Monday 3 December 2018
Exiting the European Union
Exiting the European Union: Publications
Today I am laying before Parliament the following document:
“EU Exit: Legal position on the Withdrawal Agreement”.
This document sets out the Government’s legal position on the proposed withdrawal agreement and provides a legal commentary, covering each part of the withdrawal agreement and the three protocols.
I will make an oral statement to the House later today.
Prime Minister's Trade Envoy to Argentina
The Prime Minister has appointed the hon. Member for Fylde (Mark Menzies) as the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Argentina. This extends Mark’s current portfolio as Trade Envoy to Chile, Colombia and Peru. This appointment increases the number of markets covered by the programme to 64, as we look to deepen our relationships across the globe. The Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy programme is an unpaid and voluntary cross-party network of people, who support the UK’s ambitious trade and investment agenda in global markets.
UK WTO Membership
I have previously informed the House that in order to fulfil our obligations at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) as we leave the European Union we will prepare UK-specific schedules of concessions and commitments. On 19 July I informed the House of the start of the process for certification of the UK schedule for goods. I have today sent to the secretariat of the WTO the UK schedule for services and I will place a copy in the Library of the House.
This schedule replicates, as far as possible, our current obligations at the WTO. We see this as a technical exercise for which the WTO’s procedures for rectifications or improvements to schedules provide the appropriate legal mechanism. These procedures include a period for WTO members to raise objections to the proposed schedule, and it is usual for some of them to do so. If objections are raised, we will continue to work with WTO members to resolve any concerns and see the objections withdrawn. The UK can continue to trade on current terms on an uncertified schedule, with no impact on trade flows, as is the case for other countries trading on uncertified schedules.
Presenting our own UK schedules at the WTO is a necessary part of our leaving the EU. It does not in any way prejudge the outcome of the eventual UK-EU trading arrangements.
EU Transport Council
I will attend the last Transport Council under the Austrian presidency (the presidency) taking place in Brussels on Monday 3 December.
The Council will consider proposals from the first tranche of the ‘Mobility Package’. Under the ‘social pillar’ of the package the presidency will seek a general approach on proposals to establish a specific regulatory regime for the posting of workers in the road transport sector; to introduce new regulatory provisions in relation to ensuring that drivers have the option regularly to return home; and to enable drivers to take their regular weekly rest in their vehicles provided that certain welfare-related conditions are met. Under the ‘market pillar’ of the package the presidency will seek a general approach on proposals to introduce new regulatory requirements for the operation of light commercial vehicles (vans); and to modify the ‘cabotage’ rules for vehicles operating in countries other than their country of establishment. The Government consider the package to be a necessary response to current issues with the functioning of the EU road transport market, in particular, unco-ordinated national enforcement action in relation to posting of workers rules, and exploitation of some aspects of the regime by some non-compliant operators. The Government are broadly content with the specific proposals, particularly with the compromise gained on limiting the extension of regulatory obligations to operators of larger vans which are also undertaking international haulage work.
Next, the Council is expected to reach a general approach on a proposal from the second tranche of the ‘Mobility Package’ to revise the current directive on combined transport. The proposal contains provisions that could improve promotion of modal shift across the EU and reduce congestion. The Government consider that the proposal includes some positive changes to modernise the processes and, as currently drafted, will provide an acceptable balance between EU-wide action and national discretion.
Following this, the Council will consider a general approach on a proposal from the third tranche of the ‘Mobility Package’ to amend the current directive on road infrastructure safety management (RISM). The current directive was adopted to ensure that road safety considerations are at the forefront of all phases of the planning, design and operation of road infrastructure and currently applies to roads on the trans-European transport network (TEN-T). The Government consider that the proposed increase in scope to include motorways and ‘primary roads’ is a proportionate expansion of the directive and is content with the proposal that member states define the ‘primary roads’ covered by it. The Government believe the proposal strikes a balance that will allow member states to retain judgment over where the directive is applied in their own countries, while upholding the shared principles of robust safety inspection and excellence in road design.
There will be a progress report on the proposal to amend the directive on discontinuing seasonal changes of time, which the Government oppose. We have no plans to change daylight saving time within the UK, and feel that the Commission has not provided enough evidence to demonstrate a strong case for changing the existing arrangements.
Afterwards, there will be a progress report on the proposal to revise the regulation on rail passengers’ rights and obligations, aimed at strengthening the rights of rail passengers, including by improving access for people with disabilities or reduced mobility.
