Flying, Democracy and Safety 10.

The merry-go-around of talks between Brussels and London has been turning for months. We don’t know if major compromises are just around the corner. Measured on any scale, the time left to do something serious is mighty short. One thing I did agreed with a Conservative acquaintance this week is that there’s an incredible air of compliancy coming from the whole of Westminster. It’s as if everyone knows that really big changes are coming but no one much wants to talk about it. Sweeping discussion about the European Union (EU) under the carpet isn’t going to help anyone.

Europe’s aerospace industry is keen to see an agreement. In letters sent this month, they have urged leaders on both sides to reach an agreement before the end of the transition period. Letters to both Michel Barnier and David Frost state the need to avoid permanently damaging the already hard-hit sector. They call for, in case of a Brexit No-Deal, to apply temporary measures to protect air transport, airworthiness certificates, road haulage and the movement of workers.

Next year, if nothing changes then UK Pilots’ Licences will not continue to be recognised in the EU for the purposes of flying EU Member State registered aircraft[1]. Also, UK Engineers’ Licences will not continue to be recognised in the EU for the purposes of releasing EU Member State registered aircraft into service. These changes are highly significant for people working in the aviation industry.

The UK becomes a “third country” from an EU perspective. Then the references in EU legislation to “third countries” applies to the UK, much like they do to Albania, Morocco or Turkey.

UK Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher talked proudly of the achievement of bringing down barriers to trade in Europe in 1988. Now, it’s with embarrassment that the Conservative Party is putting barriers back up.  It just goes to show that we can’t assume the inevitability of progress and that we should never take it for granted. I fear that’s what a lot of aviation industry commentators and spokespersons on Brexit did over the last 4-years.

This week, there’s more evidence that the COVID-19 Coronavirus leaves UK companies unprepared for a No-Deal Brexit at the end of the year[2]. It’s in-fact feeling like the UK is going “out of control” rather than “taking back control”.  What has been an abstract concept is becoming reality.   

In more aviation News this week, EASA and EUROCONTROL have set up a Technical and Coordination Office at EUROCONTROL’s headquarters in Brussels[3]. This will help the two European aviation organisations work better together as much of their work becomes more closely tied as we move ahead.


[1] https://www.nortonrosefulbright.com/en/knowledge/publications/0d25cd51/aviation-if-there-is-a-no-deal

[2] https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/publications/preparing-brexit-scale-task

[3]  https://www.easa.europa.eu/newsroom-and-events/press-releases/new-joint-unit-cements-cooperation-between-easa-and-eurocontrol

Flying, Democracy and Safety 9.

Scrutiny of Government leads to better Government. In the UK Parliament, the European Scrutiny Committee[1] has a tough job to do.  So much is in transition that it’s difficult to keep track of all the issues. This week the Committee has been turning their attention to a global environmental issue. The UK will cease to be a member of the European Union’s (EU’s) Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) at the end of the transition period as established by the existing UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement. A new scheme is planned.

The future of civil aviation, as the world recovers from COVID-19 will be different from that imagined at last years at the 40th Session of the ICAO Assembly[2] in Montreal.  Drives to address climate change will dramatically transform aviation more than the virus. Meeting international obligations will not be simple. The UK-EU future relationship negotiations do need to address these new circumstances.

In an apparent attempt to up the pressure on the UK-EU negotiators, the UK’s Foreign Secretary has said: “we don’t want to hang around”[3]. This statement isn’t helpful and it’s blind to the realities of economic, physical and political geography. Irrespective of the outcome of the UK-EU negotiations, there will be broad and far-reaching consequences for administrations, businesses and people as of 1 January 2021.

Now, as life and fiction become indistinguishable, UK Prime Minister Johnson is backing Conservative Brexiteer Mr Liam Fox to lead World Trade Organisation (WTO). At a time when the UK-EU future relationship will inevitably mean more barriers to trade and cross-border activity in Europe, Mr Fox may be promoting global free trade. This approach seems more than a little incongruous. Now, a leaked letter from UK Minister Truss warns Prime Minister Johnson over post-Brexit border control plans. There may be WTO objections to the plans that may not be complete.

The UK’s Chancellor made major speech on Wednesday, 8 July. He didn’t talk about the aviation or aerospace industries despite the on-going thousands of job losses across the UK[4]. This is a time when the UK needs to be investing in new green technologies, including electrification, composites and sustainable aviation fuels. So far, the UK Government seems to be taking a hands-off approach unlike other Countries.


[1] https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm5801/cmselect/cmeuleg/229-xi/22904.htm#_idTextAnchor009

[2] https://www.icao.int/Meetings/a40/Pages/default.aspx

[3] https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-britain-eu-raab/uk-tells-eu-on-brexit-we-wont-hang-around-too-much-longer-idUKKBN23P0Z8

[4] https://unitetheunion.org/media/3177/uk-aerospace-2020-db-4.pdf

Flying, Democracy and Safety 8.

IMG_2082

Halfway through 2020. What a different kind of year than the one we’d expected. With 20-20 hindsight I’m sure we’d have approached it differently too. In that phrase, 20-20 is a reference to good vison but it could equally have been a joke on the year 2020. Now it’s July and Germany’s EU Council Presidency starts. Their theme is: “Together for Europe’s recovery” #EU2020DE[1].

It’s strange that during the years of Brexit debates those who supported it said that leaving the European Union (EU) would mean a break from competition rules to give Britain the opportunity to boost its own industries. What has happened recently has been the complete opposite. In the face of COVID-19, European Governments have been providing support to their aviation sector, but the UK has not provided similar support.

Now, UK Prime Minister Johnson repeats that the UK is ready to walk away without a deal with the EU if no agreement can be reached in what remains of the time available. At the same time, he’s “optimistic” that there’s a “good agreement” to be reached[2].

If the UK exits the mutually beneficial Withdrawal Agreement without a sound long-term deal, the effects will be felt by everyone[3]. With global tensions between many Countries and China continuing to mount, this is foolish.

Here we go again. The UK’s Conservative Government is getting more Brexity as the people of Britain are getting less Brexity. A recent European Social Survey has found support for Brexit has fallen to 35% of voters while a majority would prefer the UK to be in the EU[4].

The aviation sector hasn’t had a good week. Airbus plans to cut 15,000 jobs amid COVID-19 fallout. However, British politicians would rather talk about fishing than aviation. Yet, fishing contributes £1.4 billion to UK economy while aviation contributes £22 billion.

UK Foreign Office travel advice and the national quarantine continue to make it difficult for anyone to plan to travel. Portugal, a Country that the UK has always had excellent relationships with, has been left out in the cold.

The world’s biggest trading block is on the UK’s doorstep.  The bare-bones of a trade deal could happen but making it more difficult to trade with the EU seems unwise to say the least. Again, it has been conformed that the British membership of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) will come to an end on 31 December. Historians will look mystified at this period. Governments don’t normally work assiduously to diminish their place in the world.

[1] The programme for is now online on http://eu2020.de.

[2] LBC on Friday, 03 July 2020.

[3] https://www.ft.com/content/e4da78ae-a428-4466-9721-d3841cc0e005

[4] https://ldeg.org/en/article/2020/1366373/survey-finds-35-want-brexit-while-57-back-rejoin