Mark’s Brexit Week for Transport

This week saw the first real breakthrough in the Brexit negotiations. Having read the agreed text, I believe that we should certainly not overstate how much progress was achieved. We should rather take this as a surface-level agreement on ‘agreed truths’ devoid of any significant detail or commitment, which should just about see the negotiations scrape through to Phase 2. Under the stated caveat of “Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”, claims of a major breakthrough are exaggerated as this agreement is a political one that pushes divorce issues such as the Irish border down the road. The fact the two sides have been able to agree on a joint text is proof of progress in itself.

The reaction of the European Parliament is particularly interesting given that they will have to give their consent to the final deal. MEPs will be voting this Wednesday of the Brexit steering group’s assessment of the negotiations, look for as an indicator on their feelings regarding the agreement. The Draft Motion for a Resolution was obtained by UKTiE in which there is a call for the negotiations to progress to the second phase but also a list of outstanding issues that the European Parliament wants to see addressed before the Withdrawal Agreement can be finalised.

What does this all mean for transport? All indicators suggest that the European Council is set to approve “sufficient progress” and their guidelines for Phase 2 of the negotiations. This means that we can finally get down to businesses and push for the best deal for transport. While things will begin to wind down for the holidays following the conclusion of the European Council summit, I will be continuing further external engagement with partners, including attending a TABC event to provide and explain the views on Phase 2 on behalf of UK transport.

If you would like our analysis on the Joint Report that was agreed on Friday, please let us know.

1. Agreeing to what we agree on in a non-binding statement of intent
The aftermath of Friday’s agreed Joint Report continued throughout the weekend as Brussels and Dublin doubt the UK’s commitment to a deal, particularly regarding its compromise on the Irish border issue. This came after David Davis, speaking on the Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, called the Joint Report a “Statement of Intent” rather than something legally enforceable. This followed reports that Downing Street advisers had told cabinet ministers who campaigned to leave the EU that promises around full regulatory alignment were “meaningless”. The response to this from the Irish government was a simple on: “Both Ireland and the EU will be holding the UK to the phase one agreement”.

2. Phase 1 was hard, Phase 2 will be brutal as the EU’s draft negotiating guidelines for Phase 2 are leaked
As the EU’s EU Draft Negotiating Guidelines for Phase 2 of the Brexit negotiations are leaked, Politico reports that there is serious concern heading into the next phase over the mismatched expectations between the two sides. The draft guidelines are purposefully narrowed to focus almost exclusively on the transition period, as further guidelines will be needed in order for both sides to discuss any future trade deal. This has led some to believe that the EU pursuing a third phase wherein the future relationship will be discussed after the agreements in the Joint Report are formally codified in a Withdrawal Agreement.

Politico also highlights that the leaked guidelines demonstrate the tough conditions that will be faced by the UK during the transition period, “Britain will lose all of its decision-making authority but will be obligated to continue paying into the EU budget and must follow all EU rules and regulations and even any new policies adopted without its input”. The article further highlights that the UK’s insistence on leaving both the Single Market and the Customs Union will lead the European Council to calibrate its approach “as regards trade and economic cooperation in the light of this position so as to ensure a balance of rights and obligations and to avoid upsetting existing relations with other third countries”. Are you concerned with what this means for the Brexit negotiations? Contact us if you would like to know what insights UKTiE has been hearing about the  political realities surrounding the negotiations.

3. Brexit Steering Group report on the state of Brexit negotiations to be voted on in the European Parliament on Wednesday
UKTiE has seen a copy of the Draft Motion for a Resolution to “wind up the debate on the state of play of negotiations with the United Kingdom” which will be voted on in the European Parliament on Wednesday. The resolution discusses what has been accepted by the UK and the EU in the Joint Report on Friday and recommends that negotiations be allowed to move onto the second phase at the European Council summit later this week. However, there are some outstanding issues that the European Parliament wants to see addressed before a Withdrawal Agreement can be finalised. One major issue is the demand for providing for the binding character of ECJ decisions in relation to the interpretation of citizens’ rights provisions. The Resolution also states that while the European Parliament will accept a framework for the future relationship, to be annexed in the form of a political declaration to the Withdrawal Agreement, that the new relationship can only formally be negotiated once the UK has left the EU. If you would like to see a copy of the Draft Motion for a Resolution then please contact us.

4. International pressure on Brussels to prevent ‘special’ deal for the UK
The Guardian reports that the UK’s hope of a unique post-Brexit agreement is under threat as Brussels has come under international pressure to deny the UK any special treatment. The article describes one EU source as saying “We have been approached by a number of [non-member] countries expressing concerns and making it clear that it would constitute a major problem for them if suddenly the UK were to get better terms than they get”. This warning comes in the midst of increased calls for a longer transition period. Businesses and politicians alike calling for a longer transition for more legal clarity and for more time to negotiate a unique trade agreement. If you would like more information on what third-country status means for the UK regarding trade with the EU then contact us.

5. UKTiE Supported by IDA Group
UKTiE’s work is supported by IDA Group. IDA Group is a highly specialized consultancy for governmental affairs, reputation management, trade and funding. They share the belief in effective dialogue built upon trust and mutual understanding. Their diverse team of experts includes seasoned diplomats, politicians, journalists, lawyers and designers, supported by a global network of trusted partners, can help create measurable impact for your business. You will find more information on IDA Group and what services they can provide you with here.

6. The view from Paris: Advantage Brussels
In an editorial piece, Le Monde describes how the December 8th agreement is largely in the EU’s favour and that the EU has led London precisely to where it wanted. The EU has imposed its priorities, its timetable, its own estimate of the Brexit bill. The article assumes the EU will also be imposing its idea of a transition and, most likely, the contours of the future relationship. The editorial puts the praise firmly at the feet of Michel Barnier who has until now led a flawless negotiation, mastering the needed diplomacy to keep the EU27 united in the face of tension and chaos that has prevailed in London. Having underestimated the EU and overestimated its own position, the UK has become a victim to its perception of the EU as simply a market and not a political union which left them unprepared for the unity of the EU27. If you would like more information on the French perspective and views on Brexit then please contact us.

7. Next week is the last official News and Views for 2017
The last official News and News of 2017 will be next week on Monday December 18th. However, we will also be sending out a light-hearted 2017 recap of Brexit which you can expect to receive on Friday December 22nd.

8. 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.
  • 6-12 December 2017 – European Council conclusions/guidelines to be finalised.
  • 14-15 December 2017 – European Council meeting to review progress of negotiations.
  • TBC 2018 – UKTiE  & Norton Rose Fulbright Summit: Customs arrangements after Brexit.
  • 30 September 2018 – Date by which EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, wants 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.
  • June 2019 – European Parliament election.
Mark Watts
UK transport in Europe (UKTiE)

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