Defamatory DD comment?

Liberty XXX

It was the great foreign secretary Austen Chamberlain who claimed that our diplomats in China had often heard the curse “may you live in an interesting age”. And what a cursed age it is for our nation’s political classes – as Liberty chief Shami Chakrabarti (and as blogger Sadie has it, “winsome khol-eyed heroine”) threatened to sue a Labour Minister for flippantly suggesting that she had used her feminine wiles to win over grizzled trained killer, David Davis.

Sunny Hundal on Liberal Conspiracy summarised the by-election dilemma for liberal-lefties - but with Labour joining the Lib Dems in ruling themselves out of the race, did it really matter? Shiraz Socialist believed so, and saw the situation as a microcosm of the “wider realignment in politics,” pitching those who see the law as a “guarantor of freedom” against those who regard it as a “giant behaviour regulator”.

In other news, NS political editor Martin Bright issued a clarion call for a real liberal to step forward and make the by-election worth running and Rachel North asked readers whether she should pound the streets for Davis. Recess Monkey was pre-occupied with the ethnic backgrounds of the freedom lovers cluttering DD’s website. That’s profiling, and it’s wrong.

Hamassive step forward?

The cross-community e-zine Bitter Lemons, which provides unparelled coverage of Middle Eastern politics, this week presented a fascinating range of perspectives on the Israel-Hamas ceasefire. Palestinian Ghassan Khatib reflected on what he regards as the folly of excluding Islamists from the dialogue of peace, and of continuing Israeli settlement in East Jerusalem. Summing up, he wrote:

“This is the only way to empower the peace camp in Palestine and reverse the trend of radicalization, thus creating an atmosphere conducive to reunifying the Palestinian territories under the leadership of that peace camp.”

Meanwhile, Israeli Yossi Alpher explained why it is crucial for his government to change the basis of its negotiation with Hamas.

Closer to home, analysis was on offer at Harry’s Place, where guest blogger ‘SO Muffin’ took a cool look at the situation, and reckoned that while the Holy Land’s future was not an intractable problem, matters may deteriorate into violence again before any breakthrough is achieved.

What have we learned this Week?

Many of us are glumly observing Euro 2008 from our sofas, cans of supermarket lager resting on our guts, deciding which teams we hate most - and cheering on whoever they happen to be playing.

But Commissioner Mandelson’s old adviser Benjamin “Oofy” Wegg-Prosser sees an upside. The erstwhile Downing Street web guru, now based in Moscow, tells us in his LiveJournal that he is enjoying the tournament “without being racked with nerves about England's next match”.

Across the Pond

Michelle Obama, wife of presidential hopeful Barack, is increasingly proving a source of obsession to media commentators and bloggers across the States. This week she thanked the First Lady for her comments defending Mrs O’s patriotism; sparking off a new wave of online chatter. Hat-wearing Californian Zachary Paul Sire longed for a feisty presidential consort, and wondered who would want a pacified Michelle, or a “Laura Bush 2.0 who whips up casseroles and touts abstinence in a haze of nicotine patch-induced ennui”.

Video of the Week

In these days of triangulation and Cameroon wet ascendancy, it’s good to take a trip down memory lane, to the days when Tories were Tories. Rowan Atkinson’s famous “I am a golfer” speech from Not The Nine O’Clock News contains language which now, as then, is likely to be considered offensive.

Quote of the Week

“She also pointed out that it was thanks to Tony Blair we were there at all (She's a LibDem). I clapped.”

Iain Dale on his sister Sheena’s speech at his civil partnership to partner John. All good wishes and every happiness to them both!

Paul Evans is a freelance journalist, and formerly worked for an MP. He lives in London, but maintains his Somerset roots by drinking cider.
Getty.
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The Brexit Beartraps, #2: Could dropping out of the open skies agreement cancel your holiday?

Flying to Europe is about to get a lot more difficult.

So what is it this time, eh? Brexit is going to wipe out every banana planet on the entire planet? Brexit will get the Last Night of the Proms cancelled? Brexit will bring about World War Three?

To be honest, I think we’re pretty well covered already on that last score, but no, this week it’s nothing so terrifying. It’s just that Brexit might get your holiday cancelled.

What are you blithering about now?

Well, only if you want to holiday in Europe, I suppose. If you’re going to Blackpool you’ll be fine. Or Pakistan, according to some people...

You’re making this up.

I’m honestly not, though we can’t entirely rule out the possibility somebody is. Last month Michael O’Leary, the Ryanair boss who attracts headlines the way certain other things attract flies, warned that, “There is a real prospect... that there are going to be no flights between the UK and Europe for a period of weeks, months beyond March 2019... We will be cancelling people’s holidays for summer of 2019.”

He’s just trying to block Brexit, the bloody saboteur.

