Brexit For Aviation: Massive Uncertainty

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In between your news reporting of the U.S. government shutdown and what adverts might be played during the Super Bowl, you might have heard talk mentioned of the U.K.’s Brexit negotiations. I hesitate to use the word negotiations, as that would indicate all the parties involved are working together to bring together divergent positions into a unanimous agreement … Sadly, the relentless coverage of U.K. parliamentary debate indicates otherwise.

We've kind of been avoiding the subject here at FLYER magazine when it comes to how it might affect U.K. general aviation, not because we're not interested (we are) and not because it won’t affect all of is (it will), but simply because right now, no fact will stay still enough for us to be able to nail it down.

With the exception of some parts of GA, the vast majority of the aviation world wants to remain a member of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) post-Brexit. That brings a few problems and puts a toe or perhaps a whole foot on the wrong side of one of Prime Minister Theresa May’s red lines. It also presents a challenge to some in Europe who consider it a form of cherry picking. In other words, the U.K. is all in or all out.

For a good few months after the referendum vote, there was a strong feeling that we’d likely keep all of EASA’s rules here in the U.K. Earlier in 2018, May indicated that it was the U.K.’s intention to remain in EASA. Fast forward to later in the year and May seemed to have modified that policy somewhat, when she told a Parliamentary subcommittee that our membership in EASA will be based on “capabilities” and will be subject to the next stage of negotiation after we have left the EU on March 29, 2019.

OK, so suppose we won’t remain a part of EASA. The U.K. Civil Aviation Authority says there will be no change for licenses but the E.U. issued a statement saying post-Brexit, if there is no deal then the E.U. will not recognize U.K.-issued EASA certificates. That’s sort of like a foreign student training in the U.S. and finding out his FAA-issued certificate won’t be recognized by his home country.

So now there's the potential, or even likelihood, of a period of huge uncertainty. We’re temporarily uncertain of our position and probably without a GPS or the ability to call up 121.5 for a training fix.

Even ahead of a Brexit deal that does who knows what, this had wide implications for aviation. Some British GA equipment manufacturers have already invested large amounts of time, money and resources in establishing European offices they hope in reality they won’t need. The thought of waking up on March 30 with a range of home-grown products that no longer have European approvals is just too risky. On the other hand, setting up the offices requires time and money. There may be implications for U.S. manufacturers who may face additional bureaucracy for what had been routine paperwork.

What’s especially frustrating for aviation operators of all sizes is the uncertainty. Whatever I write today could be wrong tomorrow, such is the disarray in British politics right now. Following May’s humiliating defeat in the House of Commons on Jan. 15, the debate and vote on Brexit “Plan B” takes place on Jan. 29.

If that fails, I heard mention of the idea that we should just lock the politicians in the Houses of Parliament for a Vatican-style Conclave until they can signal their agreement on the whole mess with some white smoke …

While that might have once seemed like a completely mad suggestion, at this stage, with March fast approaching, it's beginning to look like it might be worth a try. From across the Atlantic, a government shutdown doesn’t look quite so bad.

Ed Hicks is editor of the U.K.-based FLYER Magazine. 

Comments (15)

Part of the reason for my reluctance in sending Brexit updates to AVweb in the past months has been the severe head-spinning caused by the completely nonsensical ways chosen by both (the United States and the UK) countries to beat each other into complete oblivion by these highly political and frankly moronic topics. One absolutely needs to build a wall to keep starving American ATC controllers from fleeing to sunny Mexico, and the other one is asking everyone to hold their beer while pulling the dumbest stunt in the history of politics.

I think I popped the large 30 Amp fuse when I read that a Spanish airline operating in the UK was entering the process of proving its bona-fide status as a Spanish business in order to continue operating beyond the dreaded and looming March 29 deadline.

Both situations have morphed into pathetic state, second to none in terms of complete and utter idiocy on display. I do hear from European aviation people that their perception of the government shutdown in the US, which has now lasted some 35 days or so - and is putting hard working people in the U.S. at the brink of collapse is just mildly amusing when compared to what the Britons are pulling.

As a American/ European hybrid of sorts I hope both situations will find solutions rather soon. Both are a shame to watch as both indicate a seemingly increasing departure from the behaviors shown by living beings equipped with anything that closely resembles a frontal cortex and the ability to find reason and common sense...

Posted by: Jason Baker | January 25, 2019 1:38 AM    Report this comment

Jaba ... take a few moments and send us to school about the issues with Brexit and EASA. We 'get' the problems if an agreement isn't reached but ... it sure seems like a simple issue to resolve. Why can't they agree? I can't trust what little news we hear about the subject from the Lugenpresse.

I LIKE your idea of locking 'em all in a big room until they find common ground and agree. The mental picture of starving ATC types fleeing south was good, too.

