Aviation & Brexit 99

A public petition that says: Parliament must not be prorogued or dissolved unless and until the Article 50 period has been sufficiently extended or the UK’s intention to withdraw from the EU has been cancelled, stands at over 1.6 million signatures.  It’s one indication of the level of public outrage that the UK Government has provoked by its latest actions.

Going back to the pre-referendum world, my years commuting back and forth between the UK and Germany had a few ups and downs.  Snow shutting runways, an engine failure, delays and boring evenings spent in departure lounges at Gatwick and Cologne airports.  That said, on average the experience was fine.  I got to know the interior of an Airbus A319 was well as anyone.  British Airways, EasyJet and Germanwings, now Eurowings use the aircraft.  It’s a fine modern aircraft for flights of around an hour.

So, what will routine business travel be like if Brexit goes ahead after the end of October?  Looking at what’s available, a November flight from London to Cologne can still be scoped up for under £100.  But it’s emerging that short work assignments to European Union (EU) Member States are not going to be so easy as in the past[1].

For a start checking your passport is an absolute must.  Gone are the days of jumping on a High-Speed Train with nothing more than a driver’s licence as ID.  I often travelled between Cologne and Brussels having left my passport at home.  Now, it’s essential to check you’ve got at least 6 months left on your passport from the start of any journey.

The EU has amended its regulations to allow visa-free travel for UK nationals for short stays of 90 days in any 180-day period.  Another Brexit effect is that UK nationals will no longer be able to use EU lanes at airports and ports.  Also, UK nationals may be asked about the duration, purpose of visit and their financial means when entering the EU[2].

There are official UK Government warnings about travel[3].  One of them concerns medical insurance.  UK nationals visiting the EU need to have private medical insurance after 31 October.  That may be difficult for those with pre-existing conditions who may be excluded from cover.   My free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will not be much use after Halloween[4].

EU leaders are due to meet for a summit in Brussels on 17 – 18 October, just a fortnight before the UK’s current withdraw date.  There’s a small chance that Brexit negotiations will bring about an agreement.  It is only a small chance.

[1] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-08-13/advice-for-london-bankers-in-no-deal-brexit-refundable-tickets?

[2] Assuming a No Deal disorderly Brexit and continuing uncertainty

[3] https://twitter.com/DHSCgovuk/status/1167436816405979137?s=20

[4] https://www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/healthcare-abroad/apply-for-a-free-ehic-european-health-insurance-card/#


Aviation & Brexit 81

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[1].  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[2] 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[3].   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.

[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-48292318

[2] https://www.irishpost.com/news/how-to-get-irish-passport-166453

[3] https://ebace.aero/2019/news/latest-news/ebace2019-session-looks-at-impending-brexit/


Aviation & Brexit 80

It’s a week ago since I last wrote.  It’s been the week of Easter.  Politicians took time off and the news cycle found new stories to cover including exceptionally warm weather.   In terms of progressing towards a solution to the Brexit crisis nothing much happened.  Or at least nothing much happened in public.

Brexit continues to be a lose-lose proposition.  On both sides of the Channel the impasse rattles on.  All the energy absorbed by Brexit has weaken the economies of both the UK and the Continent.  CNN[1] recently reported that its China that is the big winner from Europe’s Brexit chaos.  That could well be the case, if not in the short-term then certainly in the longer term.

The European Parliament (EP) is now in recess until after the European elections at the end of May.  The new EP will be in place in July.  A new European Commission will be appointed.

This means UK holidaymakers will have to make a leap of faith if they are booking a beach holiday on the Continent this summer.  Since Brexit is delayed, but that could be cut short the assumption may be made that conditions remain; business as usual at least for a bit longer.

Since the referendum was first called in 2015 the UK pound (£) has fallen from roughly 1.4 Euro to the £ to its current rate of around 1.15 Euro to the £.   UK holidaymakers will need to take this into account when booking packages.  In all cases measures to keep aircraft flying will be in place but there’s a strong likelihood that higher fares and less choice are on the cards.

