Mark’s EU Week for Transport 
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Attention shifts this week to local elections in the UK, as the Tories face the prospect of big defeats this week ahead of further defeats in one month’s time at the European elections. While attention will inevitably remain local during this period, there is plenty to think about at the European level as well. Let’s face it, barring Theresa May pulling off the impossible, we will be holding European elections. This means that we need to start thinking about how we represent our interests in the new European Parliament, especially with the presence of UK MEPs for at least a couple of months.

As I have previously outlined in my recent blog post, we should be expecting a new Transport White Paper from the new European Commission and it is therefore critically important that we highlight our vision for UK business, more generally, and UK transport, more specifically. At UKTiE, we have already kickstarted this process by launching our new UKTiE Vision which we will be sharing with incoming MEP’s and with relevant DGs in the European Commission.

Far from being closed for business, we should be expecting that the groundwork for forthcoming transport policy will be laid even before new the European Commission begins its mandate in November. Whatever the type of Brexit, we will need to contribute to this process in whatever way we can. This starts will having a clear list of demands.

So while coverage this week and in forthcoming weeks will focus on the local and European elections, we cannot forget to look ahead and anticipate future EU transport policy, which we will be aligned with irrespective of the outcome of Brexit. Unless we can get together as UK business, as UK transport even, and have a clear and concise list of policy priorities then our voice will be drowned out in Brussels, members of the EU or not.

This week’s song of the week, is (Just Like) Starting Over by John Lennon.

1. New UKTiE Messaging
UKTiE has launched our new ‘UKTiE Vision’ at a moment of political uncertainty where UK business in the EU is at a crossroads as to how it operates going forward. Our new vision focuses on policy areas such as: Multi-Modality, Sustainability, Competition, and Digitalisation. This new UKTiE Vision represents our policy priorities for the near future. Our intention is also to present a vision which, we believe, represents objectives that UK business operating in the EU can get behind, regardless of sector. 

2. P&O takes legal action over no-deal Brexit preparations
The Financial Times reports that P&O Ferries has begun legal proceedings against the UK government after being excluded from no-deal Brexit preparations, in the latest fallout from Britain’s preparations for leaving the EU. Last month, the Department for Transport (DfT) was forced to settle with train operator Eurotunnel, which had challenged the procurement of no-deal Brexit shipping contracts. As part of the deal, Eurotunnel agreed to make improvements to its terminal. P&O argue that this put its business at a “competitive disadvantage”. This represents the latest in a series of headaches for Chris Grayling, transport secretary, over no-deal Brexit ferry planning, which has been complicated by the delay in Britain’s scheduled EU departure from the original date of March 29 to October 31. After settling with Eurotunnel over the Government ignoring its services when awarding the No Deal ferry contracts, the Government is now having this settlement in turn challenged by P&O Ferries with the company is demanding either a reduction in the payment to Eurotunnel or a similar sum of compensation for itself.

3. Hopes fade for Tory-Labour cross party talks- European elections on tract to take place
Hopes are reportedly fading for Theresa May passing her Withdrawal Agreement ahead of this week’s local elections as chances of her achieving a cross-party agreement between Labour and the Conservative Party appearing dead in the water. The Financial Times reports that “many of Mrs May’s advisers are now resigned to the fact that the bill will not be approved before May 23, when Britain would have to take part in European Parliament elections.” In the event of European elections, the next deadline for Theresa May would be June 30, just before new MEPs, UK MEPs included, would take their seats. With her deal having no realistic path to being passed, Theresa May’s fallback plan of holding a series of indicative votes in the Commons on different Brexit options should the cross-party talks fail also appears to be falling by the wayside, much to the disappointment of MPs in the House of Commons.

4. Labour European election manifesto headache
Tensions continue to flare up in the Labour party in the aftermath of their European election campaigning leaflet not including any mention of a confirmatory vote or support for a People’s Vote. The NEC of the Labour Party is due to approve the party’s campaign manifesto this week, and a charge calling for a “confirmatory ballot” pledge is being led by the party’s Deputy Leader Tom Watson. Meanwhile,  a total of 22 Labour MEPs and MEP candidates have now signed an open letter pledging to campaign for a second referendum regardless of Corbyn’s decision, including Labour European leader Richard Corbett. It is safe to say that we have not yet seen the end of Labour’s fudged stance on a People’s Vote and this remains a contested issue within the party, contrary to perception that this was now a settled party policy agreed that their last party conference.

5. Why we should expect an EU Transport White Paper in 2020
In his new blog, Mark writes that looking at all the evidence, he says we should be expecting an EU Transport White Paper in 2020 to replace the last one written in 2011. Mark further adds that the last White Paper, from 2011, reads like something from a different era. The thinking of 2011’s White Paper was very much influenced by the economic crisis, and adopted a growth first approach, emphasising the completion of the Single European Transport Area. It also abandoned the modal shift commitment, which was the focus of the much greener 2001 White Paper, launched by the then Transport Commissioner Neil Kinnock.

6. 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.
  • TBD – House of Commons vote again on Withdrawal Agreement
  • 23-26 May 2019 – European Parliament election.
  • 31 October 2019 – The UK will formally leave the EU.
  • 31 December 2020 – End of Transition Period (tbc).
Mark Watts
UK transport in Europe (UKTiE)
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