The United Kingdom’s Exit From And New Partnership With The European Union: UK Transport in Europe analysis of the Brexit White Paper

Still lack of clarity for transport, but a huge opportunity for the sector to shape the New Partnership. The Government has today published the White Paper on The United Kingdom’s Exit From And New Partnership With The European Union: (AKA Brexit), setting out the Government’s 12 priorities and the broad strategy that unites them in forging a new strategic partnership between the United Kingdom and the EU.

Unlike the recent Lancaster House speech by the Prime Minister Theresa May, which did not mention transport at all, there is a focus on transport and transport related issues. Despite this, there is not much in the way of clarity. Indeed many issues are to be resolved during the negotiations. This may be frustrating in terms of business planning and risk management, but in fact represents a tremendous opportunity for transport to shape the future relationship with the EU during the course of the negotiations.

As outlined in the Lancaster House Speech, Britain will not be seeking membership of the Single Market, but in other areas there appears to be a softening of tone with a greater emphasis on the continued cooperation of the UK and the EU, to ensure new barriers do not arise. If anything a suggestion here for transport not of a hard Brexit but a soft landing, with the maintenance wherever possible of existing arrangements, including free, frictionless market access, arrangements with the agencies, mutual recognition, reciprocity and participation in programmes. However, let’s not underestimate the challenges that lie ahead in realising such an ambitious new strategic partnership, given the commitment in the White Paper to end the supremacy of the European Court of Justice, control the free movement of labour and to cease the payments into the EU budget on anything other than a nominal scale.

This White Paper will be seen in Brussels, and across many national capitals, as the UK Government picking and choosing from a menu of ties with Europe—in particular, to retaining access to the single market whilst gaining more control over migration. I suspect Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany, will remain unwavering. As she said a few weeks ago Europe’s “four freedoms” are inseparable and inviolable. “Countries hoping to share in the free movement of goods, services and capital must accept the free movement of labour as well.”

Below we provide an overview of the 8 areas where key decisions have yet to be taken, and the transport sector can help shape the New Partnership during the course of the Brexit negotiations:

1. Single Market Access
Although Britain will be leaving the Single Market completely and will pursue a new strategic partnership with the EU that will incorporate a new customs and a free trade agreement, it may ‘take in elements of current Single Market arrangements in certain areas as it makes no sense to start again from scratch when the UK and the remaining Member States have adhered to the same rules for so many years. Such an arrangement would be on a fully reciprocal basis and in our mutual interests.’
No decision has been taken on which elements of current Single Market arrangements will be incorporated into the new partnership. Transport has an opportunity to influence which elements are included, during the course of the Brexit negotiations.

2. Transport Specific Arrangements
Strangely, no specific mention of rail or maritime (including ports) are to be found in the White Paper. Air and road however are present, even though the underlying arguments of these areas apply to all modes. On aviation, the Government believes there will be a clear interest for all parties involved to seek arrangements that continue to support affordable and accessible air transport for all European citizens, as well as maintaining and developing connectivity. They will also seek to agree bilateral air services agreements with countries like the US. On road, the priority is that of ensuring HGV operators maintain their ability to carry goods to, from, through and within other EU countries.
The transport sector has an opportunity to ensure the Government secures these reciprocal arrangements for all modes in terms of market access, as well as bilateral air service agreements with 3rd countries where we currently rely on the EU.

3. Customs Union
The UK wishes to leave the EU’s Customs Union but will seek a new customs arrangement with the EU, so that trade between the UK and the EU will continue to be as frictionless as possible. The White Paper states that the Government believes there are a number of options for new customs arrangements (including a completely new agreement) or for the UK to remain signatory to some of the elements of the existing arrangements. The precise form of this new agreement will be the subject to negotiation. The Government has ‘an open mind on how we implement new customs arrangements with the EU and we will work with businesses and infrastructure providers to ensure those processes are as frictionless as possible, including through the use of digital technologies.’
No decision has been made on the future customs arrangements. The transport sector has an opportunity to shape the new relationship during the course of the Brexit negotiations.

4. Access to Labour
The White Paper shows that the Government wishes to implement new immigration arrangements for EU nationals and the support they receive. This would include a phased process of implementation to prepare for the new arrangements, giving businesses and individuals enough time to plan and prepare. In addition, securing the status of and providing certainty to EU nationals already in the UK and to UK nationals in the EU is one of the Government’s early priorities for the forthcoming negotiations.
No decision on the type of new immigration controls or on the status of EU workers already in the UK. The transport sector has an opportunity to shape the new controls and influence the decision on the status of existing EU workers living in the UK during the course of the Brexit negotiations.

5. UK/Ireland
The White Paper puts a strong emphasis on strengthening the existing UK union and stresses the commitment to the UK-Ireland Common Travel Area and to the Belfast Agreement. To this end, developing a practical solution to maintain the ability to move freely between the UK and Ireland will be important in negotiations, as long as it does not jeopardise the UK’s immigration system. In addition, maintaining free and frictionless trade, in particular across the land border is also a priority. The Government is committed to finding ‘a practical solution’ that keeps the border as seamless and frictionless as possible.
No decision has been made on the appropriate solution regarding the Northern Ireland border issue. The transport sector has an opportunity to help find practical solutions during the course of the Brexit negotiations.

6. European Union Agencies
The White Paper refers to the European Union Agencies, and in the field of transport the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) gets an explicit mention. The White Paper says the Government is ‘committed as part of exit negotiations to discussing with the EU and Member States the UKs future status and arrangements with regard to these agencies.’
No decision has been made on the UK’s future status and arrangements with regard to EASA, EMSA and ERA. This represents an opportunity for transport to shape the new relationship during the course of the Brexit negotiations.

7. EU Programmes
The White Paper says there may be European programmes in which the UK might want to participate, accepting that this would entail an appropriate contribution. This however remains a decision of the UK as new arrangements are negotiated.
No decision on programmes. The transport sector has an opportunity to help select which programmes the UK continues to participate in after Brexit.

8. Transitional Arrangements
The Government believes a phased process of implementation, in which the UK, the EU institutions and Member States prepare for the new arrangements will be in everyone’s mutual interest. This will give businesses enough time to plan and prepare and may refer to immigration controls, customs systems, or the future legal and regulatory framework for business. For each issue, the time we need to phase in the new arrangements may differ: some might be introduced very quickly, some might take longer. The certainty is that any and all interim arrangements are likely to be a matter of negotiation.
No decision on transitional arrangements. The transport sector has an opportunity to help shape them during the course of the Brexit negotiations.

It is clear that in these key areas we have a tremendous opportunity to shape Brexit and the negotiations, and UKTiE looks forward to working with all stakeholders to provide the best platform to ensure transport is given the priority it deserves. We will ensure that our objectives are heard and heeded by those drawing up the future relationship and the phased process of implementation, so as to deliver the best possible Brexit for UK transport.

Mark Watts
UK transport in Europe (UKTiE)


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