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Committee reports on UK-EU Joint Consultative Working Group, and VAT in Northern Ireland

10 November 2020

In its latest report, the European Scrutiny Committee considers recent draft EU legislation and policy documents deposited in Parliament by the Government.

Each document is accompanied by an Explanatory Memorandum from the relevant Minister. The Committee examines the legal and political importance of the document and where appropriate asks further questions of the Government about its implications. The Committee also has the power to recommend documents for debate.

In its latest report the Committee highlights the importance of several documents, and how it intends to follow up with Government. These include:

CO – Northern Ireland Protocol: Joint Consultative Working Group
Important because:

  • It details how the UK will be kept informed about planned EU laws that will affect Northern Ireland in the future, and how the UK and EU will discuss the implementation of laws covered by the Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol
  • The Government commits to working with the Westminster and Northern Irish Parliaments, and the Northern Ireland Executive, on future arrangements for governance of the Withdrawal Agreement.
    As the UK is no longer part of the EU’s law-making process, the Withdrawal Agreement provides for the establishment of a Joint Consultative Working Group (JCWG) to allow discussions on laws relevant to Northern Ireland.

In correspondence with the Committee, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove MP confirms that officials from the Northern Ireland Executive will be invited to participate on the JCWG and argues that it provides a formal opportunity for the UK to influence EU law.

The Committee welcomes the Chancellor’s commitment to parliamentary oversight of implementing the Withdrawal Agreement and the Protocol, including the work of the JCWG, but asks him to justify his assertion that the JCWG will be a forum for the UK to influence EU law. The Committee has also suggested a series of measures that would improve the transparency of the JCWG’s work.

HMT – Northern Ireland Protocol: EU VAT identifier for businesses
Important because:

  • This document outlines an EU proposal for a specific geographic VAT identifier code for business in Northern Ireland trading goods with the EU, which will remain subject to EU VAT law on goods under the terms of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The Committee has written to the Government requesting further information about its preferred alternatives to the EU’s proposed approach; with confirmation that the Ireland/Northern Ireland Specialised Committee had agreed “on the process for identifying Northern Ireland traders for VAT purposes and enabling them to reclaim VAT through existing IT databases when trading in goods with the EU” seemingly a promising sign.

Further information

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