He must go

We are always faced with contradictions. Paradox is frustrating. Nevertheless, reality is littered with inconsistencies.

On the one side it’s often said that: a leopard can’t change its spots. Meaning that basic habits become so ingrained that changing them becomes all but impossible. Parts of a person’s personally are so deeply set that it’s difficult to imagine them ever being any different.

My Dad would occasionally say: you can’t teach and old dog new tricks. When I was younger, I used to find this annoying. It’s the kind of phrase that is used to avoid trying a new way of doing things. You could say it’s innately conservative with a small “c”.

These homilies run parallel to the general notion that everyone can change. It’s the Christian call for redemption. That all of us can choose a different path. That we have autonomy. Just like Scrooge we can wake up one morning and transform our lives.

What makes the difference is a matter of character. That’s a quality that is established over a long time. It’s the sum total of past actions. It’s the mark that a person has left on the world.

Now, the idea that Boris Johnson will change, or can change is for the birds. In the current crisis of trust in senior Conservative politicians, the defenders of those in power are trying to be contrite. These people are in fact reluctant or unwilling to change habits or long-held beliefs. In reality, they are hunkering down based on the ways and means that got them power in the first place.

This is a morning for proverbs. Johnson is a bad apple. Can you imagine any parent saying to their child – I hope you grow up to be like our current Prime Minister. Will his method of governance be taught in schools as the right way to do thing? I don’t think so.

People expect a British Prime Minister to be accountable for their actions. It’s a role of great importance in the life of our country. In the face of deliberate misconduct, intentional recklessness, or even criminal activity Members of Parliament must be answerable.

The negative consequences of Johnson’s actions are having repercussions throughout society. This Prime Minister does not meet basic standards of behaviour expected of a person in a premier leadership role. It is time for Johnson to step aside. He must go.

A Year On

Here we are with one year of Brexit under our belts, and the unmitigated disaster that it is couldn’t be clearer. No European Union (EU) Member State has shown any interest in following the UK and departing from the block. If anything, observing the negative impact of Brexit on the UK has strengthened unity within EU. The end-of-year review of Brexit by Bloomberg finds not a one economic positive and a lot of significant damage[1]. It’s not alone either. Finding positives is like the search for the Yeti.

Such is the great embarrassment of Brexit that UK civil servants are told not to mention it. Brexit does not mean Brexit anymore. It means shush be quiet.

There is little doubt the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the focus away from the effects of Brexit and allowed the UK Government to avoid the scrutiny that would normally be applied. So far, worldwide COVID-19 deaths total 5,410,921 (Source: Johns Hopkins). Thankfully the extensive vaccination programmes across the globe are working. New Year’s Eve parties will be going ahead in England. Nevertheless, there’s an atmosphere of caution and it’s likely that 2022 will arrive to muted celebrations.

There’s no rational way of explaining why the Conservative Government in power enacts policies that they know will damage the Country’s strength, safety, security, economy, and social fabric. The only explanation is a ridged adherence to dogmatic arrogance, preventing any acceptance of responsibility for the outcome of past decisions. There can be no rational explanation for a trading Nation that chooses to erect trading barriers with its closest neighbours, at a time of considerable global uncertainty[2]. Origin of manufacture customs regulations begin on 1st January 2022 for goods exported from the UK to the EU. This is yet more red tape that will impact UK exports and livelihoods.

Claims made in 2016 that food prices would fall, tax and energy bills would be lower post-Brexit are now completely farcical. It’s true that people were warned that these claims didn’t stand-up but that didn’t deter those who made those outlandish statements. Many of those who made such statements have profited from the last 5-years of troubles. If not always in financial terms they have profited in terms of power and influence[3].

Some of the architects and managers of Brexit have chosen to resign to escape responsibility for the self-inflicted wound. However, a significant advocate of Brexit remains in post. UK Prime Minister Johnson still resides in Number 10 Downing Street. I wonder for how much longer.

