It’s under 100 days to go to the final, final, final Brexit exit. This Autumn flying faces the quadruple threats of rising Coronavirus numbers, diminishing Government support, implementation of erratic polices and the possibility of a disorderly end to the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement transition period. The shining light is that everyone knew that this was coming, and adding up all the turmoil of the last 4-years it has at least given industry and institutions time to come to terms with the situation and prepare accordingly. Yes, there are a bucket load of unknowns.
On the plus side as soon as we get past 1 January 2021 there will be less constraints for either party. The European Union (EU) will be able to go ahead with actions once blocked by the UK. Vice-versa the UK will be able to develop its own unique set of policies, rules and regulations.
If both parties don’t lose their basic common sense there ought to be a good degree of continuing communication, collaboration and cooperation.
I agree with the AIRBUS CEO: “Aviation, an irreplaceable force for good in the world, is today at risk as borders remain closed and influential voices in Europe call for permanent curbs on flying.”
Recently the British Business General Aviation Association (BBGA) hosted a webinar dedicated to all matters Brexit. Good of them to make it available on-line to non-members.
In addition, there’s a “Readiness for Brexit” update from Tim Johnson, Strategy and Policy Director UK CAA now on-line. This is about the CAA’s readiness for what’s going to happen at the end of the transition period. There’s a promise of continuity, at least for a while.
It saddens me greatly that the UK will no longer be part of the EU Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) system but that’s now a matter of fact. Who knows what the future may bring? It’s perfectly possible that the UK will be back in the system in the next decade.
There’s a lot of reasons why it’s going to be difficult for the UK to act entirely alone. For efficient and sustainable air traffic management the European Single European Sky (SES) project will continue to advance. It would be better for all if the UK was part of that advancement.
We need to concentrate on dealing with the present situation and maximising positive working with Europe. There are many areas of common interest. We remain a great European Country.
It’s unusual to see such unity amongst aviation organisations across different sectors of the industry. That unity is about the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). Established in 2002, the EASA has more than 800 aviation experts and administrators from its Member States. A while back a UK Parliament Select Committee report found: “There is widespread agreement that continued membership of EASA would benefit the UK and the EU.” Aerospace businesses, unions and academia are unanimous in support of remaining in EASA.
The BALPA (The British Airline Pilots Association) said: “we need to maintain current EU and UK access to our aviation markets and to maintain EASA safety regulation”.
UK aviation industry body, ADS’s Chief Executive said: “We have been clear that continued participation in EASA is the best option..”.
Even on Saturday, the UK CAA’s own website continued to say: “The CAA has been clear since the EU referendum that we consider the most positive outcome for UK consumers and the aviation industry would be one where the UK has continued participation in the EASA system with existing systems of mutual recognition between the UK and EASA Member States remaining in place.”
So, there’s one area where people and organisations are overwhelmingly unified – we need to maintain current EU and UK access to our aviation markets and to maintain EASA safety regulations.
It was always on the cards that the new UK Conservative Government would revisits this subject. This was even though the firm planning assumption that everyone had made for the last 4-years was based on the UK’s continued membership of EASA.
Now, the UK Transport Minister with such responsibilities says that the UK will withdraw from the EASA. Implementing that policy change the UK Department for Transport has said: “Being a member of the European Aviation Safety Agency is not compatible with the UK having genuine economic and political independence.” This does not preclude the UK continuing to work with the EU to establish a new regulatory relationship, but it’s a tall order with only 10-months remaining on the clock.
I think this a bad decision. Not sound or rational or in the interests of the UK. Here, I’ll look at the apparent justifications.
Compatibility with genuine economic and political independence
This suggests that membership of the EASA would impede the UK from taking any action it wishes. There are 4 non-EU members of EASA. One of them is our near neighbour Norway. CAA Norway has the responsibility to oversee and regulate all aspects of civil aviation in Norway. That applies to the Norwegian flights that are based out of London Gatwick. In matters of aviation regulation, whether it’s at ICAO, EASA, EUROCONTROL or ECAC Norway speaks with economic and political independence. It applies Norwegian law. It does not seem to be impeded in advancing its aviation interests.
Being a member of EASA is not possible outside Single Market
This has been well debunked. The manner with which non-EU States participate in the EASA is not the Single Market provisions. There is a “Basic Regulation” that establishes EASA. The Article 129 of the Basic Regulation addresses participation of European third countries. Yes, it does say that such non-EU States need to adopt and apply Union law in the fields covered by the Basic Regulation. However, this text does say how this is to be done. In fact, the UK has done this, at least until the 31st December 2020. All that is needed can be done in UK law. If EASA rules or standards are considered to be too low, there’s no impediment to enhancing them as required.
We’ll be wanting to develop our own aircraft certifications
The implication is that the UK will want to do something radically different from the international community. That maybe the case for research into new air vehicles but if the UK wishes to sell such products in the international marketplace it will need to met international rules and standards. A domestic industry providing Urban Air Mobility (UAM) vehicles will need to compete across the globe. EASA is preparing itself to better support innovation from industry (e.g. Artificial Intelligence, block chain technologies, extensive automation and eVTOL aircraft). Lack of harmonisation, duplication and fragmentation in this field serves no good purpose.
4. UK expertise can be used as leverage in negotiations
Across the globe, the aviation industry and most States say that aviation safety is not a matter of competition. There’s a great reliance on cooperation and sharing information to ensure that no State is left behind. A just safety culture is one where working togther is normal. It’s difficult to improve safety when people imply blame and echo a negative attitudes. To imagine this subject to be a matter for open commercial competition is flying against all international best practices.
