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Committee endorse the appointment of Chair of the Independent Monitoring Authority

3 December 2020

The House of Commons Justice Committee has endorsed the appointment of the head of a new body which will monitor and protect the rights of an estimated 3.7m EU citizens and some other Europeans living in the UK after Brexit, subject to two key considerations.

The Justice Committee regularly holds pre-appointment hearings to quiz the Government’s favoured candidates for a number of roles appointed by the Justice Ministry as part of the Committee’s mandate to scrutinise the work of the Ministry.

The Committee endorsed, subject to the considerations set out below, the appointment of Sir Ashley Fox in the role of Chair of the Independent Monitoring Authority. This new body is being set up to monitor how public institutions in the UK and Gibraltar implement and apply the citizens’ rights parts of the EU UK Withdrawal Agreement and agreements made with the European Economic Area and European Free Trade Area states.

The Committee noted that Sir Ashley said he saw the Authority’s role as monitoring rights and that he does not intend to "raise hopes" that it will deal with individual citizens' complaints.

However, the final report of the Committee on the appointment made clear that the new body – due to ‘go live’ on January 1 2021 - is required to make a judgment on all complaints it receives, has the power to initiate investigations and, if it considers it necessary, may take action up to and including seeking judicial review.

Therefore, while endorsing the appointment of Sir Ashley Fox to the role of Chair of the Independent Monitoring Authority, the Committee said it would also welcome an early statement from him, once he has taken up the post of Chair, on how the Authority intends to make its role and presence known to those citizens whose rights it is intended to protect.

The Committee said, in the same vein, that it would welcome a clear indication from the Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice, Robert Buckland, as the sponsor of the Authority, of the extent to which the new body should actively seek to assist EU citizens in safeguarding their rights after Brexit.

There was some discussion at the Committee between Members and the candidate for the new role about the importance of acting at the Authority in a manner independent from Government. The Committee invited Sir Ashley to write to it confirming, for the published record, that he will neither seek nor hold elected public office during his term as Chair of the Independent Monitoring Authority, and that he will neither seek nor undertake any role within any political party during that time.

The Committee recommended in its report on the matter that the Secretary of State for Justice should seek a similar assurance from Sir Ashley.

The formal description of the role of the Independent Monitoring Authority is to protect the rights of approximately 3.7m EU citizens, in addition to some other European nationals, who currently reside in the UK and Gibraltar and who may wish to apply for permanent residence rights. (3.7m is a 2019 figure from the Office for National Statistics; for various reasons the number is likely to be lower now).

The new body will be mandated to monitor the situation of people in the UK affected by the EU UK Withdrawal Agreement (in other words, EU citizens) as well as people affected by the European Economic Area/ European Free Trade Area Separation Agreement (in other words, citizens of Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway).

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