If the pandemic has taught us anything it is that the solution to global problems is collaboration. Acting in splendid isolation may appease a small domestic political audience for the short term but longer term it is a hopeless approach. Working togther to meet global challanges is the way forward.

Brexit simply isn’t working and those that have been dealing with it can see a looming crash. The UK starts the New Year with so many Brexit issues still unresolved. Sadly, Brexit supporters continue to pump out fibs and practice chicanery. But slowly and surly the great British public are beginning to wake up and the political tide is turning. 


[1] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-12-22/how-a-year-of-brexit-thumped-britain-s-economy-and-businesses

[2] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-59761292

[3] Examples can be seen by looking at the list of those elevated to the House of Lords.

Reflection

Without wishing to sound too much “told you so”, looking back on what I’ve written here over the last 5-years, it’s evident that a lot of it was on the money. Overall, the experience of the last 5-years has diminished our national prosperity and damaged reputations.

There’s a number of central points that shine through the fog. 

For a start, Brexit was not just one event which when delivered would bring an end to decades of introspection about Britain’s place in the world. If anything, the subject is higher on the agenda than it has been for a long time. All twists and turns are analysed in terms of – where are we going?

The underlying theme of the recent years has been to try to restore an imagined past. For some people this is an imperial role. It’s a lamenting of a time when the school map was red with the British empire.  This is, in part, a culture war like that played out by Trump in his term in office in the United States. Instead of applying the immense variety of our heritage as a solid foundation it’s being weaponised. 

Political deception has been fuelled by an age of ubiquitous social media. When so much information, true and false, is pumped out every moment, opinions eclipse facts more frequently than in the past. The louder the incessant shouting, the more money backing the campaigns, the more likely the result impacts policy and decision making.   

Perpetual uncertainty is now expected. Any deals, agreements or working arrangements, however magnificent, are viewed as moments that pass. The traditional phrase “my word is my bond” has no meaning amongst a large band of politicians. Maybe this is a tactical chasing of public opinion data that’s pushed aside any strategic thinking. 

The question can be asked: was all this inevitable? Would it have happened in one form or another even if the referendum vote of June 2016 had gone a different way? On this one, I’m pessimistic.  The idea that a public vote won or lost by a very small margin puts a subject to bed for all time is childish, to say the least.  Such votes are an indication of something deeper.

Yet again our technology speeds ahead of us, far exceeding our ability to cope with it. Both our salvation and our prison warden, we can articulate grander visions but are tied by primitive instincts. 

In my view this is the great merit of social liberal politics. The need for balance. The need for fairness. Instead of letting the libertarian monster out of the bag or denying our human frailties, taking them both into the mix is far wiser than our current destructive course.   

A British politician once said all political careers end in failure. That failure can be avoided, like a mature sports personality, stepping down at the optimal time. For Prime Minister Johnson, all indications are that he’ll crash the ship of state rather than change direction.  Let’s hope the choice is taken from him by a change made by the public. The humble voter.

Here’s where we are, I think.

May is a month of rebirth. Trees look greener than they do all year round. A fresh breeze and light rain fans this greenness as the natural world wakes up. It’s a good time for looking at life anew.  Sunny spells and showers come and go as we take stock of the spring. 

Worldwide COVID-19 pandemic deaths are up to just over 3.3 million[1].  Despite the successes of its suppression in the UK, the virus continues to rage around the world.  Sadly, desperation continues to spread across India.  On the positive side, vaccination plans are successfully being implemented. I’m more than ready for my second jab in just over a week’s time. 

What hasn’t changed is that aviation chiefs continue to provide roadmaps to bring back some semblance of normal but often sit back mystified at Government reactions and peculiar decisions. 

For international travel, to and from the UK, a curious traffic light system[2] is being put in place in the UK.  Unfortunately, there’s a lack of transparency as to why countries are categorised as they are in this unique national system.  Obviously, it’s better than a national lockdown with unending uncertainty but there’s little to be happy about. 

On entry control, the practice of quarantine hotels is unpopular and of highly questionable effectiveness. They are a crude measure that is discriminating, expensive and unsustainable.

