08 August 2018
This is the latest in a series of posts looking at the UK Government’s White Paper on the Future relationship between the UK and the EU. For a general overview of the proposals see our previous blog post.
The White Paper states that the UK Government, in order to fulfil its proposals for the future relationship, would like to see continued participation in a number of EU agencies after Brexit. According to the UK Government this would, amongst other things, enable the mutual recognition of standards, the sharing of essential expertise and personnel, and the exchange of data and information.
Those agencies that the UK Government are seeking future co-operation with, the reasons for doing so and their relevance to Wales are explored in more detailed below.
The economic partnership
As outlined in the first post, the UK Government is seeking a new economic partnership between the UK and the EU which would include establishing a new Free Trade Area and maintaining a common rulebook for goods but only when the rules require border checks. As part of this, the UK Government would seek participation in EU agencies “that facilitate goods being placed on the EU market”. They believe that manufacturers should only need to go through one approval mechanism before placing products in both the UK and EU market.
According to the White Paper, continued participation in agencies would be for sectors which are highly regulated as a result of “a higher risk to consumers, patients or environmental safety”. The UK Government is therefore seeking participation in the European Medicines Agency (EMA), the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). However, the White Paper states that the UK would not have voting rights and would have to make a financial contribution.
The security partnership
Similarly, the UK Government’s vision for the future security partnership also involves participation by the UK in key EU law enforcement and criminal justice agencies, including Europol and Eurojust. The White Paper states that as a non-Member State the UK will accept the rules of these agencies and will also contribute to their costs. The UK Government says that membership of such agencies “provide forums for exchanging expertise, sharing resources, coordinating investigations and developing new methods for cooperation.”
The White Paper proposes cooperative accords in a number of fields. Accordingly, where the UK has made these commitments, the paper states that the governance and institutional arrangements would need to ensure that “there are arrangements in place for UK participation in EU bodies and agencies, where this is required for the agreed cooperation to take place.”
For example, the UK Government proposes that the future relationship includes a science and innovation accord that “enables continued cooperation through joint participation in networks, infrastructure, policies and agencies which are to the UK’s and the EU’s joint benefit.”
Nature and structure of future participation
The White Paper recognises that the nature and structure of the UK’s continued participation in EU agencies will vary depending on the agency in question. For example, there is existing provision for third country involvement in the European Aviation Safety Agency through Switzerland’s membership. However, in other cases, the UK Government says that the future relationship should go beyond existing provisions “in line with the depth and breadth of the proposed relationship”. For example, with regards to the European Medicines Agencies, the paper proposes that:
…all the current routes to market for human and animal medicine remain available, with UK regulators still able to conduct technical work, including acting as a ‘leading authority’ for the assessment of medicines, and participating in other activities like ongoing safety monitoring and the incoming clinical trials framework.
The White Paper acknowledges that continued participation in EU agencies will require a number of commitments. In addition to respecting the operational rules of the agencies and possibly making financial contributions, the UK Government commits to respecting the remit of the Court of Justice of the EU in cases where the UK participates in EU agencies.
Views from Wales
During the External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee’s inquiry into Wales’ Future Relationship with Europe a number of stakeholders said that the UK should seek to reach an agreement to participate in, or cooperate with, EU agencies after Brexit.
Furthermore, in its report (PDF, 9MB) the Committee agreed with views expressed by stakeholders that continued membership of the European Medicines Agency was identified as a priority for Wales. In response (PDF, 221KB) to the Committee’s recommendation that the Welsh Government should call on the UK Government to ensure such membership, the First Minister said:
We are in favour of the UK remaining a member of the European Medicines Agency after Brexit, but this would involve a far closer relationship with the single market than the UK Government currently appears prepared to contemplate.
Shortly before the publication of the White Paper, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance told the Committee on 2 July that the Welsh Government was still discussing with the UK Government the agencies with which they believe there should be continued involvement:
The EU’s view
It will be up to the EU to decide whether it is prepared to offer the UK continued participation in these agencies. However, Article 6 of the Draft Agreement on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU states that the UK will not retain membership of any European agencies after Brexit. This reflects what is in the European Council negotiation guidelines, that:
A non-member of the Union, that does not live up to the same obligations as a member, cannot have the same rights and enjoy the same benefits as a member.
The External Affairs Committee concluded in its Future Relationship report that it is important to seek early clarity on future participation:
If not, the UK Government needs to work urgently with the devolved governments and stakeholders to establish how any governance gaps created as a result of loss of access to these bodies will be filled.
The Committee is currently exploring how third countries and sub state nations and regions engage with the EU and EU institutions as part of its inquiry into Wales’ future relationship with Europe – part two.
Article by Manon George, National Assembly for Wales Research Service