Brexit & Aviation 77

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

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

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

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

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


People’s Vote in Epsom

IMG_6372 (2)A good way of judging what’s perception and what’s reality to stand on a street corner campaigning for what you believe in.  This Saturday morning, with a cold wind blowing but sunshine in the sky a group of us stood in the centre of the Surrey town of Epsom.  It’s a well to do town with levels of prosperity that parts of England would love to share.   Being connected to London there are major service industries that ensure Epsom flourishes.  Its not just Derby Day.

The Brexit deal on the table provides no clarity or certainty about the future.  The signs are that Brexit will become a never-ending nightmare if we go through with it.  However, it’s both evidence and emotion that shape our view of the world and no more so than with Brexit.

Regardless of political views, in a public place there are people who engage and there are those that don’t.  On a British High Street in winter, most are busying themselves about their business and are not keen to dwell.  It’s more often that those with stronger views are the ones who take the time to engage in conversation.  My approach is to try not to impede anyone but to make it clear that I’d like to talk.  It’s easier with a leaflet in hand and a simple introduction.  So, I start: “we’re campaign for a People’s Vote – Would you like a leaflet”?  Then it’s a question of quickly gauging any response.  As a flavour of the comebacks that I got here are a few sentences on what happened.

Those who welcomed our campaigning efforts were more than happy to express a view.  A positive warmth and support came to the fore without prompting.  Frequently, there was an astonishment that the Country had got itself into such a ridiculous situation.   Everyone has a story to tell about how Brexit is affecting their lives.  Younger people were concerned that opportunities previous generations had will be cut off.

I got a warm answer from a French woman, but as she whispered – I don’t have a vote.

One middle-aged man seemed sullenly pragmatic about the affair.  His expectations were so low that he anticipated nothing better than an unholy mess.  He was grateful to see us campaigning, but he held out little hope that it would make any difference.  It’s a pessimism and sad resignation that more than a few must feel.

One guy suggested that I go back to Germany if I liked the Europe so much.  When faced with this, politeness is the only way to be.  There’s little I can say in that moment to transform his outlook.  Little Englanders are not new.

I got a couple that told me they were bored with the whole subject.  They had gone past caring what happens next.  It’s like it’s not my problem and another version of the sad resignation I mentioned earlier.

Believe me, I am not being biased when I say this, but the angrier people are Leave supporters.  It’s like they have an inner rage.  One or two will swear without any provocation whatsoever other than just seeing a European symbol.   All you hear is negative slogans right out of the Daily Mail.

Overall, the hours we spent were productive and I’m sure we offered a hope for those with a positive assessment of our role in Europe.  The indication was masses of dots on our chart calling for a People’s Vote.   Concluding, it’s clear that the last couple of years have not healed the wounds of the referendum.  Opinion on the streets is just as divided as it was when I was campaigning in early 2016.  No wonder Parliament is divided when the Country is divided.  It’s only by going back to the people that there will be any resolution to this impasse.

Change is Good

Let’s imagine two and a half years ago you had taken an interest in moving to a new house.  Soundly and sensibly you got a survey done.  The survey showed up that the house was not worth the asking price.  Further inquiry showed that the original details were wrong and that the vendor had been less than honest.  Even with all your doubts, the vendor and his agents applied pressure to get you to sign-up.  The deal on the table was not a good one and the price is going up daily.  Would you carry on regardless or would you stop and say: no thank you, I’m better off where I am?

That’s where we are with Brexit.  Two and a half years of agonising debate and investigation but finally a decision must be made.  The world looks quite different from that of two and a half years ago.  People have come and gone.  The world is that much more unstable, but the big problems, like climate change and poverty remain.

So, why is changing minds so difficult?  I guess, it’s a human characteristic that none of us like to lose face.  Stepping back and admitting that; maybe we were wrong two and a half years ago is never going to be easy.   Our media is not helping.  Write-ups that say there’s a 50-50 chance that Brexit may be stopped are phrased in negative terms.  The reality is that for a huge part of the population that outcome would be entirely positive.

Prime Minister May’s deal does deliver an orderly termination of European Union membership but a noisy cabal of those who supported the “Leave” vote in 2016 do not accept this fact.   It’s certain that they never will.  On the one hand there’s the fact of leaving and on the other there’s a set of political slogans, images and rituals that some have attached to the whole process.

We now have a much worse division of opinion than we did the day after the referendum.   Two political blocks who continue to promote “Leave” (and “Brexit”) disagree venously.   Yet, bigger than either of these two blocks are those who continue to support a different option.  I believe it’s impossible to resolve this political grid lock in less than 90 days.

A Country that can change its mind is a brave and courageous place.  It has wisdom.  The ability to consider, reflect and change is an admirable characteristic.  It’s the action of a mature and strong liberal democracy.   We have one of the worlds largest economic bloc on our doorstep.  Our history is a European history.  The cultural ties are deep.

At the time of the year when we look back but also look forward, we can say; I’d like to change for the better and rebuild.  I’d like to make the most of our European Union membership.  I’d like to be at the heart of Europe.   Let’s vote.

May Vote

IMG_2351What do the May local elections tell us?  The message is important since this was the biggest test of public opinion since the UK General Election in 2016.  It was real votes in real ballot boxes.  I see the outcome in three parts.

Firstly, two old dinosaurs locked in a never-ending battle.  Both looking bruised and battered.  One wins a bit and the other loses then the other wins a bit and so on into perpetuity.  Stale leadership and tired policies leave both in the doldrums.  The two fossils of British politics: Labour and Conservative Parties.  Neither has a vision for the future.

Secondly, the good news is that the Liberal Democrats are climbing back to represent a real force in British politics.  The Party has a younger spirit than the rest.  Its energetic and hard working.  Big wins represent an endorsement of their position as a Party with ideas and competent deliverer of services.  They are the main ones to see the true folly of Brexit.

Thirdly, it’s also good news to see that UKIP has breathed its final breath.  If there’s any justice, the BBC and the newspapers will now stop paying so much attention to this antiquated relic.  UKIP is no more however much its corpse wriggles.

In addition since I didnt want to say fouthly; the Greens continue to have a patch of ground that they alone occupy.  They do split votes and upset outcomes but that’s all part of our dreadful first past the post system for local elections.

May 2018 may not have been transformational, but it does firmly point a direction.  Yesterday’s Party policies and sound bites are running out of steam.  Neither of the two biggest UK Parties have much to offer except more of the same.  This is not a good situation of a mature Country to be in at a moment when its about to step into the unknown.  It’s time to turn around and set a new direction.