Brexit, Aviation and the Withdrawal 3

“Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.[1]”  It seems strange to me that the first and only time I have ever been in the London O2 arena was 20 years ago when it opened as the Millennium Dome. In that 20 years, I moved from aircraft certification to aviation safety and research to playing my part in setting up a new European Agency in Cologne.  And then retiring back to the UK.  The millennium events were full of ambition, imagination and hope.  As we enter the 2nd decade of the 2000s, the experience of Brexit makes no sense in that context.

This week, on behalf of the EU, the European Commission adopted a draft negotiating directive for a new partnership with the United Kingdom (UK)[2].  This material includes the following for Transport and Aviation:

  1. b) Aviation safety
  2. The envisaged partnership should facilitate trade and investment in aeronautical products, parts and appliances through cooperation in areas such as certification and monitoring, the production oversight and environmental approval and testing. Negotiations should be based on both Parties being satisfied with the other Party’s requirements, regulatory processes and capacity to implement them.
  3. Nothing in the envisaged partnership should entail reciprocal acceptance of the standards and technical regulations of the Parties. Rather, it should limit duplication of assessments to significant regulatory differences and allow, to the extent possible, reliance on the certification system of the other Party. It may also specify modalities, based for example on the respective experience and knowledge of the other party, for the respective level of involvement of the authorities. To facilitate the achievement of the objective set out above, the envisaged partnership may also provide for regulatory co-operation.
  4. The acceptance by one Party of findings or certificates of the other Party shall only take place when, and as long as, the first Party is able to establish and maintain confidence in the other Party’s ability to discharge its obligations in accordance with the envisaged partnership. The envisaged partnership should include appropriate cooperation mechanisms to verify on a reciprocal basis the continued fitness and ability of the regulatory bodies involved in its implementation.

However awkwardly written, none of this negotiating text should be a surprise.  This is what the European Union (EU) might say to any 3rd Country.  Given that the starting position for the UK is alignment then aspects of the above should be achievable without great stress.  However, there are subjects like; initial airworthiness (design certification) where the UK has not been fully competent since September 2003. A demonstration of ability, capacity, experience and knowledge on that subject will likely take more than 11 months.  Much of that depends on the degree to which the slogan: “take back control” was intended.

No doubt the above negotiating text on aviation safety is well researched and reasoned and that the background thinking exists in internal documents within the EU.   Since Brexit, British diplomats no longer have formal access to internal documents and information so there’s likely to be a lot more dinners and lunches in Brussels restaurants.

Yes, the UK has formally left the EU, but it hasn’t left numerous other European institutions.  One of them is an intergovernmental organisation based in Paris called the European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC)[3].  The predecessor to the European Union Safety Aviation Agency (EASA), the Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) were established by ECAC in the 1990s.  It will be interesting to see what role the UK will play in this ECAC in coming years.  Will it be more vocal?

[1] Quote from: Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.



Brexit, Aviation and the Withdrawal 1

The UK flag has been taken down at the European Union (EU) Council building in Brussels.  This is one of the actions that marks Brexit.  After almost 50 years of EU membership and 3 years of acrimony over the vote to leave, the UK has formally left the EU.  Now, the EU and the UK enter a transition period during which detailed talks take place[1].   The transition period is due to end on 31 December 2020.  So, time is short, and ambitions are high.  If there’s a pragmatic upside to these events, it does make it more difficult for national politicians to use the EU as a scapegoat.  That said, given the propensity to use blame as a way of avoiding accountability then no doubt a new target will be found.

As we enter what will be another frantic period, both parties to the EU-UK negotiations are setting out their shop windows.  The consequences of this, is that, and so on.  What’s unusual about these negotiations is that there are two parties start with free trade and a level playing field but talk of erecting barriers as they go.  Usually, it’s the other way around whereby the aim of detailed negotiations is to remove barriers.  To any dispassionate observer this does seem to be wacky.

In the aviation sector, will the UK continue to participate in the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) systems and comply with European regulations?   In the short-term there’s time for a transition but a transition to what in 11 months?  In the long-term, a relationship on aviation is to be determined but what are the aims and objectives?

