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.

Bury the Past

Politics does descend into absurdity. It’s not unique to our time. What important is that we don’t ignore what’s going on. That approach just abdicates power to the worst amongst us. Attention must be paid to uproot any burying of the past. Corrective action must be taken to re-establish competency and trust.

An absurdity of the moment is the pretence that what happened in the past is irrelevant. That no one in power is answerable for past events. Even those newsworthy events that are relatively recent. This political strategy elevates talk of future actions to cover-up the deficiencies and negligence of the past.

We’ve heard from a Minister of Justice saying that a suspect crime, that happened a year ago, is not the sort of event that the requires investigation. He’s saying that past mistakes and stupidly can escape scrutiny. For any member of the public, a law degree is not needed to know that this is absurdity. It’s right that questions be asked at the highest level.

The UK’s Prime Minister seems intent on concealing any revelations about a Christmas party that may or may not have taken place in No 10 Downing Street[1]. To deny the past is not sustainable. The open display of a culture that ignores rules is shameful[2]. If this proves to be the case strong corrective actions, including resignations would be appropriate.

In addition, there’s a bad habit of saying that criticism of past actions is only “hindsight”. That word is used to diminish the importance of an important issue. What’s worse is that it’s used to justify ignoring fair questions or legitimate criticisms.

Absurdity becomes the norm when this political strategy is used frequently and with little thought. A default position that says, all past events are irrelevant is dangerous and rapidly erodes credibility. A position that then justifies lying to bury past events is supremely crooked.

Conservative politicians in Westminster have got themselves into this extremely bad habit. It’s an arrogant assertion that accountability is for other people. It’s an attempt to by-pass the checks and balances that are necessary in any successful democracy.

As inflation rushes to exceed 5%, the denial that Brexit has had anything to do with this is another absurdity. This habit of burying the past extends to supply chain problems and a decline in trade[3].

Parliament needs to rise and challenge these absurdities. The fabric of our democracy is fraying.

Government credibility is sinking in the quicksand of denial.


[1] https://www.reuters.com/world/uk/uk-pm-johnson-under-fire-over-christmas-lockdown-party-2021-12-08/

[2] https://news.sky.com/story/this-party-is-not-going-to-be-investigated-by-the-police-in-a-years-time-rees-mogg-jokes-about-government-christmas-parties-12489616

[3] https://ukandeu.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/The-impact-of-Brexit-on-UK-services.pdf

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 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;

Flight, Risk & Reflections 12.

Ready for anything[1]. It’s a good position to take when no one can predict what might happen next. Such is the uncertainty that prevails. In a month and a bit, the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) will be reverting to where it was when it was formed in the 1970s. All alone. Before 1972, regulation of civil aviation was the responsibility of the Air Registration Board (ARB). The CAA was established as a “modern” arms length regulator to act in the public interest. It did this successfully and drove European cooperation to become influential and highly respected.

Without agreement, being a British traveller, to and from the European Union (EU) after 1 January 2021 will not be much fun, to say the least. That said, the low levels of international travel in prospect, because of COVID-19 might well mask the full impact of new procedures and lost privileges. Although British passports will not command the seamless freedom of movement we have enjoyed for decades, there maybe some travel bargains to be had in the New Year.

Fishing is one of the roadblocks in UK-EU negotiations[2]. It would be immensely sad, and stupid if agreement on 99.9% of the issues fell based on not being able to compromise on fishing.  Aviation has the potential to lift us all out of economic gloom. Fishing will do no such thing. Publicly embracing failure is not a good strategy for a British Prime Minister (PM).

Unfortunately, the Brexit headbangers are still the Brexit headbangers.  These people exert disproportionate influence. Although it maybe politically cynical, the PM has a large majority in Parliament and the EU remains a bogyman to distract the British people from the pandemic pandemonium, so the No-Deal horse continues to run.  That tired nag should have long since been retired.

Where there is incompetence in Government, the official Opposition should be shedding light on it in Parliament. On Brexit, the largest Opposition Party in the UK is just as much in the mire as the Conservatives. Backing a lastminute deal, if negotiations succeed in coming days, maybe their final kick in the teeth to the 48%.

The UK Government is advising domestic businesses that “getting ready takes longer than you think”. Having given close attention to the last 4-years ups and downs, that warning should be applied to any discussion of British political decision-making. The wind and weather change rapidly over the British Isle and so do the ebbs and flows in and around Westminster. So, it does take a long time for a settled state to arise. Stability is much valued by aviation businesses that need to make long-term investments. Being hit by a double whammy of COVID-19 and Brexit is destroying otherwise viable aviation businesses[3]. But here we are in November 2020, still waiting for a “moment of truth”. 


[1] https://worldofaviation.com/2020/11/uk-working-to-mitigate-brexit-risks-as-deadline-looms/

[2] https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-britain-eu-fish/britain-not-accepting-eus-fish-offer-on-brexit-the-sun-idUSKBN2871EC

[3] https://twitter.com/ADSgroupUK/status/1330855509491142657?s=20

Flight, Risk & Reflections 11.

