I wrote the first of my Brexit & Aviation series a year ago. Now, this is the 70th one. A year ago, there did seem to be some form of honest negotiations going on. Commentary often considered and reasoned over the pros and cons of different approaches to Brexit. When I said: “Brexit is going to complicate aviation in Europe.” I didn’t realise the level of understatement those words entailed. Complexity is one aspect of the problem. It’s the confusion of not having a sense of direction that doubles the troubles. It’s the legs that fake news strories get that is concerning.
“It has been quite shocking to get so far in the political process without having any real clarity about the future. That can’t be positive for the economy.” That’s not my writting but that’s the words of Willie Walsh Chief Executive Officer IAG in their Annual Report.
Last year, the possibility that the UK would retain membership of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) was real. Now, bit-by-bit this possibility is waning as a predominantly anti-European tone has been set by the current UK Government. The implications of Third Country status are being played out as preparations continue for a No-Deal Brexit outcome. Industry is taking measures, and planning more, to insulate itself from the hard-line taken by Conservative politicians. Large costs are being incurred and it isn’t going to be long before those cost get passed on to the paying passenger. Although strangely there are some bargains offered for flights and holiday packages because prices factor in an incentive to overcome the caution and level of uncertainty people feel.
A year ago, I did say: “There’s a chance of reaching Brexit day with no clear vision of the future”. My crystal ball must have been working overtime that day. Lawmakers are not doing their job. In normal times there’s a rigorous sequence that is followed that tests legislation before it hits the statute book. The extream brinkmanship of the last year leaves the UK with a huge to-do-list and no time to practically test new legislation before it’s enforced.
There was an expectation that Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreements (BASAs) would be signed between the UK and others. This would be used to detail the cooperation between the UK and others, including any mutual acceptance of certificates. Unless I am mistaken, there isn’t much signed between anyone at this moment time.
A great deal of the difficulties that the UK faces are associated with the “red lines” that have been the policy for the UK Government. These have tied the hands of all those involved in negotiations to such an extent that an impasse was inevitable. UK Brexit advocates dismissed talk of duplication of activities and costs with no tangible benefits. Nevertheless, that is the position the UK finds itself in.
Next week, if an Agreement is accepted the UK will have until 31 December 2020 to solve the thorny issues of international aviation. During that time that UK will have many of the obligations of an EU Member State but no so many rights. If an Agreement is not accepted then it’s back to the drawing board – again! The prospect that Brexit will fail is becoming real. Maybe that’s why the £ has gained value.
I think, the UK House of Commons is likly to reject Prime Minister May’s Deal next Tuesday. Then on Wednesday it’s likly to reject a No-Deal outcome to Brexit. An impass in the UK Parliament should then trigger a return to the people of Britain. With so little time remaining on the clock an extended Article 50 period seems certain. If I’m wrong in these predictions then I’m still no worse a sage than UK Ministers and MPs in Parliament if the recent International Trade Committee is anything to go by.