Mark’s EU Week for Transport 
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‘Tis the season to be voting

Following last night’s ill-fated attempt to secure an election under the Fixed Term Parliament Act, today the Government will seek to secure one with a one-line bill, amending the Fixed Term Parliament Act, proposing an election date of December 12th. The opposition is pushing for December 9th, and in all likelihood a compromise option between the two should be agreed today and off to the races we go for an election that has looked inevitable ever since a hung Parliament was announced back on June 8th, 2017.

Yesterday, the EU agreed to offer the UK an extension until January 31st, 2020 with the UK being obligated to nominate a European Commissioner, do or die. The extension also includes two possible points of premature departure, December 1st or January 1st, if ratification of a deal has been completed in both the UK and European parliaments.

Election, extension, exasperation. Here we are, once again, on the verge of another extension that has proven difficult to swallow both domestically and at the European level. Questions around the purpose of an extension, let alone whether to grant one, have been floating around the European capitals and Brussels ever since Johnson sent his letter to Donald Tusk a couple of weeks ago.

Now, with a UK Commissioner, MEPs, and continued UK Representation, we have a chance to continue exploring our life outside of the EU and to put in place practical arrangements for how we engage in Brussels and beyond as a third country to the EU. 

This week’s song of the week, is Making your Mind Up by Bucks Fizz.

1. Brexit extension to January 31st
Following the removal of France’s objection to an extension, EU ambassadors quickly agreed the terms to a January 31st extension yesterday. The extension offered by the EU states that it is is conditional on the U.K. not acting to “jeopardize” the EU’s objectives and decision-making process. It also states that the extension cannot be used for further negotiations on the Brexit deal — although the terms of a previous extension contained an identical “no renegotiation” clause yet the EU allowed the Withdrawal Agreement to be reopened and substantial changes were made. The extension also stresses that the UK will have to nominate a European Commissioner during the extension as the UK will remain a member state with full rights and obligations. 

2. Next TRAN Committee meeting November 6th
The next meeting of the European Parliament’s Transport and Tourism Committee will be on November 6th. One of the main items on the agenda is the re-election of the 1st and 3rd Vice-Chairs. Johan Danielsson (S&D, Sweden), the former 1st Vice-Chair, has dropped out of this role to remain the S&D Coordinator and current 3rd Vice-Chair Istvan Ujhelyi (S&D, Hungary) is running to replace him. Alongside this, Andris Ameriks (S&D, Latvia) is running to replace Ujhelyi as 3rd Vice-Chair. Also on the agenda, the Committee will hear back from Rapporteurs on “Enforcement requirements and specific rules for posting drivers in the road transport sector” and “Electronic freight transport information” regarding progress in the inter-institutional negotiations.

3. The EU Council has agreed its position on how CO2 emissions should be recorded in the shipping sector
Last week, the ambassadors of EU member states agreed on their position on a proposal which updates existing EU rules, and partially aligns them with the global data collection system for ship fuel oil consumption of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). The Council believes that the monitoring and reporting of cargo carried should remain compulsory. This information contributes to a better understanding of the fuel efficiency of ships. The agreement reached among the ambassadors of EU member states at today’s meeting of the Committee of Permanent Representatives means that the Council is ready to start negotiations with the European Parliament. The European Parliament has not yet reached a position on this proposal.

4EU gets serious on Belt and Road initiative?
Following UKTiE Coordinator Mark Watts’ new blog and vlog this on China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which highlighted the big debate  over how Europe should respond. The Financial Times now reports that later this week the EU’s own Belt and Road will be revealed later this week when a ‘Wise Persons’ group tasked with finding some answers present their findings to EU27 ambassadors and finance ministers. The experts have been asked to examine whether the EU’s two major lenders — the European Investment Bank (EIB) and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) — are fit for purpose to serve as Europe’s 21st-century international development bank.

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.
  • 23-26 May 2019 – European Parliament election.
  • 6 November 2019 – Next TRAN Committee Meeting
  • 6-7 November 2019 – Next ENVI Committee Meetings
  • 01 December 2019 – Start of new European Commission mandate. (tbc)
  • 11 December 2019  – UK General Election (tbc).
  • 31 January 2019 – The UK will formally leave the EU. (tbc)
  • 31 December 2020 – End of Transition Period (tbc).
Mark Watts
UK transport in Europe (UKTiE)
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