Mark’s Week
684 days to the UK leaving the EU may seem like a long time but in European politics it is no time at all. And time is running out if we are to get the best deal for transport. Not least because transport needs to plan ahead. For example ports and the entire supply chain need clarity on customs procedures by the end of this year in order to be able to implement new systems, and many airlines plan their routes 12-18 months in advance. But as Michel Barnier stated in the context of the Irish border issue last week, where there is good-will there is a way. However, matters are likely to get more complicated from tomorrow when the ECJ is likely to rule any comprehensive deal, which would include transport, needs the consent of all of Europe’s 38 Parliaments. And here in Brussels, following a series of meetings I’ve held with EU insiders there is evidence that non UK transport interests are now actively lobbying to promote bad-will and shut the UK out of the single market, the agencies, the Common aviation area and force us on to WTO trade rules from March 2019. To counter this we need to make the case that the best possible deal on transport is a win-win, and to make it convincing we need to make it together. Join us!

1. Airports call for new Government to secure to provide aviation certainty
The Airport Operators Association (AOA) has released its general election manifesto, setting out how a new Government can deliver on the opportunities offered by the UK’s exit from the EU.  They call for the new Government to prioritise a new legal framework for the UK’s aviation connectivity after Brexit, as well as transitional agreements to provide certainty in the interim, not least because many airlines plan their routes 12-18 months in advance.

2. European regions call for good Brexit deal
The Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions (CPMR) has issued a political statement setting out its proposals for EU reform that they believe to be essential to the European project post-Brexit. The CPMR is calling on Brexit negotiators to keep in mind the maritime regions that will be most affected by the UK’s exit from the bloc. The examples cited are Normandy and Brittany in France and the Basque region in Spain. These regions rely on the UK for tourism, home ownership and trade.

3. Brexit could boost domestic haulage opportunities
The Road Haulage Association (RHA) has predicted that there will be a reduction in foreign hauliers’ work in the UK. Speaking at a Westminster Energy, Environment & Transport forum, RHA Director of Policy Jack Semple said: “International transport licensing is likely to remain unchanged, with a new land transport agreement. […] But for domestic work, [foreign vehicles] are likely to be replaced with UK registered lorries. There is precedent for such an arrangement – that is the arrangement between the EU and Switzerland”

4. Top EU Brexit negotiator optimistic in Ireland
Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier was in Ireland last Thursday and Friday. He visited the Northern Irish border and met with Irish businesses. In an honour mostly only afforded to heads of states, he also addressed a joint sitting of both houses of the Oireachtas. Throughout his visit, Mr Barnier maintained that the upcoming negotiations will be tricky but that the EU will be looking out for Ireland. He said: “There is always an answer, there is always a road when there is a will.”

5. Call for UK to invest in world-class transportation infrastructure and services post Brexit
The Chartered Institution of Highways & Transportation (CIHT) has called “for any new government to invest in transport infrastructure and to recognise its importance to the economic development of all parts of the UK”, especially post-Brexit. The CIHT calls for a number of actions including the introduction of a UK National Transport Strategy and the Government to invest in skills development and the sector to become more representative of the society it serves.

6. EasyJet in Brexit Blow
Analysts expect budget airline EasyJet’s half year losses to expand to around £210 million, mostly due to the Brexit-hit pound. Other big blows contributing to these loses are the cost of setting up a new operating company in mainline Europe and the application for a new licence to secure flying rights for 30% of its routes after Brexit. The airline has also financial suffered as bookings to some of their destinations, such as Berlin, have been affected by terrorist attacks.

7. LibDems warn Brexit will hit hauliers and consumers 
The Liberal Democrats have blamed Brexit for the recent increase in the cost of fuel and claim that this trend will continue despite the current respite in UK pump prices. They say hauliers could pay around £2,200 per year more to run the average lorry. Nick Clegg said “The rise in fuel costs will push up prices in shops. This means consumers are going to be hit twice, once at the pump and again at the checkout.”

8. Reputation is key to securing a UK-EU trade and the prospect of a good transport deal
Reputation is a key factor influencing the volume of trade between nations according a series of research articles from the LSE. They fear that failure to adequately address issues like the leaving bill and EU citizens’ rights could seriously damage Britain’s reputation and prospects for a good deal. Last week the European Parliament debated the issue and there was a broad consensus that the EU and UK to take care of citizens’ rights first.  The Parliament’s Chief Negotiator has warned any deal will be vetoed if citizen’s rights are not protected.

9. Kent faces double border chaos threat
The new French President’s plan to move Britain’s border from Calais would cause chaos for travellers in Dover, the UK’s shipping chief has warned. Meanwhile failing to get a deal with the EU after the Brexit negotiations would lead to “queues of lorries going back miles” from Kent’s ports, according to TV journalist Robert Peston who was speaking last week to as business audience in Kent . The ITV political editor said the UK leaving the table without a trade deal with Europe would be a “catastrophe” – and could bring the County to a standstill.

10. European Court of Justice set to make a transport deal that much harder
According to The Sunday Times the European Court of Justice (ECJ) is set to pave the way for a hard Brexit by handing 38 national and regional parliaments the power to veto trade deals. In the view of Brexit Central this move ‘further clouds the prospects of a swift and comprehensive UK-EU deal.’ The European Union’s highest court is expected to extend the veto rights to regional parliaments through a ruling on the EU’s 2014 trade agreement with Singapore. Judges will decide on Tuesday whether the European Commission has the sole authority to ratify the deal, or whether it must be put to the vote across member states. They are expected to follow a preliminary opinion in December that recommended giving parliaments a say.

11. A majority of Germans want the EU to take a hard position in Brexit negotiations 
Despite the strong economic ties Germany is likely to adopt a tough stance on Brexit. According to Die Welt ‘A majority of Germans want the European Union to take a hard position in Brexit negotiations’. Meanwhile Merkel’s hand has been further strengthened ahead of Brexit with her CDU party scoring a windfall victory in a regional election in North Rhine-Westphalia. Compared with the election five years ago, Merkel’s Christian Democrats managed to gain around 8 percentage points.
12UKTiE 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
  • 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
UK transport in Europe (UKTiE)
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