Brexit and a new UK Government – implications for transport safety
A month of change
It now almost goes without saying that the political and indeed other events following the UK referendum of 23rd June have been more momentous, unpredictable and fast-moving than anyone could have imagined. Brexit, a new Prime Minister, a comprehensive cabinet reshuffle, mass resignation from the Shadow Cabinet and a Labour Party leadership contest underway.
Less than four weeks after the referendum, the new Government is in place and Westminster feels a little more stable. But much uncertainty remains and this will continue as new ministers make their mark and the Brexit process plays out.
Following the Prime Minister’s announcement on 17th July, the ministerial team at DfT appears to be complete:
- Rt Hon Chris Grayling, Secretary of State (replacing Patrick McLoughlin)
- John Hayes, Minister of State, (replacing Robert Goodwill)
- Paul Maynard, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (replacing Claire Perry who resigned)
- Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon – reappointed
- Andrew Jones – reappointed.
John Hayes was transport minister 2014-2015. Paul Maynard was a member of the Transport Select Committee 2010-2012. Portfolios have been allocated to individual DfT ministers and should be posted on the DfT website soon. If they stay as before, Andrew Jones will continue to be responsible for road safety, Paul Maynard will take over rail safety, and John Hayes will have aviation policy, and walking and cycling. Lord Ahmad will have the transport agencies and aviation security. On Chris Grayling’s appointment, PACTS issued a short statement urging him to reaffirm the Government’s commitment to casualty reduction and to ensure adequate resources and leadership to deliver the actions in his Department’s British Road Safety Statement. The Official Opposition transport shadow ministers also changed in July. Andy MacDonald is now shadow Secretary of State for Transport, supported by Daniel Zeichner who takes on a wider transport brief. Lilian Greenwood and Richard Burden resigned.
Brexit implications for transport safety
Many people are wondering what the UK’s withdrawal from the EU will mean for transport safety. PACTS has asked the DfT to make a statement but, understandably, officials are unable to do so during this period of ministerial change and as the Government starts to consider its negotiating position. PACTS has therefore made inquiries and, on an individual basis, officials have been very helpful. Staff have been expressly told that the UK remains a member of the EU and they should continue to work on that basis. A small number of staff have been moved to support Brexit negotiations – mainly on trade and Single Market issues – but little appears to have changed at this point.
In the medium term, the position of the DfT seems to be that:
- the UK will continue to provide road safety data to the Commission, OECD, ETSC etc and remain part of the European Statistics System and CARE database – unless excluded by the EU;
- work will continue on implementation of the cross-border enforcement directive – as far as that is possible under UK law;
- implementation of e-call is underway and will be complete within the next two years;
- the UK government’s input to EuroNCAP is not affected (this is not an EU institution) ;
- it is unlikely that the UK would adopt vehicle standards that did not comply with EU regulations;
- UK government involvement in EU discussions of vehicle standards (safety regulations, type approval etc.) would depend on the terms negotiated for Brexit. If, as seems likely, the UK’s opportunity to input its perspective is reduced at EU level, the UK will probably seek to play a more active part at UNECE level in Geneva.
Overall, I think it is important to say that we do not anticipate any change in the priority accorded to road safety in the UK (up or down) and, in that sense, the UK’s contribution towards the EU 2020 target to reduce road deaths is unchanged. While the UK may have accepted the target for the EU, it has carried little weight with the UK Government which has refused to set a casualty reduction target for England or for the UK overall. Many aspects of road safety in the UK are devolved to authorities in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and London. As these parts of the UK (excluding Wales) voted in favour of remain, they may favour retaining EU standards and regulations. There are many other implications, uncertainties, risks and opportunities for road, rail and aviation. PACTS will work with other UK organisations to try ensure that transport safety in the UK is enhanced. We will also work with our partner ETSC to encourage the UK to continue to play, and be allowed to play, a positive role in transport safety across Europe.
Prior to the Referendum PACTS published a briefing on UK Road Safety and the role of the European Union which can be downloaded here. ETSC have issued a statement on transport safety implications of the UK referendum on EU membership which is available here.
For additional background information, the 2014 Review of the Balance of Competencies between the United Kingdom and the European Union-Transport, may be of help available here.
PACTS Conference: UK road safety and Brexit; 1st November 2016, Church House, Westminster
Our recent Safer Vehicles 2016 conference was a great success. Our next conference UK road safety and Brexit will address the major items in the Government Road Safety Statement and discuss the emerging implications of Brexit. It will be an opportunity to learn and share knowledge. It is being supported by Insure the Box Ltd, Highways England and RoadSafe. Bookings will open shortly. Please save the date now.