European Union (Withdrawal) Bill - Report (3rd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:45 pm on 25th April 2018.

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Photo of Lord Berkeley Lord Berkeley Labour 8:45 pm, 25th April 2018

My Lords, I support my two noble friends who have spoken to this amendment. I declare an interest as chairman of the Rail Freight Group and a member of the board of the European Rail Freight Association. They are absolutely right in the worry that these agencies will not be able to accept us after Brexit. I know the European railway agency people very well, and they would love us to stay, obviously, and would love to work with us, but of course they are forbidden from doing so by the European Commission, because that is part of the regulations. But the consequences, as my noble friends have said, are actually very serious. The manufacturing issue is not just about how we are going to take the components back and forward—it is the standards to which they are created and built and the safety certification that has to go along with it, which cannot easily after Brexit cross between us and the rest of Europe.

The issue also occurs on the railways, partly with manufactured items and partly with the operation. We do not yet know whether the train drivers that go across in the tunnel—Eurostar or rail freight—will have to have separate licences. The one good thing that the European railway agency started off doing was to try to get a common standard for red tail-lights across Europe, because each member state had its own standard, and when you got to a frontier somebody had to walk to the back of the train and change the lights. Mercifully, that is a thing of the past—but, unless all these issues are sorted out and the necessary drivers and other staff get the proper training, there will be no trains through the tunnel, and there may not be any flights, if my noble friend’s comments on the air service are correct.

We really need to get on with this. Everybody is waiting for a decision and, if we do not, we can expect to have very little traffic on the railways when we leave the EU. I do not think that the same will apply to the ferries across the channel, but we do not know. How all that affects the transport between the north and south of Ireland and across the Irish Sea, we had better leave to another day—but I hope that the Minister will have some positive response to my noble friends’ questions.