During NSC’s Executive meeting in Brussels, 7 – 8 November, the external speakers, Larissa Brunner, Policy Analyst from the European Centre, Manuel Carmona Yebra, Policy Office at the EC DG Climate Action and Ivan Lukač, Team Leader at EC DG Move, discussed topics related to the North Sea Cooperation, Brexit and Europe in the 2020’s. The panel was moderated by Nicolas Brookes from CPMR.

Larissa Brunner, Policy Analyst at the European Policy Centre, presented two different scenarios of Brexit and its potential impacts and outcomes after the national election in the United Kingdom taking place 12 December 2019.   

The first, and most likely scenario according to Ms Brunner, is that the Conservative Party, led by Boris Johnsson, wins the election. It would mean that the electorates endorses Johnson’s position for the UK to leave the EU by the end of January next year based on the current withdrawal agreement. It will therefore be easier to get that position through in the UK parliament, which until now has blocked all positions on Brexit. However, the transition period that is supposed to start with the withdrawal agreement, will most likely be equally difficult. If it continues after 2020, the UK would have to (technically) be included in the next long-term budget of the EU (2021-2027) and hence also in EU programmes. Therefore, the EU needs to know the UK’s final decision before finalising their negotiations on the budget and a last-minute request by the UK will create problems for the EU.

The second scenario is if the Labour Party, under the lead of Jeremy Corbyn, wins the UK election. This outcome could give Brexit a completely different direction. In comparison to the conservative’s party, Labour’s vision is to renegotiate the withdrawal agreement with EU. A commitment to a customs union with the EU, which is what the labour party would probably propose, could solve the immediate challenges and give enough time for a second referendum on Brexit to be held. It’s however not clear if Labour would campaign for a deal or remain in the EU.

Furthermore, Ms Brunner explained that any trade deal between the UK and the EU will probably be the worst trade deal in history, compared with the current situation. The future cooperation may be similar to a Canada-style deal (Canada +++). Even that could however cause problems for the UK’s economy in terms of impact on services and trade.

Ivan Lukač, Team Leader at European Commission’s Directorate for Mobility and Transport, discussed Brexit’s potential impact on the EU transport policy, with two different scenarios: an orderly or no-deal/hard Brexit. If the UK processed with a hard Brexit it will set future relations with the EU.

An orderly Brexit, with the adoption of withdrawal agreement, will start the “transition period” with no major changes. All treaty frameworks and the UK’s participation in the European single market will continue until a trade agreement is in place.

A Brexit without a deal (hard Brexit) will impacts on transport differently depending on the transport mode. Road and aviation transport will be most affected while rail, due to the geographic location, and maritime, as internationally regulated, will be limited. The EU has already adopted contingency measures allowing a continuation of a basic level of transport by air and of goods and passenger by roads.

As Brexit will affect regions differently, the Commission visited all EU Member States to get input from regional and local-level to the contingency measures.

Manuel Carmona Yebra, Policy Office at the European Commission’s Directorate for Climate Action, gave a broad overview of the Commission’s future climate work. The EU climate and energy package is already adopted, with the target to reduce CO2 emission with 40% by 2030. To follow up on this, the Commission will prepare a long-term strategy for decarbonization, including mitigation and adaption which are relevant to both regions and the NSC.

Regions will be adversely affected by climate change, where the UK, France, the Netherlands and Belgium are particularly at risk. This is recognised by the Commissions, where the role and engagement of regions and cities are considered as crucial for adaptation. Notably in terms of innovation, enthusiasm, creativity and inclusion. That is also why the Commission is working a new Just Transition Fund, that is supposed to give support to the most affect regions such as Coal Regions to ensure the transition.

The EU Adaptation Strategy can be found here.