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Smart mobility within cities: benefits and challenges

Cities have an important role to play in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and in reaching the goals of the European Green Deal, since cities are responsible for about 72% of all greenhouse gas emissions, a considerable part of which comes from urban transport. In its Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy, the European Commission calls on cities to be at the forefront of the transition towards more sustainability, and it sets the goal of achieving 100 European climate-neutral cities by 2030, with a big role for innovative digital solutions. Dr2 Consultants will take you through the key trends and challenges in the transition to smart and sustainable mobility in European cities.

Why does smart mobility in cities matter?

The idea behind the concept of smart mobility is to limit the use, or replace altogether, privately owned gas-powered vehicles by providing easily accessible, cheap, and sustainable alternatives, as well as using technology and digitalization, specifically Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), to collect, process and spread information in order to manage mobility more efficiently. The main objectives of smart mobility are to reduce traffic congestion and air and noise pollution, increase safety, improve transfer speed, and reduce transfer costs between different modes of transportation. Smart solutions for mobility are also recognized as essential to further decarbonize the transport sector and reach the ambitious emission reduction goals the EU institutions have set.

In practice, cities have a variety of options to implement smart mobility with solutions fitting for their residents. The concept of smart mobility promotes a wide range of alternative modes of transportation, from privately owned or shared bicycles to electric scooters, buses, metros, taxis, car-sharing, and ridesharing. For example, the city of Paris has bet on the development of a widespread bike-sharing system, with 15,000 electric or regular bicycles available to users all throughout the city.

Dr2 Consultants recognizes that digitization and especially data management are a big part of smart mobility, allowing to smoothen traffic as well as offering integrated solutions to users. For example, some cities collect data to provide real-time information allowing travelers to adapt their route to avoid congested areas. Other examples include connected traffic lights adjusting their timing to respond to real-time traffic or connected cars able to identify and direct the driver to the nearest available parking spot.

Heightened ambition

The European Commission’s recently published Strategy for Sustainable and Smart Mobility proposes several measures to make the transition to carbon-neutral smart cities a reality. The Strategy recognizes the need for clearer guidance in mobility management and urban planning, to adapt the shifts in transportation habits as well as provide the most adequate sustainable mobility options. In it, the European Commission identifies several concepts which can be added to cities’ policy toolboxes to decarbonize urban mobility in a smart way.

The strategy encourages the development of Mobility as a Service (MaaS) as an alternative to the use of private cars. Dr2 Consultants has identified MaaS as a very important area in the field of digitization of mobility, as it integrates different forms of transport into a unique digital service, easily accessible on-demand. It provides, within a single application and through a single payment channel, access to various forms of transport such as public transport, ride- or bike-sharing, and car rental. The city of Helsinki has for example made available to its inhabitants the Whim app, which allows to plan a trip and pay for all modes of public and private transportation existing within the city, from train to bus, to carshare and bikeshare.

Additionally, the Commission notes the increased use of shared and collaborative mobility services as alternative to private cars or packed public transport, such as shared cars, shared bikes, or ride-hailing, through intermediary platforms like Uber or Lime. Shared mobility and micro mobility devices currently remain highly unregulated and raise important safety issues.  To ensure the safety of such services and the level playing field between intermediaries, the Commission will put forward measures on on-demand passenger transport and ride-hailing platforms. Moreover, the Commission will issue guidelines to support the safe use of micro mobility devices such as e-bikes, scooters, or e-skateboards.

Finally, the growth of the e-commerce sector, even more so due to COVID-19, has seen an increase in deliveries. This raises the needs for multimodal logistics solutions, to avoid unnecessary delivery runs and congestion. According to the Commission, cities’ urban plans should accelerate the deployment of zero-emission solutions, such as cargo bikes or automated deliveries through drones. For cities crossed by rivers and other waterways, those should be used to relieve traffic congestion pressure from streets and roads. In Amsterdam, for example, the municipality uses electric boats to transport goods across the city, using the city’s wide network of canals. Delivery service provider DHL also uses the canals to facilitate deliveries, thanks to floating distribution centers.

Challenges in implementing smart mobility solutions within cities

Even though the advantages of the rollout of smart and sustainable mobility in cities are clear, there are still several challenges that need to be overcome to make the most out of the transformation of the mobility system.

Users

However, Dr2 Consultants recognizes that the biggest obstacle to the introduction of smart mobility solutions remains the users themselves. Complaints when municipalities decide to reduce speed limits or turn streets into pedestrian areas, are frequent. Especially when the implementation of smart mobility strategies requires significant changes to cities’ infrastructure, from bike lanes to electric charging points, which ask for heavy investments and public work, inhabitants seem less acceptant.

Security and Privacy

Smart mobility resting mostly on collection and use of data to feed Intelligent Transport Systems, raise the usual concern for security and privacy. Therefore, properly securing such systems is extremely important to avoid data breaches or misuse of data collected. Ensuring their security also contributes to increasing citizens’ trust in data-sharing, ensuring a widespread collection of data necessary to have the most up-to-date and relevant information, and in turn provide the most precise service.

Deployment of 5G networks

Additionally, the increased automation needed for smart mobility solutions relies on the widespread deployment of wireless mobile telecommunication systems, and especially newly introduced 5G systems, capable of supporting extremely high level of interconnections and uninterrupted data exchanges. The deployment of 5G networks is not equal within territories, and said networks also need to be properly secured. The Commission aims to tackle these challenges in its 5G Action Plan (published last year).

Accessibility

Increased digitalization of mobility also needs to consider accessibility, keeping user demand in mind when designing new urban plans and innovations, for elderly and disabled people. Not everyone knows, can or has the devices needed to use an app to plan their trip or book multimodal tickets. If accessibility is not at the core of urban planning, the solutions and innovations proposed risk not being widely deployed, limiting the potential benefits.

Dr2 Consultants’ Breakfast Meetings

Between 3 February and 17 March 2021, Dr2 Consultants organized a series of Breakfast Meetings on sustainable and smart mobility. During these lively one-on-ones several European and business stakeholders shared their vision on EU urban mobility challenges. Our guest speakers included Zuzana Púčiková (Head of EU Public Policy at Uber), MEP Tom Berendsen (NL, EPP; member of the EP’s Regional Development Committee and substitute in the Transport Committee), Isabelle Vandoorne (Deputy Head of Unit DG MOVE B.4 on Sustainable and Intelligent Transport) and Daan van der Tas (Lead Mobility as a Service & Shared Mobility at the Municipality of Amsterdam). You can read the main takeaways from our Breakfast Meetings here.

