No Mandate

There’s no mandate whatsoever for a No Deal Brexit[1].  None.  Having the false assertion out there, and so widespread that this is a great danger to our democracy.  Pushing forward with a policy based on a lie, that everyone can see is normally the preserve of dictatorships and communist regimes.

The new British Foreign Secretary Mr Raab has been speaking falsely.  The new UK Government has no mandate for a No Deal Brexit.  In fact, there would be no need to blame the European Union (EU), as Mr Raab has started to do if there was a true mandate for a No Deal Brexit.

Before the 2016 EU referendum, the lead Leave vote campaigners were saying that the UK would be mad to leave the European Single Market.  That European market that Britain had fought so hard to establish.  They were explicitly proposing a Norway-type deal and stating that getting such a deal would be quick and easy.  Leave vote campaigners sold Brexit on the basis that there was little risk as we held all the cards in any negotiations.   It doesn’t take long to survey the archives of British media from 2016 to understand just how far we have drifted from reality.  There’s an abundance of recorded evidence.  There’s no mandate for a No Deal Brexit.

If we move to the UK General Election of 2017, I don’t recall a No Deal Brexit being part of the last Conservative Party manifesto.  Yes, there was a commitment to negotiate a Brexit deal but not to give-up and walk away.

Now, I can hear a Brexiter saying but it’s the “default” position.  This word “default” is somehow used to justify what is in truth an active policy choice.  The UK Government has the power to stop a No Deal Brexit right up to the moment before it happens.  Unfortunately, at the moment, Johnson’s new Government does not have the will or the common sense to do so.

The lie that there is a mandate is likely to be sustained by the Johnson Government because it’s the only way they can justify “turbocharging” the preparation for No Deal Brexit planning.  Essentially that means throwing billions of taxpayers’ money at something they can’t define, and most people don’t want.

This morning the British Foreign Secretary told the big fib on BBC Radio 4.  It’s recorded and the rest of the world listening knows it’s a fib.  So, why would anyone take talk of any future negotiations seriously having heard his radio interview?

Also, let’s remember that the British Foreign Secretary who says the UK will do a No Deal Brexit on 31 October 2019 if the “undemocratic backstop” isn’t scrapped, is the same Mr Raab who was a Brexit Secretary.  Whatever happened to the The Ministerial Code?

Our sad state of affairs will leave us wandering in the wilderness for many years to come.  There’s an alternative.   Stop Brexit by a simple act of revoking Article 50[2].  Eat the humble pie and save Britain.  Action now.

[1] #NoDealBrexit

[2] #RevokeA50

Aviation & Brexit 90

Minister Michael Gove says the UK Government is “working on the assumption” that the United Kingdom (UK) will leave the European Union (EU) without a deal on Thursday, 31 October 2019.  A huge No-Deal Brexit public information campaign is on the way.  This doesn’t much change the facts on the ground, but it does put a bright red flag up to the whole Country and beyond.  There are denials that a UK General Election is on the way.  At the same time the new UK Government appears to be on an election footing.  Now, the architects of the Leave campaign in the 2016 referendum hold power in the UK.  It’s reasonable to ask; how on earth did we get to this point?

If you didn’t see the BBC documentary on the Brexit Crisis[1], I can thoroughly recommend it.  You can watch it on the BBC iPlayer.  It objectively tells the story of the Brexit negotiations, from behind the scenes on both sides.  The programme is not about aviation but that subject, just like 101 others is caught up in the incomprehensible political maelstrom that is Brexit.

As I write here, opinion polls give the new UK Government a slight bounce.  Those who say; “let’s just get it over with”, do seem to be getting a degree of support.  However, this feeling people may have, is very far from reality.  Those who think that a No Deal Brexit would at least be a way of moving on are wrong in every possible way.  It just means that after the 31 October there will be the beginning of a whole new round of painful negotiation and general frustration.

For a moment then I’ll assume the new British Prime Minister (PM) pushes through all the opposition to deliver a No Deal Brexit.  By any international measure this will be an indication of failure that other nations will observer and draw appropriate conclusions.  Putting aside domestic considerations, it’s irrelevant who may or may not be to blame for such an outcome.  It’s a failure.