The European Union (EU) has been slow in reaction and is still testing COVID-19 vaccination, test, and recovery certificates.  There are reports that this system is on-track to be rolled out next month.

It’s a miserable time to travel across borders. Plans are made and cancelled and re-made. Travellers are often left out of pocket and in limbo.  Yes, these are extraordinary circumstances but as advanced nations our general performance in managing the situation is remarkably poor. 

Although UK Government decisions are said to be guided by evidence and the science, there’s a fair amount of ideology driving decisions contrary common sense. 

Surprisingly, if the recent round of elections is anything to go by, the UK Government is sitting pretty. Now, its political opponents who are the ones who are struggling.  Commentators have speculated that this is a kind of national Stockholm syndrome[3]. I wonder. 

Post Coronavirus recovery of UK air traffic may not be seen until the end of 2022. 

The EU has developed a broad system of relationships with neighbouring states. Post Brexit there remains lots of loose ends in the relationship between EU and UK.  In fact, it’s probably time to stop using the word Brexit altogether. It’s not a meaningful word looking forward.    

Calls for a Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement (BASA) and a Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement (CATA) between the EU and UK are muted but their importance remains.  Aviation and aerospace industry voices are being ignored. 


[1] Worldwide (from Johns Hopkins): Deaths: 3,322,294.  

[2] https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/traffic-light-system-safe-return-to-international-travel

[3] What is Stockholm syndrome? https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22447726

Still work in progress

Has it really been 100 days since the final, final, final Brexit day? 

The UK left the European Union (EU) on 31 January 2020.  A Withdrawal Agreement (WA) that the UK Government agreed with the EU, established a transition period that came to an end the day this year started.  Now, a new EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) has been in force for 97 days. So, it’s not a bad time to have a go at writing a 100-day review.  It’s often a period of reflection that is used to assess a newly elected politician.  It gives an indication of the direction of travel. 

Last year, although it was a top priority of UK industry to stay in, the UK has left the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) based in Cologne.  So, there’s no official UK participation in the EASA activities by right and the UK is treated as any other 3rd Country.  EU law no longer applies to the UK. Much of what was previously applied has been swept up in new UK Legislation[1]

Regulation-wise, to figure out where we are now, it’s necessary to combine the officially published corresponding text of UK Legislation and EU Commission Regulations with the EASA Acceptable Means of Compliance and Guidance Material, including amendments.  Some smart people have done this work, but the challenge will be keeping the whole paperwork construction up to date. 

Informed commentators have often said that a Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement (BASA) and a Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement (CATA) are needed between the EU and UK.  To some extent the TCA starts the ball rolling by calling for the establishment of a number of committees. 

On the basis that there’s far to much still in flux to discuss, I’ll bite off one key aviation related subject. 

Despite the massive impact of the COVID pandemic on international civil aviation there remains a demand for qualified engineers.  In many ways their roles as Airworthiness Inspectors or Licenced Aircraft Maintenance Engineers have become even more important than ever. Traditionally, there’s no doubt that the UK has been good at training aircraft engineering personnel. Students from all over the world have gained their licences in the UK.  It’s one of the most demanding professions in the world but their dedication to the highest standards keeps flying safe. 

Whilst the UK was a member of the EASA system a licence granted in the UK by an approved organisation was recognised throughout the EASA Member States and beyond.  One of the powerful arguments for continued participation in EASA was the avoidance of the duplication of approvals, certification, and licencing. Each duplication comes with a fee and time consuming paperwork.

The political decisions having been made and that’s exactly what we now have in place. Duplication. In fact, it’s worse than that because there’s asymmetry in the current situation. 

The UK CAA advises Part 66 licence holders to take action to minimise impact on their privileges.  There are several combinations and permutations that can be considered.  There’s a useful updated section of information for licensed engineers on the UK CAA website[2]

Engineers who continue to release EU-registered aircraft to service outside the UK will need to transfer their licence to the National Aviation Authority (NAA) of an EASA Member State. If an engineer works outside the EU and UK, on EU-registered aircraft, a UK Part-66 licence will no longer be valid. 

