Responding to the Brexit Blog of Reigate’s MP (Part 2)

One of the most disagreeable aspect of the arguments made by hard-core Brexiters is that when they are cornered they just revert to slogans and slurs.  There have been too many to count but include such nebulous stuff as; Take Back Control, Brexit means Brexit and references to the “establishment”.

One issue on which I do agree with Reigate’s current MP is that the Prime Minister’s deal is a bad one.  As an EU Member State, we (UK) had a vote and the means to influence and change European legislation.  The Withdrawal Agreement (WA) means applying EU law in the UK for at least two years after 29 March next year.  To an extent this is a given, as current EU law is being translated into UK law at this moment.  I believe the problem arises in automatically adopting changes that we (UK) had no means amend or reject.  This is hardly a return of the sovereignty we pooled as a Member State.

Accompanying the WA is a Political Declaration (PD).  This is problematic too.  Much as it is advantageous to have an indication of future intentions of the part of both EU and UK, the whole document is remarkably nebulous.  It might be said that the PD is better than nothing, but it doesn’t much help decision-makers or investors who must act in the transition period.

Put the WA and PD together and they become the starting point for another couple of years of difficult negotiations between the EU and UK.  Clearly, it would be in both sides strong interests to arrive at a new deal at the end of the transition period.  That new EU-UK deal could be a model for many others across the globe.

Reigate’s current MP anticipates failure in this endeavour even before it starts.  I’m often shocked how little confidence is shown in professional British civil servants.  You could say; if they can’t get a good win-win deal with our partners of 40 years what hope is there for the rest of the world?  None.

In the end, no deal can be as good as the deal we already have as an EU Member State.

Today, there are 28 EU Member States.  The membership of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has 164 members.  Just do the maths.  Negotiating with a smaller number is undoubtably easier than with a larger number.  In the media there’re endless naive statements made about reverting to WTO rules.  Almost no one trades only on WTO rules and those rules don’t cover many vital sectors.

We (UK) would pay a heavy cost for a “No Deal” outcome between the EU and UK.  It is not a sane option.



Responding to the Brexit Blog of Reigate’s MP (Part 1)

The start of the arguments of the Reigate MP are built on sand[1].   One of the fundamentals of the European Union (EU) is that it’s a product of the will of its Member States.  To assume that “integration” is a foregone conclusion is to claim that you have a unique knowledge of the future.  The general trend is for those advocating greater integration to be declining in political influence.   The coming European elections will change the political landscape considerably.  In fact, we have a greater problem in the UK with our highly centralised institutions.

The EU has a powerful role on the international stage.  That role will grow.  As part of the EU this has given the UK increasing influence in the regions and global institutions.   Often other regions of the world look to the EU as a role model and a source of solutions to complex intergovernmental issues.

After years and years of turmoil in the UK a Conservative Party Prime Minister made the choice to hold an advisory referendum hoping that this move would resolve a divisive political issue.   It was a poor gamble.  Of the topics of most concern to the British people the EU was low down on the list until the referendum was announced.

A whole series of dreadful mistruths formed a campaign that traded on fantasy projections.   The legalities of the campaign are being questioned in the law courts.  Over all this a slim margin gave the “Leave” campaigners a win.  In most Countries constitutional changes require more than a simple majority but this did not happen in the UK.  Effectively the referendum result caused the biggest single division the UK has ever recorded.

The situation became so bad that a snap General Election was called in 2017.  Unfortunately, this ill-judged move created even more national problems.  To sum up recent events.  We have had, two General Elections, one referendum and two votes on the leadership of the Conservative Party.  However, despite these events we have a solid log jam in the UK Parliament.

Now, the arguments for a final Referendum on the deal, that is now in front of the UK Parliament, are strong.  Going back to the British people is essential when there’s no clear way forward coming from either the Government or the UK Parliament.  Democracy does not end in one day.  Many prominent Leave campaigners made exactly this point before June 2016.   The ballot is owned by the people not self-serving politicians.   Don’t let them tell you: you can’t have a People’s Vote.  The choice is clear: the deal on the table or to Remain in the EU.

The Prime Minister and her officials have succeeded in proposing an EU accepted Withdrawal Agreement (WA).  The remaining 27 EU Member States have agreed that WA.  Everyone can read this document and come to a point of view.  Unlike in June 2016, this detailed document is real.

As it stands, one of the greatest difficulties with the WA is that, at least for 2 years, it makes the UK a rule-taker rather than a rule-maker.  Across the board people are not willing to accept this deal.  Meantime the UK’s Prime Minister is stubborn and deaf to creative and constructive solutions to the impasse.   Parliament needs to assert control and advance a Peoples Vote.

[1] my statement …….. intends to give my constituents a clear overview of my position on this fraught and difficult issue for our country.

The British Crisis

Life is full of “if” this or “if” that but it’s the only way we can plan.  I’m convinced planning is not optional.  Even the simplest diary has one or two dates for things to do in the future.  At work, the saying: failure to plan is a plan to fail often rattled around in my head.

