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Lords Committee calls for UK-EU relations reset after years of tension and mistrust

29 April 2023

The European Affairs Committee has today published a report on the UK-EU relationship.


The report is based on an inquiry undertaken between July 2022 and March 2023. The inquiry involved 12 oral evidence sessions, with a total of 43 witnesses, as well as 58 written submissions.

The report

The report examines the overarching state of the post-Brexit relationship between the UK and EU, and how this might be developed in the future, across four themes:

  • The overall political, diplomatic and institutional relationship;
  • the foreign policy, defence and security relationship;
  • energy security and climate change; and
  • mobility of people.

After years of tension and mistrust, recommendations focus on actions to be taken as a priority as part of a reset of UK-EU relations following the recent agreement of the Windsor Framework.

Findings and recommendations

The Committee’s key findings and recommendations are as follows:

The political, diplomatic and institutional relationship

  • The opportunity the recent improvement in the mood around UK-EU relations this presents for a reset of UK-EU relations should, following years of tension and mistrust, must be grasped.
  • There should be a considerable increase in engagement between the UK and the EU. This should include greater use of existing institutional structures such as the TCA Specialised Committees. There would also be value in holding regular UK-EU summits. The UK’s participation in the new European Political Community is welcome.

The foreign policy, defence and security relationship

  • Cooperation between the UK and the EU has been close and productive in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Nevertheless, the ad hoc approach to sanctions coordination with the EU should be replaced by a more formal mechanism.
  • The Government’s decision to participate in the Military Mobility project under the EU’s Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) is welcome. It should consider future opportunities for defence cooperation with the EU that are complementary to NATO as they arise.
  • The Government should approach the EU with the aim of establishing appropriate structured cooperation arrangements on external affairs.

Energy security and climate change

  • Energy trading between the UK and the EU has continued without much disruption despite the energy security challenges experienced in Europe following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. However, an agreement should be reached to guarantee that energy flows can continue in the event of a critical supply shortage.
  • The UK and the EU should cooperate closely on the installation of additional interconnectors, including in the North Sea, which are needed to ensure future energy security.
  • There would be mutual benefits to be gained from the UK and the EU linking their respective Emissions Trading Schemes and the Government should approach the EU about this possibility. The Government should also engage closely with the EU in relation to the latter’s proposal for a Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM).

Mobility of people

  •  The end of free movement of people between the UK and the EU has had a major impact on business and professional travel. Government guidance on business and professional mobility should be made more straightforward to navigate and interpret.
  • The substantial decline in school visits from the EU to the UK since 2019 is regrettable. To address this the Government should reintroduce a youth group travel scheme that would not require pupils travelling on school visits from any EU country to carry individual passports.
  • Post-Brexit barriers to mobility have had a disproportionate impact on younger people. The Government should approach the EU about the possibility of entering an ambitious reciprocal youth mobility partnership, similar to existing schemes with other jurisdictions such as Australia and Canada.

Chair's quote

Lord Kinnoull, Chair of the Committee, said:

“The UK’s post-Brexit relationship with the EU has regrettably come under significant strain over the period since the TCA came into force, characterised by tension and mistrust.

“While the recent change in mood for future UK-EU relations following the announcement of the Windsor Framework is welcome, there is now the opportunity to move the relationship forward to the mutual benefit of both the UK and the EU.

“A particular theme running through our Future UK-EU Relationship report evidence was the significant impact of post-Brexit barriers to mobility young workers and professionals in the early stages of their careers, emerging artists, as well as students across different educational levels. Making progress here will benefit all in the short term but especially in the long term.

“The Committee feels that it is now time to address the considerable lack of structure in the foreign policy, security and defence relationship. Here we particularly recommend means of seeking to make sanctions bite harder through analysis and enforcement cooperation.

“Another area we looked into was energy. Here again we have made many recommendations which will help our long term energy security.
“We have also made a number of recommendations about the current institutional relationship and how improvements can be made”.

Further information