Brexit & Aviation 118

For the British politician the 31st January 2020 is a big event.  For most people in employment, the Brexit confusion and uncertainty continues at least for another 11 months.  Social Media is a good indication of the conversations people in aviation employment are having.  One question raised yesterday has been raised many times: After Brexit will the EASA licences that were obtained in the UK still be valid? 

Despite the name, these mandatory licences are not issued by EASA in Cologne but issued by European Union (EU) Member States applying European rules.  National Aviation Authorities (NAAs) have this responsibility.  The European system requires EASA and the NAAs to work together.   In order to get an EASA Part-66 AML (Aircraft Maintenance License), an applicant needs to show a basic knowledge in relevant aviation subjects.

Having common rules throughout EASA Member States means that they accept an EASA licence that is granted by one of those States.   In addition, States across the globe, who have a relationship with the EU can choose to accept an EASA licence.   That’s what happens in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) where most of the world’s Airbus A380 aircraft are based, for example.

So, the EU and the UK are entering a transition period during which UK aviation will continue to participate in the EASA systems.  That means compliance with EU regulations while the longer-term EU-UK aviation relationship is worked out.   Currently the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) website has a statement[1]:

Engineers transferring their Part-66 licence to other Member States: While the CAA will continue to accept and process Part 66 transfer applications under existing EASA transfer arrangements until the UK leaves the EU, the procedures adopted by the receiving NAA and recognised validity of the licence during the transfer process may vary amongst EU member states. Applicants who require continuity of validity throughout the transfer process are therefore advised to apply at least 3 months prior to Exit Day and should also consider engaging with their intended receiving NAA to identify any potential issues.

Clearly, there are numerous combinations and permutations of situations that can arise for engineers working on aircraft.   Given the history of licencing it’s highly likely that an arrangement will be worked out for next year, 2021.  For now, each individual aircraft engineer needs to check their situation dependent on where they are working and on what aircraft they are working on, at what time.

This will put extra stress on global regulatory oversight activities too.

[1] https://info.caa.co.uk/brexit/licensed-engineers/

Brexit & Aviation 117

2020 is the year of the Rat. The Chinese New Year in starts on Saturday, 25th January.  This is going to be a pivotal year for those born in 1960, like myself.  I hope that all the Rats out there are going to be as ambitious, creative and intelligent as astrologically predicted.  Certainly, that would help with Brexit just days away.

Brexit Day is Friday, 31st January.  It’s like passing through a one-way valve and not so much a bell ringers paradise.  Or even a reason for fanfares.  It’s the date of entry into force of the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement (WA), or at least it should be.  Thus, the UK will leave the EU in a fully legal way.  Nevertheless, EU law will continue to apply in the UK for the period of the WA.   That is, that the UK will remain bound by EU treaties.  Also, the EU will ask its partners to treat the UK as if it were still a Member State for all those existing treaties[1].

The biggest impact of the end of the month is that there will no longer be the possibility of revoking the Article 50 TEU[2].   From then on, the way back for the UK to re-join the EU is provided for in Article 49 TEU.  In that foreseeable but unlikely case the UK would be viewed as an applicant State.

In addition to the above, from the 31st the UK loses its institutional representation in the EU.  So, no more British members of the European Parliament, or European Commissioners or European Council members.  Interestingly, at the time of the signing of the Lisbon Treaty the EU had 27 Member States and now it’s returning to that number.

Outside the EU, will the UK be better placed to tackle the major challenges that all States face, including globalisation, climate change, energy security, terrorism and organised crime[3]?  That’s the big open question.  The UK will leave the EU on 31st, but there remains a lot of complex negotiations to come.  This is the start of the UK’s future relationship with the EU.

So, is there general happiness and contentment?  No.  In fact, businesses continue to be cautious and concerned.  In particular, the aerospace industry has been alarmed by talk of major regulatory upsets[4].  What will the institutional framework be for the future?   How will it be staffed and funded?  Businesses would like to know where the UK Government intends to go next[5].   It remains difficult to plan if there’s only a scant idea of the intended destination.  That said, Brexit is not bad for everyone.  Germany has seen an increase in interest from British businesses.

[1] https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/explainers/brexit-transition-period

[2] https://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/BRIE/2016/577971/EPRS_BRI(2016)577971_EN.pdf

[3] https://twitter.com/wef/status/1218937427936583681?s=20

[4] https://www.ft.com/content/a89dfdea-3d07-11ea-a01a-bae547046735

[5] https://www.iod.com/news-campaigns/news/articles/IoD-calls-on-Government-to-publish-Brexit-negotiating-objectives

Brexit & Aviation 116

On your marks, get set and go.  The starting pistol hasn’t been fired yet, but the players are on their marks.  It’s a 100-meter sprint.  Or should I say a 109.361-yard sprint to the end of the year.

