Report on European Union response to COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic published
14 May 2020
The European Scrutiny Committee highlights the importance of several documents and sets out how it intends to follow up with Government.
DHSC – COVID-19: Authorisation procedure for export of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
- These documents concern the EU’s response to PPE shortages, including a requirement for businesses exporting various types of PPE outside the EU to obtain a license
- The rules will apply to the UK during the post-Brexit transition period and may affect supplies of PPE in the UK, as well as UK businesses exporting PPE to non-EU countries.
The Committee will write to the Minister for Prevention, Public Health and Primary Care (Jo Churchill MP), seeking further information on how the rules will affect the UK, during and after the post-Brexit transition period, how effective the Government believes them to have been so far in securing adequate PPE supplies within the EU, and whether the rules will continue to apply in Northern Ireland beyond the transition period under the terms of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland.
BEIS – COVID-19: Application of EU State Aid rules to coronavirus support schemes
- These rules loosen EU State Aid restrictions on taxpayer-funded support for companies in response the COVID-19 pandemic
- The UK is subject to these rules until the end of the post-Brexit transition period.
The Committee has requested further information from the Minister for Small Businesses, Paul Scully MP, on how EU State Aid rules have affected Government support for British businesses.
BEIS – EU Structural Funds: COVID-19 response
- These documents modify how the EU’s structural funds can be spent in response to COVID-19, and the UK is able to draw on these until the end of 2020
The Committee will seek further information from Government about whether it intends to make use of the proposed funds.
DCMS – COVID-19: Contact tracing apps and data protection and privacy
- This highlights the need for the UK to consider EU fundamental rights and data protection law in the rolling out any contact tracing apps during the post-Brexit transition period
- They highlight the potential relevance of these laws for the UK beyond the end of the transition period, should a data adequacy decision still need to be secured or maintained.
The Committee will write to the Government requesting further information on whether its contact tracing app complies with EU law and will be interoperable with EU countries’ apps.
DFT – COVID-19: Passenger rights
- Although not legally binding, these European Commission guidelines cover a key plank of the UK’s response to COVID-19, namely the rights of air passengers:
o To be informed of cancellations or delays to their journey
o To choose between re-routing or refund in the event of cancellation or delays
o To assistance or compensation where passengers are unable to travel or wish to cancel
The Committee has written to the relevant Minister, Rachel Maclean MP, asking for further information on several points raised by the guidance, and for details of discussions it has had with the airline industry. It also asks whether the Government is investigating, or plans to investigate, the practice of airlines issuing vouchers when passengers have requested refunds.