We are getting closer to 29 March 2019.  If no action is taken, no agreement, no revoking of Article 50, no new referendum then the UK leaves without a deal and all EU treaties will end on 29 March 2019.  There are some extremely foolish people who are looking forward to the hardship and suffering that this will cause but thankfully they are in the minority.   The real danger is interminable muddle, incompetence and inaction.  A great Country, such as ours, should not be entertaining any thought of “crashing out” of a relationship of 40 years.  The only triumph would be of failure.

It would be nice to switch off from the political twists and turns at Westminster, but this is a time for action.  Englishman Thomas Paine wrote these siring words in late 1776: These are the times that try men’s souls[1].  He was addressing the American crisis of that time.  Here, 242 years later we have the British crisis.  Now, similar stirring words are needed to overthrow the tyranny of the Brexiters and the hell they promise.

The British Crisis.

When it seems that we are overcome, and every door is closing, we must change.  Take a moment to ask the basic question.  Who do we want to be?

June 2016 was like an axe falling.  Division was the only result.  In times of crisis, as now, the ballot is the most powerful right all British citizens have too hand.  And the strength of British genius is creative imagination.  It’s not for us to be dull drones who blindly walk to the cliff edge.  We must take control from a cohort of failed politicians.

Unity is not easily forged.   But it’s a vote that can forge that unity.  A Peoples Vote can free us from this turmoil.  A Peoples Vote to conquer division.  A Peoples Vote so we can lead again in Europe.

[1] THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.

Brexit and Aviation 51

On Friday last, we sat on the ground in Duesseldorf.  Having boarded BA945 ahead of time, we sat waiting for the instruction to go.  We sat on the ground for an hour given the high winds that battered London Heathrow.  That was our intended destination.  As a passenger, this was frustrating, but I know it’s a safe way of managing the large volumes of European air traffic.

Without a doubt, Brexit or no Brexit we have a far from perfect air transport systems in Europe.  Capacity is limited by the dated infrastructure we have in place.   Safety is assured by managing the system as a cooperative effort.  London Heathrow is a challenge given that such large numbers of international aircraft movements take place at a two-runway hub airport.

Since 2011, the European Union has had a Network Manager[1].  This is what was previously called the Central Flow Management Unit (CFMU) based at EUROCONTROL[2] in Brussels.  The Network Manager Operations Centre is a vital part of Europe’s Air Traffic Management (ATM) system.  If you want to peek at what’s happening there’s a public portal showing the current state of the system[3].

In some respects, Summer 2018 pushed the European aviation system to its limits and Summer 2019 promises to present even more challenges.  I cannot conceive of any situation where European ATM will not be of interest to the UK.  Indeed, there’s no indication of the withdrawal of the UK from EUROCONTROL.  Nice as this might sound, Brexit is going to have the impact of pulling the UK out of the major decision-making that that takes place within Europe.

Today, EU regulations determine operations, safety regulation and performance monitoring.  If Brexit goes ahead, the UK will no longer have a leading influence over these EU regulations.  People are starting to plan for how to manage the Summer of 2019.  You might want to think seriously about your holiday choices next year.  We all know what its like to be stranded at airports living out long delays.

News has come in on a matter of great interest about the almost mythical Article 50.  The European Court (ECJ) has sided with petitioners both *against* the European Council/Commission and *against* the UK government.  The UK is free to unilaterally revoke the notification of its intention to withdraw from the EU – Case C-621/18 Wightman #Brexit[4].

This does open an option to the UK.  With such deadlock amongst the politicians and a big campaign to bring about a #PeoplesVote that would seem the wise course of action to take.

[1] COMMISSION REGULATION (EU) No 677/2011 of 7 July 2011 laying down detailed rules for the implementation of air traffic management (ATM) network functions and amending Regulation (EU) No 691/2010.

[2] The European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation (EUROCONTROL)





Brexit and Aviation 50

Just back from 4-days in Cologne.  It’s one of the best times of the year to be in the city.  The Christmas Markets are in full swing.  As we flew out of Heathrow the debate on the UK Parliamentary vote was running on.  As we flew back into Heathrow the same debate was going on with the same predicable ups and downs.  It’s a wonder that anything new can be found to be said.  Like a special industry to keep the media on its toes maybe perpetual motion isn’t an impossibility.

There will be a rally in London on Parliament Square this coming Tuesday, 11th to coincide with the Brexit vote.  The signs are that the vote will be lost.  Mrs May’s deal will fall.  From that moment on all becomes unpredictable although there are many who would tell you they know what will happen.

To concentrate minds 29 March gets ever nearer.  Action to rescind Article 50 could happen but who would make it happen?  A cliff edge Brexit, without a deal could happen but who would allow it?  Both the Economist and the Times leaders back a People’s Vote.  With the UK Parliament completely deadlocked the best option would be to put the question back to the people.

The Brexit Monopoly Board is full of traps.  Every shake of the dice is a risky manoeuvre.   There’s no get out of jail free card.   Yes, the cards can change your fortune, but a lot of luck is needed.