Following this, the Council is expected to reach a general approach on the proposal to amend the directive on the minimum training of seafarers. These changes will ensure that the legislation is up to date, and will provide the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) with additional time to decide whether to recognise an outside state’s certification. The Government consider the general approach to be satisfactory on the basis that the amendments are justified and appropriate to ensure that maritime directives are in line with international norms, and so that EMSA can make appropriately informed decisions.
The Council is also expected to reach a general approach on another proposal from the third tranche of the ‘Mobility Package’, to revise the current directive establishing a European maritime single window environment. This is intended to further harmonise the electronic submission of ship pre-arrival reporting formalities. The Government support digitisation here as it can provide benefits for business. The UK has engaged constructively in negotiations and has been able to share its existing expertise in many areas. The Government welcome the proposed general approach, which is satisfactory.
The Council is expected to reach a partial general approach on a proposed regulation on the Connecting Europe Facility. The proposal will move into the next multiannual financial framework with broadly the same funding allocation for transport as the current MFF. The Government support the value that a well-managed funding programme like the Connecting Europe Facility can bring to transport infrastructure. However, the regulation will take effect after the UK has left the EU, and the Government are still considering their position on future involvement in the programme.
There will be a progress report on a proposal from the third tranche of the ‘Mobility Package’ on the proposed regulation on streamlining measures for the realisation of the trans-European transport network (TEN-T). The proposal sets out requirements for the administrative procedures to be followed by the competent authorities in member states in providing approval for projects of common interest on the TEN-T Core Network.
There will be a progress report on a proposal from the second tranche of the ‘Mobility Package’ to amend the directive on the promotion of clean and energy-efficient road transport vehicles. The directive looks to drive the uptake of clean vehicles, including cars, and light and heavy duty vehicles (including vans, trucks and buses).
There will also be a progress report on a proposal from the third tranche of the ‘Mobility Package’ for a regulation on electronic freight transport information. This regulation is designed to correct a perceived lack of standardisation of acceptance by member states of electronic freight documents.
The Council will be asked to agree conclusions, which the UK supports, on the potential of inland waterway transport as an environment-friendly transport mode, offering existing capacity to alleviate congestion on roads.
Finally, under any other business, the presidency will provide information on other current legislative proposals. Additionally, it will report back on the informal meeting of Transport and Environment Ministers that took place in Graz on the 29-30 October 2018, followed by an update on ASEAN negotiations. The Luxembourg delegation will present information on the social agenda in aviation. The Commission will supply information on sustainable transport infrastructure charging and internalisation of transport externalities, and finally, the Romanian delegation will provide information on the work programme of their forthcoming presidency of the Council of the European Union.
Work and Pensions
Pensions Dashboards Feasibility Report and Consultation
Pensions dashboards will give consumers information about their pensions savings from multiple sources through an online service. Consumers will be empowered by the presentation of information, helping them to engage with their pensions savings. The service support informed decisions and prepare the consumer for the transition between working age and retirement.
Conscious of the complexity of this project, my Department has undertaken an extensive study of the elements required of pensions dashboards. The Government believe that dashboards will deliver for savers, and today we have published the feasibility report so starting the process of consultation.
It is my firm belief that industry is best placed to finance and deliver this project and to create a technical dashboard infrastructure. This will advance a range of dashboard options.
The Government have listened to views that suggest compulsion is needed to maximise pension scheme participation in a reasonable timeframe. We propose to act to deliver this legislation, when parliamentary time allows, and following the creation of a robust delivery model with the appropriate governance. It is not our proposal to compel all schemes to provide data—we have outlined limited exemptions. We will work with the regulators and industry to help ensure responsibilities to protect consumers are upheld, while ensuring the safeguarding of consumer data.
We have met with the Chair and the Chief Executive of the Single Financial Guidance Body. We believe that this body is ideally suited to oversee the industry delivery group. It will bring together industry representatives, FinTech and consumer organisations to ensure successful implementation. We propose that a non-commercial dashboard, hosted by the Single Financial Guidance Body, will offer an impartial service to those for whom there is not a commercial offering.
It is a continued priority of this Government, with the support of the pensions, financial services and consumer community, to restructure the UK’s pension savings culture against the backdrop of a new generation of savers. Dashboards will build upon the successful introduction of automatic enrolment, which has led to almost 10 million people either newly saving or saving more towards their retirement.
We are confident that the “Working together for the consumer” document, published today, demonstrates the Government’s and the Department’s strong and sincere belief that pensions dashboards have great potential to transform the pensions landscape for the consumer’s benefit. We look forward to receiving feedback and proposals as to how Government can best facilitate an industry-led delivery of this online service.
For ease of reference, I shall deposit a copy of the feasibility report and a related fact sheet in both Libraries of the Houses of Parliament.