In that international context; how long will it take for the UK and EU to come back to a close, cordial and stable relationship?  Initially, temporary measures, continuing uncertainty and periodic instability will undoubtedly prevail.  Using the past as an indicator, I will estimate at least a decade of competition, division and turmoil are likely.  That takes us up to 2030.

Certainly, by that time a great number of the people who voted to Leave the EU in 2016 will no longer be with us.  In fact, most people will have forgotten what all the fuss was about.  Much as few people can describe Suez, the humble pie and the bill[2].  But there will be humble pie and a bill.

If Brexit happens, in the coming decade, I am sure Scotland will become an independent nation.  The future of Ireland is less easy to predict.  The pound sterling will decline further as we sell more of the family silver.  UK’s ability to act on the global stage will be more dependent upon America.

This week, the new British PM talked of sunny uplands that would make Britain the best place in the world by 2050.   That’s an aspiration we can all share but the direction we are going in isn’t the one that will deliver success.   How long will it be before the new PM echoes one of his predecessors of 60 years ago and says: “You’ve never has it so good[3]”.

Personally, I hope I’m not writing these blogs in my 90s.  Still, you never know.

[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m0006wj2/panorama-britains-brexit-crisis

[2] 1959 and The Anglo-Egyptian agreement

[3] UK Prime Minister MacMillan in the 1960s

Aviation & Brexit 89

The ancient adage that: “when in a hole, stop digging”, did once have meaning in British politics.  No more.  The rate at which deep political holes are being dug exceeds decades of measurement.  As a strategy, knowing something to be a bad idea and continuing to do it should have a limited lifespan.  A difficult reckoning must come.  Well, that’s conventional thinking.  With Brexit conventional thinking goes way out of the window.

The 2-year period provided for by Article 50(3) of the Treaty on European Union (EU) has been extended until Thursday, 31 October 2019.  Including the summer holidays and that’s about 14 weeks away.   Can a new UK Prime Minister (PM) secure a Brexit deal and is there time to get it through the UK Parliament by 31 October 31?[1]   They’d have to be a miracle worker.  There’s little working time left. Little time for deal making and little time to legislate.  Given past performance, it’s feasible but it’s extremely unlikely.

The prospective new PM has said that his first task will be to launch a huge No-Deal Brexit public information campaign to help minimise possible disruption[2].   That certainly is going to be interesting in respect of air travel to and from the UK.   The question is out there; will the UK Government be generous in providing financial support to businesses adversely impacted by a No-Deal Brexit?

There’s no doubt that UK airlines will be able to fly to the EU provided EU companies are permitted to fly to the UK.  That’s the most basic international rules being applied.  That said, at the heart of this immense political severance is the impact on people.  Brexit will reduce European aviation employment opportunities for UK citizens[3].   However, it may create new domestic opportunities as the UK struggles to construct a credible regime to replace the European system[4].

If the UK is to make a full departure from the European system, it would require a period in which to sign special arrangements with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other global regulators.  This hasn’t happened – yet.

The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) will need to undertake a major investment and recruitment activity if it’s to take over necessary functions, and Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreements (BASAs) with all the mutual recognition agreements needed.  Such major changes from start to finish could take a decade to complete in the major global aviation markets.

I wonder what public information campaigns are going to do in the meantime.

[1] https://twitter.com/BBCParliament/status/1152256880246476800?s=20

[2] https://twitter.com/itvpeston/status/1151589697975492608?s=20

[3] https://blog.aviationjobsearch.com/what-does-a-no-deal-brexit-mean-for-aviation-employment-opportunities/

[4] https://www.prospect.org.uk/news/id/2018/July/6/CAA-must-prioritise-skills-pay-Brexit-plans

 

Aviation & Brexit 88

Tuesday, 23 July draws closer and the naming of a new UK Conservative Party leader and subsequently a new UK Prime Minister (PM).   It seems increasingly likely that the Conservative Party is going through the motions with only one outcome on the table: Mr Johnson gets selected and then pushes, in whatever ways possible, to get the UK to leave the European Union (EU) by Halloween this year.  Little, if anything is new as repetitious and shallow arguments get thrown around like confetti for the bride of Frankenstein.

