Brexit & Aviation 108

After a day of drama, Britain awakes this Sunday with no clear view of what happens next.  The clock keeps ticking and, if deadlines mean anything, then the next one is 11 days away.

It’s true that under no circumstances was disentangling the UK from a 40 years relationship with the European Union (EU) going to be easy.  Are we heading towards a new postponement?  It seems highly likely regardless of the UK Prime Minister’s (PM) latest letter[1].  It seems that PM Johnson is taking advice from P G Wodehouse: “It is a good rule in life never to apologise. The right sort of people do not want apologies, and the wrong sort take a mean advantage of them.”  We could argue about who’s right and who’s wrong but let’s look at what’s on the table instead.

One of the biggest changes that is evident in the new Withdrawal Agreement (WA) concerns the “level playing field”.  That is that the binding commitments for the UK to maintain minimum standards in the areas of social and environmental policy, tax, competition and State aid have been removed from the WA.  The detailed discussion has been put off to the post-Brexit EU-UK negotiating phases.  A closer future relationship means more obligations and a looser relationship means less and this will be linked to the level of market access.   A framework for the future relationship is set out in a new Political Declaration[2].

Looking at the House of Common (HoC) business for Monday, 21 October 2019, several motions for approval of Statutory Instruments (SIs) are to be agreed.  The reality for Brexit is that much existing European regulation is being incorporated in UK law[3].  Many of the proposed changes are to align the text with the appropriate UK institutions as opposed to the European ones.

Therefore, whatever future changes there may be to the “level playing field” and this applies to aviation as much as anything, at least initially both EU and UK will be pretty much aligned.  The political direction post-Brexit will greatly depend on the outcome of a pending UK General Election (GE).  That must come given that the UK Government trying to do all this has no majority in the UK Parliament and a record of loosing votes.

We are in a fast-moving and unpredictable environment.  It’s a good idea not to make too many knee-jerk reactions or draw too many conclusions.  PM Johnson has, in a half-hearted manner applied for an extension to the Thursday, 31 October 2019 end date.  We will soon see if this is granted by all the parties involved.  Ongoing political and economic uncertainty may yet signal the end of the Brexit project.  The genuine technical reality of the benefits of working together for the common good in Europe remains.

[1]https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/840660/PM_to_Donald_Tusk_19_October_2019.pdf

[2] Political Declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom;

[3] https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201920/cmagenda/ob191021.htm#_idTextAnchor005

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