Mark’s EU Week for Transport 
Happy New Year! Best wishes to you from our UKTiE team ahead of what promises to be quite the year ahead.

As business begins to resume in Brussels for the new year, this week presents a veritable ‘calm before the storm’ feeling with the EU institutions preparing a host of legislative actions over the coming months. The Commission Work Programme for 2020, expected at the end of this month, will outline in greater detail what this holds but we are certainly expecting the new Commission to hit the ground running, particularly on the climate  and transport side.

Beyond Brussels, there has been some back and forth concerning the prospects of agreeing a future EU-UK partnership within 11 months and whether the UK will need to request an extension to the transition period. With the Withdrawal Agreement looking certain to pass, Brussels has, perhaps for the first time since this whole Brexit process began, started looking ahead at the future relationship and understanding the daunting task that the UK Government seems determined to achieve: agreeing a comprehensive future partnership in 9 months (with a text needing to be agreed by October for the ratification process to be concluded by January 2021). Is this possible? Well, Brexit has taught us that anything is possible. Is it likely? No, and any deal achieved under such a tight timeframe will likely be far removed from the ambitious agreement both sides may be hoping for.

So, as we begin the year when the UK will formally leave the EU and when the EU will seek to achieve its most ambitious legislative framework ever, the European Green Deal, it is out duty as a UK stakeholder to get ready for our role as non-EU members looking in from the outside. Much is not yet known about the future partnership that will be created and this won’t be any clearer until a few months from now. What is known, however, is that regulatory alignment for transport is as essential as it is inevitable and we must take seriously the task of engaging with the EU even after we have left. 

This week’s song of the week, is Unfinished Sympathy by Massive Attack.

1. New Year, Same Brexit: European Commission expects UK to abandon promise not to extend transition period
According to Phil Hogan, EU Commissioner for Trade, British prime minister Boris Johnson will abandon his pledge not to extend the transition period for the UK’s exit from the European Union beyond December 2020. This statement comes in the wake of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen expressing serious concern over the limited time available for the future relationship negotiations. The addition of a clause to the UK’s Brexit Bill ruling out any extension to the transition period beyond the end of 2020 has been viewed as a political stunt in Brussels where the EU are keen to dive into the substance of the future relationship without having to do so within the difficult 9 month timeline. This will be the tough task now facing Phil Hogan, the EU’s Trade Commissioner. We will learn more about this on Wednesday when von der Leyen meets with Boris Johnson and then speaks at the LSE. 

2. European Commission work programme expected this month
The European Commission work programme is expected to be published later this month. The work programme for 2020 will lay out, in detail, the legislative actions that the European Commission will be proposing for the coming 12 months. The European Green Deal is expected to feature quite heavily, with lofty ambitions needing to become reality in the coming months for the European Green Deal to have the desired impact that the new Commission is hoping for and much more if it will inevitably impact on transport.

3. Michel Barnier’s three New Year’s Wishes for Britain and the EU

Writing for Project Syndicate, Michel Barnier says that his three New Year’s wishes for Britain and the EU are: to maintain a capacity to cooperate closely at the global level; to forge a strong security partnership; and to negotiate a new economic agreement (which, most likely, will have to be expanded in the years to come). In his article, Barnier delivers a note of caution surrounding the shortened transition period when he writes: “But in the absence of a decision by the UK before July 2020 to extend the transition period – which Johnson has ruled out – a deal on the future relationship will have to be concluded in less than 11 months”.

4. Road safety must be a top priority for new Transport Commissioner
UKTiE Coordinator Mark Watts’ new blog and vlog on why road safety needs to be a top priority for new Transport Commissioner, Adina Valean. Mark writes that in Europe over 25,000 people are killed every year in road traffic crashes, it’s the equivalent of a jumbo jet a week crashing. We do not put up with it in aviation, so why do we tolerate it on the roads?

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.
  • 12 December 2019  – UK General Election.
  • 20-21 January 2020 – Next ENVI Committee Meeting
  • 20-21 January 2020 – Next TRAN Committee Meeting
  • 31 January 2020 – 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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