UK Transport and Brexit News & Views No. 70

Mark’s EU Week for Transport

‘Hope for the best, plan for the worst’ is a quote that has many parents but nicely sums up the latest twists and turns of our Brexit saga.  In terms of planning for the worst, the European Commission issued a stark warning note on preparedness for the transport sector (see below) that irrespective of the scenario envisaged, Brexit will cause significant disruption for European citizens, businesses and administrations. It goes on to stress that preparedness is not just the responsibility of Governments but private entities too.

In other words we should all plan for the worst.  A more optimistic tone was struck at our Parliamentary roundtable last week. A key message from all the parties present at the event was that, at the end of the day, there will be a deal. Almost everyone agreed that the White Paper was a good starting point for the deal, that would deliver the best possible Brexit for UK transport.  However, it needs to be built on in a way that meets the needs of industry, while addressing the concerns of our EU27 partners.  Hence our call for that the White Paper should go further, be implemented faster and be fairer in terms of governance and accountability.  So as an industry we should, as in the quote, hope for the best, but we should do more than that. We need to work hard to ensure it becomes a reality. In particular we need to look at what an Association Agreement will mean for road, rail, sea and air, and begin our preparations based on experiences from elsewhere, whilst not forgetting we still need to sell it to the rest of the EU.

News and Views will be off next week, with the next one coming on August 6th before then officially resuming in September.

This week’s song of the week, considering recent developments, is Mel Brooks singing ‘Hope for the best, Expect the worst.

1. UKTiE Parliamentary Roundtable on Brexit and transport 
Last Wednesday, UKTiE hosted a highly successful Parliamentary Roundtable on Brexit in the House of Lords. The event served as a timely opportunity to take stock of progress but also as a reality check on what the current progress really means in the wider Brexit negotiations. Our message was a simple one, the Brexit proposals from the UK Government need to go further, go faster and reflect a fairer Brexit. We heard from all sides at the Roundtable, with representatives from DExEU, Labour, Lib Dems and industry all participating in a very constructive discussion. The Roundtable discussion brought out a general recognition of progress from the UK Government but also an agreement that a lot more has yet to be done in the little time that remains for the negotiations. UKTiE welcomed the publication of the White Paper but issued a stark reminder that future relationship proposals will go nowhere unless the Withdrawal Agreement is concluded by October. This means resolving one of the key Brexit issues, the Irish border, something that was visibly missing from the Government’s White Paper. UKTiE remains committed to working with the UK Government and our EU partners to deliver the best possible Brexit for transport. We hope that during the forthcoming discussions on the White Paper we can secure commitments on transport across all the modes, which go further in scope, faster in terms of implementation, and fairer as regards the transparency and accountability of the proposed governance arrangements.

2. European Union issues Brexit preparedness communication
Last week, the European Commission issued a communication on behalf of the EU institutions titled “Preparing for the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union on 30 March 2019“. The purpose of the communication is to encourage “all stakeholders that may be affected by the United Kingdom’s withdrawal to take the necessary preparedness actions and to take them now”. The communication outlines, among other sectors, the preparedness challenges facing transport. The EU sets transport rules across transport modes and “these rules usually create distinctions between EU operators and third country operators and provide access to those who comply with EU requirements”. The communication outlines that “the European Union must apply its regulation and tariffs at borders with the United Kingdom as a third country, including checks and controls for customs, sanitary and phytosanitary standards and verification of compliance with EU norms. Transport between the United Kingdom and the European Union would be severely impacted. Customs, sanitary and phytosanitary controls at borders could cause significant delays, e.g. in road transport, and difficulties for ports”. The Commission highlights some of the work that it will be undertaking to prepare for any Brexit scenario. Included in its preparatory work, the Commission will adopt a “proposal to amend the Regulation establishing the Connecting Europe Facility” which will aim to rectify “the situation following the United Kingdom’s withdrawal, when the transport infrastructure of the latter will no longer be situated in the Union to ensure continued connectivity of the EU network”. The communication further states that the Commission “invites the European Parliament and the Council to give priority treatment to the legislative proposals that are related to the withdrawal so that the acts can be in force by the withdrawal date”. The communication serves as both a rallying call for increased preparedness and contingency planning for Brexit as well as taking stock of ongoing work. If you would like to more information on what the EU27 are doing to prepare the transport sector for Brexit, then please do get in touch with us. 

3. Who should be preparing?
In the above-mentioned communication, the European Commission dedicated a section to discussing who should be preparing for the withdrawal of the UK from the EU. The communication says the following:

“Although the withdrawal of the United Kingdom may appear to be playing out at a high and rather abstract level between the United Kingdom and the European Union, its consequences will be very real for citizens, professionals and business operators. The Member States economies are closely inter-connected thanks to the Single Market, with integrated supply chains across borders and extensive cross-border provision of services.

The withdrawal may therefore have a significant impact on such economic operators. It is important that businesses of all sizes, including small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), prepare and that they take action now.

Private actors, business operators and professionals need to take responsibility for their individual situation, assess the potential impacts of a cliff-edge scenario on their business model, make the necessary economic decisions and take and conclude all required administrative steps before 30 March 2019. The citizens who will be affected by the withdrawal of the United Kingdom, as well as the public administrations that serve them, should also prepare for 30 March 2019”.

This serves as a timely reminder that despite the ongoing negotiations, businesses must be undertaking their preparatory and contingency planning so as to mitigate as many of the Brexit consequences as possible.

4. National Audit Office Report on Brexit and transport
A new report from the National Audit Office looks into the Department for Transport’s progress on its large portfolio of work that it needs to complete in order to deliver a smooth exit from the EU. Among the report’s conclusions, it states that despite progress on many fronts, “the Department still faces a considerable challenge. For example, it still has much to do on the contingency arrangements required by DExEU in case no deal is reached, with an increasing risk of not being able to deliver them all within the time available. The lack of a consistent approach to reporting progress between the DExEU and Department-run reporting systems potentially hinders the communication of clear messages to more senior levels. As the exit programme enters a more complex and pressured phase, the Department needs a much clearer overall view of where its programme has got to against where it needs to be, and the overall implications of any slippage, and strengthened mechanisms for taking tough decisions on actions and priorities quickly”. The report paints a picture of the Department for Transport struggling to manage its complex and significant EU exit work streams, as well as issues with the Department’s reporting systems which make stock-taking of progress more difficult.

5. UKTiE has also put together the latest timetable for Brexit. We will keep this up to date as the process develops:

  • 29 March 2017 – A50 triggered.
  • 5 April 2017 – European Parliament adopted Brexit guidelines.
  • 22 May 2017 – Brexit negotiating directives approved by Council.
  • 19 June 2017 –  Negotiations formally began.
  • 23 March 2018– European Council agreed guidelines on the future trading relationship.
  • 30 September 2018 – Date by which EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, wants to conclude the terms of Britain’s exit from the Union.
  • 18-19 October 2018 – European Council summit with a specific Brexit focus.
  • 6th November 2018 – UKTiE Forum, European Parliament, Brussels
  • 30 March 2019 – Britain formally exits the EU, following ratification of Brexit by all other member states and the European Parliament.
  • June 2019 – European Parliament election.
  • 31 December 2020 – End of transition period. (TBC)
Mark Watts
UK transport in Europe (UKTiE)
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