Based on my experience of setting up a new international Aviation Agency, I’d make the following simple recommendations:

  • Recognise that aviation regulation is both social and technical. The political domain must heed the technical and vice-versa.  The public demand mutual respect.
  • Respecting aviation’s legacy at the same time as being innovative in regulation requires a deft touch. Products have long lives and technology advances rapidly.  Avoid excessive prescription accepting that some is necessary.  Be clear about performance objectives.
  • Treat all 3 of these capabilities as equally important, being: Reactive, Pro-active and Prognostic. The first inevitable because the last is imperfect.  Day-to-day the most important is what you are doing – now.
  • Big or small, the Boardroom and the shop floor have equal importance. Top-down: safety is number one.  Bottom-up: actions directly impact safety.  Never create too many complex layers between these two parts of an organisation.
  • Don’t take on more actions than your regulatory system of processes and procedures can work effectively.  Trying to satisfy everyone ends in disappointment.  Trying to sweep concerns under the carpet ends in tragedy.
  • Embrace new knowledge but don’t become allured by aggressive marketing. Verification and validation can’t be skipped just because of the confidence of the promoter.

There’s much more that can be said but the six items above come to mind.


Brexit & Aviation 118

For the British politician the 31st January 2020 is a big event.  For most people in employment, the Brexit confusion and uncertainty continues at least for another 11 months.  Social Media is a good indication of the conversations people in aviation employment are having.  One question raised yesterday has been raised many times: After Brexit will the EASA licences that were obtained in the UK still be valid? 

Despite the name, these mandatory licences are not issued by EASA in Cologne but issued by European Union (EU) Member States applying European rules.  National Aviation Authorities (NAAs) have this responsibility.  The European system requires EASA and the NAAs to work together.   In order to get an EASA Part-66 AML (Aircraft Maintenance License), an applicant needs to show a basic knowledge in relevant aviation subjects.

Having common rules throughout EASA Member States means that they accept an EASA licence that is granted by one of those States.   In addition, States across the globe, who have a relationship with the EU can choose to accept an EASA licence.   That’s what happens in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) where most of the world’s Airbus A380 aircraft are based, for example.

So, the EU and the UK are entering a transition period during which UK aviation will continue to participate in the EASA systems.  That means compliance with EU regulations while the longer-term EU-UK aviation relationship is worked out.   Currently the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) website has a statement[1]:

Engineers transferring their Part-66 licence to other Member States: While the CAA will continue to accept and process Part 66 transfer applications under existing EASA transfer arrangements until the UK leaves the EU, the procedures adopted by the receiving NAA and recognised validity of the licence during the transfer process may vary amongst EU member states. Applicants who require continuity of validity throughout the transfer process are therefore advised to apply at least 3 months prior to Exit Day and should also consider engaging with their intended receiving NAA to identify any potential issues.

Clearly, there are numerous combinations and permutations of situations that can arise for engineers working on aircraft.   Given the history of licencing it’s highly likely that an arrangement will be worked out for next year, 2021.  For now, each individual aircraft engineer needs to check their situation dependent on where they are working and on what aircraft they are working on, at what time.

This will put extra stress on global regulatory oversight activities too.


Brexit & Aviation 112

It has been reported that the British Prime Minister will put his Brexit bill before MPs on Friday, 20 December.   Before the UK General Election (GE), the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) passed a vote on the floor of the House of Commons (HoC) by 329 votes to 299 votes.  However, the Prime Minister then withdrew the WAB.  Now, with an overall majority in the UK Parliament, the WAB should make progress and pass into UK law before the UK leaves the European Union (EU) on 31 January 2020.

The appointment of the HoC Speaker takes place on Tuesday, 17 December.  The HoC must choose its Speaker after the GE, and this is the first thing it does on the first day it meets after the GE.  Then there’s the State opening of Parliament on is Thursday, 19 December.

EU leaders have expressed hope that the decisive UK GE victory last week will bring more clarity to the UK’s position in coming negotiations.  Meanwhile the EU has changed.  Ursula von der Leyen is in post as the first woman President of the European Commission.  The European Parliament (EP) 16 – 19 December session in Strasbourg has just kicked-off.

I assume that the 73 British MEPs elected will need to give up their seats in the European Parliament (EP).  The current composition (751 MEPs) of the EP continues to apply for as long as the UK is an EU Member State.  A new composition of the EP will apply at the date of the withdrawal of the UK (from 751 to down to 705 MEPs).

The EU Council presidency of held by Finland comes to an end as we end the year.  Next in line is Croatia: January-June 2020 and then Germany: July-December 2020.  Recently the European Commission has said that Europe must unblock Single European Sky (SES) under the leadership of the Croatian and German Presidencies.   This is strongly in the interest of the UK, but the UK will no longer be around the table in 2020.  Making SES work means reduced flying times and using less fuel.  Environmental imperatives.

