It’s a good question to ask. Will cooperation, coordination and convergence end with Brexit?
An instant answer might spring to mind dependent upon your position with respect to Brexit. Rather let’s look at the subject in more depth. In my experience aviation safety regulation operates on 3-levels. Each level is essential even though, from time to time, one may think itself superior to another. Between the 3-levels there are dependencies.
- One is political. No surprise. Lawmakers are responsible for the high-level policy and the framework of law necessary to make regulation possible.
- Another level is administrative. As is often said: the devil is in the detail. Well crafted laws need to be drafted by creative people who know enough about both legislative and technical matters.
- Of my 3-levels, the last one I mention, but it could have been the first, is the technical Without technically competent expertise the whole enterprise can be built on sand.
So, when asking what could happen to cooperation, coordination and convergence, I must address all 3. There’s some freedom of movement but all the above need to comply with the standards set down internationally by ICAO.
In the event of a No Deal Brexit outcome the prospect of major disruption is real and should not be underestimated. To my 3-levels there will be a shock to the system. At the political level mutual trust will have to be re-established. At the administrative level new processes or procedures maybe put in place. At the technical level it’s less clear what new working arrangements may be needed.
Whatever happens with Brexit the laws of aerodynamics will not change. The factors that cause accidents will not change either. And airworthiness directives will continue to be issued.
Making a regulatory system work efficiently and effectively doesn’t happen overnight. Prolonged efforts must be applied and sustained. One or two big events can upset priorities very quickly.
Back to Brexit. Whatever those who sold the separation may have said, Brexit is sowing the seeds of disharmony. Once the decoupling of plans has started so the drivers for action change too.
No surprise but this is significant in respect of the UK. Historically, in the drafting of law and associated instruments (advice, guidance, notices and so on) there’s a tendency to reserve some arbitrary powers for those implementing the text. EU law tends to be structured in a hierarchical manner with high-level objectives at the top and considerable detail at the lower levels.
In the last 25 years of European aviation regulatory harmonisation these two approaches have been blended. When it works, people get the best of both worlds. Unfortunately, Brexit is a divergence that has lack of certainly at its heart. Several free marketers see a more arbitrary approach as a way of getting around the public interest whenever it suits them to do so. Thus, cooperation, coordination and convergence between the EU and UK may not end with a big bang but a slow drift.
 In the early 90s, for applicants for approval, the need to “satisfy” a UK CAA Surveyor in the interpretation of notices and requirements was often wide ranging.