As a highly regulated industry the importance of what happens to regulatory relations matters a great deal.  Aviation cannot prosper without a mature and stable framework within which to operate safely.  All the international evidence points in that one direction.

The UK played a major part in the formation of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), but it would seem to be stepping aside.  Regardless of what the UK does, EASA’s tasks within the EU-27 and its 4 associated countries will continue uninterrupted.   The UK’s possible withdrawal puts it in a difficult position with diminished influence.  Any withdrawal will significantly alter EASA’s cooperation with UK authorities.  Even in this peculiar situation there may still be a re-think but just now nothing remains untouched.

[1] https://edition.cnn.com/2019/03/27/europe/china-europe-brexit-italy-bri-intl-gbr/index.html


Brexit & Aviation 77

The original Brexit transition date has gone by.  Am I comfortable writing this on 1st April?  Well it’s past lunchtime so it would now be bad form to make a joke about the whole debacle.

It’s another day of UK Parliamentary “indicative” votes or should I say evening?  We might imagine a compromise be sought and happiness reigns.  However, every time I hear a UK politician talk about compromise, they usually mean others coming around to their point of view.  The outcome of the “indicative” votes held by the House of Commons (HoC) on 27th March were received with disappointment but at least they were an attempt to move forward.   Regarding the future course of the Brexit the, UK Parliament is deeply divided on the big decisions, but voting patterns are starting to emerge.

Clearly, the international money markets think that a “soft” Brexit is the flavour of the day.  UK’s currency hasn’t ducked and dived too much for a while.  On the table is the proposal to remain in a Customs Union (CU) with the EU Member States.  This doesn’t explicitly touch on civil aviation although it does concern the movement of goods and services.  Implicit in this arrangement is close cooperation and collaborative working.  So, it’s conceivable that might extend to such possibilities as participation in European Agencies.

Whilst compromise and consensus are desirable and nice to talk about, the tone of the continuing public debate isn’t getting any calmer.  The BBC News Reality Check[1] team just published a reasonably worded assessment called “Brexit: Will flights be disrupted?”.  Reading some of the comments to this item posted on Social Media indicates that we have a long way to go.  The more polite ones are along these lines: I can’t believe people really think this is an issue, we few our planes before the EU and media starts scaremongering just before the Easter holidays.  The knee-jerk reactions of vocal Brexit supporters are to deem anything that paints their project in a negative light as: bias and scaremongering, regardless of its veracity.

There’s a tendency to ignore the fact that the single market in aviation has transformed flying for British air travellers.  There’s greater choice and competition and new routes across Europe and beyond.   It’s impossible to go back to the 1970s.  And who would want to go back to a State controlled industry without much concern for passengers?  Ignoring the reality that the EU has delivered is twisted and downright foolish.  After nearly 3-years no one knows what Brexit is or will become.  It’s a truly shocking situation.

[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-47225806

Brexit & Aviation 75

Travelling between the UK and Europe at some indeterminant future date?  Planning your holiday for 2019?  You may need to take a lot of extra steps before you travel.  Both the EU and UK are taking measures to mitigate any severe disruption to air travel post-Brexit.

For EU registered airlines, EU law will continue to apply to flights to and from the EU.  For passengers on a flight departing from the UK, similar passenger rights should continue to apply after the UK leaves the EU.  The UK Government has said flights will not be cancelled due to Brexit.  However, if there is flight disruption due to Brexit, you probably will NOT get compensation.  Air travellers only get compensation if a delay is deemed to be within the airline’s control.  Clearly Brexit and its repercussions are beyond their control.

In order to off-set the concerns of many travellers, companies are issuing advice[1] and guarantees[2].  Also, their Terms and Conditions may be updated to say that the cancellation of flights due to Brexit will NOT be deemed to be within their control.  Some airlines may class a Brexit cancellation in the same category as a natural disaster like a volcanic eruption or earthquake.

A lot of effort is being put into assuring business continues, whatever the outcome of Brexit.  But offers of Brexit guarantees are not for free, someone is baring the costs.