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Sustainable Corporate Governance – accounting for your supply chain

Supply chains of European businesses often stretch far beyond the EU territory, where the EU’s environmental, social and human rights may no longer apply. Consumers increasingly expect companies to « do no harm » throughout their operations and supply chain. To this end, as also announced in the European Green Deal and in accordance with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the European Commission will, in the second quarter of 2021, introduce new rules on incorporating sustainability in long-term business strategies. This proposal for sustainable corporate governance will create a new framework to give sustainability a more prominent role in the board room, while reviewing the obligations companies currently have under the Non-Financial Reporting Directive. As the new legislation is expected to place additional reporting obligations on many European companies, this article will take a look at its expected scope and impact on your company’s business activities.

The future EU corporate governance framework should steer companies towards more long-term visions that incorporate sustainability, which in this context not only includes their environmental impact but also human and social rights. A powerful instrument to achieve this could be the introduction of due diligence duties. These duties could not only require companies to respect their own employees’ working rights and limit their own environmental footprint, but it would also oblige companies to actively trace the conditions under which early production processes further up the supply chain take place. For example, did your direct supplier pay a fair price to the farmer he bought cocoa from? And what can a company do to make sure these farmers produce in a sustainably sound way?

Currently, some multinational companies and national governments are taking a frontrunner role in tackling these kinds of questions. However, a failure to create a level playing field in the EU with regard to due diligence obligations could hamper companies’ willingness to keep on taking on this leadership role. The EU’s proposal for a horizontal sustainable corporate governance framework should incentivize broader categories of companies to undertake due diligence.

The proposal for a sustainable corporate governance framework will go hand in hand with a revision of the Non-Financial Reporting Directive (NFRD), which currently requires large companies to disclose information on their handling of social and environmental challenges.

A European solution will have to balance the need for a level playing field and the risks of overburdening smaller companies with new obligations. As the Commission currently still is in the process of carrying out an impact assessment, the exact categories of sectors and product groups to be included in the scope will still need to be determined in the upcoming months. Although it is evident that the Commission’s Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers (DG JUST), responsible for the sustainable corporate governance proposal, intends to include all industries in this horizontal framework, it is still undecided if, for example, SMEs will be included in the Directive’s scope.

What do we already know about the proposal for a sustainable corporate governance and how could this impact European businesses?

The proposal for a sustainable corporate governance framework will go hand in hand with a revision of the Non-Financial Reporting Directive (NFRD), which currently requires large companies to disclose information on their handling of social and environmental challenges. Even though this revision of the NFRD could clarify the requirement to report on due diligence processes, this would not yet be underpinned by an obligation to undertake due diligence, including mitigation of negative impacts.

This could be addressed by the sustainable corporate governance proposal, which could oblige companies to identify and mitigate risks relating to human rights, climate and environment. Where the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights currently lay down steps for e.g. proper human rights due diligence, the EU could give this a binding character through its proposal for a Directive, obliging Member States to transpose a due diligence obligation into national law.

Moreover, the proposal could oblige company directors to take into account sustainability aspects in the formulation of corporate strategies, by requiring them to set science-based and time-bound targets for e.g. climate, deforestation and biodiversity, including the set-up of the necessary enforcement mechanisms. The Commission is currently still in the process of developing the appropriate methodology for clear targets and benchmarks.

With the exact impact still dependent on the choices the Commission will make in the upcoming months and the feedback provided by stakeholders in the process, strict due diligence requirements and duty of care for directors could increase the organizational and administrative burden for companies to set up internal processes including reporting and transparency obligations. These obligations would come on top of the obligation to disclose business strategy information under the revised NFRD. Even if the Commission encourages sustainable corporate governance through voluntary instruments, companies will be pressured to incorporate sustainability in their business strategies.

Next steps

The European Commission recently ran a public consultation on sustainable corporate governance. The outcomes of this public consultation will complement the results of two studies conducted by the European Commission on Directors’ duties and sustainable corporate governance, and on due diligence requirements through the supply chain.

After that, the European Commission will make the choice between various policy instruments and finalize the legislative proposal for a Directive, which is expected to be published by the European Commission in the second quarter of 2021.

If you would like to determine the impact the EU’s sustainability initiatives have in your specific case, check out our European Green Deal Impact Scan, or learn more about our monitoring services to receive regular updates on this topic.

EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement: the impact on the transport industry

Four years after the Brexit referendum, the UK officially severed its ties with the EU on 31 December 2020. In the final moments of the transition period, and after more than nine months of negotiations, the EU and the UK reached an EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) on 24 December, outlining the terms of their post-Brexit partnership. The agreement provides for continued and sustainable air, road, rail, and maritime connectivity, albeit with limitations for UK companies when entering the EU’s Single Market. So, what are the main changes in the new relationship compared to the transition period? And what impact does the new agreement have on the EU-UK transport connectivity?

Air transport: providing a framework for EU-UK air transport connectivity  

The key takeaways of the agreement

The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement replaces existing EU legislation regulating the operation of UK airlines in the EU vice versa. The agreement states that British air carriers holding a valid license may continue to transport passengers and freight between the UK and the EU without limits on capacity or frequency. However, they are not allowed to operate between EU airports anymore. Onward carriage (‘5th freedom’) will be possible for the carriage of cargo to/from a third country (e.g. Paris-London-New York), if Member States agree this bilaterally and reciprocally with the UK.

To ensure a level playing field, both the EU and the UK agreed to eliminate all forms of discrimination which would safeguard fair competition between EU and the UK air carriers in each other’s markets. Moreover, the agreement includes ownership and control requirements to determine what airlines are considered ‘Community carriers’ and what airlines are considered ‘UK carriers’. To be considered as a ‘Community air carrier’, meaning an EU airline, the company must be majority-owned by EU interests. However, UK carriers which had a UK operating licence on 31 December 2020, may also be owned and controlled by EU/EEA/Swiss nationals.

The effects of the agreement

Due to the new ownership and control requirements, certain airlines have moved, such as EasyJet, Ryanair and Wizz Air, to stop UK investors from buying shares after 1 January 2021. The same airlines also announced that existing UK shareholders would see their voting rights restricted, and will not be allowed to attend, speak, or vote at meetings anymore.