If an engineer has a non-UK Part-66 licence they will be able to continue to work on UK-registered aircraft for up to two years after the end of the transition period, unless your licence changes or expires (whichever occurs soonest).

There’s also an exemption for engineers who hold a EU Member State issued EASA Part-66 licence who only received
or changed their EASA licence after the departure of the UK from the EU.

All of this is high politics because a Part 66 licence, UK or EU is granted on the same technical basis. Yes, there’s potential of regulatory divergence or new ways of doing business in future. However, it’s difficult to understand what the justification for any divergence might be but the possibility exists.  And as avid Brexit supporters like to point out the UK is no longer subject to EU legislation.  That has no impact of the UK’s need to meet its international obligations. Both UK and EU need to be complient with the ICAO Convention.

There’s much work in progress. Now, is a moment when it all looks like a kitten as been playing with a large ball of wool that has rolled down a staircase.


[1] https://info.caa.co.uk/uk-regulations/

[2]https://info.caa.co.uk/uk-eu-transition/licensed-engineers/

#PolicingBill

It’s bad. It’s bad when a Government drafts legislation badly. To put a draft text out there which has a mixture of headlining positive proposals, but also mind-bendingly bad measures is bad politics. I can’t use the word “bad” enough.

Today, the #PolicingBill is being debated in the UK Parliament. The bill is an unparalleled attack on civil liberties. This post-Brexit slide towards authoritarianism under this Conservative Government is dangerous.  The Bill contains the most draconian crackdowns on the right of peaceful protest that any of us have seen in our lifetime.

Protest by its very nature causes a level of disruption. So, if UK legislation makes disruption illegal it effectively bans public and personal protect.  This is shocking. 

This incredibly badly drafted legislation has proposals that look like they were taken directly out of 1984.  10-years in jail for annoying someone, particularly a police officer. This is dangerous politics.

Protest isn’t a gift from given by a generous authority. It’s our fundamental right. It’s our fundamental right to show that we disagree. If this bad bill passes unamended, we will end up with a police state where our civil liberties are eroded in ways that it will be difficult to claw back.

If you don’t believe me then I recommend you read the text of the proposed Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill (PCSC Bill).  See: 59 Intentionally or recklessly causing public nuisance. https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/58-01/0268/200268.pdf

You will get 10-years in jail for serious annoyance, serious inconvenience, or serious loss of amenity to a person or even risk of such.

What is a lot of money?

I’m marking a birthday in a few days. Although, I think I will imagine my age as being minus one year. 2020 had some notable moments but if I was asked: would you like to do it again? I’d say: make it ten days and you’re on.  One of the beauties of age is reminiscence. Yes, I can remember a pre-decimalisation England.  Pounds, shillings, and pence were what I was taught at my primary school in a small Somerset village. 

I remember the Callaghan led the Government in 1976 and its financial woes. The Labour government was forced to apply to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a loan.  Those turbulent years were a lot of fun for me. The summer of 1976 was magnificent in every way. 

As I started work as an apprentice, unemployment stood at a post-war high and inflation was in double digits. Punk rock was running riot.  England was changing.  It was a dynamic period. 

Although, as a young man I had no interest in it at the time, the way Governments spent money shaped a lot of what was happening.  Money did matter and does matter. It’s the difference between being able to do things and stagnation or recession. 

However, never be deceived. Government spending is not like household spending, as Mrs Thatcher would have had you thinking. For a start, none of us has our own mint. None of us are directly compared with other countries or issue our own bonds. 

So, what are we to make of the apparent calmness expressed over massive Government borrowing and reckless spending? We are in truly unprecedented times. A pound for every time that word was used, and the national debt would be a lot smaller. 

How do we make sense of a 1% pay offer for nurses when they have been so pivotal in the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic?  When there’s no evidence that a Government funded Test & Trace made a difference and yet it cost over £30 billion.  To top that, there’s been 130,000 COVID-19 deaths making the country stand out as one of the worst performing of all. 