Back in September this year, the UK Government and UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) expressed the view[1] that remaining a member of the EU Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) was a shared goal.  If the new UK Government and EU decide that this cannot be achieved, then much work will need to be undertaken.

On passage of the WAB into UK law, there will then be a transition period to undertake EU-UK negotiations, based on the Revised Political Declaration[1].   This document is very light on aviation matters.  The Government wants negotiations done by the end of 2020 and the deal in force at the start of 2021.  This is exceptionally speedy given the change of political climate and the vagueness of existing commitments.


[1] CAP1714: The CAA’s guide to Brexit No Deal & Aviation Safety

Brexit & Aviation 109

Preposterous isn’t a big enough word to sum up what’s going on in respect of the UK Government’s approach to the UK Parliament.   Having entirely messed-up during the special session on Saturday last, the UK Prime Minister (PM) has tried to ask the same question again of the House of Commons (HoC) and been sent packing.  Therefore, it stands that the HoC has not approved the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) and has called for the PM to secure an extension under Article 50(3) of the Treaty on European Union until at least 31 January 2020 for the purpose of holding an early General Election (GE) before the end of the extension period.   Will this happen?  We have yet to see.

In conversation, I find that even amongst those who avidly follow the progress of Brexit there’s an incorrect notion.   It’s that the WA represents a deal between the EU and UK that defines their future relationship.  That’s not so.  The WA can be described as a divorce settlement and thus needs to be binding.  That said, the accompanying document, titled Political Declaration (PD), setting out the framework for the future relationship between the EU and the UK is not binding.  The PD is essentially a starting point for the next even more complex and difficult negotiation.

Rushing these historic and complex texts through the legislative process is causing concern.  There has been more than 3-years of ups and downs and backwards and forwards, but the final legal text has only just been put in front of Members of Parliament.  The European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill is not an easy read.

Industry continues to highlight the importance of avoiding a No Deal Brexit, but there’s some relief that the text on regulatory cooperation on aviation safety is positive[1].  The text is vague about close cooperation between the EU’s EASA and the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) but at least they are both explicitly mentioned.

Today, high standards of aviation safety are achieved by having common standards and sharing technical expertise and experience.  As the two parties separate there’s a considerable need to keep a close eye on new arrangements and any tendency to diverge for political reasons and not technical ones.  Cooperation doesn’t just happen ad-hoc.  It requires a dedicated effort and active mechanisms to make it work.  Confidence building initiatives take time when different means are used to get to the same outcome.


Brexit & Aviation 106

I’m waiting for the headline: The European Union (EU) has agreed to extend #Article50 a third time.  This could delay any possible #Brexit until June 2020.  Now, that sounds a lot saner than jumping off a cliff edge.  Especially if Britain and Ireland say they can bridge the gap between their two positions.  The Pound Sterling shot up as the markets took stock of the News that Prime Minister Johnson may not want to force us out of the EU on October 31st with No Deal.   Nevertheless, there’s a hell of a lot of people who remain with no trust in this administration.  The cold hard reality is that agreeing with Ireland most likely means the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP)[1] will be very unhappy.  Then the prospect of getting any deal through the UK Parliament gets even harder.

Amongst the latest news from Ireland is a series of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)[2] on Brexit from the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA).  Post Brexit Ireland realises that it will need to develop new trade routes, especially those of air transport.

In the UK a “No-Deal Readiness Report” has just been released[3].  The part of the Government document on UK airlines highlights that Brexit means more bureaucracy and not less as some people may have claimed:

  • UK airlines operating to and from the EU will need to obtain a Part-TCO safety authorisation from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and an operating permit from each relevant Member State. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) website provides extensive and detailed information on the actions that airlines need to take on its website.
  • UK aviation personnel involved in the operation and maintenance of aircraft (pilots, cabin crew, engineers and air traffic controllers) will need to ensure they have obtained the relevant licences and safety authorisations from the CAA and EASA. The CAA website provides extensive and detailed information for the action that personnel and UK airlines need to take.
  • EU airlines will need to apply for an operating permit from the CAA, their website provides extensive and detailed information on the actions that EU airlines need to take.

