Brexit, Aviation and the Withdrawal 3

“Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.[1]”  It seems strange to me that the first and only time I have ever been in the London O2 arena was 20 years ago when it opened as the Millennium Dome. In that 20 years, I moved from aircraft certification to aviation safety and research to playing my part in setting up a new European Agency in Cologne.  And then retiring back to the UK.  The millennium events were full of ambition, imagination and hope.  As we enter the 2nd decade of the 2000s, the experience of Brexit makes no sense in that context.

This week, on behalf of the EU, the European Commission adopted a draft negotiating directive for a new partnership with the United Kingdom (UK)[2].  This material includes the following for Transport and Aviation:

  1. b) Aviation safety
  2. The envisaged partnership should facilitate trade and investment in aeronautical products, parts and appliances through cooperation in areas such as certification and monitoring, the production oversight and environmental approval and testing. Negotiations should be based on both Parties being satisfied with the other Party’s requirements, regulatory processes and capacity to implement them.
  3. Nothing in the envisaged partnership should entail reciprocal acceptance of the standards and technical regulations of the Parties. Rather, it should limit duplication of assessments to significant regulatory differences and allow, to the extent possible, reliance on the certification system of the other Party. It may also specify modalities, based for example on the respective experience and knowledge of the other party, for the respective level of involvement of the authorities. To facilitate the achievement of the objective set out above, the envisaged partnership may also provide for regulatory co-operation.
  4. The acceptance by one Party of findings or certificates of the other Party shall only take place when, and as long as, the first Party is able to establish and maintain confidence in the other Party’s ability to discharge its obligations in accordance with the envisaged partnership. The envisaged partnership should include appropriate cooperation mechanisms to verify on a reciprocal basis the continued fitness and ability of the regulatory bodies involved in its implementation.

However awkwardly written, none of this negotiating text should be a surprise.  This is what the European Union (EU) might say to any 3rd Country.  Given that the starting position for the UK is alignment then aspects of the above should be achievable without great stress.  However, there are subjects like; initial airworthiness (design certification) where the UK has not been fully competent since September 2003. A demonstration of ability, capacity, experience and knowledge on that subject will likely take more than 11 months.  Much of that depends on the degree to which the slogan: “take back control” was intended.

No doubt the above negotiating text on aviation safety is well researched and reasoned and that the background thinking exists in internal documents within the EU.   Since Brexit, British diplomats no longer have formal access to internal documents and information so there’s likely to be a lot more dinners and lunches in Brussels restaurants.

Yes, the UK has formally left the EU, but it hasn’t left numerous other European institutions.  One of them is an intergovernmental organisation based in Paris called the European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC)[3].  The predecessor to the European Union Safety Aviation Agency (EASA), the Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) were established by ECAC in the 1990s.  It will be interesting to see what role the UK will play in this ECAC in coming years.  Will it be more vocal?

[1] Quote from: Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

[2] https://ec.europa.eu/info/european-union-and-united-kingdom-forging-new-partnership/future-partnership/guide-negotiations_en

[3] https://www.ecac-ceac.org/about-ecac

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