Road transport: new border and customs checks result in administrative burden

The key takeaways of the agreement

As the UK has left the Single Market and Customs Union, border and customs checks have been reintroduced starting 1 January 2021. Haulers crossing the border from the EU to the UK or vice versa must ensure that they possess the necessary paperwork to cross the border with their goods. Passengers must also be in possession of the correct travel documentation. Regarding transport of private citizens, the UK continues to recognize EU driving licenses, but Member States no longer recognize driving licenses issued by the UK. Under the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, haulers may continue to operate and transit between UK and EU territory without needing specific permits or additional certificates of professional qualification or licenses.

The effects of the agreement

In practice, road transport (especially transport of goods) has been highly disturbed due to the newly introduced border and customs checks. As a result of the increased administrative burden and longer waiting time at the border, increasing delivery times as well as the chance of spoiled goods, hiding of stowaways in vehicles, or other risks engaging the liability of haulers, many companies have decided to suspend their EU-UK service. This is for example the case of DPD or German company DB Schenker.

Maritime transport: no market access restrictions, but seaports will have to accommodate border and customs checks

The key takeaways of the agreement

The agreement maintains the principle of unrestricted access to international maritime markets and trades. This means that each party must grant access to ships sailing under any flag. Each party must also provide port services such as pilotage, towing or port assistance to international maritime transport service suppliers. Moreover, safety and environmental issues related to maritime transport are not regulated by EU law but by international treaties. UK companies and vessels will need to continue operating within the scope of this international regulatory framework.

The effects of the agreement

Although the agreement will require limited adaption from the maritime transport sector, maritime seaports will have to accommodate significant trade volumes that are transported by sea and facilitate haulers crossing the border from the EU-UK or vice versa by ferry. Around half of the UK exports and imports are heading towards continental Europe. Vice versa, for EU Member States, specifically those situated on the Atlantic coast, trade with the UK constitutes a big part of their overall trade numbers. As such, maritime seaports play an important role in facilitating the new border and customs checks as well as accommodating the subsequent traffic flows.

Rail transport: EU-UK cooperation continues on rail safety matters

The key takeaways of the agreement

The agreement itself does not include any specific provision for rail services. EU-based railway undertakings need to apply for UK licensing to run services in the UK, for which the UK has determined a deadline on 31 January 2022. UK-based railway undertaking running domestic services in the EU need an operating license issued by an EU Member State. The UK is no longer a member of the European Railway Agency (ERA) since 31 January 2020 and will not be seeking membership. However, the British Government encourages its rail industry to continue to work with ERA at technical and working levels, and has announced its intention to continue cooperating with the ERA on safety related matters.

The effects of the agreement

In practice, cross-border railway undertakings had prepared for the end of the transition period by requesting the relevant authorizations and licenses. Therefore, cross border rail services, such as the Eurostar, have continued with way less disturbance than road traffic. The Eurostar service was briefly suspended in December to limit the spread of the newly-identified COVID-19 variant, but not as a consequence of Brexit. Traffic has since then resumed, to the capacity allowed by the COVID travel restrictions in place on both sides of the Channel.

The limited impact of Brexit on rail freight, compared to road freight, can be explained by the much smaller number of goods transiting by trains compared to goods transiting by truck. If road customs check congestions are not reduced, however, this could trigger a reorganisation of supply chains to the benefit of the rail freight sector.

Next steps: ratification and implementation of the agreement

It is important to note that the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement and the rights and conditions it contains are not set in stone. Firstly, it is for now an “agreement in principle”, and will be provisionally applied from 1 January until 28 February 2021, pending the final consent of the European Parliament. Additionally, there are still some aspects unclear in terms of the enforcement of the agreement.

Once ratified, the agreement plans for the creation of a Joint Partnership Council, which will oversee the realization of the agreements’ objectives and facilitate its implementation. To fulfil this mission, it has the power to amend the substantive provisions of the agreement. The Joint Partnership Council will be composed of varying EU and UK ministers, depending on the topic that is discussed. It is not yet clear when the Joint Partnership Council will hold its session or at what frequency, and what the exact impact of its creation will be.

Dr2 Consultants has extensive expertise and network by providing support to stakeholders in the transport sector, ranging from rail and aviation to the maritime sector, and assists companies understand the consequences and implications of Brexit. We tailor our services, knowledge and expertise to support organizations in the most bespoke way and achieve tangible results. If you would like to know more and gain support in understanding the post-Brexit regulatory maze, please contact us via our website.

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Digital Markets Act: the European Commission’s plans for regulating digital ‘Gatekeepers’

On 15 December, the European Commission published a proposal for a Regulation on the  Digital Markets Act (DMA). Together with the Digital Services Act (DSA) it forms the foundation of the European digital strategy, aiming to create a safe digital space in which the rights of all users of digital services are protected and to establish a level playing field to foster innovation, growth, and competitiveness, within the EU and globally.

Which businesses will be affected by the new Digital Markets Act proposal?

The Digital Markets Act addresses certain behaviors of platforms acting as “gatekeepers”. It establishes a set of narrowly defined criteria for qualifying a large online platform as a so-called “gatekeeper”. To be identified as a gatekeeper, the company should provide core platform services, including online intermediation services, online search engines, online social networking services, video-sharing platform services, number independent interpersonal communication services, operating systems, and cloud computing services. The Commission proposes three key cumulative criteria with quantitative thresholds related to strong economic position, sizeable turnover, large number of users, and an entrenched position in the market that must be met to be defined as a “gatekeeper”. Companies will have to assess if they meet these criteria and provide their assessment to the European Commission, who will designate if companies are gatekeepers or not. The Commission can identify gatekeepers that meet these criteria but do not meet the quantitative thresholds, taking into account other factors (e.g. entry barriers derived from network effects and data, scale and scope effects that the provider benefits from, business or end-user lock-in, etc.). Those companies declared as gatekeepers will be obliged to comply with the new obligations established by the Digital Markets Act.

Do’s and don’ts for gatekeepers:

Among the list of obligations for gatekeepers, the Commission considers allowing interoperability for third-parties with the gatekeeper’s own services in certain situations, allowing business users to access the data they generate using the gatekeeper’s services and providing companies with the necessary tools and information to verify their advertisements hosted by the gatekeeper. Additionally, gatekeepers must allow business users to offer products and services through third-party online intermediation services, different from the gatekeeper, at different prices or conditions and let business users promote their offers and conclude contracts with customers acquired via the core platform service outside the gatekeeper’s platform.