The EU27 Member States are having their preparatory discussions on their future relationship with the UK[1].  At the same time statements are drifting out of British Minister’s offices containing rhetoric more suited to an election campaign.

Croatia’s presidency of the Council of the EU[2] is up and running until 30 June 2020 when Germany takes over.  The EU’s “Internal EU27 Task Force for Relations with the United Kingdom” has published slides that illustrate the likely situation after the 31st January.   They recognise that transport, including aviation will be a fundamental component of the EU-UK relationship.  It’s clear that UK aviation operators will no longer have the same access rights as EU Member State operators.

Now, according to The Financial Times the British Chancellor is saying[3]: “There will not be alignment, we will not be a rule taker, we will not be in the Single Market and we will not be in the Customs Union — and we will do this by the end of the year.”

These words maybe for public consumption because to an extent they speak the obvious.  One exception is the notion that the UK will not be a “rule taker”.  Naturally, this can be interpreted in many ways, even in this year, when the existing Withdrawal Agreement becomes law.  Because that agreement has the affect of taking European rules and making them UK rules.

In trading with large markets, like the EU and US there’s going to be the obligation to meet their standards.  It seems obvious to say but that means having rules that are either taken from those parties or that are acceptable to those parties.  Call that what you like but it is taking rules.  Never in the past did the UK Parliament approve every single new or modified rule that the was part of compliance with an international agreement and it’s likely that will continue.

EU aviation rules are designed to be compliant with international standards and recommended practices.  There is scope for the UK to deviate from the existing arrangements.  The question should be asked, as to; why and what are the benefits in doing so?

Meanwhile, as the scene is set for the next step in these vital international negotiations, the daily news in the UK is far more trivial; a £500,000 crowd funding exercise for some big bongs in London is filling the airwaves and newspapers.

[1] https://ec.europa.eu/commission/sites/beta-political/files/seminar-20200115-transport_en.pdf

[2] https://eu2020.hr/

[3] https://www.ft.com/content/18ddc610-3940-11ea-a6d3-9a26f8c3cba4

Brexit & Aviation 115

It’s January.  There’s no doubt that we have entered a new political era in the UK.  It’s 13 days into the new decade.  Although the basic issues haven’t changed much the manner of the debate about what might be possible has changed beyond recognition.  Unlike in 2017, the UK General Election (GE) has given us a solidly “Leave” Parliament.  Whatever most of the people in the Country may think or wish, the lawmakers we have are predominantly Eurosceptic.

The UK’s pro-European movements will keep fighting for their views to be represented in UK politics.  There’s an important place for those who would have preferred to “Remain” in the European Union (EU), but their voice is diminished.  Now future of relationships on trade, transport and security must be determined within the lifetime of this new UK Parliament.  Given the size of the political majority, I assume it will last for 5-years.

Most experts with experience of Government negotiations know Brexit won’t be “done” in 2020[1].   British businesses, including aviation will not be fully ready for next December.  Any EU-UK deal agreed this year will probably be limited in scope[2].   No one, outside a small group on Ministers, knows if that will include international aviation.

The European Commission (EC) Task Force for Relations with the UK has just published slides that show how they see the start of negotiations.   These slides were provided for information purposes to the Council Working Party (Article 50) on 13 January.  They show the huge gap between a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and the Single Market.

British MEPs are arriving at the Strasbourg Parliament for the last time[3].   On the agenda this week are such subjects as an EU-China Agreement on aspects of air services.  It does seem strange that the UK will no longer be part of the debate on such subjects post-Brexit.  Surely there will be a continuing interest in such debates.

In the news is the fact that Europe’s biggest regional airline Flybe are fighting for survival less than a year after being bailed out by an industry consortium.  Some deny that this is Brexit related.  Others disagree: “Brexit and the way the government’s aviation taxes hit a regional airline like Flybe have been a double whammy,” says Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw[4].   They fly from Exeter airport.  The company, as a member of the European Regions Airline Association[5] based in Surrey, no doubt supports the view that the aviation industry shouldn’t suffer the brunt of political inadequacies.

Note: 15/01/2020.  Flybe has been saved from a potential collapse after the UK Government and company shareholders agreed to provide emergency funding.

[1] https://www.businessinsider.com/why-brexit-will-not-be-done-by-this-year-2020-1?r=US&IR=T

[2] https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/publications/getting-brexit-done

[3] https://www.europarl.europa.eu/plenary/en/infos-details.html?id=17301&type=Flash

[4] https://www.benbradshaw.co.uk/

[5] https://www.eraa.org/sites/default/files/180214_pb_brexit_brochure_feb18_0.pdf