UK Transport and Europe News & Views No. 83

Mark’s EU Week for Transport

Last week we successfully held our 8th Annual UKTiE Forum in the European Parliament. The chosen theme of looking beyond Brexit sparked great discussions throughout our panels as panelists from Permanent Representation of the UK to the EU, the Mission of Switzerland to the EU, the UK Department for Exiting the EU, the European Free Trade Association, the American Chamber of Commerce to the EU, the Japanese Business Council in Europe, and UKTiE members turned their attention to the UK’s future as a third country. Between the third country case studies, reports on the UK’s Brexit preparedness and the future role of industry and government, we began to paint a picture of what the UK’s role as a third country could look like. As I concluded at the forum, we will all have to operate in new ways in order to meet the challenges of Brexit and being a third country to the EU. Associations like UKTiE will be hugely important in this new relationship. Our challenge now is to turn our forum conclusions into concrete action as we enter the Brexit homestretch.

This past weekend’s European Council summit saw the EU27 approve the Withdrawal Agreement and accompanying Political Declaration. In an interview with the BBC, Jean-Claude Juncker raised the stakes on the UK Parliament by saying that this was the only deal and that if the House of Commons voted it down that there would then be a ‘No-Deal’ Brexit. As has been the case with Brexit from the very beginning, as progress is made the stakes get ever higher. We are now in the most difficult part of the negotiations, when the UK Brexit aspirations meet a reality where compromises have had to be made for Brexit to be delivered. Many, UKTiE included, may not be entirely convinced by the merits of Theresa May’s deal versus the merits of retaining EU membership. However, this is the only deal on the table and it remains a far better option than the ‘No-Deal’ option which would prove economically catastrophic.

Irrespective of the Brexit outcome, we will become a third country. We must therefore continue planning for this future where EU laws, existing and new, will apply to transport for the foreseeable future. 

1. UKTiE hosted its 8th Annual Forum
UKTiE had its 8th Annual Forum ‘Looking beyond Brexit: How to influence European transport legislation as a third country’ on Tuesday 20 November in the European Parliament, hosted, as every year, by our patron MEP Jacqueline Foster.

This year’s event exceeded our expectations, being the largest gathering of UK and EU officials and experts in the field of transport that had a pragmatic discussion about the UK’s role as a third country.’ said Mark Watts, UKTiE coordinator.

Among the high level speakers at the event were  representatives of the Permanent Representation of the UK to the EU, the Mission of Switzerland to the EU, the UK Department for Exiting the EU, the Department for Transport, the European Free Trade Association, the Japanese Business Council in Europe and MEPs. With only months until the Article 50 process deadline, the three sessions of the event discussed and learned from other third country models and debated how leading UK transport businesses and organisations should work together to ensure the UK’s transport interests continue to be protected and promoted in EU legislation.

The UKTiE Forum is a unique platform facilitating dialogue between UK transport organisations and EU officials, politicians and stakeholders.

A link to the post-event press release for the UKTiE Forum can be found here

More information on the UKTiE Forum and on UKTiE can be found on our website: https://uktie.eu/events/

2. Businesses rally behind Theresa May’s deal as EU signs off on Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration
Yesterday, the EU formally signed off on the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration. This marked the conclusion (for now) of the Brexit withdrawal negotiations, 19 months after Article 50 was triggered. All eyes now turn to the UK to see if this hard-fought deal can pass through the House of Commons. However, UK business leaders have rallied behind Theresa May’s deal amid fears of crashing out in a ‘No Deal’ scenario. TheCityUK, which represents banks and insurers in London, said parliament had “a straight choice” between the agreement hammered out in Brussels and a no-deal Brexit, “which offers only higher risk, costs and disruption”. Miles Celic, the organisation’s boss, said: “The focus must now be on securing the withdrawal agreement and the transition period it brings – which is critical for our industry and many others. There is much still to be negotiated to define the future relationship. The sooner that can get started, the better’. Progress in the negotiations has left businesses wondering where their efforts may be best placed: pushing to secure Theresa May’s concrete deal or arguing in favour of another hypothetical deal that secures much of the same benefits as EU membership.

3. Haulage industry warns of No-Deal consequences
The haulage industry has warned of the potential damage a no-deal Brexit could cause, after a Department for Transport paper warned there were fewer than 4,000 EU permits for UK truck drivers. The paper from the Department for Transport set out how international ECMT licences, which are issued by the International Transport Forum and cover entry into and exit from 43 EU countries, would be distributed in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The permits would be shared among the UK’s estimated 38,000 hauliers. Currently, the UK’s membership of the single market means that an unlimited number of hauliers can travel across the EU. However, road haulage associations have warned that the limited number of ECMT permits could cause chaos among businesses should there be a ‘No Deal’ Brexit. The Department for Transport admitted, in the paper, there would not be enough permits to go around, saying: “Applications for ECMT permits will exceed the number of permits available. Therefore, criteria will be applied.”

4. Will the EU rise to the challenge of decarbonising Heavy Duty Vehicles?
Last month, Mark’s blog posed the following question: ‘is the EU finally getting serious about decarbonising transport?’ and he analysed the latest EU plans to curb CO2 emissions from cars and light vans. This month, in his blog, Mark covers the fact that unlike the US, China, Japan and Canada, Europe does not yet regulate C02 emissions and fuel efficiency of HDVs. However, this glaring gap in the battle against climate change moves one big step closer to being plugged on Wednesday in Strasbourg, when MEPs are set to vote on European Commission proposals on the CO2 emissions performance standards for new heavy-duty vehicles Heavy Duty Vehicles (HDVs), such as lorries, buses and coaches. The question is: will the EU rise to the challenge of decarbonising Heavy Duty Vehicles?

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.
  • 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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