Mark’s Brexit Week for Transport

Last week I met many of the senior UK politicians involved in Brexit and transport in London, and then in Brussels I met the senior EU officials negotiating Brexit for transport on behalf of the 27 Member States.  I sought to better understand the yawning gap that exists between both sides, so we could help bridge it. The gap is partly explained by different approaches to politics (as I described last week) and major differences in the interpretation of the Brexit procedure, particularly for road, rail, sea and air transport. However the biggest difference of all is explained by either possession of different sets or ‘facts’ or, in the main, just a lack of facts.

That is perhaps surprising given the innumerable documents, reports and statements that have been published in the past year by the EU, UK government, industry,  trade associations and think-tanks.  But despite the huge efforts some have made to address Brexit, there is still a lack of clarity as to what day one after Brexit will look like for our industry, and a lack of sufficient detail and evidence as to what the solutions are to mitigate any negative consequences.

The good news is that whilst the politics and procedural issues will continue to bedevil the Brexit negotiations, probably until September next year when they must be concluded, these knowledge gaps can be plugged, and I believe contribute to the process of both establishing and reaching agreement on the solutions and perhaps avoiding some of the problems in the first place.

Much more work needs to be done urgently on what day one after Brexit will look like for our industry, with arguments backed up by evidence rather than assertion. Much more detail needs to be gathered  to back up the solutions that need to be developed and agreed to ensure the best possible Brexit.

Then above all we need to bring the different stakeholders, from the UK and EU, together so there is a much clearer understanding of the facts.  That’s something UKTiE will be prioritising in the coming weeks.

As Einstein said ‘a clever person solves a problem, a wise person avoids it.’ If we can reach agreement on the facts then perhaps we can avoid many of the problems for transport in the first place.

1. UKTiE’s event in the House of Lords: “A Brexit Deal for Transport”
UKTiE organised a briefing in the House of Lords titled “A Brexit Deal for Transport”. Speakers included Martin Callanan from the Department for Transport, Baronness Hayter, Shadow Spokesperson for DExEU, Andrew Haines, CEO for the Civil Aviation Authority, John Thomas, policy director for Rail Delivery Group and Emma Giddings from Norton Rose Fulbright. The event, hosted by Lord Berkeley, highlighted the need for industry to work together to ensure transport becomes a priority.

2. UKTiE met with Michel Barnier’s Task Force 50
On Thursday UKTiE met with the TF50, meeting important members of the team such as François Arbault, in charge of issues regarding the internal market and cross-sectoral policies, Peter Sørenson, in charge of transport questions, Jof Hupperetz who works with customs and Nina Obermaier who deals with Ireland. We gained some insight into the mindset of the TF50. UKTiE will be a source of information to help them during the negotiations.

3. Post-Brexit customs costs for business could hit £9 billion
Post-Brexit customs costs for business could hit £9 billion, according to a new report from the Institute for Government think tank, and there is little to indicate the U.K. will be ready to undertake a successful exit from the EU customs union. Coordination will be a major problem, there is almost zero chance of delivering new technology or physical infrastructure before March 2019, and ports such as Dover and Holyhead lack the space for major expansion even if time were available. The report also highlights that ports on the Continent including Calais, Dunkirk and Rotterdam will need to be on board with any new arrangements. The report recommends the U.K. government begin a tour of national capitals to get governments on side.

4. Freight and logistics industry react to leaked Home Office Paper on migration
Earlier last week, to much consternation, the Guardian reported that, under plans found in a Home Office document dated August 2017, the UK would end the freedom of movement in March 2019 and introduce restrictions to deter lower-skilled EU migrants. In response the Freight Transport Association has said it will be making a submission to the Migration Advisory Committee on the reliance of the logistics sector on EU workers. James Hookham, FTA’s Deputy Chief Executive said: “Whilst we support policies that are intended to make migrants and the country better off, disrupting the logistics industry would certainly have the reverse effect. Government policy needs to be more targeted and support and protect our vital industries, such as logistics, in the interests of everyone.”

5. Government pledges to develop ambitious post-Brexit export plan
Transport secretary Chris Grayling, speaking ahead of a roundtable with maritime industry leaders, said that Brexit “will allow Britain to seize new opportunities and rediscover our heritage as a truly global, seafaring, trading nation”. The government said it will work with industry to deliver an ambitious export plan for when Britain leaves the EU, boosting trade opportunities, increasing jobs, and providing more investment in new technologies.

6. The ERAA publishes a position paper on Brexit
As a pan-European association with a membership wider than the EU, the ERAA, the European Regions Airlines Association, does not normally involve itself in decisions taken by a particular European country. However, as they feel the UK’s decision to leave the European Union will have an impact beyond the UK and will have an effect across the ERAA member network, they have published a position paper on Brexit which is “designed to assist policymakers and those involved in the negotiations regarding the future aviation arrangements between the EU and the UK”. UKTiE is also currently working on our position paper – watch this space!

7. Withdrawal Bill begins its slow way through Parliament: 2nd Reading vote tonight
Today is the second day of the Second Reading of the European Union Withdrawal Bill in the House of Commons, and MPs will vote tonight on the Bill. Although Prime Minister May has pledged to listened to all opinions during this historic two-day debate, she claims it is vital the Bill passes. It has been criticised by the Opposition and some pro-Remain Tory MPs as a power grab. The 66 page Bill is dominated by three major measures: – to repeal the 1972 European Communities Act, the legislation which took Britain into the Common Market, – the transfer of EU laws into UK law so they continue to apply after Brexit and – giving ministers the power to change old EU laws once they are part of UK law. MPs and Peers have asked UKTiE for briefings on the EU transport related regulations that will need to be re-drafted to incorporate into UK law. We will be coordinating with our members to prepare a response.

8. May to meet leaders at the European Parliament
Although Prime Minister May has turned down invitations to address all MEPs in a plenary session, she has informed European Parliament President Antonio Tajani she would be happy to address the Conference of Presidents. The Conference of Presidents meets about twice a month and consists of the President of the European Parliament and the chairmen of the political groups. Theresa May has been warned not to underestimate the importance of the European Parliament, as they will have veto on the final vote.

9. Will the UK be able to draw up new trade deals hastily enough?
Prime Minister May and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe signed a joint trade statement that committed their countries to working towards an economic partnership agreement (EPA) last week. Although this was seen as a positive step towards post-Brexit trade by many, others criticized the government’s desire to draw up copycat deals to replace existing EU agreements saying this amounts to a “cut-and-paste Brexit”. A senior government source admitted that this approach is due to a lack of resources to renegotiate the dozens of deals already signed between the EU and third countries.

10. 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
  • 18 September 2017 – Fourth round of talks
  • 24 September 2017 – German Federal election
  • 9 October 2017 – Fifth round of talks
  • 19-20 October 2017 – European Council to consider “sufficient progress”
  • TBC – 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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