Brexit, Aviation and the Withdrawal 15

IMG_0988Europe, the world, we are all engulfed in an unprecedented situation.  The spread of coronavirus #COVID19 is a clear and present danger to all.  These are times like no other.  It’s imperative that urgent action is taken.   The EASA has issued a safety directive mandating disinfection of aircraft flying from high risk areas to combat spread of coronavirus[1].

Having just returned from a week in Tenerife, I’m grateful for the efforts of TUi[2] for repatriating a lot of holidaymakers at a difficult time.  Our flight back to London Gatwick was as per schedule but for many of our fellow passengers their stay had been terminated and they were put on flights at short notice.  Fortunately, the Brexit transition period meant that no undue difficulties arose getting our British registered Boeing 757 to and from Spain.

A week is a long time in politics.  The first post-Brexit UK budget now seems like a distant memory[3].  Yet, it was only on 12 March that this took place in Parliament.  It was a budget that resolutely refused to talk about Brexit, seeming to pretend that the subject was done and dusted.  Now, the British Chancellor has been on his feet again and huge measures of change are rippling through Government and all parts of UK society.  The decisions of days ago are dwarfed by the new moves to defeat coronavirus.   The impact on aviation is like nothing that has gone before.

Nevertheless, the issues for aviation raised in my last blog remain pertinent.  Brexit is not done.  Yes, the efforts of the civil service must be directed at the current emergency.  In fact, that’s a good reason to suspend all formal negotiations between UK and EU and put more time aside after the global health emergency has subsided.

The current emergency should bring the two parties closer together for their mutual benefit.  Then it’s time to review decisions that may have been made so far but in the light of the new situation. Those that I talk to says that the UK national interest remains best served by continuing membership of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).   It was interesting to note the debate that took place in the UK House of Lords[4] during the week[5].

Transport was discussed in the UK House of Commons on 12 March. MP Alistair Carmichael, Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) asked the Minister the question[1]: What is his policy on the UK’s membership of the European Aviation Safety Agency after the end of the transition period.  The answer was dogmatic and unimaginative.

Now, I note that a great number of aviation professionals are transferring their license to European authorities like the Irish, Dutch or Belgian to keep their current privileges. The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is going to be losing a lot of income from those licensed Pilots and Aircraft Engineers.

What happened on 31 January 2020 was not the end of the Brexit process.  On 30 March 2020, the new UK-EU Joint Committee is due to meet.  Aviation may not be on the agenda but it’s certainly worth keeping and eye on what’s going on in that committee.







Brexit & Aviation 76

History gives us a context within which to set current events.  Rooting through some boxes, I came across a copy a UK CAA Safety Regulation Group in-house publication called “Aviation Standard” dated March 1991.  I kept it because it had a picture of me as a newly joined young airworthiness surveyor.  At the time the aviation industry was suffering the effects of recession and the Gulf War.  Pressure was on to keep fees and charges low but not to let up on essential safety activities.

What’s interesting is that 28 years ago the news was that the Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) Headquarters was to move from London Gatwick to Hoofddorp, near Amsterdam Schiphol.  The 18 JAA Countries had decided to move from sharing office space with the UK CAA at London Gatwick to a new building in the Netherlands.

The staff newspaper had a large page describing the work of the CAA’s Systems and Equipment Department.  At that time, the department that I joined had 22 specialist design surveyors and supporting admin staff.  There were 5 technical specialist sections, addressing hydromechanical, cabin safety and environmental systems, power plant installation and fuel systems, and electrical and avionics.   This department covered all types of aircraft large and small, helicopters, airships and even hovercraft.

Contrary to the belief of some people, The UK has played a major part in shaping how aviation safety regulation developed in Europe.  What we have is as the result of concerted efforts over more than a generation.  It saddens me greatly to think that we are in the process of trying to dismantle that achievement.  An achievement that is recognised worldwide.

Back to the current challenge of Brexit and how it’s being exacerbated by political indecision and pure folly.  New Aviation Safety legislation has passed into European law ready to come into force if there’s a No-Deal Brexit.   The effects of this law are to create a breathing space so that companies can re-establish the approvals they need to operate.

Also, a new UK Aviation Safety Statutory Instrument (SI) was passed by both the House of Commons and the House of Lords and published as UK law.

The UK industry group; ADS has published a useful summary that is available on their website[1].  No doubt this will be updated as we discover if the planned leaving date of either 12 April 2019 or 22 May 2019 is to happen, or Brexit gets cancelled or delayed again.  Whatever UK Parliamentarian do it doesn’t seem the No-Deal Brexit outcome has yet been killed off for sure.



