UK Transport and Europe News & Views No. 87

Mark’s EU Week for Transport

Happy New Year to all UKTiE News & Views readers.

I hope you had a good break and re-charged for the challenges and opportunities to come in 2019!

Our three priorities for this year are firstly, to ensure the right arrangements are urgently put in place to provide certainty for transport in the UK, secondly to continue to influence the regulatory environment at an EU level, and thirdly to ensure our industry has a voice internationally and full recognition of our international potential in terms of our contribution to travel, trade, economic progress and environmental sustainability.

We’ll be following closely the Brexit debate and (possible) vote in the UK Parliament on the draft Withdrawal Agreement and the political declaration over the next week or so. In particular, we will follow whether the clarifications on the Irish backstop  (and the warnings of a no deal Brexit or indeed no Brexit at all) are sufficient to secure a majority for the Prime Minister’s plan. The hope in No.10 was that emotions would subside over the festive season on both sides of the Channel. My feeling is that this has indeed occurred, but rather than prompting fresh support for Theresa May’s deal it has merely hardened attitudes, for and against, as MPs have examined the legal text in the cold light of day. Here in Brussels, time and patience have definitely run out for the UK, and there is a strong feeling here that whatever the risks there will be no re-negotiation with this nor indeed any future UK Government.

So on Brexit, any outcome is now possible, and we must continue to plan for the worst and hope for the best.  In particular at UKTiE, we are planning a meeting with UK Government departments to map all the possible Brexit scenarios (deal, no deal, no Brexit) and the implications for UK transport. We will also examine Brexit ‘no-deal’ risk registers and other tools to prepare for any eventuality, review the future relationship with the EU and how we can successfully lobby the EU at a time of challenge and change, with the European Parliament elections in May and a new European Commission to be appointed by the end of the year.

I’ve made the point before but whilst we are all understandably focused on Brexit the rest of Europe, indeed the world is moving on in terms of transport policy and regulation.  Be it the First Mobility Package, where the Transport Committee of the European Parliament will vote on Thursday 10 January 2019 on new compromises to be tabled to Plenary on the social pillar of the Mobility Package I (posting of drivers, driving and rest time and on cabotage). These three files were rejected in Plenary in July and were sent back to the Transport  Committee for further consideration. Or the implications of COP24 and the European Commission strategy for a climate-neutral Europe by 2050. Both seek to radically reverse CO2 trends in transport. These European and international developments should inform everything we do.

That’s why in addition to our Brexit work we are also planning an ambitious and exciting series of meetings and activities here in Brussels with the EU institutions and key EU Member States. Whether it’s Brexit or shaping European and international regulations, we believe by working together we can achieve so much more. To this end, many of the UK’s leading transport players have already joined us. Contact me if you would like to join us or need more information.

This week’s song of the week, and one to get us started on the right track for 2019, is Abba’s Happy New Year.

1. UK Government runs post-Brexit Operation Brock trial
This morning the Government ran a live rehearsal of an emergency traffic system that will be put in place to prevent congestion in Dover in the event of a no-deal Brexit. In total, 89 lorries took part in the Department for Transport’s exercise that was organised with the Road Haulage Association and the Freight Transport Association. However, there have been accusations that this trial comes far too late with Road Haulage Association’s Chief Executive saying “today’s trial cannot possibly duplicate the reality of 6,000 trucks that would be held at Manston airport in the event of a no-deal Brexit. It’s too little too late – this process should have started nine months ago. At this late stage it looks like window dressing”. Others questioned whether the number of lorries participating, initially expected to be 150, would be representative of a plan that foresees 6,000 lorries being parked at Manston Airport. With today’s test being a ‘war game’ exercise of the No-Deal situation at Dover, Duncan Buchanan of the Road Haulage Association stressed that “import and export businesses on both sides of Channel had “no idea how they are going to deal with the customs process”.

2. Vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal
It is expected that MPs will be asked to vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal on Tuesday January 15th following the postponement of the vote that was supposed to take place in December. The deal, which many expect to be rejected, represents a concrete withdrawal agreement alongside a document outlining the ambitions for the future UK-EU relationship. Should the Government lose the vote, it would have 21 days to make a statement to the House of Commons setting out how it plans to proceed. We will be covering the result and implications of this vote next week in a News & Views issue that will be published next Wednesday.

3. European Commission implements “no-deal” Contingency Action Plan in specific sectors
On December 19th, the European Commission published a ‘no-deal’ contingency action plan. The Commission adopted two measures that will avoid full interruption of air traffic between the EU and the UK in the event of no deal. These measures will only ensure basic connectivity and in no means replicate the significant advantages of membership of the Single European Sky. These measures are, however, subject to the UK conferring equivalent rights to EU air carriers, as well as the UK ensuring conditions of fair competition. On customs and the export of goods, all relevant EU legislation on the importation and exportation of goods will apply to goods moving between the EU and the UK. In response to the European Commission’s Action Plan, the Department for Transport said that “their announcement demonstrates a clear commitment to future travel while offering reassurances that both sides will work to maintain UK and EU transport links”.

4. TRAN Committee meeting- January 10th
The agenda for the first TRAN Committee of 2019 has been published. Of particular interest will be the discussion on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EU) No 1316/2013 (Connecting Europe Facility) and Regulation (EC) No 391/2009 (common  rules  and  standards  for  ship  inspection  and  survey  organisations) with regards to Brexit. The TRAN Committee will be busy as the outgoing Parliament seeks to finalise work on ongoing dossiers and UKTiE will seek to engage and inform where possible and relevant. Additionally, the TRAN meeting include voting on new compromises on the “enforcement requirements and specific rules for posting drivers in the road transport sector” which forms the social pillar of Mobility Package I.

5. Transport and decarbonisation: two steps forward, one step back?
In his latest blog, Mark covered the fact that unlike the US, China, Japan and Canada, Europe does not yet regulate C02 emissions and fuel efficiency of HDVs. He asked if the EU will rise to the challenge of decarbonising Heavy Duty Vehicles? Later this week, Mark will publish his new blog where he takes a look at recent developments in the EU and at COP24 and asks whether we have gone two steps forward, and one step back when it comes to decarbonising transport.

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.
  • 15 January 2019– House of Commons vote on WIthdrawal Agreement
  • 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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