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Committee reports on future EU asylum policy, and how the EU’s Customs Union Action Plan could affect the UK

17 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:

Home Office – New Pact on Migration and Asylum

Important because:

  • These documents are intended to provide a way forward on the contentious issue of EU asylum reform, containing new proposals in a range of areas, including a new Blueprint for responding to a migration crisis.
  • Although any proposals adopted by EU member states would not apply to the UK, there is a clear shared interest and potential for future cooperation in this vital area.

Since the 2015 refugee crisis, the EU has dedicated considerable time and resources to agreeing a far-reaching package of reforms to its asylum and migration policy.

The New Pact on Migration and Asylum signals a “fresh start”, proposing a new “solidarity mechanism” to share responsibility for migration crises more equitably amongst Member States and unlock wider reform of EU asylum laws.

The Government broadly welcomes the New Pact, noting that it aligns with the UK’s interests in many areas and that it provides a good basis for mutually beneficial cooperation after the post-exit transition period ends on 31 December 2020.

As part of the future relationship negotiations with the EU, the UK has tabled draft legal texts on unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and on arrangements for the readmission and return of illegal migrants. The Committee has written to the Government requesting further information on the progress of negotiations on these draft texts, and on the wider implications of the measures proposed in the New Pact for cooperation between the EU and the UK on asylum and migration after the end of transition.

HM Treasury – the EU’s Customs Union Action Plan

Important because:

  • This document sets out proposed reforms to the way the EU manages its customs and regulatory border for trade in goods with non-EU countries, including the UK
  • If adopted these proposals would affect the UK both directly, via the Northern Ireland Protocol, and indirectly, as the UK and EU continue to trade in the future.

The Committee’s report contains an analysis of the potential implications of the proposals for the UK, with the caveat that whilst the nature of the future relationship remains unclear, it is difficult to predict their impact with complete certainty.

However, it also notes that the Government has yet to extensively consult with the Belfast Executive about the implications of the proposals, despite their potential to directly affect Northern Irish businesses, customs and regulatory operations via the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The Committee recommends that the Government do so as a matter of urgency, as the EU continues to formulate future customs policy.

Further information

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