Comment

10.07.18

What about Brexit?

Source: RTM June/July 2018

Darren Caplan, chief executive of the Railway Industry Association (RIA), dares to investigate the potential impact of Brexit on the UK rail supply sector.

Everyone’s talking about Brexit – except the rail supply sector, it seems. Having chaired rail industry events in recent months, the B-word has scarcely been mentioned despite provocations to do so. The results of a recent survey of RIA members even showed Brexit failed to make our members’ Top 3 priorities.

Yet as the June EU Summit approaches and more flesh is being put on the Brexit bones, it is becoming more important for the industry to engage and understand the process. It may simply be that the complexity and continual twists and turns of the negotiations have made it difficult for rail businesses to understand how Brexit will actually affect them.

Trade deals

The main opportunity of Brexit is that we could see the UK Government striking direct trade deals with other countries all around the world, presenting possibilities for rail exporters as part of so-called ‘Global Britain.’ UK rail – given its size and strategic significance to UK plc – is an important exports sector and should look to use the impetus of Brexit to grow its presence overseas. RIA has been lobbying hard for rail to be included in the Department for International Trade’s (DIT’s) thinking as it begins to negotiate in the years ahead, but we are concerned that other transport sectors are given far higher priority, even though recent research shows rail is comparable with sectors such as automotive and aerospace.

The DIT and Department for Exiting the EU, the two departments responsible for developing these new trade deals, must engage more with rail and increase its visibility to ensure it informs trade negotiation thinking.

Frictionless trade

There’s lots of talk at the moment about  the Customs Union and its possible replacements. Clearly, a future challenge for rail suppliers is dealing with possible tariff and non-tariff barriers. Whether increased costs or complex additional administration, noone wants to see impositions and delays at the border. UK rail suppliers could also lose Notified Bodies status, meaning they would lose the right to assess the conformity of some rail products before they are placed on the market – this would deleteriously impact on exports and the ability of UK firms to trade with EU countries. Similarly, were the UK to be classed as a third country, content could be limited by EU ‘rules of origin’ limiting third-country content to 45%.

Whilst this issue has been particularly high-profile in the automotive industry, it could have a similar impact on the rail sector, and so we urge the government to work for a Brexit deal which enables trade to continue as frictionless as possible.

Standards

The rail sector has a number of standards deriving from EU law. Unsurprisingly, RIA members would like to see the rail industry, rather than the government, being held responsible for standards. So, whilst the powers on standards would return to the UK, it would be UK rail advising on whether standards should be harmonised when the UK initially leaves the EU. This would make the transition to December 2020 simpler, avoid cost increases, and ensure suppliers would not need to manufacture to two standards. RIA would also like to see the UK remaining a member of the EU Railway Agency on a similar relationship to non-EU member Switzerland, so that rail can continue to influence standards in the years ahead.

The workforce

Finally, there is the issue of the UK rail workforce. The rail industry has certain skilled trade requirements where it has to rely on workers from outside the UK; nationally, the proportion of staff hailing from the wider EU is 20% (46% south of Derby). We encourage the industry and government to work together to ensure we have the workers we need from a combination of the EU and non-EU countries, and in terms of training up and attracting more people from the UK to work in this fantastic industry. Future Home Office immigration policy will have a role to play in helping deliver the workforce we need.

As with every other sector, rail is clearly going to be going through uncertain times. If we in rail supply can make the most of the potential opportunities and work to prepare for and mitigate the challenges posed by Brexit, we’ll all be better positioned to continue on the path to a growing and sustainable rail supply sector in the years ahead.

 

Enjoying RTM? Subscribe here to receive our weekly news updates or click here to receive a copy of the magazine!

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

related

rail technology magazine tv

more videos >

latest rail news

View all News

rail industry focus

Rail Technology Magazine fuels the Northern Powerhouse with official partnership

21/11/2018Rail Technology Magazine fuels the Northern Powerhouse with official partnership

Cognitive Publishing, the home of leading rai... more >
Towards railway-specific, bearer-independent communication

17/09/2018Towards railway-specific, bearer-independent communication

Freelance transport journalist Lesley Brown&n... more >

editor's comment

23/01/2018Out with the old...

Despite a few disappointing policy announcements, especially for the electrification aficionados amongst us, 2017 was, like Darren Caplan writes on page 20, a year generally marked by positive news for the rail industry. We polished off the iconic Ordsall Chord (p32), hit some solid milestones on Thameslink (p40), progressed on ambitious rolling stock orders (p16), and finally started moving forward on HS2 (p14) ‒ paving the way for a New Year with brand-new infrastructrure to... read more >

last word

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

This summer, Arriva Group's CrossCountry and the Scout Association joined to launch a new partnership to promote rail safety among young people. Chris Leech MBE, business community manager at the TOC, gives RTM an update on the innovative scheme. Recognising that young people are more likely to take a risk trespassing on railway tracks, C... more > more last word articles >

'the sleepers' daily blog

Spotlight on Coventry Very Light Rail

27/11/2018Spotlight on Coventry Very Light Rail

Olivia Brown, business development officer at Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG), an academic department of the University of Warwick, outlines the four exciting projects currently taking place as part of the Coventry Very Light Rail (VLR)  programme. In RTM’s June/July issue, readers were introduced to the concept of VLR and th... more >
read more blog posts from 'the sleeper' >

interviews

HS2 train race: making the case

20/11/2018HS2 train race: making the case

Bombardier and Hitachi’s commitment to providing the best HS2 rolling stock pitch to the government was signified with the launch of their ... more >
Finding positives in negative short-circuiting devices

09/11/2018Finding positives in negative short-circuiting devices

Sponsored interview  Anything that brings about safety and time-saving benefits is a valued improvement for the rail industry, which is w... more >
Taking to the skies

30/10/2018Taking to the skies

Network Rail’s commitment to driving innovation is best encapsulated by its latest scheme involving high-definition imagery drones, or UAVs... more >
Going global: an interview with Network Rail’s Leevan Finney

29/08/2018Going global: an interview with Network Rail’s Leevan Finney

RTM’s Jack Donnelly sat down with one of the leading minds behind Network Rail’s most advanced and innovative rail maintenance techno... more >