Mark’s EU Week for Transport 
Hello to you all from Brussels where we’ve been in lockdown for two weeks, and the lockdown has now been extended to at least the 19 April. As we continue to shift our working lives onto a virtual setting, I am keen to share with you how some of the things we are doing at UKTiE to ensure continuity of service for our members and representation to EU key stakeholders. As my vlog will indicate, there is indeed a lot happening despite the lockdown.

The first thing to note is that although the EU is also tackling the crisis, with a range of new COVID-19 measures, things are still very much going ahead as planned in terms of the 2020 Work Programme. The EU seems to have adopted the unofficial motto of the RAF’s wartime Pathfinder Force, ‘Press on Regardless.’

Several key Coronavirus transport measures have been passed, such as new common rules for airport slots, the implementation of green lanes to ensure the availability of goods and services, and fresh guidance on passenger rights for all modes. And don’t forgot this all applies to the UK. We may have left the EU but we are still members of the Single Market and Customs Union, until at least the end of the year. The EU has also launched some more forward looking legislative processes, such as roadmaps on their 2030 climate targets and revising the Energy Taxation Directive. The challenge for companies and for organisations is how to manage the crisis, and stay on top of the EU’s ambitious legislative agenda for transport. In order to help, we have launched a new service for members to help them do this during the Coronavirus crisis.

Second, we need to keep an eye on Brexit. We are continuing to publish our bi-weekly News & Views which, we hope, will continue to provide valuable information and analysis on the key stories that take place on both sides of the Channel. And there is no shortage of developments on Brexit. This week, the Joint Committee on the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement meets for the first time, with a busy agenda. It will consider the contentious Northern Ireland Protocol, that includes the border controls that will be required for good travelling between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. There will also be the consideration of the draft opinion on the Recommendations on the negotiations for a new partnership with the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in the European Parliament’s internal market Committee.

Finally, it is my firm belief that we will be in this for the long haul, our top priority is to stay safe, and whilst doing so also have the capability to press on engaging with the EU, by rapidly developing new and innovative ways of working. 

This week’s song of the week is Home by SAINT PHNX.

1. Biggest EU political party calls for extension of Brexit transition
Today, the European People’s Party, the largest group in the European Parliament, has called for an extension to the UK-EU Brexit trade negotiations due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Christophe Hansen MEP, negotiator of the post-Brexit agreement in the parliament’s Committee on International Trade said that “Under these extraordinary circumstances, I cannot see how the UK Government would choose to expose itself to the double whammy of the Coronavirus and the exit from the EU Single Market, which will inevitably add to the disruption, deal or no deal. I can only hope that common sense and substance will prevail over ideology. An extension of the transition period is the only responsible thing to do”. David McAllister MEP, Chair of the UK Coordination Group in the European Parliament, added that “The Coronavirus pandemic complicates the already very ambitious schedule, The EU has always been open to extending the transition period. The ball is now clearly in the British court. The United Kingdom would have to submit an official request. So far, the UK government has constantly rejected such an option. Under the current circumstances, London should carefully re-examine a prolongation”.

2. First meeting of the Joint Committee on the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement
Today, the Joint Committee on the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement meets for the first time. The agenda shows that the following key items will be discussed: 1) Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland, 2) Citizens’ Rights. Chairing the meeting from the EU side will Maroš Šefčovič, EU Commissioner for Inter-institutional Relations and Foresight, meanwhile Michael Gove will be chairing it from the UK side.

3. Henrik Hololei writes note on Exceptional measures in transport to deal with COVID-19; Inability to comply with certain provisions of EU legislation
Henrik Hololei, the Director-General of DG MOVE, has written a note titled ‘Exceptional measures in transport to deal with COVID-19; Inability to comply with certain provisions of EU legislation’. In the note, Hololei writes that “The Commission services understand the need for the national authorities to take initiatives in order to ensure continuity of transport under the present extraordinary circumstances. Based on the same objective, the Commission has adopted the COVID-19 Guidelines for border management measures to protect health and ensure the availability of goods and essential services and thereafter, on 23 March 2020, the Communication on the implementation of the Green Lanes under those GuidelinesSearch for available translations of the preceding link“.

4. Will COVID-19 derail the European Commission’s climate agenda?
UKTiE Deputy Coordinator Ryan Hunter has written a new blog on whether the current COVID-19 crisis will derail the European Commission’s climate agenda. With the COVID-19 crisis taking hold all over Europe and the rest of the world, and it understandably becoming the European Commission top priority, there are questions being asked about the European Commission’s ability to deliver on the ambitious climate agenda present in its Work Programme for 2020. Does it have enough bandwidth, or will it be derailed?

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

  • 6-8 April 2020 – Next Round of future relationship negotiations (tbc)
  • 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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