Brexit, illustrative. Photo: Pixabay

European Commission adopts ‘no-deal’ Brexit contingency plan for rail

The European Commission has adopted a proposal to help mitigate the significant impact a no-deal Brexit scenario on rail transport and connectivity between the EU and the UK on Tuesday 11 February. The proposal ensures the validity of safety authorisations for certain parts of rail infrastructure for a strictly limited period of three months.

The commission said to anticipate on the increasing risk that the United Kingdom may leave the European Union on 30 March this year without a deal. The meaures should allow long-term solutions in line with EU law to be put in place. This is, in particular, related to the Channel Tunnel and will be conditional on the United Kingdom maintaining safety standards identical to EU requirements.

Avoid disruptions

The measures should avoid major disruptions of cross-border rail operations and shuttle services after the UK’s withdrawal. In addition to the proposal, the European Commission emphasised that it is essential that the concerned undertakings and national authorities continue to take all necessary measures to comply with EU rules on train driver licences, market access, as well as safety certificates and authorisations required to operate in the EU.

“The proposal follows the calls by the European Council (Article 50) in November and December 2018 to intensify preparedness work at all levels, and the adoption on 19 December 2018 of the Commission’s Contingency Action Plan. To date, 19 legislative measures have been proposed and 88 preparedness notices have been published”, the commission said.

Damage unavoidable

“It is important to note that contingency measures will not – and cannot – mitigate the overall impact of a “no-deal” scenario, nor do they in any way compensate for the lack of preparedness or replicate the full benefits of EU membership or the favourable terms of any transition period, as provided for in the Withdrawal Agreement.

Today’s proposal is temporary in nature, limited in scope and will be adopted unilaterally by the EU. It takes into account discussions with Member States. The Commission will continue to support Member States in their preparedness work and has further intensified its efforts, for example by organising visits to all EU27 capitals.”

Next steps

The European Commission will work closely with the European Parliament and the Council to ensure the adoption of the proposed legislative measure so that it is in force by 30 March 2019.

However, it also noted that it continues to hope for the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement that is currently on the table. “Stakeholders, as well as national and EU authorities, therefore need to prepare for two possible main scenarios:

  • If the Withdrawal Agreement is ratified before 30 March 2019, EU law will cease to apply to and in the UK on 1 January 2021, i.e. after a transition period of 21 months. The Withdrawal Agreement includes the possibility for a single extension of the transition period for up to one or two years.
  • If the Withdrawal Agreement is not ratified before 30 March 2019, there will be no transition period and EU law will cease to apply to and in the UK as of 30 March 2019. This is referred to as the “no deal” or “cliff-edge” scenario.

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Author: Majorie van Leijen

Majorie van Leijen is editor of RailFreight.com, online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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