Mark’s Brexit Week for Transport

Ahead of the all-important March European Council meeting at the end of March, this week has seen Brexit move into a higher gear on both sides of the Channel. Starting on the UK side, a week that has culminated with a Brexit Cabinet agreement following an eight-hour meeting at the Prime Minister’s country retreat at Chequers. The so-called ‘Three Baskets Approach’, apparently agreed at this meeting, was something explicitly rejected by the EU in a slide published a few hours ahead of the Cabinet meeting. While the UK government struggles to keep up the pace of the Brexit process, and the Cabinet struggles to agree on the direction and methodology of Brexit, the EU has carried on with its preparatory work for the framework for the future relationship in the context of Council Working Party on Article 50.

In particular, the European Commission has published detailed slides that it has presented to the Council Working Party on transport this week (more on that later). What is clear is that thanks to the EU’s transparency it is setting the parameters for discussion with the UK and the pace for the future UK-EU relationship. 

We will be meeting the Director-General of DG Move Henrik Hololei  in the European Parliament next Tuesday, to discuss current and future EU transport regulations.   It’s my firm view that whether we are in or out of the EU, or somewhere in between, existing and new EU transport regulations will continue to apply in the UK. It’s therefore absolutely essential we find a new way of influencing them when we have no representation in the Commission, Council or Parliament, in just over a year from now.  If you would like to attend our meeting with Mr. Hololei then please join us.

1. Netherlands to hire 750 extra customs officials to tackle Brexit
In a letter from the Dutch government to the Dutch parliament, it said that the Netherlands plans to hire at least 750 new full-time customs agents in preparation for Brexit. Pieter Omtzigt, the Dutch Parliament’s Brexit rapporteur, also stated that the UK would need thousands more such officials. Omtzigt said, “If we need hundreds of new customs and agricultural inspectors, the British are going to need thousands”. In its letter to the Dutch Parliament on Friday, the deputy finance minister Menno Snel said that the Cabinet had “decided that the Customs and Food and Wares agencies should immediately begin recruiting and training more workers”. Stories of Brexit preparations across the EU27 are increasing as fears grow over the likelihood of a deal. What is your business doing to prepare itself for Brexit? Contact us if you would like to know more about the exposure you may face from a ‘No-Deal Brexit’.

2. ICYMI- Commission publishes slides on transport in context of the future UK-EU relationship
Published on Wednesday, the European Commission presented slides to the Council Working Party (Article 50) regarding “Internal EU27 preparatory discussions on the framework for the future relationship: Transport”. In these slides, it is shown that the UK government red lines and the EU27 guiding principles mean that the EU-UK road, rail and maritime transport relationship will need to be based on a new legal framework. The slides indicate the UK leaving agencies such as the European Union Agency for Railways (ERA), the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) and demonstrates what the UK’s international ‘fallback’ agreements are for the road, rail and maritime sectors. Importantly, due to the UK beyond outside of the Single Market, international transport and transit rights will come through a bilateral quota system. Would you like a full report on the EU’s transport discussions in the framework of the future relationship? Contact us to find out more.

3. UK Counter Offer to EU Transition Directives
In a draft paper, the UK government has said that the timeframe for a transition period “should be determined simply by how long it will take to prepare and implement the new processes and new systems that will underpin the future partnership”. Contrary to criticisms that this meant an open-ended transition, Theresa May’s spokesman said the statement did not mean Britain wanted to extend what May calls an ‘implementation phase’, but rather that the government wanted to question the EU’s position that the end of the transition should coincide with the end of the bloc’s current seven-year budget period.

4. 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.

5. Theresa May Munich speech seems to blur ECJ red line
In a speech given at the Munich Security Conference, Theresa May seemed to indicate a blurring of the UK government’s ECJ red line in the Brexit negotiations by stating “The Treaty ..must be respectful of sovereignty of both UK and EU’s legal orders. So, for example, when participating in EU agencies the UK will respect the remit of the European Court of Justice”. Does this represent a softening of the government’s ECJ red line? If so, it could allow for increased flexibility regarding its options for Brexit. Importantly, it could allow for the UK to remain in key EU transport agencies such as EASA, ERA and EMSA.

6. EU rejects UK ‘three basket’ approach of managed divergence
The EU has said that it would not agree to a Brexit deal which Britain would stick to the bloc’s rules in some areas, diverge moderately in others and go for distinctively different solutions for the rest, the so-called ‘three basket approach’. This approach stems from Theresa May’s Florence speech in which she stated that “there will be areas which do affect our economic relations where we and our European friends may have different goals; or where we share the same goals but want to achieve them through different means”. But the EU has firmly stated that it would not tolerate an approach that it sees as ‘cherry-picking’ and has criticized yet another unclear Brexit suggestion from the UK government.

7. 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.
  • TBC 2018 – UKTiE  & Norton Rose Fulbright Summit: Customs arrangements after Brexit.
  • End of January 2018– General Affairs Council to kickstart transition agreement negotiations.
  • 27 February 2018– Roundtable with Henrik Hololei of DG MOVE in the European Parliament.
  • March 2018– Guidelines due to be released for the negotiations on the future trading relationship.
  • 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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