Other provisions for our departure deserve far greater scrutinyby Charles Kinnoull / October 17, 2019 / Leave a comment
As attention in Westminster and Brussels is again focused on the question of whether the UK and the EU27 can reach an agreement on issues relating to the Irish border, in order to get a Brexit deal over the line before 31st October, the wider question of the contents of the Withdrawal Agreement as a whole is often overlooked.
In December 2018, the House of Lords European Union Committee produced a detailed report on the contents of the WA. Given that the UK government does not appear to have sought to re-open most of these provisions in its negotiations with the European Commission, I thought it the right time to revisit the EU committee’s conclusions.
Aside from the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland—the “backstop”—the deal that was agreed in principle in November 2018 contains detailed provisions relating to governance of the WA, citizens’ rights after Brexit, the financial settlement with the European Union, and transitional provisions. It also includes an option for an extension to the transition period, during which the UK will have to agree its future relationship with the European Union.
The committee highlighted several major issues in addition to the “backstop.” Perhaps most notable was the operation of the Joint Committee that would be responsible for the governance of the agreement. It comprises representatives of the EU and the UK and would be co-chaired. This may sound entirely technocratic, but the operation of the Joint Committee is critically important. The EU Committee described it as a “uniquely powerful and influential body” which would be “critical in ensuring the smooth working of the Withdrawal Agreement.”
Disputes between the parties would, in the first instance, be decided by the Joint Committee and decisions adopted by the JC would be binding on the EU and the UK, and would have the same legal effect as the Withdrawal Agreement. The Joint Committee would also have the powerto amend aspects of the Agreement to take account of errors, omissions and deficiencies, and to address unforeseen situations. The EU Committee noted that although changes that “amend the essential elements” of the Agreement are excluded, “this is a widely drawn power, and is not subject to clear scrutiny procedures or parliamentary oversight.”
It was also critical of the transparency…