Among the prohibitions for gatekeepers, they may no longer treat services and products offered by the gatekeeper itself more favorably in ranking than similar services or products offered by third-parties on the gatekeeper’s platform. Gatekeepers may not prevent consumers from linking up to businesses outside their platforms or prevent users from un-installing any pre-installed software or app if they wish so. Finally, gatekeepers may no longer combine personal data sourced from these core platform services with personal data from any other services offered by them (gatekeepers) or with personal data from third-party services.

How will the Digital Markets Act be enforced?

The European Commission will have investigative and enforcement powers regarding the Digital Markets Act and will be able to impose fines of up to 10 percent of the company’s total worldwide annual turnover, with the provision of periodic penalty payments of up to 5 percent of the average daily turnover. In case of systematic infringements of the Digital Markets Act obligations by gatekeepers, additional remedies may be imposed on the gatekeepers after a market investigation. Such remedies will need to be proportionate to the offence committed. If necessary and as a last resort option, non-financial remedies can be imposed. These can include behavioral and structural remedies, such as the divestiture of (parts of) a business.

What implications could the Digital Markets Act proposal have for companies?

Stakeholders from various sectors quickly reacted to the new proposal for a Digital Markets Act by pointing out that while the proposal was a good starting point, there was still a lot of work to be done. One of the criticisms concerns the negative implications of the concept of ‘gatekeepers’, with industry representatives arguing that the scope of the new proposal should look at strategic market status instead, similarly to the approach of the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority. As the asymmetric obligations under the Digital Markets Act will only apply to certain companies, there has been a push to include market share as a main criterion, instead of turnover. Additionally, there are concerns about the Commission’s increased enforcement powers which could result in a less objective process. Furthermore, industry representatives tend to point out the possibility of the Digital Markets Act leading to the creation of parallel national rules addressing the same issues and resulting in legal fragmentation across the EU.

Given the targeted nature of the Digital Markets Act, the impact is expected to be limited to around a dozen companies, in particular Big Tech companies, and while it does not target small companies and startups, it is expected that the DMA will impact their abilities to scale in the EU. Furthermore, the fact that the Digital Markets Act appears to specifically target a handful of companies is a source of criticism for several stakeholders as it makes it harder to develop new products to support small businesses in Europe.

Next steps in the legislative process

After the publication of the Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act proposals, they will be the subject of long and likely arduous discussions in the Council of the EU and in the European Parliament. As confirmed by the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the EU, the Digital Markets Act will be discussed in the Working Party on Competitiveness and Growth, falling within the remit of the Competition Council formation. Work on the proposals in the Council has already started in the first week of January, as the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act will be the key files for the Portuguese Presidency.

In the European Parliament, the Internal Market Committee (IMCO) will take the lead for both files, with the Industry (ITRE), Justice (JURI) and Culture (CULT) committees poised to submit opinions on the DSA, and the Economic (ECON), Industry (ITRE) and Justice (JURI) committees on the DMA. The EP’s IMCO Committee will hold a first exchange of views on both files on 11 January.

In terms of the time frame for adopting the Digital Markets Act, France has announced a highly ambitious plan to conclude the negotiations for both proposals, so including the DSA as well, during its Presidency of the Council of the EU in the first half of 2022. The Commission shares this objective for the co-decision process to be finalized in a year and a half, however, it is useful to remember that other recent and major files, such as the General Data Protection Regulation and the Copyright Reform, took respectively 5 and 2.5 years to be adopted.

Dr2 Consultants closely monitors the developments on this file for its clients. If you would like to know more about the proposal, and how it might impact your business, please contact Dr2 Consultants.

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Offshore renewable energy - waves

Offshore renewable energy: EU takes next steps

With the EU’s new offshore renewable energy strategy (ORES) – “EU Strategy to harness the potential of offshore renewable energy for a climate neutral future” (published on 19 November 2020), the European Commission is widening the scope of its offshore activities. From focusing on offshore wind energy (bottom-fixed), the Commission aims to facilitate the further development of other offshore energy technologies such as floating wind energy, wave and tidal energy, but also floating solar energy and the use of algae. Our blog post sheds some light on upcoming opportunities and challenges from the offshore renewable energy strategy for the different offshore energy technologies.

Maritime spatial planning as a basis

Maritime spatial planning (coordination of use of marine space and resources) will be key to the further development of offshore renewable energy technologies. In the framework of the Maritime Spatial Planning Directive, the Commission aims to ensure sufficient space and resources are available for offshore technologies by coordinating the submission of national maritime spatial plans due by 31 March 2021. Such maritime spatial planning should be carefully coordinated with different national energy and climate plans but also the protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems.

Offshore renewable energy - Floating solar farm

Floating solar farm

 

From focusing on offshore wind energy (bottom-fixed), the Commission aims to facilitate the further development of other offshore energy technologies.

Different offshore renewable energy operators, as well as energy grid operators, are strongly encouraged to engage both on a European and national level to improve the quality of existing and future spatial planning. These exchanges will be facilitated by the European Commission throughout 2021 and beyond.

A clearer EU regulatory framework to facilitate investments

While offshore renewable energy projects are mainly nationally driven, the Commission wants to facilitate the further development of more complex, cross-border projects. Most importantly, the Commission clarifies the current regulatory framework for offshore bidding zones in its accompanying Staff Working Document. Furthermore, The Commission will ensure that the forthcoming revision of the state aid rules and the Renewable Energy Directive provide a fully updated and fit-for-purpose framework in order to cost-effectively deploy clean energy, including renewable offshore energy.

The lofty ambitions of the Commission will provide a very good opportunity for large-scale cross-border project operators to benefit from a changing regulatory framework. Such operators are advised to keep a close eye on the upcoming changes to the European electricity legislation, which will facilitate their activities. If you would like to stay up to date on the latest developments in the EU energy sector, visit our monitoring services webpage to find out how Dr2 Consultants can support you.

Targeted funding opportunities for offshore renewable energy deployment and R&I

Most importantly, the Commission aims to unlock new private investments as these are expected to carry the bulk of financing needs. The new InvestEU fund will play a key role, with the European Investment Bank acting as a European Climate Bank. In addition, existing and future EU funding instruments such as the NER 300, the Recovery and Resilience Facility and the Connecting Europe Facility are expected to substantially fund mature cross-border projects. Furthermore, investment programs such as Horizon Europe, the Innovation Fund and the Modernisation Fund will provide support for research, innovation and demonstration projects underpinning the future development and deployment of innovative offshore energy technologies in Europe.

