Brexit, Aviation and the Withdrawal 11

IMG_0696Spring 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[1].  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)[2].  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[3] 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”[4].

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.




[4] Latin phrase that means “One for all, all for one” in English.

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 96

69 days left on the Brexit clock.  Only a few days untill the UK Parliament returns from its summer break.  And now 30 days to find an alternative to a hard border on the island of Ireland.  Or is that now 28 days?  That said, Brexiters have had decades to come up with a workable answer to that question so I wonder if a few more days will change anything.  Now, the EU is waiting for “realistic, operational & compatible” proposals.

If the UK leaves the EU on 31 October 2019, the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)[1] will take over the functions performed by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in relation to aviation approvals and certifications.  The EASA’s mandate and roles as an Agency of the EU with regulatory and executive tasks in the field of civil aviation safety are not altered within the EU-28 and 4 associated Countries until the UK leaves.

Details about a non-negotiated EU exit and its impact on aviation and aerospace industries have been published.  It’s worth having a look at “The CAA’s guide to Brexit No Deal & Aviation Safety[2]”.  It’s well presented and a useful summary of the temporary measure in place.  There’s one mistake on the final page on slide 13 where it references: “membership of the global aviation regulator ICAO”.  The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is a specialised agency of the United Nations (UN).  The UK has been an ICAO Member State since its origins.  However, it’s not right to call ICAO an aviation regulator.  It does publish Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPS) and its Member States are expected to comply with those SARPS.  However, although ICAO conducts audits it doesn’t have a right of enforcement and thus is not a regulator.  It can’t levy fines or amend or remove approvals or certificates.  It doesn’t issue licences or directives.  Aviation is a global industry, but it is not globally regulated.

In 31 days, the ICAO Assembly[3]​ takes place in Montreal, Canada.  This is the international organisation’s sovereign body where major policy decisions are made for the next 3-years.  ICAO’s 193 Member States, and many international organisations are invited to the general Assembly.  Many working papers and information papers are submitted for the participants to consider.  European papers are coordinated before the Assembly[4].  In this case they are submitted and presented by Finland on behalf of the EU and its Member States, the other Member States of the European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC), and by EUROCONTROL.  I imagine this situation will remain unchanged if Brexit happens since the UK will remain a member of ECAC and EUROCONTROL.   At least as far as I know.





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.