Well, yes, he’s been quite explicit about that, and says we should just ignore the referendum result. Honestly, he’s so Remainiac he makes me look like Dan Hannan.

But he’s not wrong that there are issues: please fasten your seatbelt, and brace yourself for some turbulence.

Not so long ago, aviation was a very national sort of a business: many of the big airports were owned by nation states, and the airline industry was dominated by the state-backed national flag carriers (British Airways, Air France and so on). Since governments set airline regulations too, that meant those airlines were given all sorts of competitive advantages in their own country, and pretty much everyone faced barriers to entry in others. 

The EU changed all that. Since 1994, the European Single Aviation Market (ESAM) has allowed free movement of people and cargo; established common rules over safety, security, the environment and so on; and ensured fair competition between European airlines. It also means that an AOC – an Air Operator Certificate, the bit of paper an airline needs to fly – from any European country would be enough to operate in all of them. 

Do we really need all these acronyms?

No, alas, we need more of them. There’s also ECAA, the European Common Aviation Area – that’s the area ESAM covers; basically, ESAM is the aviation bit of the single market, and ECAA the aviation bit of the European Economic Area, or EEA. Then there’s ESAA, the European Aviation Safety Agency, which regulates, well, you can probably guess what it regulates to be honest.

All this may sound a bit dry-

It is.

-it is a bit dry, yes. But it’s also the thing that made it much easier to travel around Europe. It made the European aviation industry much more competitive, which is where the whole cheap flights thing came from.

In a speech last December, Andrew Haines, the boss of Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority said that, since 2000, the number of destinations served from UK airports has doubled; since 1993, fares have dropped by a third. Which is brilliant.

Brexit, though, means we’re probably going to have to pull out of these arrangements.

Stop talking Britain down.

Don’t tell me, tell Brexit secretary David Davis. To monitor and enforce all these international agreements, you need an international court system. That’s the European Court of Justice, which ministers have repeatedly made clear that we’re leaving.

So: last March, when Davis was asked by a select committee whether the open skies system would persist, he replied: “One would presume that would not apply to us” – although he promised he’d fight for a successor, which is very reassuring. 

We can always holiday elsewhere. 

Perhaps you can – O’Leary also claimed (I’m still not making this up) that a senior Brexit minister had told him that lost European airline traffic could be made up for through a bilateral agreement with Pakistan. Which seems a bit optimistic to me, but what do I know.

Intercontinental flights are still likely to be more difficult, though. Since 2007, flights between Europe and the US have operated under a separate open skies agreement, and leaving the EU means we’re we’re about to fall out of that, too.  

Surely we’ll just revert to whatever rules there were before.

Apparently not. Airlines for America – a trade body for... well, you can probably guess that, too – has pointed out that, if we do, there are no historic rules to fall back on: there’s no aviation equivalent of the WTO.

The claim that flights are going to just stop is definitely a worst case scenario: in practice, we can probably negotiate a bunch of new agreements. But we’re already negotiating a lot of other things, and we’re on a deadline, so we’re tight for time.

In fact, we’re really tight for time. Airlines for America has also argued that – because so many tickets are sold a year or more in advance – airlines really need a new deal in place by March 2018, if they’re to have faith they can keep flying. So it’s asking for aviation to be prioritised in negotiations.

The only problem is, we can’t negotiate anything else until the EU decides we’ve made enough progress on the divorce bill and the rights of EU nationals. And the clock’s ticking.

This is just remoaning. Brexit will set us free.

A little bit, maybe. CAA’s Haines has also said he believes “talk of significant retrenchment is very much over-stated, and Brexit offers potential opportunities in other areas”. Falling out of Europe means falling out of European ownership rules, so itcould bring foreign capital into the UK aviation industry (assuming anyone still wants to invest, of course). It would also mean more flexibility on “slot rules”, by which airports have to hand out landing times, and which are I gather a source of some contention at the moment.

But Haines also pointed out that the UK has been one of the most influential contributors to European aviation regulations: leaving the European system will mean we lose that influence. And let’s not forget that it was European law that gave passengers the right to redress when things go wrong: if you’ve ever had a refund after long delays, you’ve got the EU to thank.

So: the planes may not stop flying. But the UK will have less influence over the future of aviation; passengers might have fewer consumer rights; and while it’s not clear that Brexit will mean vastly fewer flights, it’s hard to see how it will mean more, so between that and the slide in sterling, prices are likely to rise, too.

It’s not that Brexit is inevitably going to mean disaster. It’s just that it’ll take a lot of effort for very little obvious reward. Which is becoming something of a theme.

Still, we’ll be free of those bureaucrats at the ECJ, won’t be?

This’ll be a great comfort when we’re all holidaying in Grimsby.

Jonn Elledge edits the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric, and writes for the NS about subjects including politics, history and Brexit. You can find him on Twitter or Facebook.