be left to chance.

  • Air Services Agreements
  • Safety Regulation
  • Security Management
  • Air Traffic Management
  • Environment

Today, civil aviation is regulated at European level.  All 5 of these subjects have been addressed in recent advisory publications at both national and European level.  However, it is still up to individual aviation stakeholders how and when they react.  There are no new directives that mandate a course of action for air transport services, even the essential ones.

If chaos does ensue on the effective withdrawal as of midnight (00h00) on 30 March 2019, then it will not be easy to understand where blame should rest.  The resolution of problems will need a forum to coordinate fixes too.  That is the unfortunate nature of the current situation.

Aviation is a dynamic part of the UK, contributing £52 billion to UK gross domestic product (GDP) and supporting close to one million jobs[3].   To be where we are now, with only 74 days to go is highly disadvantageous, to say the least.







Brexit & Aviation 55

This week, I flew EasyJet mid-week from Bristol to Glasgow and back.  On the flight back, I noticed that the AIRBUS aircraft we flew on was registered in Austria.  It must be one of the 130 aircraft listed as registered to easyJet Europe Airline GmbH[1].  Now, there’s no single EU aircraft registry but this is an aircraft that is registered in an EU Member State.

The trip got me thinking that such a flight may not be possible after Brexit day in March.  This was an internal flight within the UK (England to Scotland).  In the event of a No-Deal Brexit, the EU has made it clear that UK registered aircraft will not be authorised to make internal flights within the EU.  I presume that the reciprocal will be true.  Otherwise the UK will be giving away rights that it can not excercise in the EU.  Thus, no EU Member State registered aircraft will be authorised to make internal flights within the UK.

I also got to thinking; what will Scotland do in the longer term?  It’s highly likley that the Scotish nation will want to retain the benifits of EU membership.

On Tuesday next, the UK Parliament should be holding a meaningful vote on Prime Minister (PM) Theresa May’s EU withdrawal agreement.  There’s much speculation that British Members of Parliament (MPs) are positioning themselves for the vote to be lost by a large margin.  So, Tuesday, 15 January 2019 could go down in history as a momentous day for British politics.  The reason is clear.  The UK Government has put all its eggs in one basket.  In a crude attempt to apply pressure to MPs, this is seen by many as a Deal or No-Deal situation.  As the clock ticks, MPs voting down the Deal on the table, which may well be amended, is increasing the chance of a No-Deal Brexit.  There’s some strange talk of a “managed” No-Deal but, in fact, there’s no such thing on offer.   The real choice is a mess of a Brexit or No Brexit at all.

Again, the aviation industry[2] is making it clear that such a No-Deal Brexit outcome would be disastrous.  Several UK businesses are already kicking-in their No-Deal contingency plans.  This could mean a great deal of business moving out of the UK and into the EU.  The lost opportunity costs associated with all this muddle and uncertainty must be huge.  Stability is worth a great deal to investors and those who are building businesses across Europe.  Additionally we must remember that the UK maybe leaving the EU, but it is not leaving Europe nor can it.

The benefits of staying in the EU’s Internal Market for Aviation[3] are extremely clear.   It is my hope that a No-Brexit outcome is arrived at.  Parliament will need to explore all the options.  This would certainly be best for travellers, aviators and the industry that supports them in the whole of Europe and beyond.





Brexit & Aviation 54

In these Blogs I’ve been writing about the UK’s exit from the European Union (EU) and its impact on most aspects of civil aviation.  The way we (UK) are heading now, on 29th March 2019 at midnight CET (23h00 UK time) the UK will leave the EU regardless of the situation pertaining at the time.

Fortunately, even in the so called: “No Deal” situation the European Commission (EC) has a Contingency Action Plan[1] and says that UK airlines will be able to operate flights between the UK and the EU under certain conditions.   The UK has offered similar pledges for EU airlines and that should ensure the continuation of flights to and from the UK[2].

So, what might a typical traveller need to do on the day after Brexit?  Here’s a few things to think about if you are travelling to the EU after 29 March 2019:

Check the date when your passport expires. The UK recommends that you have 6-months left on your passport on the date of arrival in an EU Member State.

In the event of a No Deal Brexit:

  • A UK registered European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will no longer be valid. Check your travel insurance as it will need to be valid to access medical care when you are travelling in the EU;
  • A UK traveller wishing to drive in the EU will need to apply for the relevant International Driving Permit in addition to having a full UK driving licence and
  • A UK traveller driving their own vehicle within the EU will be required to obtain and carry a physical Green Card for your UK car insurance to be valid in the EU.

It’s as well to have some financial reserves too.  Since the EU’s internal market for aviation was born there has been a revolution in European air travel.  Flight now costs are around 16 times less than they did in 1992.  If the UK is no longer a full member of that internal market prices will rise.

If your banking provider makes any changes to your UK accounts or credit cards you will need to know.  The expectation is that basic banking services will continue to be widely avaiable.  At the same time just about all Terms and Conditions will change.

There’s little good news to start the New Year.  Without a formal Withdrawal Agreement (WA) accepted by all, there will be no transitional period providing legal certainly, during which a new relationship with the EU can be negotiated.  I am sure, travel will not stop but the inevitability of additional costs for industry will certainly be passed on to the UK traveller.

Just as in that great hippy song “Big Yellow Taxi”, we will all be singing: “Hey now, now. Don’t it always seem to go. That you don’t know what you got. Til its gone.”

Technically, it would be difficult but not impossible to extend the Article 50 period for longer than an additional 3-month period, to 2 July 2019.  Don’t bet on it happening.




Crashing Britain

Listening to the renewal of Brexit hostilities there’s one side of the argument upping the anti and the other desperately downplaying.  Ture enough, those of us who have retained out sanity know that they can’t both be right.  A New Year has not brought new wisdom.

In general, the deep trenches of “bias” take a lot of effort to climb out of.  And that’s not just bias on one side or the other, that’s the general phenomena of bias.

As humans, here’s what we do.  In the first case there’s optimism bias.  I often see this in the write-ups of aviation accidents and incidents.

Generally, people overestimate their chances.  It’s often advantageous in that such an approach can make us work harder and see goals as achievable, come what may.  I know not everyone can be above average but who admits to being average?  Brexiters who say: No Deal – No Problem have this in buckets and spades.  Excessive optimism bias is a way to crash and it’s certainly not good if you are a compulsive gambler.

Next on the list is confirmation bias.  Our amazing human capacity to imagine what might happen next is a huge asset.  Unfortunately, there’s a tendency to establish a theory and then find facts, real of imaginary, to confirm that theory.  This is a major danger.  To avoid a crash, it’s often good to have a theory but then retain the willingness to question it.  When time is pressing it may not be so easy to question but question is best.  And if changed or new facts say do something different don’t throw them away for a matter of pride.

The next one is a thinking bias called the Dunning–Kruger effect.  This is not a popular one to talk about.  It’s when people to fail to recognise their own lack of ability.   Numerous general aviation accidents and incidents have this one at the root.  When tested competent students often underestimated their class rank, and the incompetent students overestimated theirs.

I might like to think that I could win an argument with the great statesmen and stateswomen of history, and point out the flaws in their thinking but in truth – No.  Well, my success rate would be low.  Radio talk shows feed on this effect by pitching callers against a well-seasoned politician.  It maybe entertaining but it does help to illuminate a problem.

How to stay safe?  Take an inventory of my own biases.  What sources do I use to come to a view?  Do I understand how my biases formed my view? Yes, that’s the one I speak out on.

Can we all do this and step back from the Brexit crash?  I don’t know.