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Mark’s week: 

With just 60 days to go until Theresa May must trigger Article 50, the planning for the Brexit negotiations has moved up a gear in Brussels and across national capitals.  The focus now is on finding solutions that protect the integrity of the European Union, facilitate an orderly Brexit and result in a fair future relationship that is mutually beneficial to all sides.  Those who come armed with solutions rather than problems will be warmly received. As Vicky Ford MEP, the newly elected Chair of the influential Internal Market Committee comments (see below), we need to find  a ‘relationship which is very specific for the UK and takes into account the very substantial sophisticated trade links that already exist. Given the potential benefits to both counter-parties, it is well worth investing the negotiating effort in trying to deliver it.’ So my advice this week is that companies and organisations that invest time now speaking to influential Brits like Vicky Ford MEP, armed with their solutions, will reap the dividends in terms of being best placed to adapt to the new future relationship.


Three UK MEPs reelected as Chairs of European Parliament Committee

Following the mid-term EP elections of leadership positions, three UK MEPs managed to maintain their leading roles in key European Parliament Committees with Vicky Ford (Internal Market), Claude Moraes (Civil Liberties and Home Affairs) and Linda McAvan (Development) all re-elected as Committee Chairs. For Britain and indeed for the transport sector, these appointments are good news as Chairs will play a key role in Brexit negotiations and have already been involved in discussions with key industry representatives.

Vicky Ford MEP – potential Brexit champion for transport sector

Following her reappointment as Internal Market chair, Vicky Ford presented her views on Brexit and the upcoming negotiations. In her intervention, she praised May’s approach in negotiating a new relationship model in the EU-UK relations post Brexit (rather than adapt an off-the-shelf option), recognizing the level of connectivity that exists among the EU27 and the UK. Vicky Ford thus positioned herself as a key defender of the economic interests of the UK, and will play a key role in Brexit negotiations in upcoming years and will without doubt become a champion of British interests, including transport. She concludes ‘Given the potential benefits to both counter-parties, it is well worth investing the negotiating effort in trying to deliver it (the new relationship).’ So if you have not yet engaged with Vicky we would certainly advised you to do so. 


Role of European Parliament very important in Brexit claims prominent German MEP, despite David Davis’ dismissal

Quizzed by MPs on the role he envisages for Guy Verhofstadt and the European Parliament during Brexit negotiations, UK secretary of state for Exiting the EU said  he saw it as having a ‘limited and peripheral’ role and the EU Parliament negotiator Verhofstadt as being present at talks but little towards ‘making the decisions’. Although the media put a very confident spin to the statement, when reading Davis’ remarks one can only notice the insecure tone of his claims. In fact, it would indeed seem that Davis is more hopeful that Verhofstadt has no real say in negotiations. In reality, the European Parliament will get a veto on the final decision and Parliament will be consulted every step of the way so as to avoid surprises when the final vote is due. This implies that the key actors of the EP transport sector will play a central role in Brexit negotiations – but whether or not transport is treated as a priority during the talks or used merely as an item to reach agreements on other more important areas is not certain. The role of the Parliament was also confirmed by the German EPP leader – Manfred Weber, who put forward a warning to those who, like Davis, believe the role of the Parliament should be reduced: if such a scenario would occur, the UK leadership would be facing a ‘very difficult partner’ in negotiations.
The Brexit Impact on aviation and airlines
The Irish examiner published an article with an overview of the impact Brexit will have on key sectors. Amongst the items presented was aviation – with the UK leaving the Single Aviation Market, airlines such as EasyJet, British Airways and Ryanair will be faced with serious disruptions unless a new deal is negotiated. This may prove to be a very difficult exercise as companies such as Lufthansa and Air France will see this as a perfect opportunity to strengthen control on some key markets. Ireland, one of the closest countries to the UK, is positioning itself in negotiations to ensure the impact of Brexit on their economy is as low as possible.  Not only that but Ryanair and EasyJet stakeholders are likely to be forced to sell stakes to EU nationals, as a result of having to comply with the bloc’s foreign ownership rules.
Guy Verhofstadt MEP says technically impossible to negotiate Brexit and a new deal with the EU by 2019. Strong case for transitional deal for transport.
It’s looking almost impossible for a deal to be struck on a new economic relationship including trade and transport within the 2 year timeline of Article 50. Verhofstadt was asked in an interview with Al-Jazeera whether it would be possible for the UK government to negotiate both Brexit and a new trade deal with the EU by 2019.  “That’s technically impossible,” he said, referring to the timeline on a future trade agreement. He also emphasized that whilst they are not looking for a punitive exercise, the EU parliament will want a fair and generous agreement, where “you can never have outside the European Union a better status than as member of the European Union”. Verhofstadt also gave his thoughts on whether the UK could potentially re-enter the EU in the future under a different government. “That is always possible,” he said. “They can always reintroduce a request for membership of the European Union.” “Certainly, we have enough experience to make it a little bit a faster process than what is normal,” he added. The view from Berlin this weekend also confirmed this view that a trade and economic deal by 2019 was impossible, not least because  German elections  and the subsequent formation of a new government will delay substantive negotiations, even though Article 50 would have been triggered.  If this is the case there is a strong argument for a transitional deal for transport to be agreed sooner rather than later.