Next year, whatever happens with COVID-19 there will be a focus on limiting greenhouse gas emissions from aviation.  In a way, the virus has already had a positive environmental impact. Less efficient aircraft are being pensioned off earlier than would otherwise be.

The European Union (EU) has said it will take part in the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) scheme from the start of its voluntary phase on 1 January 2021[1].

The COP26 United Nations (UN) climate conference will take place in a years’ time, between 1 and 12 November 2021 in Scotland[2]. All eyes will be on climate change

On the political climate, Downing Street dramas rival the most notable soap operas. That said, White House dramas still get top billing[3].  Some people raise the question: will the UK Government be more “collaborative and cooperative” after Dominic Cummings’ departure[4]?  Will UK Prime Minister (PM) Johnson now be exposed? I’m remined of the saying about being indispensable. If you think you are indispensable, get a glass of water and place your finger in it. Then remove the finger and observe the hole.

The Brexit trade talks enter another weekend with few signs of progress visible. Deadlines loom large in the volumes of commentary built on scant knowledge of what’s really going on. A crunch moment will come in the last week of November.

Some people say this PM is indecisive and will “cave in” on the UK’s relationship with the EU. I don’t think a radical change of direction is on the cards. The fundamental asks of a Tory Brexit haven’t changed. It’s a demand for privileges without the accompanying obligations. A Free Trade Area with a bigger neighbour with no constraints. Every time a constraint is mentioned the echo of sovereignty resounds around the room. It gets ridiculous as hard core Brexiters puff up their chests and say: you don’t show me no respect. 

Reality is reality. The EU would be unwise to let a powerful non-member have unfettered access to its market without contributing to the whole.  A problem with Dominic Cummings’ departure is that we are likely to see the Vote Leave people taking no responsibility what-so-ever for the world in 2021.  Instead when difficulties arise, they will apply their formidable campaigning skills to high power finger pointing. 

On the basis that the PM is an unscrupulous carpetbagger there will be a thin deal with the EU.  It will be presented as a great British success and the rest will be – work it out as you go along.   


[1] https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2020/06/25/aviation-emissions-eu-confirms-its-participation-in-the-corsia-voluntary-phase-from-2021-and-chooses-more-ambitious-option-to-calculate-its-offsetting-requirements/

[2] https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-dates-agreed-for-cop26-united-nations-climate-change-conference

[3] https://twitter.com/CBSNews/status/1327461255762817026?s=20

[4] https://twitter.com/standardnews/status/1327577348959514625?s=20

Flight, Risk & Reflections 7.

Turbulence ahead. The week past has been one of more of continuous buffeting. Are we going to see a deal not? Is the door open or closed? And so, the wrangling between the UK and the EU manages to fill yet more media headlines, but no one is any the wiser. 

To repeat one of the few certainties, the United Kingdom (UK) has left the European Union (EU) and the transition period is in place until 31 December 2020.

During the week, the UK’s Transport Minister has confirmed that a No-Deal Brexit could ground UK – EU flights[1]. Although this negative scenario is unlikely the UK Government seems remarkably unconcerned about the whole subject. There’s an expectation that the EU to bring forward contingency measures to save the day[2]. More temporary measures, more uncertainty and more contraction of services. Not a good approach to take in the situation. 

Overwhelmingly, Aviation wants the UK Government to focus on reaching a Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement (BASA) with the EU[3]

A year ago, claims were made that a UK-EU deal would be easy, in-fact that it such a deal was “oven ready”.  It’s now that we struggle to understand why the endless wrangling continues and that the No-Deal Brexit outcome is still on the table. We (UK) are tittering on the brink of the greatest failure of statecraft since the Suez Crisis in 1956.  Then with his health ruined and his political credibility brutally damaged, Sir Anthony Eden, the British Prime Minister in 1957, resigned. Will such a fate be waiting for British Prime Minister Johnson?

Johnson says the UK is primed ready for: “Australia-style terms” if a No Deal Brexit happens at the end of the year. This is pure theatrical political rhetoric designed to ratchet up tensions and appease members of the Conservative Party. It’s blatantly irresponsible nonsense since there’s no such thing as an Australian deal. 

It’s Monday and the fourth meeting of the EU-UK Joint Committee under the Withdrawal Agreement will takes place in London. No doubt the mood of this meeting will be tense. Oh to be a fly on the wall in that meeting. 


[1] https://www.cityam.com/brexit-no-deal-could-ground-uk-eu-flights-grant-shapps-admits

[2] https://euobserver.com/tickers/149765

[3] @PauleverittADS

Food and Farming

Those two words, food and farming are intimately linked.

Now, the UK Government is preventing Westminster MPs from voting on a House of Lords amendment to the Agriculture Bill.  Thus, the planned UK Trade and Agriculture Commission will not be empowered to protect food and animal welfare standard in the UK. 

An unending stream of underhand tactics, lies, rule breaking, shortcuts, manipulation and deceit power this Conservative Government. They are ushering in low standards, cheap imports and industrial farming practices that will be bad for animals, bad for humans and bad for the environment. 

