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“A more positive trajectory” for UK-EU relations?

Published 03/11/2023   |   Reading Time minutes

Parliamentary relations form a key part of the trade agreement between the UK and the EU. The agreement establishes a new forum for parliamentarians from the UK and EU to meet twice yearly to discuss progress made on the agreement and the state of the relationship. It is known as the Parliamentary Partnership Assembly (PPA).

The PPA has important powers for making recommendations about UK-EU agreements to the Partnership Council, where the European Commission and UK Government oversee the relationship.

Senedd representatives raised a number of important issues at the PPA’s third meeting in July 2023. Issues such as UK participation in Horizon, trade barriers, youth and cultural mobility and the implementation of the Windsor Framework.

Speaking at the meeting, European Commission Vice-President Šefčovič remarked that the Windsor Framework has set UK-EU relations on “a more positive trajectory”. UK Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly, welcomed the mutual trust, confidence and understanding grown between both parties.

The PPA agreed a joint recommendation on the EU-UK common effort to support Ukraine and effective cooperation on sanctions.

It’s been a busy few months for work on UK-EU relations in the Senedd and this looks set to continue into 2024.

Important matters to Wales discussed at the PPA

The Senedd was represented at the meeting by the Chair of the Senedd Legislation, Justice and Constitution (LJC) Committee, Huw Irranca-Davies MS and Luke Fletcher MS, from the Economy, Trade and Rural Affairs Committee. Read more on the key outcomes and discussions below.

Energy and climate cooperation

The ‘huge potential’ for cooperation between the UK and EU on energy security and delivery of net zero was the key finding of the breakout group on climate and energy. Senedd Members highlighted the importance of cooperation in the Irish and Celtic Seas for renewable energy and interconnector projects. The importance of co-operation on carbon border adjustment mechanisms and emission trading for business and next zero ambitions was highlighted.

Mobility, the movement of young people and artists, and citizen engagement

Improving mobility and opportunities for artists, young people and citizens remains a key focus of the work of the PPA. These issues are of particular interest to Senedd Members and Wales. Decreased opportunity for youth, cultural and civic exchanges remains a key concern. Senedd Members highlighted the Welsh Government’s Taith international learning exchange programme in Wales and supported calls for the EU and UK to negotiate a comprehensive agreement to allow artists to tour and work in the UK and EU.

Implementing the Windsor Framework

The agreement of the Windsor Framework was welcomed as an important step in UK-EU relations. Full implementation of the Framework ‘at pace’ is key, the European Commission said. Implementation of the Framework will raise specific issues for Wales and its ports. Senedd Members highlighted this.

Senedd work on UK-EU relations

Work on UK-EU relations remains a key area of focus for the work of several Senedd committees. The sections below provide an update on this work.

The Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee is responsible for considering the implementation, operation and compliance of UK-EU agreements.

Latest work

The Committee is concluding its inquiry on UK-EU Governance. The inquiry will make recommendations on the role of devolved governments, parliaments and civil society in UK-EU relations. It has published the key findings from its fact finding mission to the EU. The Committee continues to look at the implications of the Retained EU Law Act and regulations implementing the Windsor Framework.

The Culture and International Relations Committee is responsible for looking at international relations and the Welsh Government’s International Strategy.

Latest work

The Committee published its report on Wales-Ireland relations in October. The report makes 17 recommendations including on issues such as Horizon, promotion of Wales-Ireland work and engagement of Welsh organisations in that work.

The Committee has launched an inquiry into culture and the new relationship with EU. It will look at the impact of the new relationship on artists and creative workers touring and working across borders.

The Economy Trade and Rural Affairs Committee is responsible for trade, including the UK-EU agreements and the impact of new trading relationships on Welsh business and ports.

Latest work

The Committee has been looking at the Windsor Framework and the new UK’s new trade border operating model. It held a session with trade and logistics experts and the Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething, on 11 October. This work will continue in the coming months.

The Equalities and Social Justice Committee is responsible for European citizens’ rights under the Withdrawal Agreement and other separation agreements between the UK and non-EU states. It reports to the Senedd on a quarterly basis in relation to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS).

Latest work

Six things to watch in the coming months

The next few months will be another busy period for UK-EU relations and the Senedd’s engagement in these issues. Things to watch include:

  1. the UK-EU Civil Society Forum meets in London on 7 November;
  2. the UK-EU PPA meets in London on 4-5 December;
  3. Senedd committees will publish significant reports on UK-EU Governance, the EUSS and the UK-EU relationship before the end of the year;
  4. negotiations over a return to power-sharing in Northern Ireland continue with hopes for progress in the coming months, alongside the on-going implementation of the Windsor Framework;
  5. the UK’s new trade border model will be phased in from January 2024 applying to all imports, including EU imports for the first time since Brexit; and
  6. new rules and requirements on UK-EU trade agreed as part of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement are due to enter into operation from January 2024.

Senedd committees and Members responsible for UK-EU work will continue to monitor developments and ensure that voices from Wales are heard in these debates.

Article by Nia Moss, Senedd Research, Welsh Parliament