Mark’s EU Week for Transport

Another week, another conference, another party but the same divisions are eerily visible (see last week’s News & Views). Welcome to the Tory Party Conference where a mishap with the conference app has really set the tone for a Prime Minister struggling to get off the ground with her Chequers plan. Defending her plan on the Andrew Marr show, the Prime Minister’s refusal to compromise would be commendable were it not in the face of serious rejection within her own party and by the EU. The Prime Minister’s best moments, since coming into office, have been in her portrayal as a pragmatist who could deliver the Brexit the voters asked for. However, her recently discovered dogmatic stance in defending Chequers has some questioning her capability to deliver the best possible Brexit for the UK. This is not to say that anyone could do it better, but we are coming to a moment where difficult choices need to be made regarding the UK’s withdrawal from the EU and its future relationship with the EU.

The Prime Minister was right when she said that this is the most difficult moment in the negotiations, the home stretch ahead of March 2019. However, while she stands firm on Chequers, sectors such as transport remain without the necessary clarity needed ahead of the UK’s departure from the EU. As UKTiE, we have always sought to provide constructive criticism and to make ourselves ready to fight for the best possible Brexit for the UK and transport. However, the negotiations have taken yet another turn towards the dreaded ‘No Deal’ Brexit that many believed was impossible and many will argue remains impossible up until the point it happens. Let’s be clear, this is the worst case scenario for the UK and for UK transport. If there ever was a time to be pragmatic and open to compromise, now is that moment. The Prime Minister’s stern defence of her plan is admirable, but if she wants to deliver the best possible Brexit then she may need to hear the concerns from all sides about Chequers.

What is UKTiE doing to prepare for the UK’s departure from the EU? Regardless of the outcome of the negotiations, there will be some form of relationship with the EU. We are exploring the different third country models that could give some guidance as to what the UK can expect with its future relationship with the EU. We will be discussing these models at our UKTiE Annual Forum on November 20th with our theme “Looking beyond Brexit: influencing EU transport legislation as a third country” , If you would like to join us and attend the forum, please do let us know.

While Brexit consumes the totality of news coverage in Brussels and the UK, the EU transport legislative agenda continues in earnest and is something that we must continue to keep an eye on as this will, in my view, continue to apply to the UK in some form post-Brexit. In that regard, I have launched a monthly blog that will explore key transport issues on the EU agenda that are worthy of further exploration. This month, I am looking at decarbonisation in the transport sector and analysing whether the EU is finally getting serious about lowering emissions in transport.  

This week’s song of the week, I’m Still Standing from Elton John, Enjoy!

1. New date for UKTiE Forum
The 8th Annual UKTiE Forum will now be held on the afternoon of November 20th in the European Parliament. We will be making the case for UK transport in Brussels after Brexit. Our chosen theme is “Looking Beyond Brexit: Influencing EU transport legislation as a third country”. With speakers outlining case studies and the role of business, this forum represents a great chance to conceptualize what the UK’s role as a third country could look like.  If you would like to join us for the UKTiE Forum, then please do let us know.

2. Theresa May grilled on Chequers by Andrew Marr
Appearing on the Andrew Marr show on Sunday, the Prime Minister defended her Chequers plan and refused to be drawn on whether she was willing to compromise in order to make the plan more palatable to either her own party or the EU. Andrew Marr asked the Prime Minister, “they said at Salzburg fairly clearly what they wanted was more and stronger language on the common rulebook on regulations and so on, going forward. Having listened, are you prepared in any sense to compromise?”. Theresa May replied that “if they have counter-proposals, let’s hear what those counter-proposals are. What I am clear is that what we have put forward is in the national interest and we did it because what the European Union was offering us was unacceptable. During the interview, Andrew Marr also pressed the Prime Minister on whether a ‘No Deal Brexit’ was really a viable plan B to her Chequers plan. The Prime Minister’s interview will certainly do nothing to assuage concerns within her own party over her plan as the Conservative Party heads into what promises to be a crucial conference for Theresa May. While Boris Johnson has appeared as her most vocal critic, it will ultimately be those biding their time that may yet cause her more trouble down the line. The big question this week: what happens to Chequers if the EU rejects it once more next month? If you would like a report on the mood among the EU27 to the UK’s Chequers plan then please do get in touch.

3. Boris Johnson’s plan for a “better Brexit”
“Such enforced vassalage should be unacceptable to any democratic country, let alone a two trillion pound economy with a venerable parliamentary history. If we go ahead with Chequers, we will be exposing the entire UK economy to regulations that may be expressly designed – and at the behest of continental competitors – to make life difficult for UK entrepreneurs and innovators”. Writing this weekend in the Telegraph, Boris Johnson certainly held nothing back in his criticism of Theresa May’s Chequers plan and of the Prime Minister’s negotiation progress. Johnson also launched a thinly veiled rebuke of Michael Gove when he wrote that “It is idle to pretend, finally, that we can go for Chequers now – or indeed any other so-called interim model – and hope to fix it later. It is hard to see why the EU should wish to embark so soon on a fresh negotiation.”. Michael Gove had recently appeared as a Chequers pragmatist and suggested that Chequers be supported now and changed later. Boris Johnson has now firmly placed himself as the main antagonist to Theresa May and her government, and various interviews and speeches around the conference have not held back in their criticism of him. The former Foreign Secretary seems to have failed to move the needle on Chequers, but will his comments inspire someone else who can do this? Stay tuned to see whether Chequers can survive this most important of party conferences.  For our views on Chequers, please read our submission to the House of Lords.

4. Getting serious on decarbonising the EU transport sector?
Mark’s blog this month covers the need for decarbonisation in the EU transport sector. He argues that it’s shocking that transport is the only sector of our economy where CO2 emissions have increased since 1990 and that transport is now Europe’s single biggest source of carbon emissions, contributing 27% to the EU’s total CO2 emissions, with cars and vans alone representing more than two thirds of that total. His blog this month tries to answer a critical question on the decarbonisation of the EU transport sector: is the EU finally getting serious about decarbonising transport, and cars and vans in particular?

5. 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.
  • 23 March 2018– European Council agreed guidelines on the future trading relationship.
  • 30 September 2018 – Date by which EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, wanted to conclude the terms of Britain’s exit from the Union.
  • 18-19 October 2018 – European Council summit with a specific Brexit focus.
  • 20 November 2018 – UKTiE Forum, European Parliament, Brussels
  • 30 March 2019 – Britain formally exits the EU, following ratification of Brexit by all other member states and the European Parliament.
  • 23-26 May 2019 – European Parliament election.
  • 31 December 2020 – End of transition period. (TBC)
Mark Watts
UK transport in Europe (UKTiE)
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