Are these the new late 1970s? Except for the absence of inflation, and astonishingly low interest rates it does look that way.  But let’s get back to that word: unpresented. I don’t think there’s an analogous situation in my lifetime that might give some clues as to what comes next. 

For the moment, the so called “cockpit of the nation”, the House of Commons seems all but useless given the power of the ruling executive.  Government actions are not held to account. 

The billions spent on the Test & Trace system are a perfect example.  Well over £500 per head of UK population has been spent on this system in a short period.  But few know where the money went or what it bought. There needs to be far greater accountability and transparency. This is an urgent matter. 

Flight, Risk & Reflections 17.

One of the harshest years in modern civil aviation history has ended.  Looking for positive news in this New Year takes some effort.  In fact, with the extra lock-down measures and travel banned the situation appears to be getting worse and not better.  Worldwide COVID-19 fatalities have passed 2.1 million[1]. Here in the UK the winter situation is looking grim.  In terms of cases of COVID-19 only US, Brazil, Russia and India have more than the UK.  In terms of fatalities from COVID-19 only US, Brazil, India and Mexico have more than the UK. 

Even in just 3-weeks a lot has been written about Aviation and the new BREXIT EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA). Having read many of the public pronouncements available, it’s evident that the complexity of the TCA means there’s a huge amount to be learned and will be learned in its application.  The jury is out as to the level of support that exists for the TCA. 

Here are some useful current references:

  • Brexit advice for travellers:

https://www.abta.com/tips-and-advice/brexit-advice-for-travellers

https://www.iata.org/en/policy/consumer-pax-rights/brexit/

  • Aviation industry comments:

Initial guidance on the draft EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

The ACA Position Paper – EU-UK Trade Agreement 2020.

How the Brexit-deal affects UK/EU air travel and aviation.

How the Brexit-deal affects UK/EU air travel and aviation » AirInsight

How Brexit will Change the Aviation Industry.

GTP Headlines How Brexit will Change the Aviation Industry | GTP Headlines

Consequences of the Brexit Agreement on transport, and especially on aviation.

Consequences of the Brexit Agreement on transport, and especially on aviation – Aviation24.be

Brexit: what the newly announced deal means for aviation.

https://www.gridpoint.consulting/blog/brexit-what-the-newly-announced-deal-means-for-aviation

Solo flight – the UK’s Brexit deal for aerospace assessed.

https://www.aerosociety.com/news/solo-flight-the-uks-brexit-deal-for-aerospace-assessed/

Brexit – will the flying public notice any meaningful difference?

https://www.clydeco.com/en/insights/2021/01/brexit-will-the-flying-public-notice-any-meaningfu

  • Official information:

The UK CAA microsite.

https://info.caa.co.uk/uk-eu-transition/

Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) system. 

https://www.easa.europa.eu/brexit


[1] https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html

Flight, Risk & Reflections 16.

Worldwide COVID-19 deaths have now topped 1.9 million[1].  Uncertainty continues to cripple civil aviation. The lack of joined-up working across the globe is disappointing to say the least.  Different actions and support package of varying degrees are confusing and inconsistent. Many self-inflicted obstacles have led to aircraft operators burning up cash at an alarming rate. No one denies that the spread of COVID-19 is one of the biggest challenges to face all types of transport systems, but governments have created as many problems as they have solved.  Serious concerns about new variants of COVID-19 are leading to additional travel restrictions[2].

Cargo operators and airports are stepping up to distribute the vaccines for COVID-19. Aviation will continue to play a vital role in that distribution[3].

The UK has now left the European Union (EU), and the transitional period has expired.  The UK Government will be publishing UK aviation law (including retained EU law) on the website www.legislation.gov.uk in due course. The new deal that has been struck has several appendixes but overall, it’s quite thin.