My observations from having a few days in Cologne are again full of mixed messages.  On the one hand, the almighty wheels of business as usual continue to turn.  On the other hand, signs of disaffection and disconnection are slowly growing.   Numerous Brits I’ve worked with over the years now have more than one passport.  A few are planning to return to the UK.   Most have given-up on hoping the whole Brexit fiasco will go away.

Domestic British obsessions do catch the news in Germany.  Like a Shakespearean tragedy unfolding in slow time but much as a Carnival side show unrelated to real events.  Yes, we all need each other in Europe but not so much as to total indulge one group or another.

Friday was International Civil Aviation Day.  Connecting people across the global.  Helping people move freely is one way to make a better world.  Aviation is a great example of successful human cooperation and effective global partnership.   The UK is home to many aerospace companies and leading research organisations.  The UK needs a place in Europe and a place in the world NOT one or the other.   A vague political declaration is no substitute for the Membership of the EU we (UK) has now.

I wonder what next Tuesday will bring for the UK?

If you are looking for light relief from the unending speculation and continuous news cycle, listen to the Dead Ringers Christmas Special on BBC Radio 4[1].


Brexit and Aviation 49

One of the challenges with stopping Brexit is the oil tanker effect.  The machinery of the UK Government has been pointed in one direction for a couple of years.  Grinding away, preparing the steps, being buffeted left and right but heading in one direction – towards 29 March 2019.

What this has meant has changed numerous times as the machinations of the Conservative Party have shaped policy.  The ludicrous snap General Election didn’t help one little bit.  It took a divided nation and made it a more divided nation.  So much for the Prime Minister’s judgement.  Here we are in December 2018, just about ready for another pivotal moment on the rocky road.

The latest UK Government Minister to resign is Sam Gyimah @SamGyimah.  He’s the MP for East Surrey and local to me.  He has declared he will vote against the Government’s EU Withdrawal Agreement.  Having resigned as the Universities, Science, Research and Innovation Minister it will be interesting to see what his next moves are.  His resignation statement is worth a read[1].

Gyimah’s reasoning starts with the negotiations over Galileo, the EU’s Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS).  Back in May this year, the UK Government stated its unwavering commitment to European security meaning it should be able to continue to fully participate in #Galileo now and in the future.  The reality has become that the UK Government pulled out of negotiations on this key subject.  A failure.

Building a uniquely UK GNSS will be expensive.  It will take 20 years and have a big annual cost to keep it working.  All for what?

Back to the oil tanker that needs turning around, or at least stopping before it hits the rocks.  This analogy has a lot of millage in it given that the Brexit result could look much like a giant oil spill.  Damaging to all involved.  Costing a fortune to clean-up.  Living in the memory for a long time.

About UK Statutory Instruments (SIs), the draft Aviation Safety (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 has been laid before the UK Parliament[2].  This SI uses powers in the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 to correct “deficiencies” in derived aviation safety legislation coming from the act of withdrawal.   The intention is here to ensure that the UK legal framework on aviation safety continues to function after the March exit day in the event of a No-Deal[3].  This is a lot of work coming from the UK Department of Transport.  To nationalise legislation, in many places the legal text is changed by ignoring: “at both Union level and national level”.

Gyimah is saying that post-Brexit: the UK will end up worse off, transformed from rule makers into rule takers.  I think he’s right.  It’s time to turn the oil tanker around.








Brexit and Aviation 48

The day has come.  After many months, a draft agreement and political declaration are in the hands of the UK and EU.  The term “deal” is being used to sum it all up.  That might not be the best word considering that so much remains on a wish-list, but that word has come into common usage.

In the run-up to the UK’s exit from the EU on 29 March 2019, if it happens, there’s no end of work that must still be completed.  There’s no doubt that if the “deal” is agreed there’s an enormous amount of Parliamentary work to be done passing the Statutory Instruments[1] needed to make it work in law.

Aviation needs a “modern stable regulatory framework” to support growth, says Henrik Hololei, Director General for Mobility & Transport, European Commission.  Whichever side of the on-going arguments you stand this remains a sound statement.  The future of aviation in the EU and its neighbouring countries, including the UK will be one of the major files handed over to the next Commission.

2019 is election year for the EU.  We can expect a whole new European Parliament and Commission to be up and running as that year matures.  The Brexit fall-out may land in new and different hands by the end of 2019.  The overall topics for debate and political climate may have changed significantly durring Romania’s Presidency of the Council of the EU.

Maintaining a stable regulatory framework that allows air transport to flourish in the UK and EU may yet meet even more challenges that just at this moment.  Turning the wish for a: Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement, covering market access and investment and aviation safety into reality has a long way to go.  We must hope that, subject to all this turmoil that no one drops the ball.  Aviation safety is far too valuable to be jeopardised by endless politically shenanigans.

There’s the expectation that the microsite[2] of the UK CAA will to be updated with information for the aviation and aerospace industries as the situation develops.