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Mark’s week 

“Macron wins, Le Pen well beaten” screamed the BBC headline which pretty much sums up the best news for the EU in quite a while. You can almost hear the palpable sense of relief here in Brussels. Now the balance of advantage in the Brexit negotiations has shifted decisively in favour of the EU27 and the European Parliament. If there was ever any doubt it has now surely gone. Brexit will be forged in Brussels, Paris and Berlin not in No. 10, DExEU, let alone DfT.  For transport that means stepping up engagement in Brussels, Berlin and now Paris. Luckily (as we report below) UKTiE already enjoys excellent relationships with the key negotiators in Brussels and national capitals, including the new Macron team. To secure the best possible Brexit for transport we all now need to work to secure their support. If you want to better understand what transport relations with the EU will look like post 2019, or you wish to step up your engagement with the people that will determine your future, why not join UKTiE?

1. Commission sets out detailed legal blueprint for Brexit negotiations.
Last Wednesday the European Commission published its proposed directives which flesh out how the Commission plans to apply the guidelines approved by EU leaders at the Council summit last Saturday (see last week’s News and Views). The Playbook has published an annotated version of the document with analysis of the key elements. In their words, “The EU is sticking to its guns”, and reaffirming all that has previously been said. The New Statesman drew attention to the fact that the UK will also be departing from Euratom and we conclude it is implicit we are also likely to withdraw from all the transport agencies. Michel Barnier gave a speech at a press conference on the Commisssion’s recommendations. The recommendations are expected to be adopted at the General Affairs Council on 22 May.

2. European Parliament summarises Brexit so far
The European Parliament has published its “Outlook for Brexit negotiations”. They reiterate the phased approach the EU institutions wish to adopt and say that the role of the European Court of Justice will be preserved. They write that although “the UK will not take part in discussions within the Council and the European Council related to withdrawal”, UK MEPs will be able to take part in all EP debates on the withdrawal process and vote on the final deal. The UK Parliament will also vote on the final deal and the EP writes “It is unclear what would happen if the UK Parliament were to vote to reject a final deal.”

3. Macron wins…
Emmuanuel Macron has been elected as the new President of France with an emphatic 66.06% to 33.94% victory over Marine Le Pen, exceeding even the opinion poll forecast margin of victory. That matters to transport because not only has a pro-EU candidate won but the entire European project has been bolstered, at least for now.  The EU and European Parliament will feel emboldened in the Brexit negotiations and the transport sector’s future relationship will more closely reflect the policy objectives set out in last week’s Commission Directives rather than the positions developed in London. UKTiE, and our partner agency IDA, already has extensive high level contacts in Brussels, Berlin and Paris, including within the Macron team, where Brussels insiders like Jean Pisani-Ferry, a well-known economist who founded the influential Bruegel think-tank in Brussels, will play a key role in shaping the final Brexit deal.

4. … and so does Merkel
Meanwhile, in a slightly less reported but in many ways equally significant election over the weekend, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives scored another victory in the regional election votes in Schleswig-Holstein, giving the party a boost ahead of the national vote this autumn.  So irrespective of the outcome of the UK general election the transport sector will have to work that little bit harder to get the best possible Brexit deal over the next 18 months.

5. RHA calls on political party leaders to take into account importance of logistics industry
Road Haulage Association (RHA) set out a manifesto for the future stability and prosperity of the UK haulage industry. The manifesto includes measures on road infrastructure, fuel duty, emissions and air quality and skills. There is also a section on Brexit where RHA calls on the next Government to ensure the Le Touquet agreement remains in place to maintain the juxtaposed border controls on both sides of the Channel, to ensure frictionless customs procedures,  and that the current licensing system for HGVs remains. They also want the Government to ensure the industry retains the ability to recruit HGV drivers and other workers from abroad. RHA has also proposed a solution for international road haulage after Brexit.

6. ACEA Brexit Position Paper
The European Automobile Manufacturers Association has published a position paper on Brexit. The paper focuses on three priority areas, namely: access to each other’s markets, the EU-UK regulatory framework and UK access to third-country markets.  They write that the automotive industry is highly integrated across the EU and the UK and it contributes significantly to economic growth and employment. They acknowledge “the utmost importance of the European Union and the European Single Market” and say “these achievements must not be put in danger.”

7. Food industry fears the cost of Brexit
The House of Lords has published a report on the impact of Brexit on the agriculture sector. One article said: “Lurching from a customs union to a default WTO trading regime will wreak havoc on every link in the food supply chain.” The report from the House of Lords also considers Northern Ireland’s particular plight in terms of agriculture, and advises against customs controls between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Furthermore, it says that the current EU funding to the border corridor will need to be mitigated from other funding sources. The existing funds range from CEP to peace funds and are crucial to many local authorities along the border.

8. Former diplomat calls for Anglo-Irish Brexit summit
Dr Ray Basset, who has served as Ambassador for Ireland all over the world, and who was one of the negotiators of the Good Friday agreement, has called for Anglo-Irish talks to ensure Brexit does not leave Ireland a victim. Although according to EU law, the UK cannot engage with talks with other countries before it has officially left the EU, Dr Basset believes that there are mechanisms in the Good Friday agreement which would allow for discussions of the future Anglo-Irish relationship.

9. Spain still concerned over the Rock
When Spain joined the EU in 1986, it had to accept the UK’s sovereignty over Gibraltar. Now that the UK is leaving the alliance, Spain seems unwilling to let Gibraltar continue to exist in a state of “unjustified privilege”. Although Spain is in favour of a “soft Brexit”, and they are particularly concerned with citizen’s rights, they have made it clear that their red line issue is the Rock. This could prove to be particularly difficult for transport, given that Spain has previously not been afraid to use Gibraltar as an excuse to block EU decisions on aviation.

10UKTiE have 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
  • 29 April 2017 – Brexit guidelines  adopted by the European Council
  • 22 May 2017 – Brexit negotiating directives to be ready
  • June 2017 – Negotiations formally begin
  • 8 June 2017– UK general election
  • 24 September 2017 – German Federal election
  • 30 September 2018 – Date by which EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, wants to conclude the terms of Britain’s exit from the Union.
  • 30 March 2019 – Britain formally exits the EU, following ratification of Brexit by all other member states and the European Parliament.
  • June 2019 – European Parliament election
Mark Watts
Co-ordinator
UK transport in Europe (UKTiE)
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