One of the least favoured options is that there be No-Deal between the EU and UK post Brexit.  Now, the uncertainty continues as it’s clear the UK will NOT be leaving the EU this coming Friday.  A Salutatory Instrument has been passed by the House of Commons (HoC) that has changed the planned leaving date to either 12 April 2019 or 22 May 2019.

Last night, the British Parliament took control of the HoC agenda and conducted a series of “indicative votes”.   There was no majority for any of the Brexit options on the table.  However, amongst UK Members of Parliament, the “Peoples Vote” option, a further referendum, secured the biggest vote in favour (268 votes).

Another EU summit is being planned in Brussels for the week commencing 8 April 2019.  Another extension will be on the table if progress hasn’t been made in the UK.  Each extension taken up by the UK shortens the planned transition period by a corresponding amount of time.  The current Article 50 period can last as long as the Treaties on which it is based.  A positive option is desperately needed to plot a way forward.  The option to revoke Article 50 is always there.

[1] https://www.easyjet.com/en/help/boarding-and-flying/brexit

[2] https://support.thomascook.com/Travel-Advice-Safety/Leaving-the-EU-Brexit-Questions/1134032422/How-will-Brexit-affect-my-holiday.htm

Brexit & Aviation 71

I have an admiration for the staff at the House of Commons library.  At least someone is trying to keep track of what’s going on[1].

So far, there have been 475 Brexit related Statutory Instruments (SIs) laid before the UK Parliament.  That’s 79% of the expected 600 SIs. In other words, a great deal of new UK legislation that needs to be in place the day after Brexit.  What’s astonishing is that we hear nothing from our law-makers about these acts of law-making.  The total focus is on the uncertainly over the direction that will be taken by the UK.  There are statements that Brexit is “deadlocked” but there remain many choices that can be made.  However, unless something is agreed exiting European Union (EU) treaties will, by automatic process of law, cease to apply to the UK in 18 day[2].

This situation impacts treaties with non-EU Countries too.  A House of Commons library paper looks at the UK Government’s progress in renegotiating and agreeing replacement treaties with Countries outside of the EU[3].

The UK Government has published a policy on EU Air Services[4].  Unfortunately, there’s little new in the policy and it’s substantially worse than the current arrangements.  Airlines are enacting their contingency measures, but much remains unknown.   For example; Ryanair[5] have said:

“We welcome the Civil Aviation Authority’s decision to grant our UK based airline, Ryanair UK, with a UK AOC, allowing Ryanair to operate UK domestic routes and UK to non-EU routes in a post-Brexit environment.

The risk of a ‘no deal’ Brexit in March is rising, and despite our robust post-Brexit structures, including our post-Brexit plan around European ownership, we continue to call for the UK and EU to agree a transition deal from 31 March 2019, so that any disruption to flights and British consumer summer holidays in 2019 can be avoided.”

The robust post-Brexit structure they are talking about is to change the voting rights of British shareholders such that the rules of being a European airline can be met.

For travellers who contemplate booking holidays or flights to, from or via the UK it may be prudent to wait for a few days.   Certainly, there’s a need to take out travel insurance that can cover a flight cancellation as a result of Brexit.  The insurance sector maybe one that will be benefiting from the increase in uncertainty but that’s their job.

[1] http://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/CBP-8370/CBP-8370.pdf

[2] https://interactive.news.sky.com/2017/brexit-countdown/

[3] https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/CBP-8370

[4] https://www.gov.uk/guidance/air-services-from-the-eu-to-the-uk-in-the-event-of-no-deal

[5] https://corporate.ryanair.com/news/ryanair-welcomes-caas-issuing-of-uk-aoc-for-ryanair-uk/


Aviation & Brexit 65

5 weeks and a few days to the end date that was put into legislation for the UK to leave the European Union (EU).  Both Saint David’s and Saint Patrick’s Day fall before the scheduled exit day.  There’s still a small chance that the departure could be called off but, just now, the bookmakers are increasing the odds in favour of a tragic “No Deal” outcome to Brexit.

