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Complex institutional framework of the UK-EU future relationship examined by EU Committee

22 March 2021

The House of Lords EU Committee has today published the first in a series of reports looking beyond Brexit to the future relationship between the UK and EU. This report focuses on the institutional framework contained in the post-Brexit EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, including governance structures and dispute settlement.


On 24 December 2020, four and a half years after the people of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, negotiators representing the two sides finally agreed the terms of the future UK-EU relationship and published the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA).

The approval and ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement allowed the UK to leave the EU on 31 January 2020, entering into a transition period of 11 months, during which the UK and EU negotiated the terms of their future relationship. The result of these negotiations was the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, but this has not yet been ratified and is subject to provisional application until 30 April 2021.

The report

The Committee’s report outlines the complex but flat governance structure established by the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, concluding that it is likely to prove challenging, and there may be a case for simplifying and rationalising it in due course.

The Committee is particularly concerned by the Government’s decision that, until the agreement is ratified, none of the governance bodies can meet, with the result that the entire governance structure is in abeyance.

The report calls on the Government to commit to supporting effective scrutiny by both Houses of Parliament of the complex proposed governance structure, and to ensuring that the Minister overseeing relations with the EU appears regularly before designated Select Committees of both Houses.

The report notes that the Government has broadly achieved its aim of bring the direct jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Union to an end. But in its place the TCA creates a varied series of dispute resolution mechanisms, some of which are novel, untested and without clear precedent. Only time will tell if they are workable in practice.

Finally, the report regrets the fact that the bulk of dispute settlement arrangements are State-to-State, and as a result access to justice for individuals and businesses will be restricted, even in cases where individual rights are directly affected, such as extradition. The Committee calls on the Government to take steps to mitigate this impact.

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