In the early months of this year there was a flurry of detailed articles written about how aviation would be affected if the UK left the EU with or without a deal.  The common expectation was that the transition would start at the end of March.  Since then a few have taken the time to update their positions but most of what was written remains motionlessness.  Without a sense of political direction advancing policy positions is a precarious activity.  However, a high-level desire to see liberal aviation market access arrangements continue does seem to exit within both UK and EU.  To that extent, a No-Deal Brexit outcome represents a big step backwards for all Europeans.

Although it’s not relevant to international air travel, it’s notable that British media interviews continue to focus on The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).  The GATT was the precursor to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).   Article 24 is being cited as a universal solution to objections to a No-Deal Brexit.  However, this proposition has been debunked multiple times and doesn’t stand scrutiny[1].

[1] https://fullfact.org/europe/gatt-nine-lives-article-24-again/

In recent weeks, talk of international companies planning relocate their operations to other parts of Europe[1] has not phased the populist proponents of Brexit.  Thus, it’s vital for businesses to plan for a No-Deal Brexit where only temporary provisions will exist between the UK and EU.  However, reports show that the UK is still not prepared for a No-Deal Brexit in October.

For aircraft design and maintenance and pilots and cabin crew, there may be no sustained mutual recognition between the EU and the UK for aviation licences, approvals and certificates.  In addition, the UK will no longer benefit from EU Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreements (BASAs).

Mounting concerns are being voiced about the prospect of a No-Deal Brexit and the subsequent impact on aviation and the traveling public.  To date, Conservative and Labour Party leaders would rather sweep such concerns under the carpet.

The online help from the UK Government, the European Commission (EC) and on the CAA and EASA Brexit microsites remain the best available information.

[1] https://www.chathamhouse.org/expert/comment/japanese-warning-over-fallout-hard-brexit-not-idle-threat

 

Aviation & Brexit 87

It’s reported that this year’s Paris Air Show was worth £ 8 billion to the UK economy.  More than 70 companies were exhibiting at this global marketplace for the aviation industry.  Today, the UK’s place as a world leader in aerospace design and manufacturing is built on regulatory alignment, integrated supply chains and top-class research and innovation.  All three of these are severely challenged by the Brexit project.

Sadly, the leading candidate to be the next UK Prime Minister seems to have turned a blind eye to the facts.  This week he’s quoted as saying that the impact of leaving the European Union (EU) without a deal would be “very, very small”[1].  For those accustomed to evidence-based policy making this glib political assurance is playing well with a narrow party electorate but is very far from true.

The interdependencies within aerospace design and manufacturing businesses across the whole of Europe didn’t arise overnight.  Since the 1960s, there’s been one direction set towards more and more working together.  This approach has delivered success on the world stage.  One leg of this success stands on is the high level of confidence in each other’s institutions, regulatory cooperation and the harmonisation of rules.

Meanwhile, Conservative (and Labour) politicians have played to prejudices by telling their constituents of “faceless Brussels bureaucrats.”  Whilst the truth is that there are a great number of civil servants in the UK and Brussels who are exemplary in their work.

The success of European aerospace design and manufacturing gets taken for granted.   The strength of cooperation, collaboration and coordination is swept under the carpet.  In cahoots, the national media then tends to highlight the stories politicians feed them about discord, mistakes and rivalry.

Since the general populace has had little need for knowledge of how the system works, just that it’s safe, then an unhealthy situation of glib and unsustainable predictions persists.  This goes some way to explaining why a candidate for UK PM can get away with saying the impact of leaving the European Union (EU) without a deal would be “very, very small”.

Usually a political campaign has a phase where a candidate needs to create credibility and legitimacy for their campaign so people will take them seriously.  This stage is being bypassed in the UK.

[1] https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-britain-eu-leader-johnson/johnson-says-impact-of-no-deal-brexit-would-be-very-very-small-idUKKCN1TW29S