Whether your organization is active in early stage R&I activities, demonstration of innovative technologies or the further deployment and rollout of offshore renewable energy infrastructure, the above mentioned EU funding instruments will serve a supporting role to the changing regulatory framework.

In conclusion, the Commission aims to tackle the challenge of creating the optimum environment to maintain and accelerate the current European momentum in offshore renewables. As such, the EU is ready to support frontrunners in this area to preserve its own leading role on a global level.

The Commission is actively inviting all stakeholders to discuss the policy actions proposed in this strategy and to join forces in taking this action forward without delay. Dr2 Consultants is ideally placed to support your organization to identify the opportunities in upcoming financial and policy developments. Fore more information, contact us at info@dr2consultants.eu or call us at +32 (0)2 512 37 22.


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European Year of Rail: 2021 – boost to a modal shift

The EU institutions declared 2021 as the European Year of Rail but what will next year exactly entail and how can stakeholders take advantage of this initiative? In this blog post, Dr2 Consultants highlights how the rail sector will be put in the limelight as of January.

Every calendar year since 1983 (with the exception of 2016 and 2017) marks a new ‘European Year’ with a different theme during each iteration. The European Years span across a wide range of subjects such as development aid (2015), mobility of employees (2006) languages (2001), etc. 2021, has been declared the European Year of Rail.

The main goal of designating ‘European Years’ is to increase the visibility of certain industries and to promote a political momentum to bring around significant changes. The practical aspects mostly entail media campaigns and stakeholder events targeting both European citizens as well as businesses and other stakeholders. In some cases, the European Commission also uses this opportunity to put forward new legislation.

What the European Year of Rail will look like?

In March 2020, the European Commission published a proposal for a decision to designate 2021 as the European Year of Rail. Rail plays an important role in the Commission’s plans in decarbonizing the transport sector, as it is referred to in the European Green Deal as the most sustainable and therefore preferred mode of transport. Moreover, the rail sector has also taken a prominent place in the COVID-19 recovery phase as enabler of the green recovery.

The Commission’s proposal was quickly followed by inter-institutional consultations between the European Commission, the European Parliament, and the Council of the EU, where an agreement was reached on the final text on 12 November. The agreement includes a final budget for the year of €8 million, which is higher than previous proposals. While a comprehensive list of the activities is still yet to be published, following an advice taken up in the European Parliament’s Transport and Tourism Committee (TRAN) report on the proposal for decision, the Commission has been tasked with conducting two studies into concrete proposals to stimulate both freight as well as passenger related rail transport. Even though the final text of the decision is basically set in stone, it has to be approved by the European Parliament plenary (date still to be determined) and the meeting of the European Transport ministers in the Transport Council of 8 December.

Impact on the rail sector

Designating 2021 as the European Year of Rail is in line with the European Commission’s priorities on making transport more sustainable. Stakeholders from the rail sector have unique opportunities in shaping the policy agenda for the years to come, meaning that it will be imperative for them to seize this momentum as much as possible.

Several key initiatives for the transport and rail sector will be central in 2021. Firstly, actively providing input on the execution of the policy initiatives mentioned in the Strategy for Sustainable and Smart Mobility (planned to be published on 8 December 2020) will be crucial in shaping the rail sector for years to come. Secondly, in June 2021 the TEN-T Days will be organized by the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the EU, which will be an important moment to influence the TEN-T revision and future targeted rail infrastructure investments. Lastly, highlighting important European routes in the Action Plan on rail corridors (Q3 2021), which will aim to facilitate better connections between European capitals and the modal shift, will increase efficiency and connectivity on the trajectories most important to stakeholders actively lobbying on the file. Activities surrounding these proposals, ranging from formal consultations to stakeholder dialogue events and communication campaigns will be initiated on all different levels (European, national, regional and local).

In parallel to the policy initiatives, there will be other initiatives that highlight the momentum for rail. This year, a coalition of 25 Member States have set up the International Rail Passenger Platform, in which governments and the industry come together to make meaningful steps on the topics of infrastructure development and passenger services (i.e. ticketing). In addition, Germany has initiated the revival of the once popular TransEuropExpress, with launching a study on high-speed rail transport and night trains. The arts festival Europalia will dedicate its 2021 edition to the influence of railways on arts and their contribution to socio-economic change.

Opportunities for stakeholders in the European Year of Rail

As the focus of 2021 will be on setting the agenda for a modal shift to rail transport, European stakeholders can utilize the stage set by European institutions for rail-related issues to further elaborate and market their ideas and solutions. As the European Commission will be responsible for rolling out of communication and marketing campaigns, being aware of the latest events and actively engaging with the European institutions to be the first guest or participant of choice will be a crucial step to take to be more visible and effective. The industry will be able to fulfil a much needed role in the Commission’s campaigns, providing substance and content-driven input. Additionally, European businesses can initiate their own communication campaigns, which link to the existing media-related initiatives in the context of the European Year of Rail. This will greatly increase the effectiveness and reach of these campaigns, increasing their value and efficiency, and resulting in more value for money.

As mentioned earlier, the European Commission will be conducting two studies. Accompanying stakeholder consultations are expected in the first half of 2021, focused on the viability of a European label to promote goods transported by rail and the development of a rail connectivity index for rail passenger transport. The outcome of these studies will influence legislation for years to come, meaning that taking a proactive role is imperative. These consultation moments are also an opportunity to increase the network of Public Affairs professionals within the European Commission. It is therefore key to be aware of the latest consultations, even if they might not be public, to know who to engage with within the institutions and to effectively promote Public Affairs messages.

Moment to act

Dr2 Consultants has built solid expertise and network by providing support to transport stakeholders from rail and aviation to the maritime sector. We tailor our services, knowledge and expertise to support organizations in the most bespoke way and achieve tangible results. To successfully capitalize on the current political momentum and seize the opportunities provided by the European Year of Rail in 2021, please get in touch with us through our website.

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European cities and regions: three reasons to get active at EU level

Over the past decades, European cities and regions have been an important driver of the European economy. With major societal transformations such as the energy transition and digitalization looming, cities are expected to become even more important enablers, while regions are challenged to keep up. As such, EU policies and funding initiatives become increasingly important for cities and regions. In this blog post, Dr2 Academy, Dr2 Consultant’s educational institute, highlights the three main opportunities for European cities and regions across Europe to act upon.

