“Developing Muscle”: UK-EU Parliamentary Partnership Assembly sets out an imperative need for further cooperation.

Published 24/11/2022   |   Reading Time minutes

Parliamentarians from the UK and the EU came together on 7-8 November in the second meeting of a new forum for cooperation set up under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA). It’s known as the Parliamentary Partnership Assembly (PPA).  The PPA plays an important role in overseeing how the UK and EU run their new relationship and forms part of their institutional framework.

The Chair of  the Senedd Legislation, Justice and Constitution (LJC) Committee, Huw Irranca-Davies MS and Luke Fletcher MS, Member of the Economy, Trade and Rural Affairs Committee represented the Senedd.

Discussion on the Northern Ireland Protocol dominated the meeting but the forum also agreed a joint recommendation calling on the UK and EU to deepen their energy cooperation in response to the on-going energy crisis and the Russian invasion of  Ukraine.

Huw Irranca-Davies MS told attendees that,  in adopting the recommendation, the PPA is ”developing its muscle”.

Other areas of importance to Wales were discussed such as the issues facing touring artists, research and development cooperation and citizens’ rights. 

Senedd committees have been considering the impacts of these issues in Wales over the last 18 months.

Finding a way forward on Northern Ireland

Since the PPA last met, the deadline for forming an Executive in Northern Ireland passed without the UK and EU reaching an agreement on how the Northern Ireland Protocol should work in practice.

The PPA heard from the UK Government and EU Commission that they are now engaged in serious negotiations for the first time since February 2022 and are committed to a negotiated settlement. Vice-President Šefčovič called for the UK Government’s Northern Ireland Protocol Bill to be withdrawn. UK Europe Minister, Leo Doherty, said the Bill is proceeding but won’t be expedited.

Senedd committees have considered the Bill and the issues for Wales. The Senedd voted to withhold consent to the Bill on 22 November.

Important matters to Wales discussed

In their engagement with Welsh citizens and organisations, Senedd committees and Members have been exploring aspects of the UK-EU relations of particular importance to Wales. At the PPA, the Senedd’s representatives highlighted this work.

Citizens’ rights

The PPA agreed to write to the UK-EU Partnership Council with a list of issues on citizens’ rights that mirror some of the points raised by the Senedd’s Equality and Social Justice Committee. The Partnership Council oversees the implementation of all post-Brexit UK-EU agreements.

The list of issues include that:

  • uncertainty remains for EU citizens granted pre-settled status under the UK’s EU Settlement Scheme;
  • the UK Independent Monitoring Authority has advocated well for EU citizens, but support for British citizens in the EU has not been equal;
  • the UK and the EU should consider a future mobility scheme for young people.
Touring artists

The UK and EU did not agree arrangements for the mobility of touring artists. The absence of an agreement is a serious issue for the culture sector. The PPA called on the UK and EU to negotiate a comprehensive agreement to allow artists to tour freely in the EU and UK and to take steps in the meantime to minimise  the burdens created by current rules.

Wales Arts International told the Senedd’s Culture, Communications, Welsh Language, Sport and International Relations Committee about the issues faced by the sector in Wales.

EU programmes

UK participation in some EU funding programmes was agreed in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) but progress has been slow while the EU completes its internal procedures. Welsh stakeholders are particularly concerned about the UK’s participation in Horizon Europe, the EU’s research and development fund. At the PPA, the UK Government accused the EU of ”politicizing” this issue by linking UK access to the dispute over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Vice-President Šefčovič reiterated the EU’s view, that implementation of the Protocol and TCA are fundamentally linked. He questioned why the EU would consider entering a third agreement with the UK if it had not fully honoured the terms of the first two, referring to the Withdrawal Agreement and to the TCA.  

The Senedd’s Economy, Trade and Rural Affairs Committee has raised Welsh stakeholders’ concerns on Horizon with the Welsh Government.

What is the Senedd’s role?

Chair of the Senedd’s Legislation Justice and Constitution Committee, Huw Irranca-Davies MS, spoke in the PPA about the need for continued engagement between it and the devolved legislatures. He said the TCA is of ”fundamental importance” to Wales and that the Senedd has taken its responsibilities to implement it very seriously. This has included putting in place new arrangements for the environment, agriculture, fisheries, health security and energy cooperation, which are devolved matters.

He said that the Senedd had achieved some ‘notable wins’ from its early work on UK-EU issues improving the transparency of the information available to it and Welsh citizens.

Where do we go from here?

The next PPA meeting will take place in Brussels in spring 2023. It has written to the UK and EU setting out its recommendations and conclusions, asking for a response by January 2023.

The discussions over the two days made it clear that whilst there is desire from all sides for deeper cooperation on many issues of importance to Wales, resolving the Northern Ireland Protocol remains a pre-requisite to moving forward.

Article by Nia Moss, Senedd Research, Welsh Parliament