They go beyond a simple trade deal and reports suggest the government is open to the ideaby Aarti Shankar / June 29, 2018 / Leave a comment
The Prime Minister is finally expected to lay out her vision of the future UK-EU economic partnership at the start of next month. Despite this being only weeks away, reports suggest that a common government position on key substantive elements—including customs and immigration arrangements—are yet to be finalised. However, an idea of what the framework of the overall relationship could look like has surfaced.
Reports last week suggested the government is considering an “Association Agreement” structure for the future bilateral relationship. A senior cabinet source has argued that this model would allow for a “wide-ranging” partnership, covering “a number of different pillars” of cooperation.
So what is an Association Agreement (AA)? AAs are a special form of bilateral agreement that go beyond a simple trade deal. They create “privileged links” between the European Union and a third country and foster close economic and political cooperation. AAs do this by providing an overarching framework for a package of cooperation agreements, from trade, to defence and security, environmental commitments, taxation, research and education, science and technology etc.
There is no single, prescriptive model for what an Association Agreement should include—the European Parliament’s Guy Verhofstadt recently referredto AAs as “a blank canvas—a box into which we can place different areas of cooperation.” The EU has over twenty AAs of varying forms, primarily with countries in its neighbouring region. Most recently, the EU concluded three Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) style AAs with Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova. These provide privileged access to the EU’s single market in goods and services in return for approximating relevant EU legislation and respecting common EU values. They also cover broader cooperation in foreign and defence policy and justice and home affairs.
The EU’s Stabilisation and Association Agreements with the Western Balkans also provide more liberal access to the single market based on approximating EU laws—but, unlike the Ukraine agreement, focus on promoting fair competition, fostering regional cooperation in the Balkans, and are structured as pre-accession agreements. Turkey’s AA with the EU was different still. The 1963 agreement established Turkey’s customs union with the EU and sought to align Turkey’s economic policies with the EU’s internal market.
“AAs tend to adopt a more flexible approach to…