Further on the document is quite clear that UK regulatory bodies will no longer be able to license products for the EU market.  UK regulators will take on regulatory functions currently carried out by EU regulatory bodies, like the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in Cologne.  Further on in section E, the document talks about Aerospace goods.  It doesn’t make pleasant reading.  If the UK leaves without a deal, the EASA will no longer automatically recognise aviation safety certificates and approvals issued by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

Aerospace companies continue to warn of “serious risk” in current plan, as the UK Government fails to reassure them about participation in EU agencies.   It might be nice to think that the UK will continue to be a global aviation leader but in this new situation it will be in competition with its former partners.  I suppose few who voted in 2016 realised any of this would be an outcome in 2020.

[1] The Democratic Unionist Party is a unionist political party in Northern Ireland favouring British identity



Brexit & Aviation 102

UK Prime Minister (PM) Johnson’s Brexit meeting with the European Union’s Juncker was said to be “constructive” and contact between the two sides will now be stepped up.  I must wonder with amassment at this summary given that there are only 44 days left on the clock.  Whatever has been said, there’s been no change over the few days on the likelihood of the UK leaving the EU with or without a deal on 31 October.  In probability terms it looks highly likely.

Meanwhile the PM insists he did not mislead the Queen over suspending Parliament.  As of today, that questionable matter is in front of the highest Court in the land.

We are facing a situation where all the existing Agreements and Regulations derived from EU Treaties will fall on 31 October.  Yes, a new Regulation does address basic contingency measure that will be available for a short period[1] after Brexit day but then it’s the land of the completely unknown.

The implications of Brexit for Britain’s aerospace and aviation sector are looked at by the Royal Aeronautical Society and it doesn’t make for happy reading[2].  Yet, Brexit supporters will continue to talk loudly of scaremongering and so called “project fear”.

Let me not paint a picture that everything in the UK is chaos and everything in the EU is fine and dandy.  The hard facts are that we all have the same problems to confront.  A recent exchange between the European Parliament (EP) and the Executive Director of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) on aviation safety showed serious challenges for us all[3].  At least in Brussels, MEPs get to ask questions on aviation safety.  Currently, with a suspended UK Parliament that’s not possible for UK MPs in the UK.

On another subject, commercially Brexit is looking like a bad dream.  Thomas Cook has blamed Brexit uncertainty and the weather for lower bookings and people are now on alert over the airlines possible collapse[4].

If you are a Licensed Engineer and have an EASA Part-66 Licence issued by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), be sure to check the guidance on whether you will be eligible to work on EU Member State registered aircraft in the event of a No Deal Brexit.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have some good aviation news for a change?  With the Brexit clock ticking to the point of 40 days and 40 nights maybe a change of biblical proportions is coming[5].

[1] Commission considers that this Regulation does not prejudge the nature of the future relationship with the United Kingdom in the area of aviation and that the exercise of competence in the Regulation is temporary and strictly limited to its period of validity.




[5] Jesus fasted for 40 days and nights in the Judaean Desert. During this time, Satan came to him and tried to tempt him.

Brexit & Aviation 101

The implications of the prorogation of the United Kingdom (UK) Parliament and the inevitability of a UK General Election (GE) are difficult to fathom.  Factor in the flexibility with which rules and procedures are being interpreted and the mix is ever more complex.  It’s becoming clear that the hard Brexit deadline of 31st October 2019 isn’t a formula for a restoration of clarity, consistency and stability in the manner UK Government Ministers have been saying.

Let’s remember that a GE was scheduled for May 2022 and the last snap GE in 2017 did nothing to ease the pain of Brexit.  Moving the deck chairs around doesn’t stop the bad-tempered political rows that have become part of the daily news diet.

Although the general public had little interest in the subject until around 2015, the European question has become the defining political issue of our time.  Geography and history make the UK a European nation.  The question is that social, economic and political ties are at a crossroads.  Over the next few weeks British politicians trot off to their respective annual conferences.  All the time the hard Brexit deadline of 31st October 2019 looms in the background.

Meanwhile adjustments are being made with respect of European aviation.  Regulations adopted by the European Union (EU) in early 2019 which were due to come into effect on 29th March 2019 are now being extended so that they don’t expire until 24th October 2020[1].

It’s taken 3-years for the impact of leaving the European Single Market to sink in.  So much of what we do on a day-to-day basis is dependent upon Just-In-Time movements of good backwards and forwards between the UK and the rest of Europe.  The level playing field that has been created within the EU has benefited everyone but may have been taken for granted given its transparent success.

For a while the standards of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) will continue to apply in the UK[2].  However, the UK will lose its strong influence over the development of the EASA regulatory framework.  In consultations there’s no doubt UK technical experts will continue to offer comments on proposed rule changes.  Such comments will be considered by EASA as they are from any “Third Country”.  That said, the UK will lose its seat at the table when it comes to making major financial and policy decisions that will shape the future European regulatory framework.

