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Transport secretary says leaving the EU will allow the UK to “set its own standards”

Chris Grayling has told peers that breaking away from the EU will mean the UK can rip up the rule book and set its own standards when it comes to sectors like rail and sees no reason why the country should be made to abide by European regulations.

His comments were made to the Lords EU Internal Market sub-committee where he painted the picture moving forward on EU-UK transport arrangements.

Grayling was questioned by peers on how he saw different sectors operating in the future and what conversations had been had with European counterparts and internally on the preparations for a “no deal”.

Responding to Labour peer Baroness Donaghy on what could be expected regarding future relationships in relation to transport if a deal was reached, the secretary of state said the “most liberal possible approach” was being advocated by the UK and said that his European partners shared his desire to maintain the flow of people and trade.

Grayling then went onto tell the committee that he saw no need for the UK to remain part of the European Rail Regulatory Body as the country’s rail system varied in a vast numbers of ways to that of continental Europe.

“We have a rail network that is separate of that to the rest of Europe, unlike most other countries,” he told the committee. “I can’t see why we would want to be part of something that sets standards internationally. We can follow those just as we choose to follow, but we can set our own standards for our own network.”

The transport secretary said rail services arrangements were to be sorted bilaterally and that those conversations had started. He confirmed he had met with his French and Belgium counterparts and that there was a mutual desire for services to continue smoothly but reiterated his stance on not needing to follow European regulations.

Grayling added: “Why should we have to follow a European standard, that doesn’t work for the United Kingdom, and would have regulations that would, for example, prevent us from providing level access to disabled people to the trains on HS2? That is a European rule, it’s there for circumstances in the EU—I can see absolutely no reason on earth why we should try and follow that.”

However, Grayling was forced to concede that he could see potential bottle necks happening at Calais and the tunnel in relation to haulage and port logistics. The committee was told it was the government’s policy not to impose artificial barriers at the border and therefore the issue with traffic leaving the UK posed the most significant challenge.