It’s about a month ago since I last wrote. This has been a busy month. European Parliamentary elections took place on Thursday in the UK. The results of those elections will not be known until late on Sunday. A long process of local and regional counting will take up most of Sunday. What it will mean in the UK is still unclear but at least these were real votes in real ballot boxes. The outcome of which should be a sound indication of the current public mood.
The UK is now in the position where if it ratifies the existing EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement (WA) before 31 October 2019, an EU withdrawal will take place on the first day of the month following the completion of the ratification procedures. However, there are no signs that national ratification is on the cards. The UK’s two largest political parties have given-up on negotiations to come to a compromise on Brexit. This should be no surprise since a deal between the Conservatives and Labour would still have to pass the through a grid-locked House of Commons (HoC). A compromise involving the UK staying in a Customs Union (CU) is more than the hard core Brexit supporting Conservatives can accept. Now, as if the above wasn’t enough, the UK’s Prime Minister is stepping down. A starting gun has been fired on a that leadership race and it’s unlikely to be helpful to any potential political compromise.
The Brexit stasis continues to have a pressing and disruptive impact on the aviation and travel industries. Recently, the travel firm Thomas Cook reported a £1.5bn loss for the first half of the year. Behind this were several factors but one of the bigger ones was potential customers putting off their summer holiday plans.
With Brexit delayed until later this year, the UK is exporting people. Now record numbers are applying for Irish passports and that may give a boost to aviation in Ireland. As an indicator, I’ve had a conversation with a person prepared to relocate his businesses if Brexit remains unresolved.
In the technical regulation arena, the objective would seem to be to maintain as much continuity as possible. Our international rules-based system assumes that Countries will work together to improve conductivity. But the situation remains fluid between the UK and EU, and there are still big questions to answer before we reach 1 November 2019.
The power-play going on between US and China is not a good background in which to continue with the uncertainty of Brexit. The UK should be defending multilateralism in this situation. A choice needs to be made since the UK’s aviation future need not shift from an influential rule-maker into a rule-taker. In this region, retaining membership of EU Agencies, like EASA remains a viable option.
Brexit is now in a go / no-go position. I’m more of the opinion that the project must be terminated and quickly. Even if it is not, close alignment with the EU still has major benefits. Is there the political vision in the UK to steer Brexit to a conclusion? It’s going to be well into July 2019 before we even have a hint as to the answer to that question. 3-years since the UK referendum and its only uncertainty that is certain.