Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has asked for a statement from the Secretary of State for Transport to explain plans to reach a deal with the EU on aviation navigation services, after concerns were raised with the MP by local constituents about the gap in safety.
Because of a failure by the UK Government to reach agreement prior to the EU trade deal going ahead, from 21st June aircraft operating in UK airspace will no longer be able to make use of the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS) which is used to provide three-dimensional guidance for instrument approach procedures. Without an agreement this could revert air traffic guidance to a level seen in the 1980s.
Speaking in the House, Mr Carmichael said:
“May we have an early statement from the Secretary of State for Transport on air safety? For whatever reason, the trade and co-operation agreement with the EU did not include access to the EU EGNOS—European geostationary navigation overlay service—satellite system, which is used to provide 3D glide slope for instrument approach procedures for planes coming in to land at airports. As a consequence, come 21 June, the limits at which planes will be allowed to approach a runway without visual contact will be significantly increased, which will be particularly acute across the Highlands and Islands, at exactly the same time as we will be wanting more people, hopefully, to come back and start to visit us again.
“We need a memorandum of understanding with the EU on that, and we really need to hear from the Secretary of State what he intends to do if we do not have one.”
Responding for the Government, the Leader of the House, Jacob Rees-Mogg MP said:
“I cannot claim that I know a great deal about that particular issue but I will take up with the relevant Minister, and I will try to get the right hon. Gentleman a detailed response to what sounds a very serious matter. Obviously we want transport to resume as safely as possible, so that tourists are able to come back. He raises an important point, and I shall do my best to get a detailed answer.”
Reacting after the exchange, Mr Carmichael said:
“It comes as little surprise that we are discovering more and more these blind spots in the deal the Government made with the EU. Aviation is a critical lifeline for the isles, both for business and practical connections, so we cannot afford to ignore any gaps in service. Whatever the reason – I look forward to the Government’s explanation on how they will resolve this issue.”