Mark’s EU Week for Transport 
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Welcome to the latest Mark’s Week! This week we analyse three big EU issues and how they impact on the trade, transport and tourism sectors. Plus, we’ll look at a significant development in London, which is a good guide to where lockdown policy is heading. And we’ll do all that without the waffle! Finally, that all important Song of the Week to lift our spirits! Please do check out my latest vlog for more. 

First, Brexit.  The two negotiating teams conducted the second full week of structured talks since the UK left the EU on 31 January. Essentially it boils down to this. The degree of regulatory convergence the UK is prepared to accept, the so-called level playing field, will determine the extent of market access. But it’s almost as if the politicians, through their proxies, are playing two different sports on the field, cricket on one hand, and football on the other! The answer lies in the hands of business.  Businesses, both sides of the Channel and the Irish Sea, need to engage now to broker a compromise. Otherwise there is a real risk we will end up with a sub optimal deal, or worse still, no deal at all. 

Second, the emerging EU recovery exit plan. That’s the multi trillion Euro plan, but also a policy framework, guidelines and new rules on how society, the economy, transport and tourism will operate in the ‘new normal’.  Tourism Ministers met yesterday, today, Transport Commissioner Adina Vălean will discuss this with the TRAN Committee of the European Parliament today, and Transport ministers will meet tomorrow, to discuss how to coordinate the relaxation of measures currently in place in the sector.  Tourism Ministers voiced strong support for new and innovative measures, to be taken at both national and EU level, for the swift and effective recovery of the tourism sector but have yet to identify them.  That is where you come in. Businesses need to bring to the table new and innovative measures to help develop deliverable and sustainable exit plans. They can’t do it without you.

Third, the European Commission’s day to day work programme. This is being reviewed in light of the COVID19 crisis. They seem to be taking Benjamin Franklin’s advice on board, ‘You can delay, but time will not.’ The most relevant proposals will continue to run to time, or with only a slight delay, whilst five are to be delayed, including the including ReFuelEU Aviation – Sustainable Aviation proposal, and the FuelEU Maritime – Green European Maritime Space proposal. But even here the delay is likely to be for just a matter of as few months. The new programme will be published in the coming weeks. 

Let’s switch the London, with the new strategy being advocated by Professor Neil Fergusson from Imperial College. You will recall he published the model which forced Boris Johnson to abandon the herd immunity strategy.  He’s now arguing the lockdown has been effective, but needs to be rapidly replaced, with long-term social-distancing, maintained not just for a few weeks, but a year or more, essentially until we have an effective treatment or a vaccine in a year or two. His new model will be shared with Government the next few days. Don’t be surprised if this becomes the main policy for the UK and other Government’s in the coming weeks. So, my advice is that businesses need to build that approach into their exit plans.  

Finally, UKTiE is joining the coronavirus Global Response event on 4 May, which brings together leaders across sectors, from governments and businesses to artists and philanthropists, to raise awareness, co-ordinate actions and bring everyone together to develop a global response to COVID 19, and in particular raising €7.5 billion to help develop a vaccine and deploy it to every corner of the world. The only way to defeat the coronavirus is by working together around the world.  Join us! 

This week’s song of the week is Wind of God.

1. Brexit – what happens next?
Last week’s negotiation round between the EU and the UK ended with Michel Barnier complaining about the UK dragging its feet in the negotiations, saying “The United Kingdom cannot be opposed to the extension of Brexit negotiations and at the same time put on the brakes during talks”. In response to these comments, the UK Government published a reply that states “Our assessment is that there was some promising convergence in the core areas of a Free Trade Agreement, for example on goods and services trade, and related issues such as energy, transport, and civil nuclear cooperation.” The Guardian have reported that Boris Johnson is expected to push for an intervention from EU leaders in the faltering trade and security negotiations with the bloc after being warned by advisers that the current talks are on course to fail.

2. Transport and Tourism Council meetings- the emerging recovery plan for transport
This week, transport and tourism ministers will meet via video conference. The meeting of the transport ministers, to take place on April 29th,  will “will assess the measures taken so far to counter the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic for the transport sector. They will also discuss how to coordinate the relaxation of measures currently in place in the sector in the context of the EU’s exit strategy”. The meeting of the tourism ministers, which took place yesterday, saw ministers exchange ” information and best practice on relief measures taken so far at national level. They have also discussed possible future action at national and EU level for the quick recovery of the tourism sector”. The Croatian Presidency published a press release summarising the discussion from the meeting of the tourism ministers.

3. TRAN Committee exchange of views with Commissioner Valean
Today, the TRAN Committee will meet (video link here) and will have an exchange of views with Transport Commissioner Adina Valean on the Commission’s response to the COVID-19 crisis in the transport sector. 

4. New Commission work programme, slowed but not subdued!
Later this week, the European Commission is due to publish an updated version of its work programme, in light of the COVID-19 crisis. As Euractiv reports, “although climate policies remain broadly on track, other initiatives under the European Green Deal are being delayed because they are considered “less essential”. The Strategy for sustainable and smart mobility is due to be labelled as “delay possible” while the ReFuelEU Aviation – Sustainable Aviation Fuels and FuelEU Maritime – Green European Maritime Space are due to be labelled have been delayed to 2021, albeit by just a couple of months.

5. European Commission organises ‘The Coronavirus Global Response’ global event
Next week, on Monday May 4th,  the European Union and its partners are hosting an international pledging conference starting on Monday 4 May 2020 where we aim to raise €7.5 billion in initial funding to kick-start the global cooperation. The event will bring together leaders across sectors, from governments and businesses to artists and philanthropists, to raise awareness, co-ordinate actions and bring everyone together to develop a global response to COVID 19.

6. UK lockdown strategy, effective but not sustainable?
Imperial’s Neil Ferguson has said that while the UK’s lockdown strategy has been effective, it it is not sustainable in the long-run. He argued that the lockdown has had a significant mental health and social impact on mortality in terms of not just isolating people, but in cancelled treatments. According to him, The UK should employ the South Korean model, with the health service capacity being a good guide to lifting restrictions — and capacity is there. One of the measures that won’t be lifting anytime soon, according to Ferguson, is the social distancing measure as we will have to be social distancing until we have a vaccine.

7. Will COVID-19 derail the European Commission’s climate agenda?
UKTiE Deputy Coordinator Ryan Hunter has written a  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?

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

  • 28 April 2020 – Next meeting of the TRAN Committee
  • 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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