Aviation & Brexit 82

So, what happened on Sunday when the #EUelections2019 result became public?  Professor Sir John Curtice[1] sums it up for me:  “Far from providing a clear verdict, the result simply underlined how difficult it is likely to be to find any outcome to the Brexit process that satisfies a clear majority of voters.”  Yes, last week most British voters backed political parties that support staying in the European Union (EU) but that’s not enough to bring the whole process to a conclusion.  Now, as Brexit, and the disruption of Brexit get caught in an infinite loop, we must remember that the rest of the world continues to advance with every other matter of interest.   For example, the competitiveness of the aviation industry depends upon having common agreed rules.   Developing and implementing those rules is the way we build the future.

Big on my aviation news last week was the adoption of legislation on Drones in Europe[2].  One of outputs in the European Commission’s Aviation Strategy for Europe is the technical requirements for Drones.  These new rules apply to both professionals and those flying Drones for leisure in the EU Member States[3].  By 2020, Drone operators will need to be registered with national authorities.  That will be simple for mass-produced Drones and proportionally more detailed for larger Drones.

Currently, the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is running a consultation on a proposed charge for a new drone registration scheme that it is intended will become UK law at the end of November 2019.  The EU rules will replace existing national rules in EU Member States, but in a “No-Deal” post-Brexit UK the national rules will continue to be applicable.   I expect these rules to, for the most part, remain similar in their aims and objectives but there’s no doubt they are set in a different context and use different legal language.  Next, the European Commission and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) will publish further guidelines.  It will be thought-provoking if those operating guidelines are not adopted by the UK.

In fact, the UK will be under pressure to adopt the rules on Drones.  Mainly because any Drone operators that has their principal place of business, are established, or reside in a Third Country, will need to apply the EU Regulations if they wish to operate within the Single European Sky airspace.

The US FAA is serious about the business of Drones.  A major conference is coming up and the aganda includes EASA.  This is a postive message for US- EU cooperation.  The successful certification and implementation of what’s being called “urban air mobility” is going to need a great deal of international working.

Key to operating safely and making a commercial success of a business using Drones will be having products and processes that can operate in a wide spectrum of environments and interoperate with others.   Innovators across Europe will be looking use Drones for more and more applications as the technology develops.  In time complex drone operations with a high degree of automation may become as day-to-day as mobile phones are to our lives.   Now, the EU has achieved this initial aviation milestone where we go next is up to the imagination.

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Curtice

[2] European Commission adopted EU rules (Implementing Act Drones & Annex to Implementing Act Drones) to ensure increasing Drone traffic across Europe is safe and secure for people on the ground and in the air.

[3] https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/initiatives/2018drones_en

Aviation & Brexit 81

It’s about a month ago since I last wrote.  This has been a busy month.  European Parliamentary elections took place on Thursday in the UK.  The results of those elections will not be known until late on Sunday.  A long process of local and regional counting will take up most of Sunday.  What it will mean in the UK is still unclear but at least these were real votes in real ballot boxes.   The outcome of which should be a sound indication of the current public mood.

The UK is now in the position where if it ratifies the existing EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement (WA) before 31 October 2019, an EU withdrawal will take place on the first day of the month following the completion of the ratification procedures.  However, there are no signs that national ratification is on the cards.  The UK’s two largest political parties have given-up on negotiations to come to a compromise on Brexit.  This should be no surprise since a deal between the Conservatives and Labour would still have to pass the through a grid-locked House of Commons (HoC).  A compromise involving the UK staying in a Customs Union (CU) is more than the hard core Brexit supporting Conservatives can accept.  Now, as if the above wasn’t enough, the UK’s Prime Minister is stepping down.  A starting gun has been fired on a that leadership race and it’s unlikely to be helpful to any potential political compromise.

The Brexit stasis continues to have a pressing and disruptive impact on the aviation and travel industries.  Recently, the travel firm Thomas Cook reported a £1.5bn loss for the first half of the year[1].  Behind this were several factors but one of the bigger ones was potential customers putting off their summer holiday plans.

With Brexit delayed until later this year, the UK is exporting people.  Now record numbers are applying for Irish passports[2] and that may give a boost to aviation in Ireland.  As an indicator, I’ve had a conversation with a person prepared to relocate his businesses if Brexit remains unresolved.

In the technical regulation arena, the objective would seem to be to maintain as much continuity as possible[3].   Our international rules-based system assumes that Countries will work together to improve conductivity.   But the situation remains fluid between the UK and EU, and there are still big questions to answer before we reach 1 November 2019.

The power-play going on between US and China is not a good background in which to continue with the uncertainty of Brexit.   The UK should be defending multilateralism in this situation.  A choice needs to be made since the UK’s aviation future need not shift from an influential rule-maker into a rule-taker.  In this region, retaining membership of EU Agencies, like EASA remains a viable option.

Brexit is now in a go / no-go position.  I’m more of the opinion that the project must be terminated and quickly.  Even if it is not, close alignment with the EU still has major benefits.   Is there the political vision in the UK to steer Brexit to a conclusion?  It’s going to be well into July 2019 before we even have a hint as to the answer to that question.   3-years since the UK referendum and its only uncertainty that is certain.

[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-48292318

[2] https://www.irishpost.com/news/how-to-get-irish-passport-166453

[3] https://ebace.aero/2019/news/latest-news/ebace2019-session-looks-at-impending-brexit/