1. European cities and regions at the heart of the EU budget

On the eve of the new EU’s seven-year budget cycle, and in the political context of a major economic recovery from COVID-19, the EU’s co-legislators have to make important decisions regarding the dispersion of EU funds. With EU initiatives increasingly materializing in cities and regions, more financing instruments come at the disposal of local authorities.

The grants from the EU’s Recovery and Resilience Facility will be linked to national and regional investments in sustainable and smart solutions, such as clean energy technologies, charging stations, building renovations,  scale-up of data cloud capacities, and the rapid roll-out of broadband services. In the execution of the national recovery plans, Member States are required to spend 30% of its investments via the Recovery Fund on climate action, while another 20% will have to be spent on digital projects. This presents opportunities to cities and regions to inform national administrations about the needs at a local level in order to unlock funding.

Moreover, during the next EU budget cycle, the Commission will aim to modernize Regional Development and Cohesion Policy. Sixty-five to eighty-five percent of European Regional Development Fund and Cohesion Fund resources will be allocated to the five different priorities (in the areas of digitization, climate, transport, social policy, and urban development) that the Commission has formulated, depending on Member States’ relative wealth. Developing regions and cities in the EU have the opportunity to obtain financing via the managing authorities in the Member States, especially when the region shows its added value to one of the priority areas.

In addition, in order to ensure that all cities and regions across the EU can overcome the preconditions for the transition towards a climate neutral Europe, the EU has established the Just Transition Fund, earmarking funds for cities and regions to ensure a fair transition. With new project calls coming up early 2021 for various funding programs, it is crucial that European cities and regions are aware of the funding opportunities and subsequent eligibility requirements.

2. The EU ecosystem: fertile environment for coalition-building and partnerships

For European cities and regions, the EU ecosystem provides par excellence opportunities to broaden their networks, exchange best practices and form coalitions to effectively influence EU policy. For example, in the context of the Urban Agenda for the EU, which brings together the Commission, national ministries, city governments and other stakeholders to promote better regulation, easier access to funding and more knowledge sharing on issues relevant for cities, an umbrella project of the EU smart cities policy called the  European innovation partnership on smart cities and communities (EIP-SCC) was set up. It provides a platform that aims at delivering practical knowledge and capacity-building opportunities, facilitating access to financing, and introducing potential partners to each other.

Besides these programs, stakeholder communities such as EUROCITIES and the institutionalized representation in the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) also provide ample opportunities to build a European wide network and share best practices. Moreover, these networks can enable cities to engage with policymakers, receive information, and access EU funding.

3. Cities as frontrunners and active shapers of EU policies

Given that most of the EU citizens live in cities, they play an important role in the implementation of EU policy. While EU’s urban areas are important contributors to the EU’s energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, they are at the same time considered important drivers of the EU’s climate ambitions. Through the greening and digitalization agendas of the EU there are plenty of opportunities for cities to fulfil a leading role. Initiatives that have been recently published, such as the Circular Economy Action Plan, the EU Strategy for Energy System Integration, the expected Strategy for Sustainable and Smart Mobility (9 December) and the Renovation Wave initiative are expected to have a profound impact on European cities.

Dr2 Academy

To make the most out of these opportunities at EU level in terms of financing, coalition-building and policy influence, Dr2 Academy offers a wide range of tailor-made services targeted to organizations and professionals whose work is impacted by EU policies. To accommodate the needs of European cities and regions, Dr2 Academy has developed a dedicated curriculum combining theory and practice, that teaches civil servants about the working of the EU institutions, the impact of EU policies at regional/local level, coalition-building, and the execution of effective Public Affairs strategies. In case of questions, do not hesitate to get into contact with us.

Dr2 Academy also organizes EU Public Affairs trainings. More information can be found here.

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US and EU flags

US-EU relationship after Joe Biden’s election – an analysis

On Saturday 7 November, five days after American voters went to the polls, Joseph Biden was finally projected by US media to have won enough Electoral College votes to become the next President of the United States, defeating outgoing President Donald Trump. Waves of congratulations immediately came from all over Europe. Many expressed relief that Trump failed to be reelected, given the tense US-EU relationship under his administration. Given the global reach of Dr2 Consultant’s clients, we’ve assessed the impact of the US Election on the US-EU relationship. We are therefore offering an analysis of the repercussions of Democratic candidate Joe Biden’s election on trade, environmental and digital issues.

Trade: a more stable partner but many disputes still to settle

The US-EU trading relationship under Trump’s leadership was highly confrontational. The US President complained countless times about the US trade deficit with the EU. He also intensified a sixteen-year-long tariffs war with the EU over state subsidies granted to Airbus and Boeing, imposing tariffs on European steel and aluminum, as well as on German cars or French wines and cheese, amongst others.

Despite having just raised tariffs in retaliation on about $4 billion worth of US goods, the EU is hoping that Joe Biden’s election will bring an opportunity to fix ongoing disputes, including the Boeing-Airbus feud, as announced by Trade Commissioner Valdis Drombrovskis. EU Trade Ministers also met virtually on Monday, 9 November, to prepare for the “rebooting” of transatlantic relations.

Dr2 Consultants expects the EU to take Joe Biden’s election as an opportunity to re-start the EU-US Free Trade Agreement negotiations, which had died during Obama’s mandate after strong backlash from both sides’ civil societies. Although under Biden’s leadership, negotiations will remain difficult.

Furthermore, Biden’s election might finally allow the World Trade Organization to fill its Secretary General’s seat. Trump’s administration has been blocking the nomination of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former minister of Nigeria, despite her being backed by the majority of WTO members.   Although the Democratic Party shares some concern with Republicans over the WTO dispute settlement mechanism, Biden’s proclaimed support of multilateralism could help unlock the situation.

Thanks to Joe Biden’s election, cooperation could also increase on how to deal with China. EU officials hope that cooperation can be found on the protection of emerging technologies, especially 5G networks, to alleviate dependency on Chinese telecom companies. Officials from the Biden campaign have communicated that the future president would be open to cooperating on those topics.

Therefore, although trade relations will not change drastically with Biden’s election, and many disputes remain to be settled, the EU will at least benefit from a more stable and open interlocutor. This will at least result in clearer decisions, which European businesses trading with or involved in the US will benefit from, as they need predictable, transparent, and enforceable trading rules.

