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UK sanctions policy faces uncertain future, warns Committee

17 December 2017

The EU External Affairs Sub-Committee today is publishing a report on sanctions policy post-Brexit. This report concludes that the effectiveness of UK sanctions will be undermined unless the UK can quickly agree arrangements for future sanctions policy co-operation with the EU. Without this, the UK could be left with the choice of imposing less effective unilateral sanctions or aligning with EU sanctions it has no influence over.

Key findings

  • After Brexit, the UK will be able to unilaterally impose sanctions, but restrictive measures are most effective when imposed at the same time as other countries.
  • The principal interests and threats facing the UK and the EU-27 will not change fundamentally when the UK leaves the EU.
  • The Committee welcomes the Government's intention to continue to work in close partnership with the EU and other international partners after Brexit, but notes that the Government's proposed "tailored" and "unprecedented" approach to UK-EU collaboration on sanctions policy is untested.
  • The UK should pursue informal engagement, as the US does, with the EU on sanctions. However, this is not a substitute for the influence it currently exercises through formal inclusion in the EU meetings where the bloc's sanctions policy is agreed.
  • If participation in the Common Foreign and Security Policy after Brexit is not possible—or not sought by the UK—then the Government should propose that a political forum be established between the UK and the EU, for regular discussion and co-ordination of sanctions policy.

Spokesperson's comments

Member of the EU External Affairs Sub-Committee, Lord Horam, said:

"Sanctions are most effective when imposed in concert with international partners. We need swift agreement on how the UK and the EU will work together on sanctions policy after we have left the bloc—and consideration of how wider foreign policy co-operation will be framed. It is not yet clear what the Government's proposed 'tailored arrangement' with the EU on sanctions policy would involve. If we don't agree on a formal mechanism for co-operation, we will have an unappealing choice to make between imposing less effective unilateral sanctions, or aligning with more effective EU sanctions, the design of which we have not influenced."

Further information

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