Mark’s EU Week for Transport 
We find ourselves in the final stretch ahead of the European elections. The UK election campaigns are all now officially launched, with the exception of the Conservative Party, and not surprisingly Brexit is dominating the campaigns of all the UK parties. Ironically it’s probably the first time ever that the UK’s European election campaign has been fought on European issues.

Across Europe as a whole, we are now starting to see some of the trends that will be emerging from these European elections and what the implications of those trends will have on EU policy making.  The next European Parliament is likely to be much more fragmented and divided than it has ever been. The most visible consequence of this being the end of the grand coalition between the Christian Democrat (EPP) and socialists and social democrats (S&D) which has dominated the Parliament for the past five years. They are unlikely to command a majority in the next European Parliament. This leaves space for the European liberals (ALDE) and the Greens to become kingmakers, and whatever new coalition emerges this will certainly have a dramatic effect on EU transport policy, pushing it into a more radical and pro-EU direction. The far right and populists will undoubtedly be portrayed by much of the media and by many commentators as the winners in this election, but as I will explore in next week’s News and Views, their influence will be generally limited. Whilst there are certain key issues where their presence will be felt, generally speaking, we are likely to see more European legislation, not less, because of the pivotal role the liberals and the greens will play.

Looking beyond Brexit, the new makeup of the European Parliament will have consequences for the UK transport sector for years to come,  as under whatever conceivable Brexit scenario we end up with, or no Brexit at all, we will follow European legislation that will be created in a process increasingly influenced by the European Parliament. I would therefore urge all of you to read up on the various manifestos and to watch the May 15 debate between the lead candidates next week. This time it matters more than ever. Finally, this week we celebrate our 100th edition of UKTiE’s Europe and Transport News & Views, we would like to thank all of those who have followed us along the way as we look forward to the next 100!

This week’s song of the week, is Don’t Matter Now by George Ezra.

1. UKTiE Vision
UKTiE has launched our new ‘UKTiE Vision’ at a moment of political uncertainty where UK business in the EU is at a crossroads as to how it operates going forward. Our new vision focuses on policy areas such as: Multi-Modality, Sustainability, Competition, and Digitalisation. This new UKTiE Vision represents our policy priorities for the future. We are getting ready to share it with all successful MEP candidates after the 26th of May.

2. Cross-party deal must include confirmatory vote – Sir Keir Starmer
A cross-party Brexit deal will not get through Parliament unless it is subject to a confirmatory public vote, shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer says. Starmer used the interview to significantly toughen Labour’s language on support for a second referendum, saying “I’ve made it clear that at this stage, at this 11th hour, any deal that comes through from this government ought to be subject to the lock of a confirmatory vote.” He suggested a referendum on the final deal had become a red line of its own for many Labour MPs, saying “a significant number, probably 120 if not 150, would not back a deal if it hasn’t got a confirmatory vote”. With Labour’s party policy saying that it supports a further referendum on Brexit under certain circumstances, Starmer’s interview has pushed that stance further out than anyone else on the Labour frontbench. 

3. Chris Grayling was warned he would face legal payouts over no-deal ferry contracts
The Independent reports that Chris Grayling, UK Transport Secretary, was warned he faced a multimillion-pound legal payout over the sourcing of no-deal Brexit ferry services according to the National Audit Office. “The transport secretary was also told specifically that Eurotunnel might object to the controversial procurement exercise… analysts believed a challenge was probable and “likely to be successful”. In response to the National Audit Office’s (NAO) report, the government said it had “carefully considered the legal risk at all stages of the procurement”. The awards were not subject to a full public procurement process, which the DfT said was justified by “reasons of extreme urgency brought about by events unforeseen by the contracting authority”.

4. Brexit talks will tie up Whitehall for years, top UK diplomat warns
Former national security adviser and head of Britain’s diplomatic service, Peter Ricketts, has warned that the next stage of the Brexit negotiations are going to make the current mess look like a simple affair and will tie up the civil service for years. Lord Ricketts, who is a former Downing Street national security adviser, former ambassador to France and a member of the House of Lords EU select committee, has “predicted negotiations are likely to go on for years and “encompass pretty much the entire of Whitehall”, with detailed negotiations expected in everything from trade and financial services to data transfer, transport, fisheries and nuclear and gas supply.” In a report published by the Institute for Government, titled ‘Negotiating Brexit, preparing for talks on the UK’s future relationship with the EU’, it warns that “converting the 24 pages of the political declaration into thousands of pages of legally binding text will require detailed work from a huge number of departments and organisations across government”. 

5. Why we should expect an EU Transport White Paper in 2020
In his most recent blog, Mark writes that looking at all the evidence, he says we should be expecting an EU Transport White Paper in 2020 to replace the last one written in 2011. Mark further adds that the last White Paper, from 2011, reads like something from a different era. The thinking of 2011’s White Paper was very much influenced by the economic crisis, and adopted a growth first approach, emphasising the completion of the Single European Transport Area. It also abandoned the modal shift commitment, which was the focus of the much greener 2001 White Paper, launched by the then Transport Commissioner Neil Kinnock.

6. 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, wanted to conclude the terms of Britain’s exit from the Union.
  • TBD – House of Commons vote again on Withdrawal Agreement
  • 23-26 May 2019 – European Parliament election.
  • 2 July – First meeting of the European Parliament.
  • 8 July – First meeting of the TRAN Committee.
  • 31 October 2019 – The UK will formally leave the EU.
  • 31 December 2020 – End of Transition Period (tbc).
Mark Watts
UK transport in Europe (UKTiE)
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