This short paper summarises the key transport issues on which the UK and the EU will seek to reach agreement over the course of 2020, as set out in their February 2020 negotiating positions and the draft texts published by the EU in March and the UK Government in May 2020.

Download the full report

The UK left the EU on 31 January 2020 at 11 pm UK time. The transition (or implementation) period in the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) was conceived as a bridging period while the UK and the EU negotiate a new relationship. It will last until 31 December 2020 unless both sides agree to an extension to complete negotiations. 

Alongside the WA in October 2019, the UK and the EU agreed a Political Declaration (PD) setting out the framework for the future relationship between the two. The Government’s vision for the UK’s future relationship with the EU was further set out in the Conservative Party’s manifesto for the December 2019 General Election, and, subsequently, in the Prime Minister’s speech in Greenwich on 3 February 2020 and his Written Ministerial Statement on the same day.

Also on 3 February the European Commission set out its recommendation for a European Council decision authorising the opening of negotiations for a new partnership with the UK.

The European Council published its negotiating directives to the Commission on 25 February and the UK published its approach to negotiations on 27 February.

The transport-related provisions of the negotiation documents are discussed in this paper on a sector-by-sector basis. Where particularly relevant they include horizontal or ‘level playing field’ issues that will form part of the negotiations and significantly affect transport (such as subsidies and social provisions like drivers’ hours).

The two main issues are aviation and international road transport, particularly haulage. The other two transport sectors – maritime and rail – receive barely a mention. This is largely due to the UK Government’s previously stated position to pull out of all EU institutions in these areas and make bilateral agreements with individual EU Member States where appropriate. It will also continue to apply international law, which particularly in maritime guides a great deal of key decision-making.

In March 2020 the European Commission published a draft text for the proposed new partnership with the UK – this reflects the EU’s negotiating position. In May 2020 the UK Government published a series of draft Agreements and Annexes that together reflect the UK’s negotiating position.

At date of publication there had been three rounds of negotiations – in March, April and May. Aviation and road transport were discussed during the second round, on 21-23 April and during the third round on 12-13 May.

More policy background on how EU law affects UK transport policy and the potential implications of the UK’s exit can be found in Commons Library briefing paper Brexit and Transport, CBP 7633, November 2018.

Download the full report