The Agriculture Bill provides the legislative framework for the replacement of agricultural support schemes in place during EU membership. For some people, the Brexit project was about cutting red-tape in the belief that bureaucracy was the problem. So far, the post-Brexit world is presenting ever more complex bureaucracy producing poorer and poorer results at a greater cost than before. 

National Farming Union’s president Minette Batters said: “We have the chance to become a global leader in climate-friendly farming, and neither farmers nor the public want to see that ambition fall by the wayside because our trade policy does not hold food imports to the same standards as are expected of our own farmers.”

The coming week will test if this UK Government is united with the majority of the public and farmers in not wanting to accept lower quality food imports or doesn’t give a dam. 

Flight, Risk & Reflections 3.

“It is the year of turmoil”

Summing up the year so far, upbeat positive words are hard to find. The crisis that has stretched across the globe has left everyone wondering what comes next? What will recovery look like? I’m trying to avoid a melodramatic tone because if we compare this global crisis with others faced by humanity, in the last hundred years, this is not so massive. 

We, industry, Governments and travellers have in the last 60-years of the jet age have become accustomed to a progressively developing model of civil aviation that has increased the opportunity to travel. We recognised that the post-war model for aviation had to change. That was a major part of the ICAO General Assembly in Montreal last year. Global aviation must be made environmentally sustainable. More effort needed to be directed at long-term solutions to satisfy the wish to travel but reduce the environmental impact for flying.

Most large organisations had the event of a pandemic as part of the corporate risk assessment. Unfortunately, for many this was a tick in the box, a presentation and pat on the back job done. 2020’s events have thrown us into a completely different state from the one that was imagined.

Now, not without warning, but at great pace, the imperative has become to ensure the health and safety of passengers and workers in all aspects of civil aviation[1].  The COVID-19 crisis is forcing manufactures, operators and maintainers to rethink their business at every level. Jobs are being lost.

It’s often said that if you must change something big, change one thing at a time. People overwhelm themselves and start making mistakes if you change too many things all at once. Sadly, there’s the dying embers of a macho culture[2] in some parts of business and the political world. The results they produce are often extremely poor.  Over promising and under delivering are fatal to long-term success. 

In a World that made sense, both the UK and the EU would suspend the talks concerning their new relationship, get on with addressing COVID-19 and come back to the table when there was a better view of what the future might bring. Our reality is that a post-Brexit trade deal between UK and the EU seems unlikely at one stage, and then the next day it’s back on and the following day off again. News flits back and fore.

It remains to be seen if UK Prime Minister Johnson has a plan for a No-Deal Brexit. What’s happening is creating uncertainty and volatility day after day and making it hard for everyone. The devastating public health and economic impacts of COVID-19 plus all this turmoil is disastrous.

The UK’s political establishment do seem to be disconnected from reality. 


[1] https://www.eurocontrol.int/sites/default/files/2020-09/covid19-eurocontrol-comprehensive-air-traffic-assessment-14092020.pdf

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Machismo

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

Flight, Risk & Reflections 1.

Lucy Worsley’s stories about the biggest fibs in history are entertaining but enlightening too[1]. So, often competing versions of history get rewritten to fit the time and a place. It takes a while as the ebb and flow of social and political life chew on the facts. What’s different now is that we are living through a time when history is rewritten almost every week. The power and speed of social media throws up a massive churning of material and some of it never settles. That said, for those of us who were awake in 2015-16 it was easy to see that the direction of political travel was going to end in disaster. It’s a horrible play with no pleasure to say: I told you so.

The agenda for next week’s continuing round of EU-UK negotiations, in Brussels are now published[2]. It’s good to see that aviation has got a slot. We can all hope that the negotiations will make progress by compromise and reason and not get lost in more dogma and ideology. Usually August is a quite time in Brussels. Let’s hope that makes it a fertile environment for quiet reflection. 

At the moment, it seems the UK Government would rather focus on migrants making a Channel crossing than the future of the Country’s economy. With a quarterly drop of more than 20 percent in the UK economy, it becomes obvious why. The UK economy has been hit worst of all the G7 countries. The UK is now formally in recession.

In the past, there’s no question that UK air passengers enjoyed fantastic connectivity, both in terms of number of the destinations served and number of airlines flying routes. Today, sadly the story is one of decline from a peak. Passenger numbers are down significantly.

Aviation is critical to the UK especially with the mismanagement of the whole Brexit process. Aviation is one of the biggest connections the Country has with the rest of the world[3].  Allowing it to flounder and changing travel decisions weekly is a disaster[4]. This week the UK government added France, Malta and the Netherlands to the current ‘quarantine’ list.

BREXIT and COVID are a double whammy.  Add to that confusion and lack of direction and the results are devastating. 


[1] https://www.imdb.com/title/tt9680968/

[2] https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/negotiation-7th-round-eu-uk-agenda.pdf

[3] https://www.wearefinn.com/topics/posts/ads-calls-for-industry-safeguards-after-record-gdp-fall/

[4] https://www.independent.co.uk/travel/news-and-advice/uk-aviation-coronavirus-cancelled-flights-quarantine-travel-a9668891.html#Echobox=1597329649