Mark’s EU Week for Transport
Whilst the focus of the past week has been on who will get which top EU job, behind the scenes the European Parliament and the European Council have both been stealing a march on the European Commission by seeking to agree strategic priorities for the next five year EU mandate. Whilst constitutionally the European Commission has the sole power of initiative, this time round the other two EU institutions want to shape their agenda. And given the Parliament and Council must approve the appointment of the Commission President, and all the individual Commissioners it is likely their attempt will be successful.
In the European Parliament, the pro-EU political groups have, in an extraordinary act of unity, got together in 5 working groups to create a joint program for the next 5 years. This is partly a response to the Eurosceptic challenge and Brexit but also partly a desire to transform their election victory and mandate for EU wide solutions into EU policy, law and regulation. Their focus so far has been on the environment, in particular tackling climate change, not least in transport.
Meanwhile, the European Council meets this week to also set out the ‘strategic priorities’ for the EU over the next 5 years. Top of the agenda will also be a discussion on whether the EU should commit to ‘climate neutrality’ by 2050, with potentially tough interim targets, with a focus too on other areas highly relevant to transport, including measures to strengthen the single market and a new more interventionist industrial strategy.
With the Council and Parliament both in agreement it is very likely that transport, the largest and fastest growing source of CO2 emissions in the EU, will be included in new climate action policies, with a greater focus on shipping and aviation as a result of increasing frustration with the slow progress of international bodies to adopt sufficiently ambitious measures. But they won’t let up on road either, we are likely to see further measures, building on the recently agreed CO2 curbs for cars, light van, and heavy duty vehicles.
So as Brussels gears up for the first session of the new European Parliament at the beginning of July, it will be more important than ever for the UK transport sector to come together and present a unified front in order to effectively communicate our vision and objectives, to protect and promote our interests.
One thing we have all learned in the past forty years is the earlier in the decision making progress you engage, the more chance you have of being successful. And with the EU setting priorities which will focus on transport earlier and more strongly, than ever before, it’s vital we engage now.
Given all the uncertainty in the UK it may be tempting to wait. But the EU will not wait for us. The time to engage is now.
But with Brexit I know some commentators feel influencing the EU is a waste of time. We’ll be free to set our own standards they say. But this is a delusion. In order to maintain market access we will need to closely align ourselves to EU regulations. Dynamic regulation, in other words automatically adopting new EU laws, will be the norm.
There is simply no appetite, no bandwidth, and no political consensus to do anything else.
This week’s song of the week, is Drawing Board by George Ezra.
1. Finnish five party government led by Social Democrat Antti Rinne takes up office ahead of EU Presidency
LP Brussels Advisor Kai Keski-Korhonen writes on the Finnish government plans and EU presidency. Read what the five party Social Democrat led coalition looks like, what it plans to do, what their EU policy is going to look like during the Finnish Presidency of the European Council and beyond. Despite the Presidency programme being vague, partly due to the elections, but also because of the change of Commission, it’s clear that climate change will be high up on the agenda for domestic reasons and there is a clear intent to push the EU to adopt an even tighter line on emissions. Low carbon, carbon neutral and emissions reduction will be key words in this field. And they will try to impose that on legislation and programs wherever possible. Transport policy will be heavily rail focused as well as the need for carbon neutral requirements across all modes. The better functioning of the ‘Internal Market’ will be a clear priority, as well as social justice and cohesion. We might see some activity on digitization, though the area is vague and lacking detailed proposals.
2. European Commission publishes fifth Brexit Preparedness Communication
In its latest Brexit Preparedness Communication, the European Commission has stated that “in light of the continued uncertainty in the United Kingdom regarding the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement – as agreed with the UK government in November 2018 – and the overall domestic political situation, a ‘no-deal’ scenario on 1 November 2019 very much remains a possible, although undesirable, outcome.” The communication further adds that “since December 2017, the European Commission has been preparing for a ‘no-deal’ scenario. To date, the Commission has tabled 19 legislative proposals, 18 of which have been adopted by the European Parliament and Council. Political agreement has been reached on the remaining proposal – the contingency Regulation on the EU budget for 2019 –, which is expected to be formally adopted later this month. The Commission has also adopted 63 non-legislative acts and published 93 preparedness notices. In light of the extension of the Article 50 period, the Commission has screened all these measures to ensure that they continue to meet their intended objectives. The Commission has concluded that there is no need to amend any measures on substance and that they remain fit for purpose. The Commission does not plan any new measures ahead of the new withdrawal date.” Every transport organisation should be familiar with these new legislative acts. Let us know if you would like more info.
3. Enforcement of social rules in road transport: smart digital tachographs on EU roads as from 15 June 2019
The European Commission has said that “as of 15 June this year, trucks and buses registered in the EU for the first time must have a smart digital tachograph installed. The tachograph is the tool installed in trucks and buses which records the activities of drivers. Its new features will improve greatly the enforcement of the EU rules on driving and resting times, which truck and bus drivers must respect, in line with the efforts by the Commission with the “Europe on the Move” packages for a socially fair transition towards clean energy and digitalisation.” The Commission additionally says that “thanks to its new connectivity features and enhanced security, developed in part by the European Commission’s science and knowledge service, the Joint Research Centre, it will be easier for enforcers to detect infringements to the road transport legislation. Additionally, it provides real time information that may be used by transport companies and drivers to optimize the fleet management strategies and to better organise the working time.” The UK Government’s position on road haulage after Brexit remains that it “does not have any immediate plans to change the current regulatory framework”. So the EU’s smart tachographs will be the norm for the foreseeable future in the UK.
4. Council adopts CO2 standards for trucks
Last week the Council adopted Europe’s first-ever CO2 emission standards for trucks and other heavy-duty vehicles. In a press release, the Council says that “under the new rules, manufacturers will be required to cut carbon dioxide emissions from new trucks on average by 15% from 2025 and by 30% from 2030, compared with 2019 levels. Those targets are binding, and truck manufacturers which do not comply will have to pay a financial penalty in the form of an excess emissions premium.” The Council adoption represents the final stage of a procedure that started with a European Commission proposal on 17 May 2018.
5. Airbus Warns European Governments to Prepare for No-Deal Brexit
Airbus is telling European countries to prepare for a worst-case scenario so they aren’t caught flat-footed when the next Brexit deadline of Oct. 31 approaches. The European planemaker, which builds wings at a plant in Broughton, Wales, wants more assurance that any disruption caused by a failure to reach a divorce deal between the U.K. and the European Union would be manageable. Airbus has been working with suppliers and stockpiling parts to help blunt the impact on the movement of components across the border.
6. Why the European Union was the biggest winner of the European elections
In his most recent blog, Mark writes that looking at all the results and the key questions from before the election, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that the European Union was the big winner of the European elections with the European Parliament primed to continue constructing the European project for the next five years at least.
7. 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.
- 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. (tbc)
- 01 November 2019 – Start of new European Commission mandate. (tbc)
- 31 December 2020 – End of Transition Period (tbc).
UK transport in Europe (UKTiE)