Mark’s EU Week for Transport 
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As the world grinds to an effective halt, we have seen Brexit taking a clear, and deserved, backseat against the Coronavirus crisis. As we all begin to take a step back from regular activity, so too Brussels has slowed down but has not come to a complete halt.

A lot of discussion over last few weeks has, understandably, focused exclusively on coronavirus and on the impacts this will have on the wider UK economy and its businesses. The EU will be taking measures  to help industries impacted by the crisis and we will also be tracking any measures that are implemented in order to help the transport sector. Indeed there will be an emergency meeting of the EU’s transport ministers tomorrow, where further measures will be considered.

I believe that, given the economic climate that coronavirus is bringing, it would be wise for the UK to request an extension to the transition period. Given that UK businesses are facing the prospect of two separate hits, through Brexit and coronavirus, I believe that a extension is the only prudent course of action and I will be campaigning on this basis in the weeks and months ahead.

Despite this new state of affairs, the European Commission still managed to publish two rather important documents last week: 1) their new Industrial Strategy and 2) a Circular Economy Action Plan. Next week, on 25 March, the Commission is expected to publish its new Biodiversity Strategy for 2030. With an already ambitious legislative agenda, the Commission cannot afford any significant delays to its proposals (with some, such as the Biodiversity Strategy having been slightly delayed due to infighting among the Commission DGs).

As always, we will continue to provide bi-weekly updates from on the ground in Brussels on the EU legislative  including the European Green Deal, the Brexit negotiations and on any special Coronavirus transport measures. 

This week’s song of the week is Home Alone by Walk Off the Earth.

1. UKTiE and UK Mission to the EU 27 March event postponed
In the light of recent developments, and in conjunction with guidance issued by the UK Government, industry bodies and local authorities, we have taken the decision not to proceed with this event at this time. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and are looking to reschedule this important discussion later in the year.  We will be in touch once the situation becomes clearer.

2. British negotiators reject participation in the ‘safety and security zone’
The Telegraph reported that the haulage, shipping and freight industries are up in arms against the Government after ministers ignored industry requests to seek vital security waivers from the EU needed to smooth cross-channel freight after Brexit. The Government’s no-compromise approach emerged after the first round of trade talks in Brussels last week, where British negotiators rejected participation in the EU’s “safety and security zone” despite accepting it would significantly increase border delays. A note sent to trade groups last week from the Border Delivery Group confirmed that the UK “is not seeking a waiver in relation to Safety and Security declarations as part of the FTA negotiation” and would be subjecting all goods to declarations “in line with the rest of the world”. The decision came as a blow to trade groups whose hopes for a pragmatic approach had been raised following the publication of the Government’s negotiation mandate, which had acknowledged the “practical constraints of ‘roll-on roll-off’ trade”.

3. Coronavirus impact on the EU transport sector
As coronavirus continues to impact global economies, key sectors have requested that the EU take action to protect their respective industries. In a bid to relieve some of the pressure on airlines, the EU issued a four month waiver for air slot rules so airlines no longer have to keep empty ‘ghost flights’ in the air. The Commission confirmed it would keep the four month moratorium under review. Airlines also want passenger rights rules relaxed to reduce any risk of having to shell out a fortune during the ongoing travel disruption. An emergency e-meeting of transport ministers takes place tomorrow (March 18th) and coronavirus is bound to be at the top of the agenda.

4. What does the European Green Deal mean for transport?
UKTiE Coordinator Mark Watts’ new blog and vlog on what the European Green Deal means for transport. He writes that the sheer scale of the European Green Deal, one of the most ambitious EU projects ever, is breathtaking. In scope, to become the world’s first carbon neutral continent by 2050. In speed, with a target of at least 55% cuts in carbon emissions by 2030. Where does this ambitious plan leave transport? Facing a greater challenge than any other sector, transport will need to confront its biggest challenges and opportunities since the invention of the internal combustion engine in the 19th Century.

5. UKTiE has also put together the latest timetable for Brexit. We will keep this up to date as the process develops:

  • 18-20 March 2020 – Second Round of future relationship negotiations (tbc).
  • 6-8 April 2020 – Third Round of future relationship negotiations.
  • 27-30 April 2020 – Fourth Round of future relationship negotiations.
  • 13-16 May 2020 – Fifth Round of future relationship negotiations.
  • 1 July 2020 – Deadline for extension of the transition period.
  • 31 December 2020 – End of Transition Period (tbc).
Mark Watts
UK transport in Europe (UKTiE)
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