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Common frameworks can strengthen the Union, says Lords Committee

31 March 2021

The Common Frameworks Scrutiny Committee publishes its first report. It finds that common frameworks are innovative and flexible mechanisms for developing UK-wide policy by collaboration and consensus between the four administrations, while recognising the autonomy of each administration in its areas of competence. The Committee recommends that common frameworks should be used as a model to reset UK intergovernmental relations and build a cooperative Union.

Chair’s comments

The Chair of the Committee, Baroness Andrews, said:

“Common frameworks are a crucial legacy of leaving the EU that has too often been overlooked. They create the processes necessary for day-to-day cooperation across the UK in areas such as food safety, farming and the environment.

“During the Committee’s inquiry, we found widespread support for common frameworks across sectors and in every part of the UK. However, the UK Internal Market Act has clearly damaged relations with the devolved administrations and could severely compromise the common frameworks programme. We also have concerns about transparency and how the frameworks will relate to the Northern Ireland Protocol.

“While the relationships between the UK Government and devolved administrations are acknowledged to be severely strained, we believe that the collaborative approach of common frameworks should be used as a model to reset UK intergovernmental relations and build a cooperative Union.”

Key recommendations

  • Common frameworks represent an example of best practice for positive cooperation across the UK and have an important role to play in an evolving devolution settlement and in strengthening the Union
  • The UK Internal Market Act has strained relations with the devolved administrations, particularly in Scotland and Wales, and could severely compromise common frameworks unless the UK Government exempts them in an appropriate manner
  • The Government should use common frameworks to discuss changes introduced through the Northern Ireland Protocol and minimise divergence between Northern Ireland and Great Britain
  • Parliamentary scrutiny of common frameworks will need to continue even after they have been finalised. The House of Lords could play a valuable role in providing a neutral forum for the views of devolved legislatures and facilitating closer interparliamentary cooperation.

Further information