Europe, the world, we are all engulfed in an unprecedented situation. The spread of coronavirus #COVID19 is a clear and present danger to all. These are times like no other. It’s imperative that urgent action is taken. The EASA has issued a safety directive mandating disinfection of aircraft flying from high risk areas to combat spread of coronavirus.
Having just returned from a week in Tenerife, I’m grateful for the efforts of TUi for repatriating a lot of holidaymakers at a difficult time. Our flight back to London Gatwick was as per schedule but for many of our fellow passengers their stay had been terminated and they were put on flights at short notice. Fortunately, the Brexit transition period meant that no undue difficulties arose getting our British registered Boeing 757 to and from Spain.
A week is a long time in politics. The first post-Brexit UK budget now seems like a distant memory. Yet, it was only on 12 March that this took place in Parliament. It was a budget that resolutely refused to talk about Brexit, seeming to pretend that the subject was done and dusted. Now, the British Chancellor has been on his feet again and huge measures of change are rippling through Government and all parts of UK society. The decisions of days ago are dwarfed by the new moves to defeat coronavirus. The impact on aviation is like nothing that has gone before.
Nevertheless, the issues for aviation raised in my last blog remain pertinent. Brexit is not done. Yes, the efforts of the civil service must be directed at the current emergency. In fact, that’s a good reason to suspend all formal negotiations between UK and EU and put more time aside after the global health emergency has subsided.
The current emergency should bring the two parties closer together for their mutual benefit. Then it’s time to review decisions that may have been made so far but in the light of the new situation. Those that I talk to says that the UK national interest remains best served by continuing membership of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). It was interesting to note the debate that took place in the UK House of Lords during the week.
Transport was discussed in the UK House of Commons on 12 March. MP Alistair Carmichael, Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) asked the Minister the question: What is his policy on the UK’s membership of the European Aviation Safety Agency after the end of the transition period. The answer was dogmatic and unimaginative.
Now, I note that a great number of aviation professionals are transferring their license to European authorities like the Irish, Dutch or Belgian to keep their current privileges. The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is going to be losing a lot of income from those licensed Pilots and Aircraft Engineers.
What happened on 31 January 2020 was not the end of the Brexit process. On 30 March 2020, the new UK-EU Joint Committee is due to meet. Aviation may not be on the agenda but it’s certainly worth keeping and eye on what’s going on in that committee.