Brexit and Aviation 41

There’s a distinct possibility that I will repeat myself in these articles.  This should not be a problem.

Most of what happens in life is a matter of probability.   There’s a high probability that I’ll have dinner this evening but there’s a low probability my local MP will dine with me.  When dealing with risks the best anyone can do is to make both qualitative and quantitative assessments of the likelihood of the occurrence of an event.  How good these turn out to be rather depends on the quality of the information upon which these assessments are made.

At this moment, there is a growing likelihood of a “No Deal” outcome to the Brexit negotiations.

Reasons being the continuing lack of a Parliamentary majority for the possible offer, stubborn pride of those involved and delayed planning.  It’s utterly pointless to even think about the blame game – yet.  Whatever happens, big changes will have to be made to cope with the new situation.

Early in the year, prudently the EU published a series of notices concerning the “No Deal” outcome.  These were stark and based upon the UK becoming a “Third Country” with a blank sheet of paper in front of it.  That’s a Country with no special arrangements with the EU.  The basic reality of that case is that companies, organisations and individuals wishing to continue business with the EU post-Brexit may need to establish a presence in the EU 27.  They may need to seek new approvals or new recognition of their qualifications and/or licences in an EU Member State[1].

UK technical notices offer the intention to unilaterally recognise EU certificates, licences and standards in the wish to minimise disruption, at least for a short time.

Recently in the UK Parliament, the Director General at the UK Department for Transport DfT[2], told the Public Accounts Committee that agreements on air services between Britain and the EU comprise “an area of growing concern to us”.  Naturally, it would be sensible and mutually beneficial for both sides of the EU-UK negotiations to provide certainty and stability to people and businesses as soon as possible. Whilst significant efforts are being made to ensure the conclusion of an agreement on an orderly withdrawal, there’s a lot of remaining ground to cover.  With around 5 months before the planned leaving date of 29 March 2019, detailed negotiations over air services have yet to get going.

As an aside, it’s strange how the truth of this precarious situation is often not evident from any viewing of the questions and debates in the House of Commons.  I don’t say, UK Parliament because the House of Lords often seems to be more up to speed with EU matters than the Commons.

Last evening, I had the opportunity to stroll around both the Lords and the Commons[3].  I can see how its quite possible to become detached from everyday reality in a place so steeped in history.  It looks more suited to page boys running around with handwritten notes than the high-speed interconnected world outside the building.  100 years ago, great reforms changed the shape of our society.  To me, there’s need for another dramatic round of reforms to at least try to be in the 21st Century.







Bad Petition

It seems the ardent Brexit promoters now want to abolish the House of Lords[1].  I guess this is not an unexpected reaction to their vote in favour of remaining in the Customs Union[2].  Foolishness is rife within a vigorous but small section of the population.  We need to remember that it wasn’t that long ago that these people wanted to get rid of High Court judges and called them the “enemies of the people”.  Some are actively calling for a dictatorship to take over by exclaiming: politicians cannot be relied upon to implement the people’s will.

I have some sympathy with the call to: “Give the electorate a referendum on the abolition of the House of Lords” but only if there was an immediate democratic replacement.  Personally, I think the idea of an elected Senate where senators represent the regions of the Country, is a good idea.  That would be progressive.  What I fear with the latest call form the Brexit fanatics is an abolition of the House of Lords with no replacement and thus an elimination of the balance of powers that is essential to a modern democracy.  Dismantling our British institutions at the same time as pandering to xenophobia is a dreadful mistake.  History tells us that moving in such a direction can have catastrophic outcomes.

If we add up what Brexit promoters have achieved since the 2016 referendum one word comes to mind: shambles.  Fiasco, mess, muddle and disaster are words that could do the job too.

In normal times, the loud shouts and cries from the fringes of politics would command only a passing glimpse.  Something has changed with the national media.   Banner headline are composed more to shock and entertain than to inform.  And they all jump on the same bandwagon with just a few variations of coverage.

When a noisy few run around insulting everyone who disagrees with them, the problem is self-evident.  The House of Lords does need reform but where were the Brexit advocates when this was last seriously debated.  In fact, many of them where on the side of defending privilege, traditions and ancient institutions.

The House of Lords should not be punished for applying common sense.  I only hope the House of Commons will apply similar common sense.