Posted by: Larry Stencel | January 25, 2019 5:26 AM    Report this comment

Larry, you would be overestimating my writing ability if you deemed me capable of sending my fellow flying friends and foes to school on anything. It unfortunately isn't quite as simple an issue to solve and the so-called fake news outlets are struggling as much as anyone in finding textual concepts to explain the historical developments in European politics.

Lets try to consider the UK and EU as acting partners and beneficiaries in a relationship that has lasted for many years. But suddenly the EU takes liberties and demands things for which UK has little to no passion. A bunch of screamers and Neanderthals (which can be found in most societies) suggest for the UK to start huffing and puffing about leaving and divorcing the EU. Almost a bit like electing particularly egocentric people into high offices. Everyone laughs and says: "Yeah! Lets vote!!!"

UK does comply and the outcome of the voting stuns everyone by producing a majority vote in favor of divorce! Whoops! In a big firework (remember, everyone is still stunned) UK files for divorce and slaps EU with the stack of papers. EU has no way (or obligation) to object or pen for amicable resolve, hence the judge sets date for the two parties to manage their business and part ways.

Now, EASA is the mother of all European Aviation matters. Many of the benefits UK has enjoyed over the years will become obsolete by leaving the EU. The rules and regulations for what the divorce entails are as crystal clear as onion soup, and now the UK is having a bit of a hissy fit, realizing that the consequences entail a chainsaw and loosing many benefits that were a whole lot less important, when everyone though EU as a whole would submit to the empire on which the sun never sets. In aviation such a move is known as overconfidence leading to CFIT.

Time will tell. It won't be pretty, that's for sure.

Posted by: Jason Baker | January 25, 2019 6:28 AM    Report this comment

Logic is not the answer to the Brexit mess, unfortunately. The answer lies in addressing the emotional feelings of the two sides that each feel wronged in some way by the other.
In aviation, this might best be compared to the irrational emotions that lead to feeling confident enough to skip the PAVE and IMSAFE checklists which result in "get-home-itis", scud running, and the whole litany of other "pilot errors".

Our respective political quandaries are clearly irrational, but unfortunately all too human. Our past is littered with horrific idiocies, from famines and world wars to the current global warming crisis which looks like it will kill billions of people, as well as the biosphere infrastructure that supports most organic life forms...we already have killed a huge percentage of the insect population and coral reefs, and huge number of fish species, all species upon which human existence depends.

Maybe this is just the beginning of the 'end of times' and we're too busy quarreling amongst ourselves to note that big scimitar pendulum lowering it's arc as we worry about whether or not our shirts and pants reflect the latest style.

Posted by: Richard Katz | January 25, 2019 8:29 AM    Report this comment

God, save us all from Chicken Little. He seems to be everywhere.

Posted by: YARS (Tom Yarsley) | January 25, 2019 9:14 AM    Report this comment

There should be no "uncertainty" at all.
They join the other 99% of OTHER NATIONS not in the EU.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | January 25, 2019 9:15 AM    Report this comment

'God, save us all from Chicken Little. He seems to be everywhere.'

Except, of course, at the US southern border. That, apparently, is exempt from hysteria and neither tunnels, boats or ingenuity can defeat a wall.

Science is deluded, but the need for a wall is affirmed. Down the rabbit hole we go...

Posted by: Dave Miller | January 25, 2019 12:07 PM    Report this comment

In the United States today, one has to be "appointed" and "approved" to run for any meaningful high level office. The US public votes on what has been placed in front of them. Only a narcissist will want to participate in this vetting process. Only a narcissist will be "appointed" to run. And only a narcissist will be approved as a candidate.

So, our political choices continue this downward spiral relegating the future of this country by continuous voting for the "lessor of the two evils". Over a period of time of our only options being the "lessor of two evils", we end up with evil. And depending on whose ox is being gored, we accept and live with the choices made by our narcissistic leadership.

Since this is an aviation blog...if the interest rates are low, avgas is under $5 bucks a gallon, mogas is under 2 dollars, our investments doing OK, we have a good internet connection, our airports have decent runways, and we can fly with a certain amount of freedom yet depending on the "free" ATC services for traffic/weather and separations... we will live relatively quietly with this litany of poor choices of local, state, and national leadership.

If our aviation "ox was being gored" and the avgas was $10 per gallon and climbing, our autogas at $8 per gallon, paying user fees to get a weather brief, take-off from a pot-hole strewn runway, interest rates at 25% as they were in 1979, and ADS-B compliance skyrocketing to a minimum of $10,000 per airplane...we would be howling...bravely busting our collective fingertips on our keyboards lamenting the mindless political posturing, decisions being made with no common sense, and lambasting the press for their total lack of integrity.