In every respect negotiation between the 27 EU Member States have gone well.  What’s not going well is when they sit across the table facing the UK.  It’s not at all clear what the UK Government’s policy is this week.  Voices off from Ministers point in several directions at the same time.  On Tuesday, the UK’s Business Secretary[1] told manufacturing leaders that leaving the EU without an agreement would be a “disaster” for the UK and said he recognised the need for clarity “as soon as possible”.   Vagueness at such a late hour doesn’t look good from any direction[2].

Maintaining a position as a world player in the aerospace industry requires substantial investments in research.  During its membership, the UK has been a prominent beneficiary of the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme.  Now, the EU is planning its biggest research and innovation funding programme ever, with a budget of €97.6 billion.  This will be called Horizon Europe.  It will run from 2021-2027.

Trying to match the efforts of the UK’s neighbours might be the ambition of some UK politicians but their current performance doesn’t offer much hope.  Funds will no doubt be tight after any post-Brexit downturn.

The aviation ties between neighbours are the most important.  Over 75% of all UK holidaymakers and 66% of business travellers go to the EU each year.  63% of all tourists and 73% of all business travellers visiting the UK come from EU Member States[3].  Putting barriers in the way of this movement of people just makes both communities poorer.

[1] https://www.politicshome.com/news/uk/foreign-affairs/brexit/news/101966/greg-clark-says-business-no-deal-fears-are-‘project

[2] https://twitter.com/CBItweets/status/1097903644970672131?s=20

[3] https://www.ig.com/uk/news-and-trade-ideas/shares-news/how-will-brexit-impact-airlines-and-the-wider-aviation-industry–180316#information-banner-dismiss


Blue No More

IMG_6349 (2)Today, as a traveller you don’t need to pay excise duty or tax on goods you bring in from the European Union (EU) if you: transport them yourself, will use them yourself or give them away as a gift and have paid duty and tax in the Country where they were purchased.   When arriving home from a trip abroad, we are all accustomed to the “blue” channel at UK airports.  You can bring any reasonable amount of alcohol or tobacco from the EU back to the UK, provide the local duties and taxes have been paid and that they are for personal consumption and not for resale.

That said, the rules governing customs are typically EU law and they are now directly applicable in the UK.  Since the UK intends to leave the European single market and customs union this may get complicated and means that UK law must be changed.

If the outcome of Brexit is “No Deal”, and the UK crashes out of the EU on 29 March 2019 without any agreement in place, it becomes a “Third Country”.   Thus, at a stroke, EU customs laws would no longer apply in the UK and duty between the two markets could be automatically returned.

So, the duty-free allowances are likely to change post-Brexit.  In other words, the allowances may become the same for those returning from either the EU or outside the EU.  This means losing the current more generous conditions, as quoted above.  After Brexit, returning from an EU Country may the same as returning from a non-EU Country like the USA, UAE, Australia, India or Japan.

The days of the “booze cruise” where people go over to France or Belgium and stock-up with a car load drinks for personal consumption may come to an end.  HMRC publishes information for arrivals from outside the EU[1].  That information will no doubt be updated within the next 50 days.

[1] https://www.gov.uk/duty-free-goods/arrivals-from-outside-the-eu


Brexit & Aviation 62

This week the focus has been on Northern Ireland (NI).  It may not be well known by everyone, but NI has a considerable Aerospace sector.  It’s continued success is vital to NI[1].  Aerospace contributes to over a £1bn a year to the NI economy.   It’s a deep-rooted industrial sector too.  I remember visiting Shorts Brothers of Belfast in the 1990s.  Today, Bombardier has a large workforce in NI[2].  From design to manufacture to support work, Bombardier Belfast specialises in major aircraft structures and flight control surfaces in metal and composites.  If the issues concerning Ireland become insoluble then the resulting EU-UK No Deal outcome of negotiations will damage NI and the rest of the UK.