Joe Biden

Joe Biden – President-elect of the United States of America

Photo license: Gage Skidmore

Environment and climate change: converging goals on emissions

Climate change is one area in which Biden and the EU see eye-to-eye and cooperation will surely increase, benefiting US-EU relationship.

Although the US have left the Paris Agreement on 4 November 2020, as Trump wanted, Joe Biden has vowed to reenter it as soon as he takes office. Biden also made strong commitments during his campaign to reverse the Trump administration’s detrimental environmental actions, including adopting a $2 trillion green stimulus package, with the objective of cutting US emissions to net zero by 2050, similar to the EU’s target. Furthermore, in terms of sustainable finance, Biden has pledged $5 trillion to support the ecological transition, similarly to EU’s $4 trillion commitment to its own transition.

However, to implement his climate agenda domestically, Biden will have to gain approval from Congress, which might prove tricky if the Senate remains controlled by the Republicans.

Still, Biden’s will to implicate the US in climate talks will likely reignite multilateral cooperation on environmental issues. Additionally, aligned EU and US goals in terms of emissions could give European companies an opportunity to export environmental-friendly solutions and expertise.

Digital and Technology: opposition on Digital Taxation will likely remain

The EU has been attempting to adopt a European Digital Tax for several years, and the Commission has expressed determination to present an EU digital tax proposal if global talks fail to reach an agreement by mid-2021.

Currently, there are ongoing negotiations between 137 countries within the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) about an international tax system, which would redefine the way tech companies are taxed. This would notably impact companies providing digital services, allowing countries where they operate and make significant profit to tax them even if they do not have business operations there. The EU Commission supports this approach and will likely not introduce a separate European Digital Tax if a deal is found at the OECD level.

Trump’s administration however has been less than favorable to allowing foreign countries to tax US digital companies. The US policy under Trump was to use trade sanctions to retaliate against countries seeking to tax U.S. tech companies, as it did when France adopted a digital services tax.

During his campaign, Biden has criticized digital tech giants, and proposed a minimum tax on digital companies. This position could raise the hopes that he would support the taxation system negotiated at the OECD level, or that he at least will not threaten countries adopting digital taxes as strongly as Trump did. However, many observers underline that Democrats have always been just as opposed to a global digital services tax as Republicans, and the OECD does not believe that the change of leadership will increase significantly the chances of success of the negotiations. The deadline for an agreement to be found, originally set for the end of 2020, has already been postponed to mid-2021.

If the OECD negotiations do not result in an agreement on a taxation system, Dr2 Consultants expects companies providing digital services to likely face an EU-level tax. Dr2 Consultants helps its client keep track of the different tax initiatives and understand the potential impact of their business.

There will certainly also be a lot of discussions between the EU and the US on other key digital topics, from content regulation to EU-US data flows and the privacy shields talks.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s twitter thread following Biden’s election summarizes well the EU’s general position regarding Biden’s election: “It is time for a new transatlantic agenda fit for today’s world”, mentioning notably the work to be done on “health, climate, digital [and] reform of the multilateral rules-based system”.

Although Trump’s departure from the White House will likely facilitate communication with the US, the relationship will not go back to the pre-Trump status quo overnight.

Dr2 Consultants continuously monitors the evolution of the US-EU relationship. Should you be interested in further information on how Joe Biden’s election and his agenda could impact your business, you can reach out to Dr2 Consultants at info@dr2consultants.eu or find more information on our website.

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Recovery of the EU tourism industry and its way to a smart and sustainable sector

The COVID-19 pandemic has a devastating impact on the tourism sector, directly affecting 22 million jobs and 2.3 million businesses. In Europe, the tourism sector accounts for around 5% of the EU’s total workforce and almost 4% of the EU’s GDP. As we are witnessing a second wave of infections and subsequent travel restrictions in the EU, the outlook for the sector is not promising. What measures have been taken so far, and how will the recovery of the EU tourism industry be ensured?

Support measures at EU and Member States level

As an initial response to support the sector, the European Commission adopted a package of initiatives in May to allow for a coordinated framework to resume transport and tourism, including guidelines on safe and healthy travel, guidance for lifting internal borders and recommendations on vouchers issued by package travel organizations. However, as the EU has limited competence in the field of tourism, its guidelines are non-binding, thereby hampering the effectiveness of its actions.

At a national level, most Member States introduced economic assistance packages that also covers the tourism sector, including extended deadlines for payments of social charges and wage subsidies, loans and guarantees for workers. The EU competition framework was amended to facilitate this kind of direct support that would normally not be in line with the state aid rules.

Additionally, in order to further facilitate coordination of travelling across the EU, Member States recently adopted a recommendation establishing common criteria and a common framework on travel measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, individual Member States remain responsible for implementing the content of the recommendation, leading to a patchwork of measures and consequently insecurity and unclarity about travel.

European Parliament’s push for coordination of the recovery of the EU tourism industry

The European Parliament (EP) has been very vocal in the role it thinks the EU should play in the recovery of the EU tourism industry. On 29 June, the EP adopted a resolution calling for additional measures to save the EU’s tourism and travel sector. Around that time, different political groups (such as Renew Europe, S&D) in the EP published individual position papers on tourism, all advocating for more European coordination.

The European Parliament’s Tourism Task Force (TTF), a dedicated group in the Committee on Transport and Tourism (TRAN) has been a vocal supporter of developing a strategy for sustainable tourism for some years, advocating the EU to take concrete steps towards establishing a broad, EU-wide vision. Currently, the TRAN Committee is in the process of drafting a report on the development of this strategy.

In the short term, before the finalization of such a strategy for the future of the tourism sector, the TFF argues that a separate budget line of €300 million is needed to support the sector and stresses the importance of considering the tourism industry in drawing up national recovery plans. The TRAN Committee also calls on the Member States to financially support the industry and apply common criteria for travel.

Agenda for a sustainable and smart tourism industry

On 12 October, the European Commission organized the European Tourism Convention in order to facilitate discussions among stakeholders on the recovery as well as the future of a sustainable tourism industry. According to Commissioner Thierry Breton, the Convention marks a first step towards a EU policy framework for the tourism sector.

Based on the conclusions of the Tourism Convention and the recent developments in the European Parliament, Dr2 Consultants identifies four important trends that will dominate the agenda for the recovery of the tourism sector.

