Skip to main content

Committee report on EU transport policy and potential rule change on clotted cream

2 March 2021

The European Scrutiny Committee has highlighted the significance for the UK of EU strategy in the area of transport, where the EU has ambitious plans for, among other aspirations, zero emission planes and ships. The Committee’s analysis of what the EU calls its ‘Smart Mobility Strategy' can be found in full in its latest scrutiny report which also considers the impact, or potential impact, on the UK of other recent EU laws and policies.

The Committee found clear similarities between EU and UK government transport priorities. At the same time, its report warned that the UK would have to remain abreast of changes in EU policy such as those on vehicle emissions standards which might require UK exporters to adjust their vehicle specifications if exporting to the EU.

Government would have to be particularly aware of this in Northern Ireland where, under the Northern Ireland Protocol to the UK/ EU Withdrawal Agreement, which came into operation provisionally from 1 January 2021, some EU regulations will continue to apply.

The EU’s Smart Mobility Strategy sets out laws and policies that the EU plans to introduce over the next four years to render the EU transport system, in the Commission’s words, “smart, sustainable and resilient”.

The EU is planning, for example, that there will be at least 30 million zero-emission cars on EU roads by 2030; that the amount of high-speed rail traffic will double across the EU by the same year; and that regulations will be introduced which make ticketing for truly flexible door-to-door travel a realistic option.

The European Scrutiny Committee’s analysis includes a summary of the UK Government’s position on these policies and draws attention to an HMG White Paper on how the Government intends to achieve net zero emissions for the UK transport sector through ambitious targets for electric, hydrogen and nuclear-powered technology.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Transport, Rachel Maclean MP, told the Committee that there were clear similarities between the EU strategy and the UK’s own climate change agenda.

The Committee noted that the UK’s strategy, as set out in the White Paper, outlines how it intends to improve the sustainability of the UK transport sector and reach net zero emissions by 2050. There are important synergies here, the European Scrutiny Committee report said, with the EU’s similar ambition of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 55 % by 2050.

For example, the Government said in its White Paper that it will end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030 and provide a £2.8bn package to help industry and consumers make the transition to cleaner vehicles.

At the same time, the European Scrutiny Committee report said that sustainable transport has the potential to be one of the first areas of post-Brexit divergence between the UK and the EU. For example, the EU intends, between now and 2024, to:

  • Change CO2 emission reduction targets for cars and vans;
  • Implement a carbon reduction and offsetting scheme for air travel; and
  • Introduce new rules for the collection of data concerning car travel to allow transport providers such as rail companies to optimise their own plans.

The Committee has written to Rachel Maclean MP requesting further Government analysis of how the EU strategy will affect the UK. It has also drawn the attention of other relevant House of Commons Select Committees to its report – in this case the Transport Committee and the Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy Committee.

When is Cornish clotted cream not Cornish clotted cream?

The European Scrutiny Committee of the House of Commons has drawn attention to European Commission plans for potential changes in EU rules relating to product names which use geographic locations, such as Cornish clotted cream and Gruyère cheese, which may need to be implemented in Northern Ireland under the Brexit Protocol.

The potential changes are in an Action Plan drawn up by the Commission setting out planned reforms of various aspects of EU law relating to intellectual property rights.

The committee’s analysis can be found in full in its latest scrutiny report which also considers the impact, or potential impact on the UK of other recent EU laws and policies.

The Action Plan sets out the Commission’s work to deal with variations in intellectual property rights across the EU. Those variations, the Commission said, have the potential to limit potential economies of scale for entrepreneurs and companies.

The EU is looking at reforms relating to patents, intellectual property in the agricultural sector and cross cutting issues such as improving enforcement against counterfeit goods.

The Commission also announced that it was working on intellectual property right issues relating to industrial design, plant varieties, artificial intelligence and 3-D printing.

Furthermore, the Commission said it was working on proposals for possible rule changes in the pharmaceutical industry that could have implications for Covid-19 vaccines – although the precise nature of the Commission’s work in this area, The European Scrutiny Committee report said, was not clear from the Action Plan.

The Action Plan does not contain any specific proposals for reform of EU intellectual property law. However, the European Scrutiny Committee said the Government must be highly alert to work in Brussels in this area, to ensure that the UK’s interests are fully taken into account as the Commission prepares its plans. This applies particularly in Northern Ireland, where under the Protocol some EU laws continue to apply.

Because the action plan does not contain specific proposals for reform of EU intellectual property law, the European Scrutiny Committee said it did not require any further information from the Government at this stage.

However, the Committee drew the attention of the Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy Committee, the International Trade Committee and the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee to the Action Plan should it be relevant to their respective work programmes.

The European Scrutiny Committee also drew the attention of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee to the elements of the Action Plan on ‘Geographical Indications’, given their relevance under the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Background on European Scrutiny Committee reports

One of the key roles of the European Scrutiny Committee is to consider recent approved and draft EU legislation and policy documents. When these documents are deposited in Parliament by the Government they are accompanied by an Explanatory Memorandum from the relevant Minister.

The Committee examines the legal and political significance of the documents and where appropriate asks further questions of the Government about the implications of the EU documents for the UK. The Committee also has the power to recommend documents for debate.

Further information

Image: Pixabay