In the UK, there are devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and NI.  Exiting EU law applies equally across the UK but there’s concern that fragmentation could occur after EU exit.  There are efforts to ensure a common framework, but these don’t yet address aerospace or aviation with respect to UK law.   On leaving the EU single market the UK internal market needs to maintain a level playing field whist recognising devolved powers.

Brexit remains the top immediate risk to the growth of aviation in Europe[3].  Passenger traffic growth across European airports has been relatively high in recent years.  The UK leaving the EU with No Deal could lead to cap on flights and higher prices for customers.   There remains legal and commercial uncertainty for airlines on post-Brexit air travel[4].

At a time when there should be renewed intensity and seriousness to discussions and negotiations, we see the opposite from a succession of UK Members of Parliament.   Attempts to polarise and heighten tension are coming from those who foolishly wish to bring about a No Deal outcome.

Aviation cannot wait for the UK to strike an 11th-hour Brexit deal, so measures are being taken now.  With 50 days to run, time is tight.  Travellers planning business trips and family holidays after 29 March 2019 should do so with some caution.  Checking terms and conditions in detail would be a wise move.

[1] https://www.adsgroup.org.uk/about/ads-offices/northern-ireland/

[2] https://uk.bombardier.com/en/about-us/bombardier-in-country/sites/site.aerospace-belfast.html

[3] ACI Europe director general Olivier Jankovec said: “With less than 60 days left before the UK exits the EU, Brexit remains the top immediate risk.

[4] https://www.iata.org/pressroom/pr/Pages/2019-01-15-01.aspx#__prclt=QqEx89ur


Brexit & Aviation 60

Delay is the order of the day.  Now, there’s only 56 days remaining on the Brexit clock.  859 days since this all started with a June day.  One silver lining to the current dark Brexit cloud is that the UK Parliament is saying it won’t support a No-Deal Brexit.  However, there’s nothing to relieve the uncertainty hanging over the whole UK because even this expression of view is being ignored by the UK Government.  The UK Government says it will now redouble its efforts to get a deal.  Let’s hope redoubling is enough or surely it would be wiser to drop the whole project.

EU Council President Tusk, through his spokesman repeated that the Withdrawal Agreement on the table could not be renegotiated.   Next, the 9th February will see Prime Minister May’s 3rd attempt at a version of a Brexit deal supported by the UK Parliament.  Will it be 3 strikes and you are out?

In the latest information to UK citizens travelling to EU Member States every aspect of the advice is a degradation of exiting conditions.  Travelling post-Brexit, there’s only a downside for both passengers and airlines[1].

If No-Deal comes about there’s some highly optimistic commentators who believe that a “side agreement” between the EU and UK could cover some of the purely administrative content of the existing Withdrawal Agreement.  That said, even with this practical suggestion absolutely nothing is assured.

In the aviation regulatory world, it’s reported that the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is in the process of rebuilding itself after scalling back following the creation of EASA in September 2003.  The UK CAA has said it wants to stay within the EASA system after the UK exits the EU.  However, this possibility is looking unlikly for all the political reasons that are piling up every day.  The UK’s exit from the EU will have a severe impact on the UK aviation industry.

In civil aviation, large organisations have an Emergency Response Plan (ERP).   International standards recommend planning.  It’s normal, once a plan is in place to conduct an exercise to ensure that everyone has a clear understanding of its process and it stands up to rigorous testing.   I’ve been part of several such exercises in Europe.  My experience is that even with the most elegant plan, carefully prepared, the real-life impact of using it is often incredibly revealing.  Situations are constantly evolving, and all parties must move rapidly in order to anticipate risks and adapt accordingly.  Often communication and behaviours turn out differently than expected.

Yes, on both sides preparations are being made for the worst case No-Deal scenario, but they will all be untested.  If more than one crisis occurs at any one time more than double the effort is needed to resolve the situation.   The implementation of any such No Deal plan will not be a matter for one organisation but a continent of 500 million people.   If anyone thinks that will go smoothly, I just have to say that they have no experience of the real world.

[1] https://www.aerosociety.com/news/no-deal-no-flights/