5. A wish to not be subject to the rules made by others
No man is an island If this reasoning is applied literally then it’s impossible to participate in any international organisation. In most cases it’s preferable to participate and have a significant influence on any rules. The Convention on International Civil Aviation (known as Chicago Convention), came to be in 1944. Since we (UK) do not control ICAO, should we now withdraw? Clearly that would be a nonsense. In our own region of the world, namely Europe, it would be wise to act skilfully to maximise the influence that is available not to walk away.
I join other aviation professionals in thinking it’s extraordinary how little the UK Government is prepared to consult with industry, consider cost and benefits and explain any new arrangements that will need to be put in place in a short time. At one time there was a stubborn insistence that major changes should not be introduced without a detailed impact assessment. Now, anything goes if the Minister likes it.
For decades we (UK) have been interwoven with the EU in an intricate pattern that is complicated and often not well understood even by those who are supposed know. The twists and turns of the last 4-years have brought about a situation where those who say: absolute independence outweighs the risk of being “shackled” to the EU, now govern the UK. The idea of common interests and common solutions to common problems has gone out of the window.
Aircraft are built by experts, tested by experts and flown by qualified experts with exceptional skill and with multiple safety backups. Brexit has been driven by opportunist politicians who persistently distort evidence to support their beliefs with scant regard of the costs or harm done. Thus, the next steps in the Brexit EU-UK negotiations will be as difficult, as difficult as can be imagined. That’s what has indeed happened if reports of this week’s discussions are surveyed.
The UK will withdraw from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) after 31st December. The divorce is a hard one. I can think of a lot of Brits who dedicated enormous amount of effort to European harmonisation who will be turning in their graves.
Yes, it’s true that the road that led to the EASA had its roots in the UK. When I started work at the UK CAA, the offices of the Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) were based at Aviation House, London Gatwick. The benefit to aviation of having a common code was recognised in the 1980s. Signing of the “Arrangements concerning the Development, the Acceptance and the Implementation of Joint Aviation Requirements” (the “Cyprus Arrangements”) by 24 European States, took place in 1990.
In time, the weakness of the JAA system became apparent in that the common application and interpretation of aviation codes was not so common. The framework of European law was necessary to ensure that there was indeed a level playing field and a high level of aviation safety. In European law, a division of tasks between the EASA and the national aviation authorities was determined. EASA was given the power to carry out legally binding certification tasks, thus overcoming the limitations of the JAA system. The creation of EASA, led to the harmonisation of more existing rules and regulations and greater cooperation in the formation of new rules.
Reversing out of 30 years of progress is a challenging task. Yes, it can be coloured as a bold new era in flourishing rhetorical terms but practically it looks like a knee-jerk reaction. Not only that but the timing is awful. Market turbulence due to the contagious virus is severely impacting aviation. Not only that but the whole process of certificates issued by one authority being automatically accepted by another authority is being questioned because of the Boeing 737 MAX case.
Playing to the crowd with symbols of post-Brexit independence isn’t a wise move. It’s kamikaze.
Spring is beckoning. The phoney war will have to come to an end soon. EU-UK negotiations are set to start in the week of 2 March 2020. There’s every good chance a close and ambitious partnership between the EU and UK can be built.
On civil aviation the UK is seeking an agreement that should: “consider arrangements typically included in EU bilateral aviation agreements”. This is written as if the Europe has no history of deep and detailed cooperation that has been built over decades. It’s difficult to image a blank sheet of paper in front of the negotiating teams.
On airspace use, the EU is saying that the UK should have less access to EU airspace but may have more than other third countries, if it applies by specific rules. This does have the potential to take on board the interest of travellers on both sides of the divide.
On safety, the UK is a calling for a Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement (BASA). No prospective ambition to remain part of the EU’s Agency, EASA is mentioned.
For the above there’s a paragraph heading titled “Appropriate governance arrangements” but no indication as to what they might be. With the existing EU-US BASA there’s a Bilateral Oversight Board (BOB) that is responsible for ensuring the effective functioning of the BASA.
I remember supporting that activity. It does tend to be conducted at a high level with the respective partners. Then detailed work is delegated to more technical activities under the watchful eye of the BOB. Now, that kind of working arrangement does not preclude UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) technical staff participating in EASA working groups or vice versa.
An EU-UK BASA maybe a new bespoke agreement but it is a distinct break with the past of cooperation. Europe enacted a process of working together before the time of EU competence in this area. It was on 11 September 1990, with the signing of the “Arrangements concerning the Development, the Acceptance and the Implementation of Joint Aviation Requirements” (Cyprus Arrangements), by 24 States that the Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) came formally into being.
A BASA does weaken existing international ties because at its core is the preservation of regulatory control above and beyond joint working. No longer is the arrangement captured in the phrase “Unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno”.
I’m sure, the EU will respect British sovereignty, and Britain will respect EU Member States sovereignty. Nice to say but such statements say nothing about common interests of which there are many in aviation. We don’t yet know to what extent either the EU or the UK will be willing to compromise as a result of detailed negotiations, maybe long into the night. By the middle of this year a clearer picture will emerge.
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:
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.
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 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. 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.
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. 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.
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) 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) 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. 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.
 The Democratic Unionist Party is a unionist political party in Northern Ireland favouring British identity
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 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. 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. 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.
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.
 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.
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.
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. 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.