Mark’s Brexit Week for Transport

Does Barnier speak on behalf of himself, the EU institutions, or the 27 ‘remaining’ member states? Or are they all just bluffing?
You need to answer those questions before you can decide what to do next to rescue the stalled Brexit talks.
It’s vital we turn things around soon,  so we increase the likelihood of the October Council agreeing ‘sufficient’ progress has been made so we can begin trade negotiations, including for transport.
Barnier is definitely following the very tight negotiating mandate handed to him directly. It’s true it is based on a proposal by the European Commission and endorsed by the European Parliament, but it was also endorsed unanimously by the European Council in April (let us know if you want a copy).  And that body is run by the 27 ‘remaining’ national political leaders.
So the argument about sequencing is more than just Barnier being inflexible.  It’s the current view of all the other governments in the EU.
But it could all be a bluff.
In British politics you would ‘call the bluff’, have an almighty  row, and end of with one side claiming total victory over the other (even if the truth is that you’ve probably only achieved some of your objectives). That adversarial style of politics, epitomized by the Chamber in the House of Commons where the Government and Opposition benches are two swords’ width apart, is what we see being played out so far in the Brexit talks. The British are effectively calling the bluff.
But what if it isn’t a bluff,  and even if it was,  is that the right approach?
I would argue it’s the wrong  approach, and actually counterproductive.
That’s not how the EU ‘works’. It may be a bluff,  but it’s never winner takes all in Brussels. By calling the bluff you actually strengthen the EU’s position, even if ironically they were originally willing to compromise in the first place.
As rookie MEP,  whose adversarial skills were honed in local government in the tempestuous days of Thatcher’s Britain,  I too thought those ‘shock and awe’  tactics would be transferable to European politics.
I quickly learnt you just get the sort of  impatient look and condescending comments  that Davis receives from  Barnier every time they meet, and you come away with absolutely  nothing.
Compromise is the name of the EU game, epitomised by the hemicycle shape of the European Parliament, and many national Parliaments on the Continent.  I quickly adapted my tactics.
The UK Government need to adapt their tactics to the EU rules of the game if they want a ‘deep and special relationship. ‘
The UK  needs to speak the language of compromise, not so we abandon our interests but so that we are better placed to advance them.
We should be pushing home the many areas where we agree. So on the thorny issue of the Bill,  rather than expending so much precious time and energy on what we’re not going to pay,  focus instead on what we are going to pay.  For we’ve actually agreed to pay a lot, so why not major on that?
That simple act would go a long way towards building confidence, brokering  trust and facilitating a compromise, on this and many other issues we must address, including a Brexit deal for transport.
To mix baking idioms,  we may not get ‘our cake and eat it’ , but ‘half a loaf is better than no loaf at all.’  

1. Barnier and Davis leave negotiations with different opinions on how it went
Speaking at a joint press conference after the 3rd round of Brexit negotiations, the two lead negotiators seemed to have very different opinions on how it went. While David Davis said that there had been “some concrete progress”, Michel Barnier was more pessimistic and said that “no decisive progress” had been made, except for on the subject of the Irish border. Mr Barnier said that at this point he is very far away from recommending that talks be allowed to begin on the future EU-UK trade relationship, Mr Davis called on the EU to be “more imaginative and flexible”. Meanwhile the time available for talking transport is diminishing. 

2. UKTiE in London and meeting with Barnier’s TF50
This week will be very busy for UKTiE. On Tuesday Lord Berkeley is kindly hosting our event “A Brexit Deal for Transport” in the House of Lords. We are looking forward to hearing from, among others, Andrew Haines, CEO for the Civil Aviation authority,  Lord Callanan from the Department for Transport, Baroness Hayter, Shadow Spokesperson for DExEU and of course me as coordinator. On Thursday, we will have our much anticipated first meeting with the TF50 with whom we hope to exchange ideas and solutions for the upcoming Brexit negotiations. In particular we want to highlight why transport should be a priority during the negotiations.

3. BRC calls for serious work into new customs processes
The British Retail Consortium has warned that Brexit brings risks of food shortages if the UK does not resolve issues around customs processes. Although the UK Government has produced a paper on its vision for customs arrangements, the BRC believes there are still a lot of crucial details that have yet to be addressed. They are calling for significant investment into ports and transport infrastructure, and agreements that will prevent goods being held up by border checks. “To ensure supply chains are not disrupted and goods continue to reach the shelves, agreements on security, transit, haulage, drivers, VAT and other checks will be required to get systems ready for March 2019.”

4. Britain’s aerospace sector could be priced out after Brexit
Airbus’ factory in Broughton, Flintshire has been the source of all the wings for Airbus commercial aircraft for many years. Last month, Katherine Bennett head of Airbus UK wrote that “The company’s business model is based on our ability to move products, people and ideas around Europe free from restrictions.” This is true for many aspects of the aerospace industry. The fear is that erecting barriers to the free movement of parts and people across its European sites may cause lasting damage to Airbus UK and Britain’s aerospace industry as a whole as it becomes cheaper to bypass the UK in the production of airplanes and other components.

5. BPA Pushes for post-Brexit deal as port tonnage drops
The UK’s Department for Transport has produced a report on the overall total freight tonnage handled by UK ports which showed that the tonnage declined by 3% in 2016, mostly due to a large reduction in demand for coal imports. In response to this British Ports Association Chief Executive said: “The DfT’s figures highlight the significance of unitised traffic to the UK economy and particularly Roll-on Roll-off HGV vehicle trade with Europe. This underlines the importance of agreeing a post-Brexit deal with the EU that preserves as many of the advantages of Customs Union membership and avoids the need for border interventions, congestion and delays at Ro-Ro ports, whilst also enabling UK ports to take advantage of new global trade deals,”

6. Maritime industry leaders call for transitional arrangement
During London International Shipping Week, top shipowners and other maritime industry leaders will be attending a meeting at Downing Street. Although the agenda for the meeting does not specifically contain a Brexit item, it is expected to come up. The maritime bosses say they are not expecting long-term harm to their sector but are pressing for a transitional period of up to 3 years, in order to ensure a smooth withdrawal. UK Chamber of Shipping chief executive Guy Platten warned: “If there is a hard border with customs checks at ports in the UK and on the Continent, that will lead to gridlock. It’s really important that we have a transition deal leading towards longer-term customs arrangements.”

7. New mini-series examines consequences of Brexit to aviation sector
Luxury aviation retailer Aileron Group has begun a mini-series on the most talked about Brexit aviation predictions. For example they examine the claim that Brexit could lead to closing down the Open Skies Treaty. They write that most observers believe this to be unlikely, with the more likely scenario being a flexible “Open Skies” treaty or membership of the European Common Aviation Area like Norway and Iceland. They also examine the claim that UK-based airlines with have to move to European after Brexit or lose major routes.

8. UKTiE 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
  • 22 May 2017 – Brexit negotiating directives approved by Council
  • 19 June 2017 – Negotiations formally began
  • 28 August 2017 – Third round of talks
  • 5 September 2017 – UKTiE Transport & Brexit event in the House of Lords, London,  ‘A Brexit Deal for Transport’, 17:00-19:00. Register here.
  • 7 September 2017 – UKTiE meets with Team Barnier (TF50) to commence discussions on transport and Brexit
  • 18 September 2017 – Fourth round of talks
  • 24 September 2017 – German Federal election
  • 9 October 2017 – Fifth round of talks
  • 30 October 2017 – UKTiE  & Norton Rose Fulbright Summit: Customs arrangements after Brexit.
  • 28 November 2017 – UKTiE Annual Forum
  • 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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