  • The strategy for the future of the tourism sector should stimulate a dual transition towards a more sustainable and smarter sector, by accelerating investments. This could lead to the development of safe and seamless tourism experiences powered by the digitalization (data sharing, multimodal travel) and greener holidays (eco-tourism);
  • Sufficient investments in the sector are needed to ensure the recovery of the EU tourism industry. The European Parliament’s TTF proposal to create a separate budget line for tourism worth €300 million is not yet taken up within the draft MFF proposal. However, the European Commission has announced that the new Recovery and Resilience Facility, worth €560 billion, could also be used for the recovery of the sector;
  • Liquidity problems in the sector should be addressed, in particular to small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). SMEs should be empowered and be able to operate more innovatively with digital tools and financial instruments, either through the proposed budget line or state aid;
  • Collaboration is key between the tourism industry, European politicians, and EU Member States. Policymakers on an EU level should cooperate and coordinate measures in the travel industry and engage with stakeholders to understand what is needed to build a new agenda or strategy for tourism of the future.

 Next steps

As travel restrictions and containment measures are still in place within the EU, a coordinated approach among the Member States is a prerequisite for the recovery. The main challenge for the tourism sector and policy-makers in the short to medium term remains to swiftly enhance cooperation to ensure the recovery of the EU tourism industry in the long term, ready for the current and any future crises.

At the same time, it is to be seen what the Commission will do in building an agenda for the future smart and sustainable tourism industry, as its workplan for 2021 does not reflect any concrete actions for the future industry so far. However, by organizing a convention on tourism, it has put the issue more plainly on the agenda and set the table for constructive dialogue between the sector and policymakers. It is expected that the final report of the European Parliament on establishing an EU strategy for sustainable tourism will further shape the debate on the sector’s future, inviting the European Commission to respond by developing a concrete vision for the future.

The anticipated recovery measures for the post-COVID-19 era will have a major impact on the EU budget and the EU policy agenda. In this challenging context, it is crucial to remain up-to-date with the latest developments and to be flexible in order to adjust and act quickly. Dr2 Consultants supports your organization in getting a better grip on the contingency and recovery measures that are announced at EU level. Visit our COVID-19 services webpage to learn more.

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Potential Consequences of a “No-Deal” Brexit

As negotiators are still running against the clock with the end of the transition period around the corner – and the deadline to reach an agreement coming even faster – now is the time for businesses to accelerate preparations for the future relationship between the UK and the EU, whatever it might look like. The negotiations have not seen much progress, despite recent intensification, and both parties have repeated that they are ready for a “no-deal” scenario. What would be the consequences of a no-deal Brexit? What would happen if no agreement is signed by 31st December 2020?

The United Kingdom officially left the European Union on 1 February 2020 but entered a transition period during which the UK is still part of the Single Market and Customs Union.

In November 2019, the EU and the UK have signed a first Withdrawal Agreement. This agreement settles the UK’s financial obligations (or so-called “divorce bill”), the status of citizens in the UK and the EU and arranges how goods trade between Northern Ireland and the EU would continue after Brexit. This agreement is not a trade deal and has little bearing on what a possible future agreement would look like.

Trade between the EU and the UK is significant, with the EU27 being the UK’s most important trading partner. In 2019, the rest of the EU had exported to the UK £372 billion of goods and services, and the UK had exported goods and services to the EU worth £300 billion.

The consequences of a no-deal Brexit

The UK will, no matter what, leave the Single Market and the Customs Union on 1st January 2021. Without a specific Free Trade Agreement, EU and UK trading relations would fall under “WTO terms”. The World Trade Organisation sets rules on international trade which all members must follow. WTO terms are the basic trading terms that can apply. Without an FTA with the UK, this will lead to the re-establishment of tariffs and non-tariff barriers and, for example, the loss of preferential access to the EU market.

Therefore, if an agreement is not found before the end of the transition period, from 1st January 2021, UK goods and services being imported in the EU would face the Union’s existing external tariffs for “third countries”. Reciprocally, the UK would also have to apply tariffs to EU goods entering the UK. In anticipation, the UK has adopted new “Global Tariffs” which will be imposed from 1st January 2021 to all countries with which it does not have trade deals.

Additionally, quotas restricting the number of goods allowed to be imported and regulatory barriers would also be applied. A whole new set of costly and time-consuming administrative procedures would also need to be complied with.

All these new barriers would have repercussions on the price of UK products sold in the EU, and vice versa. For example, the automobile industry estimates the application of the EU standard 10% tariff on imported vehicles would make UK imported cars about £1,900 more expensive.

One of the consequences of a no-deal Brexit is that the free movement would also come to an end, meaning that customs border checks would be imposed. This would put significant pressure on both British and EU businesses that are currently benefiting from unbarred trade and clear sets of rules. The UK Government is already anticipating significant lines and delays at border-crossing points. Truck drivers looking to cross over to France would also need a whole new set of documents to be allowed entry. This would impact industries relying on expeditive supply chains, such as the automobile or agri-food industries.

These new formalities would increase costs for businesses, which would impact the price of their products, and in turn, their competitiveness. This would be especially true for SMEs, which might not have the cash flow to sustain said costs.

How to mitigate the impact of a no-deal Brexit?

The Commission urges stakeholders to start preparing for the end of the transition period, under any scenario, as, even if a deal was to be found, significant disruption to trade would still appear on 1st of January. Although the consequences of a no-deal Brexit would be more impactful and far-reaching than in case of a deal, preparing for the UK’s exit in general will still help businesses and Member States bear the repercussions that the lack of agreement would have.

The EU Commission recommends companies to talk to their business partners, to contact local authorities and advice centres for further information and to consult EU Commission readiness notices.

First published while the EU and the UK were negotiating the Withdrawal Agreement, the readiness notices have now been updated by the Commission and cover over 100 sectors providing information on measures that should be taken by Member States, business and citizens in order to prepare for the UK’s exit, with or without a deal.

The Commission also prepared a checklist so business can make sure they have taken all the steps necessary to fully prepare.

Businesses that currently import or export goods from or to the UK should make themselves aware of rules applying to trade with third countries and obligations of importers or exporters, especially if they do not have experience trading with third countries.

With regards to customs formalities, checks and controls, the Commission also advises businesses to get acquainted with existing formalities and procedures for doing business with third countries. They should also assess the actions needed to mitigate the impact of increased administrative formalities and procedures, especially on supply chains.