Mark’s EU Week for Transport 
Last week I wrote about how our focus would invariably shift to the UK local elections ahead of even more attention on the European elections at the end of this month. What has happened is a situation where Remainers and Leavers can point to the local elections, and probably the same will ring true for the European elections, and argue that the results prove them right. Are the local elections a bellwether for the European elections? Time will certainly tell, but while voter dissatisfaction in the UK is at what must be an all-time high, we cannot afford to drop the ball in our preparations for the next mandates of the European Parliament and the European Commission.

Regular readers of our News & Views will know that at UKTiE we have sought to cast our sight further afield than the upcoming elections, or even the new Brexit deadline of October 31st. We all know the potential chaos that could accompany a disorderly Brexit, no matter how unlikely that proposition may be. We know that Day 1 after Brexit will be the beginning of a new age for UK stakeholders in Brussels. Our question over recent months has been: what does Day 2 look like and what will all subsequent days look like for UK stakeholders in Brussels? For the time being, we have been exploring third country models, meeting with other UK stakeholders and working alongside UKREP to shed some light on what the answer to that question could be. While Brexit remains ‘on hold’, our work on this matter continues nonetheless. 

In order to practice what we preach, at UKTiE we have recently launched our updated UKTiE Vision which outlines our priorities for the foreseeable future. We believe that these are objectives that can create broad church alliances of UK stakeholders on the issues we have raised. If you would like to help us in our endeavors to plan the future of UK stakeholders in Brussels, then please do get in touch with us.

This week’s song of the week, is Danger Zone by Kenny Loggins.

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 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. May and Corbyn reach ‘landing zone’, but is it more of a danger zone?
Many outlets reported over the weekend that Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn’s cross-party talks had reached an agreement on a ‘landing zone’ that would include a temporary Customs Union that would last until the next General Election in 2022. At this point, either party would be allowed to campaign for softer or harder versions of Brexit. This landing zone may turn out to be more of a danger zone as Theresa May will struggle to convince fellow Tory MPs but could also face yet another attempt to rewrite Tory party rules to force a confidence vote on her position. For Jeremy Corbyn, the usual limitations apply, with his party paying lip service to a second referendum, or a People’s Vote, and then reportedly not forcing its inclusion  in the cross-party talks. Of course, it must not be forgotten that all of this would need to then be agreed with Brussels, leaving the supposed cross-party agreement with a tough prospect of being the solution to the current Brexit impasse. 

3. Chris Grayling cancels ferry contracts at £50m cost to taxpayers
The Guardian reports that the ferry contracts signed to ensure critical imports could reach the UK in the event of a no-deal Brexit have been cancelled, costing taxpayers a further £50m. The reason for the cost is that the contracts worth £89m with Brittany Ferries and DFDS to secure ferry space for vital goods across the Channel had a termination payout of £43.8m to the firms, along with costs taking the final bill over £50m. The latest payout from the Department for Transport will not ease the pressure on Chris Grayling, following the settlement that was made to Eurotunnel following the botched Seaborne Freight contract and the subsequent legal case against the Eurotunnel payment from P&O Ferries. While the Government has shifted tracks on its No Deal preparations, these will re-emerge in October as “no-deal is still the legal default so what is going to happen next is pretty much what happened last time.” said Baroness Vere, Transport Minister in the House of Lords.

4. European elections manifesto snapshot
As the European elections get ever closer, UKTiE has taken a look at some of the party manifestos that have specific references to transport to give you a snapshot as to what the parties are prioritising and promising for transport. For starters, the EPP promises to “enable investments and innovation in all technological solutions to low-carbon mobility” as well as prioritising “self-driving vehicles and connected mobility solutions will further contribute to decreasing transport emissions and establishing European charging standards, to enable the EU to be one of the global leaders in e-mobility”.

The Greens state that their “goal is to transform the transport sector across Europe to overcome our dependency on polluting cars as quickly as possible, to stop the increasing pollution from aviation and to invest extensively in regional and cross-border railway networks”. To stop the increasing pollution from aviation, the Greens say they they will connect “countries and regions with fast trains, night trains and regional trains offers a positive alternative” and that “to level the playing field between train and air traffic, flights need to be fairly taxed”.

ALDE, which Guy Verhofstadt recently announced would be disbanded after the elections and join a new group alongside En Marche, state “we must complete the Energy Union and move to foster research and development in low emission technologies, infrastructure, clean energy production, energy efficiency, and a reduction of industry and transport emissions including aviation and shipping”. To accomplish this, the manifesto explains that ALDE would “strengthen the  EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) as the key instrument for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and where possible, it should be extended to cover more sectors, such as transport in an upstream model. We want to see an end of the obsolete fuel tax exemptions for international aviation by updating the Chicago Convention.” The manifesto also calls for “greater  investment  in  smart  mobility,  cross-border  and sustainable infrastructure projects including Trans-European Networks, in particular for railroads” as well as supporting the EU being “the first to enable self-driving vehicles on its roads and innovative solutions for the last mile of delivery”.

The S&D Group’s manifesto states that the party supports “clean electric public transport to all cities in Europe” and wants to see the creation of a Clean Public Transport in Europe plan to accomplish this. The manifesto further states that “CO2 emissions should be taxed EU-wide in a socially fair way, making polluters pay and supporting investment in affordable clean energy. By improving mobility and air quality and providing affordable and energy-efficient housing we can improve citizens’ quality of life”. 

5. Why we should expect an EU Transport White Paper in 2020
In his newest 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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