Speaking at a European Parliament Committee on Transport and Tourism hearing on the impact of Brexit on land transport, which was held in Brussels on November 22, CER executive director Mr Libor Lochman said it is difficult to assess at this stage what impact Brexit might have on the rail industry, although a breakdown in the talks followed by a swift and chaotic departure from the EU could have negative consequences.

“If Brexit will mean an abrupt withdrawal from the EU, with neither a post-Brexit agreement nor any other transitional arrangement in place, then I have no doubt the impact on the rail sector will be challenging,” Lochman says.
Lochman outlined five priorities to mitigate the risk on rail:

• access must be guaranteed for British operators to the EU market and for EU operators to the British market on the basis of symmetrical conditions
• continuation of free movement of people between Britain and the EU
• continued harmonisation of technical rules and mutual recognition processes in the Single European Rail Area, as enshrined in the technical pillar of the Fourth Railway Package, while at the same time taking into account the need for some flexibility in the application of its rules for non-EU members
• a Common Travel Area for passengers and seamless border procedures for rail freight travelling between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and
• appropriate technical, legal and financial arrangements in the field of EU research and innovation, allowing British operators, manufacturers and research institutions to contribute to EU research and innovation programmes.

According to CER’s statement on Brexit, any restriction on the free movement of people could result in serious challenges for rail. An estimated 20% of the British rail industry’s workforce comes from other EU member states and the figure is as high as 40% for some businesses.

The statement also highlights the risk to efforts to simplify regulation through the technical pillar of the Fourth Railway Package, which will be enforced through the EU Agency for Railways. CER contends that the agency would need to find an appropriate counterpart organisation in Britain, which would be able to guarantee the regulatory simplification enforced elsewhere in Europe by the agency also takes place in Britain. “The Agency will have to form a new relationship with the UK to support the implementation of TSIs and/or corresponding safety provisions where applicable,” CER says.

A no-deal scenario could be particularly damaging in this respect because Britain currently applies most EU technical standards for rolling stock and other railway equipment. CER argues that if mutual recognition of standards comes to an end, there could be significant regulatory implications for EU-based companies in the British rail market and vice-versa.

CER says it supports transitional arrangements which would enable current market provisions to continue, allowing more time for a long-term transport sector agreement between Britain and the EU.