Rules for the adoption of enforcement and unilateral measures under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement and the Withdrawal Agreement between the EU and the UK

In “A Stronger Europe in the World”

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Background

The United-Kingdom (UK) withdrew from the European Union (EU) on 1 February 2020. The terms of the withdrawal are governed by the Withdrawal Agreement. The post-withdrawal EU-UK relations are governed by the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) which (provisionally) entered into force on 1 January 2021, until it entered into force on 1 May 2021 after consent of the European Parliament.

Since the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement entered into force, the EU and the UK have encountered major frictions relating to disagreements regarding the application and implementation of the Protocol on Ireland / Northern Ireland (the Protocol), part of the Withdrawal Agreement. The UK has several times threatened to take 'unilateral measures' regarding border controls between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, then have argued that there were grounds for invoking Article 16 of the Protocol. Article 16 envisages that Party 'may unilaterally take appropriate safeguard measures' if the application of the Protocol leads to 'serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties that are liable to persist, or to diversion of trade'. The EU launched legal actions against the UK for taking unilateral actions.

Disagreements surfaced in other areas such as the fisheries chapter of the EU-UK TCA.

Commitment of the European Commission

The European Commission announced in its Working document on the EU’s legislative priorities for 2022 the Proposal for a Regulation laying down rules for the adoption of enforcement and unilateral measures under the TCA and the Withdrawal Agreement between the EU and the UK (priority 94).

On 11 March 2022, the European Commission published a proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and the Council laying down rules for the exercise of the Union's rights in the implementation and enforcement of the Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community and of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community, of the one part, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, of the other part.

The proposal establishes rules and procedures to ensure an effective and timely exercise of the EU's rights in enforcing and implementing the Withdrawal Agreement and the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, and lays down the rules and committee procedure. The proposal also confirms the lex specialis character of the proposed Regulation, and a review of this Regulation by the Commission within five years of its entry into force.

The legal bases are those in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) which govern the areas in which unilateral and enforcement measures may have to be adopted, namely Article 43 TFEU (fisheries), Articles 91 and 100 TFEU (transport), Articles 173, 182, 188 and 189 TFEU (Union programmes), Article 207 TFEU (common commercial policy).

European Parliament

The committee referral was announced in Parliament 1st reading on 23 March 2022. The Committees on Foreign Affairs (AFET), on International Trade (INTA) and n Constitutional Affairs (AFCO) are joint-lead Committee, rapporteurs: Danuta Maria Hübner for AFET (EPP, Poland), Seán Kelly for INTA (EPP, Ireland) and Andreas Schieder for AFCO (S&D, Austria). Five Committees were asked for an opinion: Fisheries (PECH), Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI), Research and Energy (ITRE), Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO), Transport and Tourism (TRAN) and Legal Affairs (JURI). AGRI, INTRE and JURI decided not to give an opinion. AFET Committee adopted its report on 10 October 2022, and the Parliament confirmed its decision to enter into interinstitutional negotiations in October 2022 plenary.

Council of the EU

On 3 June 2022, the Council adopted its general approach on the proposed Regulation on Autonomous Measures (TFEU), which will be adopted under the ordinary legislative procedure.

It specified that the Council Regulation on Autonomous Measures (Euratom) will be adopted at a later stage, together with the Regulation on Autonomous Measures (TFEU), as soon as agreement has been reached with the European Parliament.

References:

European Commission, Proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council laying down rules for the exercise of the Union's rights in the implementation and enforcement of the Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community and of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community, of the one part, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, of the other part, COM(2022) 89, 11 March 2022. Main amendments focused on increasing parliamentary scrutiny of the EU UK relations.

European Parliament, Legislative Observatory, EU/Euratom/UK Trade and Cooperation Agreements and Withdrawal Agreement: Rules for the exercise of the Union's rights.

European Parliament, the Council of the European Union and the European Commission, Working document on the EU’s legislative priorities for 2022, 16 December 2021.

European Parliament, the Council of the European Union and the European Commission, Joint Declaration on legislative priorities for 2022,16 December 2021.

Further reading:

European Parliament, EPRS, EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement: An analytical overview, In-Depth Analysis, February 2021.

European Parliament, EPRS, The level playing field for labour and environment in the EU-UK relations, Briefing, November 2021.

European Parliament, EPRS, EU-UK relations: difficulties in implementing the Northern Ireland Protocol, Briefing, July 2021.

European Parliament, EPRS, EU-UK relations in fisheries, Briefing, February 2021.

Author: Marcin Szczepanski, Members' Research Service, legislative-train@europarl.europa.eu

As of 20/11/2022.