Certainly, politics is vital; but much more importantly, this is a legal processby Jonathan Lis / November 11, 2017 / Leave a comment
If you were to limit your Brexit exposure to the pronouncements of David Davis, you might be reasonably confident that Brexit was all about canny negotiating technique: how much bargaining might be done, how many concessions might be achieved, how many backroom deals might eventually be agreed. Do not limit your Brexit exposure to the pronouncements of David Davis.
The Brexit Secretary recently speculated about negotiations continuing until the last minute to hammer out a deal in Brussels, and—specifically citing aviation—informed MPs that “whatever happens, we’ll have some sort of basic deal.” The theory goes that, even if the British government and EU27 are unable to negotiate a deal on trade—which is the UK’s prime interest in the talks—they will be able to forge agreement on some of the building blocks of everyday British life, such as functioning air travel.
Such a theory, however, misunderstands the fundamental basis of the Brexit process. Certainly, politics is vital; but much more importantly, this is a legal process. EU officials make clear that everything relating to our withdrawal must come under the umbrella of Article 50—and that means that it must be endorsed by the European Parliament well in advance of Brexit day. There can be no late-night fudges in the final days of March 2019: if the European Parliament has seen no deal and voted on no deal, we end up with no deal. On anything.
So, why would the EU hesitate to bring forward a deal to the European Parliament on just aviation? Now we get into the politics. EU officials insist that Britain must meet its financial commitments. This is not a fine, bill or punishment: it is a demand that Britain accepts the obligations that it has already made, and does not leave the EU with an unmanageable hole in its budget. Should Britain reject this demand, trust will plunge faster than sterling. Shorn of goodwill, the EU27 will be in no mood to commit time and resources to ensuring that our planes continue to fly. Some officials contend that a stand-alone aviation treaty would in any case take up to two years to negotiate and implement.