Mark’s EU Week for Transport 
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Business resumes this week in Brussels with the European Commission, European Parliament and Council all back with meetings. Political headlines churned throughout the summer, with the main stories revolving around the trials and tribulations facing von der Leyen as she creates her new European Commission. We do not yet know what this new Commission will look like nor who will have the Transport portfolio. What we do know for certain, is that while the European Commission goes through its replacement cycle, the European Parliament committees are gearing up for what promises to be a heavy regulatory agenda.

The Transport Committee (TRAN) has returned with 16 outstanding dossiers leftover from the last mandate, as well as ambitions to further continue the heavy legislative agenda that saw TRAN as one of the most active committees during the previous mandate. Beyond TRAN, transport companies and organizations will need to also focus on the Environment committee as developments there on emissions will certainly impact all transport sectors.

As business resumes, there is a palpable feeling that the European institutions have a strong desire to leave the political mess of Brexit in the wake of a strong regulatory agenda. While attention has been almost entirely eaten up by Brexit in the UK, Brexit is generally seen as a past issue in Brussels with No Deal assumed and preparations well underway for this eventuality. While Brexit will take some attention away from the European Council summit on 17-18 October, the EU is keen to focus on its agenda and on retaining competitiveness with the rest of the world.

I recently gave an interview to Italian outlet Port News on the matter of China’s new Silk Road, this is a prime example of where the EU is playing catch up and is keen to close the gap with other international players across several sectors, including transport.

So as Brexit hits a peak of interest this week as Parliament returns in the UK, the business as usual mood in Brussels could not be further from the frantic one currently being experienced in the UK. 

This week’s song of the week, is London Calling by The Clash.

1. European reaction to Brexit impasse
While Brussels has been quiet over the Summer, the European capitals have been digesting the Brexit news coming from the UK since Boris Johnson became Prime Minister. Reaction from France has increased in the aftermath of Boris Johnson meeting with Macron and the G7 that took place in Biarritz. Media in France has reacted surprisingly to the belief that a new Brexit deal can be reached within the “30 days” window that came from Boris Johnson’s meeting with Angela Merkel a couple of weeks ago. In fact, as reported in France, Macron has said that any new deal that may or may not be found in the next few weeks will not be dissimilar to the one that already exists. In Brussels, the main reaction has been in line with what Michel Barnier wrote this weekend in a piece for the Sunday Telegraph who wrote that “we will only start work on alternative arrangements if the current deal is ratified”. In Germany, however, recent economic and political crises have focused Angela Merkel away from Brexit, leaving instead Macron as the face of the EU’s response and reaction to Boris Johnson’s attempts at breaking the Brexit impasse.

2. New European Commission- what about transport?
The next few weeks will see the nominees for the new European Commission being assigned portfolios by President-elect Ursula von der Leyen. For now, there has been no explicit request for any country to take on transport, with the exception of Estonia who mentioned transport in the context of the background of their nominee Kadri Simson, who had infrastructure and transport as part of her ministerial portfolio in Estonia. Despite this, it looks likely that Estonia will be receiving a ‘Digital Economy and Society’ portfolio leaving no obvious nominee to replace outgoing transport commissioner Violeta Bulc. News regarding portfolios should begin to come out this week.

3UKTiE Coordinator interviewed on China’s Belt and Road Initiative
UKTiE Coordinator Mark Watts was recently interviewed (English version forthcoming) by Italian news outlet, Port News, on China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). In it, he discusses that despite the majority negative coverage it gets, that the BRI is both a great opportunity and a major challenge, if we go in eyes wide open. The BRI represents an opportunity for Europe to improve its maritime and road links and eliminate bottlenecks along existing routes, with a win-win alliance between the EU and China being entirely possible for this to be achieved. 

4. 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.
  • 2-3 September 2019 – Next TRAN Committee meetings
  • 4-5 September 2019 – Next ENVI Committee meetings
  • 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).
Mark Watts
UK transport in Europe (UKTiE)
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