Posted by: Jim Holdeman | January 25, 2019 3:35 PM    Report this comment

But at the end of the day in both scenarios, we would still be stuck with leadership choices, determined by a select few. We have no ability to select a candidate that actually represents our over-all world-view. Because if the candidates have not passed the "vetting" process of proven political, financial support, and demonstrated loyalty to the core beliefs of a ruling class we have no control of...we are seeing and living with the results of the "lessor of the two evils".

Both parties claim to have different planks. We have names for them. Conservative and Liberal. Left and Right. Red and Blue. Progressives and Fundamentalists. Pro- choice and Pro-Life...the list is almost endless. However, in functionality, there is no difference. The results speak for themselves. Chaos and grid-lock.

One election cycle we have the left in power. Another election cycle the right. But the end result is a new normal, designed by powerful others...that we have no choice but accept. The voting process today is only a carrot placed in front of us to make us believe we have a choice of leadership. The Constitution is now a piece of historic artwork leading us to believe we still have a choice in leadership.

Add to this mix of narcissistic leadership, the various pundits filling us with op eds how we are to supposed to think, what the correct courses for the masses is to be, and the penalty for not making the correct choice of the "lessor of the two evils".

When you go to a smorgasbord you can eat whatever you want and how much you want. But you can only eat the choices they serve you. You did not have a vote of that selection. You paid for what was offered. We are paying a steep price for what we have been offered. And I am literally nauseated over the choices of political leadership these last 30+ years. And I see no relief in sight.

Brexit?...the new normal for the UK. Government shutdowns?...the new normal for the US.

Posted by: Jim Holdeman | January 25, 2019 3:36 PM    Report this comment

If anyone thinks that Airbus has problems NOW, imagine what life would be like if Rolls Royce stopped shipping engines to them. In March. Sic semper Brussels tyrannis. "My way or the highway," indeed.

Posted by: YARS (Tom Yarsley) | January 25, 2019 8:48 PM    Report this comment

Imagine California separating from the US tomorrow. They tell the US that California will not accept any US jurisdiction at all. California will not accept any rules from the US anymore. People from other US states are not allowed to move into California anymore. Non native Californian people who are present should leave. There will be a border and any kind of goods will be taxed by customs.

But: DAMMIT, we have no part of the government set up to govern aviation. And we have not set up any bilateral agreements with other countries to accept and control each others rules.

Therefore we would love to still keep the rules for aviation that you have set up in the US. For manufacturing, licensing, training, maintenance, etc. . And of course, we will call our licenses a "US-FAA" license. And all our aircraft will of course still be maintained according to US FAR standards.

And now you expect the US to accept this situation, where they are told they have no control over it and California tells the US to piss off in general.

And you expect other countries who have bilateral arrangements with the US but not with California to accept your California license, your maintenance protocols and all the stuff that you still call "according to FAA or FAR".

Of course you can run your own state of California and run your own Californian aviation bureaucracy. If you want to, do so.

But people may object if you call it US FAA or US FAR regulations you follow ut it is not controlled by the US. Set up your own regulations and governing body and get bilateral agreements with all the other countries. Which will take some decades.

And we have not even started to talk about bilateral airline service agreements. Yes, the UK has an agreement with the US now, to continue flying according to the open skies agreement between EU and US. But no open jaws flights for UK airlines in Europe anymore. All has to be done according to WTO and ICAO rules until bilateral agreements are present between UK and other countries. Which is causing some problems for Airlines at the moment where the majority of stocks is held by UK companies.

This Brexshit is a big mess.

I work in automotive and it will be the same problems. Taxes, licenses, do I need a visa, do we accept a car that has been manufactured in England? You tell me you adhere to EU rules regarding the hazardous chemicals that are present in your car? And who does check this? Really?

Posted by: Thomas Hoffmann | January 26, 2019 4:13 AM    Report this comment

I'm old enough to remember when there was no EU; no euros. The world still turned.
As for Kalifornia, the present circumstance is that its state government thinks that it is entitled to flout whatever US laws it wants to, while demanding a vast diet of benefits.
Personally, I think we should return the entire state to Mexico. Not only would it help the challenged Mexican economy, it would be fun to watch.
With freedom comes responsibility. I consider that a fair price.

Posted by: YARS (Tom Yarsley) | January 26, 2019 5:30 AM    Report this comment

And the world will continue to turn. I have no idea how Brexit will turn out for Britain, but I think it is bad for everyone else. And it is really difficult to untangle all the economical and regulatory connections that have been set up in the last 40 years.

Posted by: Thomas Hoffmann | January 26, 2019 7:59 AM    Report this comment

Sometimes the only thing worse than a divorce, is staying married.

Posted by: YARS (Tom Yarsley) | January 26, 2019 10:14 AM    Report this comment

YARS ... you're a poet ... and didn't knowit :-))

"With Freedom comes Responsibility." EXACTLY !!

Posted by: Larry Stencel | January 26, 2019 1:47 PM    Report this comment

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