My assumption above is that the UK’s membership of EASA is terminated with a No Deal Brexit.  That means all the tasks currently undertaken by EASA will need to be taken up by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).  To fully understand the implications of this change it’s to do more than a full reversal of what has been achieved since 29 September 2003.  That’s when EASA first took on responsibility for its allocated tasks.  A backward move that has no upside.




Aviation & Brexit 93

83-days[1] to the next scheduled Brexit cliff edge.

Large numbers of companies based in the UK have applied to the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to be recognised as “third-country” organisations that are able to do business within the European Single Market[2].  Few consider that a purely UK approval will be enough to enable them to continue their international business.  This is not taking back control from “bureaucrats” but giving them more work to do.

Many in the aviation industry, including myself did firmly believe that the UK would remain a member of EASA, despite Brexit.  However, it seems we were wrong.

It’s important to recall that prior to the UK referendum the now Prime Minister Johnson was saying that we will not leave the European Single Market.  Leave campaigners sold a story that, for all its incoherence and inconsistency, was simple but downright dishonest.  Yet, every single time an “expert” points out the significant downsides of Brexit, almost faster than the speed of light, a volley of criticisms come their way.  It’s a predicable range of statements from: just ignore them it’s “project fear” again to fake news by elitists having a hissy fit to stop Brexit.   And then there’s the abuse that is much worse but the less said about that the better.

The claims now being made by Brexit supporting UK Ministers are that UK business wants certainty and the only way to get it is to force the issue on 31 October 2019.  Given the level of turbulence and uncertainty that the last 3-years have brought us, these claims from a pretty rum bunch are a dubious and desperate justifications to say the least.

The UK Department for Transport (DfT) is responsible for several public bodies, including the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).  The UK aviation industry operates essentially without subsidy and so is not a big part of DfT spending.   With Brexit there’s been a leadership problem.  Who speaks for aviation in the UK Government?  On my reckoning there’s been 4 Aviation Ministers in the last 3-years.  That’s not good when it comes to setting policy and strategy.  For one of UK’s foremost industries and under some jeopardy with a No Deal Brexit coming this is not good at all.

Aviation Minister at the DfT From To
Lord Ahmad May 2015 June 2017
Lord Martin Callanan June 2017 October 2017
Baroness (Liz) Sugg October 2017 April 2019
Baroness Vere of Norbiton April 2019 Now




Aviation & Brexit 89

The ancient adage that: “when in a hole, stop digging”, did once have meaning in British politics.  No more.  The rate at which deep political holes are being dug exceeds decades of measurement.  As a strategy, knowing something to be a bad idea and continuing to do it should have a limited lifespan.  A difficult reckoning must come.  Well, that’s conventional thinking.  With Brexit conventional thinking goes way out of the window.

The 2-year period provided for by Article 50(3) of the Treaty on European Union (EU) has been extended until Thursday, 31 October 2019.  Including the summer holidays and that’s about 14 weeks away.   Can a new UK Prime Minister (PM) secure a Brexit deal and is there time to get it through the UK Parliament by 31 October 31?[1]   They’d have to be a miracle worker.  There’s little working time left. Little time for deal making and little time to legislate.  Given past performance, it’s feasible but it’s extremely unlikely.

The prospective new PM has said that his first task will be to launch a huge No-Deal Brexit public information campaign to help minimise possible disruption[2].   That certainly is going to be interesting in respect of air travel to and from the UK.   The question is out there; will the UK Government be generous in providing financial support to businesses adversely impacted by a No-Deal Brexit?

There’s no doubt that UK airlines will be able to fly to the EU provided EU companies are permitted to fly to the UK.  That’s the most basic international rules being applied.  That said, at the heart of this immense political severance is the impact on people.  Brexit will reduce European aviation employment opportunities for UK citizens[3].   However, it may create new domestic opportunities as the UK struggles to construct a credible regime to replace the European system[4].

If the UK is to make a full departure from the European system, it would require a period in which to sign special arrangements with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other global regulators.  This hasn’t happened – yet.

The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) will need to undertake a major investment and recruitment activity if it’s to take over necessary functions, and Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreements (BASAs) with all the mutual recognition agreements needed.  Such major changes from start to finish could take a decade to complete in the major global aviation markets.

I wonder what public information campaigns are going to do in the meantime.