Mark’s EU Week for Transport

Welcome to the post-conference season, with the Prime Minister having managed to dance around the issue of Chequers and, for the time being anyway, postpone any major challenge or damage to herself. I feel this week a sense of cautious optimism, more than I have felt for a few weeks now, as both the ticking clock and the reported UK compromise on Ireland have given us cause to believe that the Withdrawal Agreement can be signed off by December. Of course, as I have said before, do not confuse motion with progress in the Brexit negotiations. The very nature of being in the “home stretch” of Brexit will mean that all the motion will only increase and will leave many unsure if progress is actually being made or just talked about.

This week will certainly see plenty of motion with Olly Robbins and Dominic Raab both making trips to Brussels as well as DUP leader Arlene Foster meeting with Michel Barnier. This is all laying the groundwork for next week’s European Council summit, which has now been extended to include a working dinner of the EU27 on October 17th which will directly address Brexit. Does this extension suggest an intensification due to progress or due to a lack thereof? We may very well only know the answer to that at the tail end of next week. 

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 wrote about decarbonisation efforts 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. UKTiE Forum- November 20th
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. UK to stay in Customs Union beyond 2020?
As reported by the Times last week, Theresa May is preparing to limit Britain’s ability to strike free-trade deals after Brexit in a significant concession to the European Union aimed at breaking the deadlock in negotiations. This compromise by the Prime Minister would keep Britain tied to European customs rules on goods after the transition period ends in December 2020. Theresa May will claim that the UK has left the customs union at this point, but by keeping key rules the ability to agree trade deals would be curtailed for many years. Britain would also accept demands that goods entering Northern Ireland from Britain must meet European standards, with the potential for checks in the Irish Sea. This reported compromise could, as Downing Street hopes, pave the way for a deal on the Irish Backstop. As the last major stumbling block to a deal, both sides will surely focus their efforts on resolving this issue over the next couple of weeks. As in all things Brexit, the reaction amongst the Brexiteers was  to reportedly to demand that the Prime Minister could keep Britain within EU customs arrangements only until 2022. What is certain is that as the negotiations enter a vital period, the Brexiteers will begin to look increasingly worried as Theresa May seeks to deliver on Brexit. It has also been rumoured, that the Brexiteers are contemplating voting against the Government’s budget on October 29th as a way of pressuring Theresa May into accepting their demands. For now, however, Chequers and the Prime Minister move on. 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. Show me the money
The Financial Times reports that four of England’s directly elected metro mayors are lobbying the government to devolve spending authority over the proposed capital that will replace their current European funding after Brexit. The mayors of Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield and Tees Valley have joined forces to demand control over the replacement funding to European funding. The Conservative party pledged in its 2017 election manifesto to create a UK Shared Prosperity Fund, to fulfill similar tasks to the EU’s so-called structural funds after Brexit. EU funding is a big issue as the EU currently provides annual financing of £50m to Greater Manchester, £32m to Liverpool, £30m to Sheffield and £25m to the Tees Valley. As far as the mayors are concerned, “more than two years since the Brexit referendum, the defining mantra of that campaign — to take back control — looms large as we approach March 2019. If that phrase is to mean anything, it must mean substantial devolution of power and resources out of Westminster to the English regions”. The mayors stressed the urgency underpinning their demand so that they are not to be left with a damaging gap between the ending of EU structural funds and the setting up of the Shared Prosperity Fund. Otherwise, they fear that any gap would lead to the closure of vital economic programmes and investments in their regions.

4. Getting serious on decarbonising the EU transport sector?
Mark’s blog, published last week, 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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