EU aviation regulations (hard law) are often accompanied by Acceptable Means of Compliance (AMC), Guidance Material (GM), Certification Specifications (CS) and other technical information (soft law). For the time being the versions of AMC, GM, CSs and other technical information in force on 31 December 2020, remain policy in the UK.  In time one would expect to see a British aviation publication system that maintains these as new national documents. 

Now, the prospect of divergence means that readers should check both national and EU sources to get a full picture of the relevant material for civil aviation in the European region.  At this moment there are no administrative procedures for the harmonisation of technical requirements between the UK and EU.  Fortunately, both parties start from a harmonised position. How long that will last is anyones guess.

The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement announced on 24 December 2020 (TCA) is one hell of a lot better than the often threatened No-Deal outcome between the parties. However, it’s a long way from the comprehensive aviation and air transport agreement that industry and informed commentators, and indeed the EU-UK Political Declaration said was needed.  The TCA foresees cooperation between the EU and UK, but a lot remains to be done. There’s a great deal of committee work to come. It’s important to continue to stay alert for regulatory changes that are to come.


[1] From Johns Hopkins University

[2] https://www.oag.com/coronavirus-airline-schedules-data

[3] https://twitter.com/A4Europe/status/1346842821064589314?s=20

Flight, Risk & Reflections 15.

A large full moon graced the December sky early this morning. The local park was a picture of frosty ground, joggers and dog walkers, magpies and one or two wrens hopping around as the sun rose.  I looked up and slithers of cloud gave a reddish hew to the eastern sky. I remembered the farmer’s rhyme: Red in the morning, shepherds warning. Also, clear to me was the absence of aircraft streaking across the cold sky.  I’m located only a few miles north of London Gatwick airport.  Last December the same scene would have included aircraft contrails going left and right as morning flights arrived and departed London. 2020 is a year like no other.  In this pandemic year worldwide, deaths now approach 1.8 million. 

The UK left the European Union (EU) on 31 January 2020.  A Withdrawal Agreement that the UK Government agreed with the EU established a transition period that comes to an end in a couple of days.  I think many people are mighty relieved that the UK and EU reached an agreement in principle on Thursday 24 December 2020. This is about as last minute as it was possible to be in the long negotiations. 

All being well, a new agreement between the EU and UK should start from New Year’s Day, 1 January 2021.  This EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement includes obligations on both parties for air transport and aviation safety. Again, many people will be mighty relieved that these topics are addressed.  In all I’ve written in this blog there’s been much speculation about the road ahead. Now, for the first time in four and a half years we have some indication of what comes next.  Like any long story, it’s not all good and its not all bad. 

There are implications for all aspects of European aviation.  In air transport, UK aircraft operators will not have the freedoms of the past. They may need to restructure to be able to offer comprehensive services to the destinations currently flown. Low-cost operator Ryanair is implementing voting restrictions on company shares owned by non-EU nationals from New Year.

It’s good to see the emphasis on cooperation[1] on aviation safety.  New dedicated committees will look at how to work together in the future.  I hope they work at a technical level and renew cooperation rather than further politicising inter-institutional relationships.  Regulatory duplication and barriers need to be avoided.  Now, practical processes and procedures must make good on the promise of close cooperation. The need to ensure implementation of aviation safety rules and regulations has not diminished.

It’s interesting to note that each party to the agreement may request consultations at any time concerning the safety standards maintained and administered by the other party in areas relating to aeronautical facilities, flight crew, aircraft and the operation of aircraft.  This suggests conditions for dealing with the immediate outcome of aircraft accidents and serious incidents but it’s not explicit.  As I found in the early days of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), from 2004 a lot depends on how the relevant legal texts are interpreted. One small sentence can mean much if the parties choose to make it so.  A deal maybe agreed but this is not done. This is the start of work that can build a successful aviation system.  With good will on both sides this can happen, but it will take a decade of effort. 


[1]The Trade and Cooperation Agreement establishes the following Specialised Committees:……

(b) The Specialised Committee on Air Transport;

(c) The Specialised Committee on Aviation Safety;