The 133-word Bill that triggers Article 50

Following last week’s Supreme Court ruling on the need for Parliament to vote on triggering Article 50, PM Theresa May has put forward a lengthy 133-word Bill – that is to be rushed through Parliament to meet May’s Brexit schedule – to trigger the official beginning of the exiting from the EU. Although now having a say, MPs do not appear to be posing a risk towards Brexit. Labour leader Corbyn has asked fellow MPs to vote for triggering Article 50, and has confirmed a three-line whip. Even so, it would appear that a quarter of Labour MPs will vote against.  The timetable for debate is very short – 5 days – and several amendments are to be tabled: 4 from Labour including one that would Force May to return to Brussels with the deal should Parliament reject it, and 60 from the SNP. Meanwhile, Nicola Sturgeon will push ahead with the Scottish parliament vote, despite the Supreme Court ruling on devolved administrations not getting a vote.
Decision on Euratom means UK participation in (transport) agencies may not continue either
Last week the UK announced that with Brexit they will also be leaving Euratom. This decision will not only complicate Britain’s plans to build new nuclear power stations, but it implies that the UK will have to renegotiate and strike new international agreements with the US and other countries around the world to maintain access to nuclear technology. This move will also affect the industry, research and access to fissile materials. The trend of breaking ‘free’ from every supranational EU entity, overseen by the European Court of Justice, seems to continue. According to the President of the European Investment Bank, Wener Hoyer  once the UK leaves the EU it will cease to be able to maintain involvement in the European Investment Bank (as stakeholders of the bank are members of the EU). This implies that once again, the UK will have to renegotiate its position should it wish to continue some form of activities with the EIB – an endeavour which according to Hoyer is extremely difficult. On the same logic it is likely that Britain will also cease to be a member of the agencies, including key transport organisations such as EASA, ERA and EMSA.
 Trump and May on the way to new trade deals
All eyes were closely monitoring newly appointed President Trump and Prime Minister May’s discussions last week, in particular the outcome regarding a future trade deal. Although formal negotiations cannot begin until the UK has de facto left the EU, both parties appeared to be enthusiastic about the prospect of bilateral negotiations, in what they see as a new age for the US, the UK and indeed the world. As part of discussions it would appear that UK/US working groups will be set up to make progress on what is possible prior to Brexit, with the key elements being – removing mobile phone roaming charges, mutual recognition of professional qualifications, removing red tape and non-tariff barriers blocking UK exports of certain agriculture and food products. Trump assured May that current trade provisions from which the UK benefits (under EU membership) with the US will also continue following Brexit. This would imply that Open Skies is still on the table. The issue that Trump may not be aware of is that Open Skies is in fact an agreement between the US and EU Member States, an legally will cease to exist and apply for the UK with Brexit. The danger posed by Open Skies was reiterated by Ryanair boss, who warns UK Aviation industry will fall off a cliff if Open Skies agreement is lost.
Upcoming EU Summit to discuss Brexit – UK not invited

As the upcoming EU Summit approaches (Valletta, 3rd of February), Member States are gearing up for another round of informal Brexit discussions, without the UK. This will be the last summit before the triggering of Article 50 – and the EU27 are expected to finalise their Brexit tactics.

Mark Watts
UK transport in Europe (UKTiE)


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