Posts Tagged :

    BW5_EU27-UK

    No cherry-picking from previous EU FTAs

    150 150 ioana bere

    The UK should not be able to freely pick and choose elements and legal constructions from previous EU’s FTAs, as the current situation is not comparable, according to the draft opinion of the European Parliament Committee on Constitutional Affairs. It insists that any agreement on a new relationship must be coherent and adapted to the geographic proximity and the high level of interconnectedness of both parties’ economies. It also rejects the idea of resorting to several sectoral agreements because of the limited negotiation time available.

    Other European Parliament’s committees also published their (draft) opinions on the future partnership with the UK. The majority of them mention the importance of having a comprehensive deal, with an overarching institutional framework and strong enforcement mechanisms.

    The Legal Affairs Committee emphasised the importance of the effective implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement, which is seen as a precondition for a minimum guarantee of good faith and mutual trust between the two parties. It also highlighted the inevitable role of the Court of Justice in the examination and interpretation of EU law in the future agreement and that any body set up by the agreement for its enforcement will not be competent to interpret any concepts of EU law.

    The Internal Market Committee stressed that an ambitious deal can be agreed only if robust commitments for a level playing field are in place. This should also include dynamic regulatory alignment on the market surveillance of products and regulatory cooperation.

    The Budget Committee added the need to establish arrangements between the UK authorities and Union agencies.

    The Constitutional Affairs Committee draft opinion
    The Legal Affairs Committee opinion
    The Internal Market Committee draft opinion
    The Budget Committee opinion

    Environment Committee in the EU Parliament raises the bar for a level playing field with the UK

    150 150 ioana bere

    The Environment Committee wants a far-reaching environmental future agreement with the UK, according to an opinion approved by 64 votes to 15.

    It welcomes the non-regression clause proposed by the Commission in its draft treaty text, but considers that the proposed ratchet clause for future levels of protection is not enough. It wants instead at least equivalent future levels of protection, so that when one Party increases its ambition, the other should follow at least with an equivalent level – amounting to a form of dynamic alignment. The difference between this and the negotiating mandate adopted by the Council is that dynamic alignment is not modelled on the EU standards. The opinion also highlights the poor record of UK environmental infringement cases, especially on air and waste standards, which may raise the question of possible regression in this area.

    In terms of climate, the Environment Committee wants the UK to align itself with the Union’s targets, including the revised 2030 target, an eventual 2040 target as well as climate trajectories towards 2050 (provided by the Climate Law, right now under discussion at the EU level). It also stresses the importance of respecting the precautionary principle, dynamic alignment on chemicals safety legislation and cooperation between the European Chemicals Agency and the Health and Safety Executive (the UK chemicals authority).

    This opinion is addressed to the International Trade and Foreign Affairs committees, that will merge recommendations coming from all the European Parliament committees before putting it to a Plenary vote in June.

    Environment Committee, adopted opinion

    Lack of clarity on how the Northern Ireland Protocol will apply in practice

    150 150 ioana bere

    Concerns are increasing about the lack of clarity with regard to the practical application of the Northern Ireland/Ireland Protocol.

    The House of Lords’ EU Committee sent a letter to Minister for the Cabinet Office, Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, conveying the worries of businesses in Northern Ireland. One of the biggest concerns is the uncertainty over the practical impacts of the Protocol – the processes that will apply, the level of checks and customs that will be required etc. Unclear language used by the government, such as “unfettered access”, arouse these fears further as neither the Northern Ireland authorities nor business know how this will translate in practice. The House of Lords’ Committee expects an answer from Minister Gove by 8th of April 2020.

    The EU Commission released this week a notice to stakeholders on the application of the Withdrawal Agreement in the fields of chemicals, which also talks about the situation of Northern Ireland. It clarifies that Northern Ireland will be considered part of the internal market in regard to REACH legislation. A substance manufactured in Northern Ireland and shipped to the EU will not be considered an imported substance. Substances put on the Northern Ireland market will have to register with ECHA, including those coming from Great Britain. However, there is still lack of clarity on how this will work in practice, how inspections will be done and whether the Northern Ireland authorities will be able to access ECHA’s data base.

    The EU wrote to the UK several months ago asking permission to open an office in Belfast. The EU wants a physical presence in Northern Ireland so it can ensure the Irish protocol is being properly implemented. Sources suggest the presence would be more technical than diplomatic. But UK negotiators believe this would be an infringement of UK sovereignty and would amount to EU “joint patrols” through the backdoor and could lead to an EU “permanent” footing.

    House of Lords EU Committee letter
    European Commission notice to stakeholders on the Withdrawal Agreement application in the field of chemicals
    RTE on the EU office in Belfast

    The UK explores chemicals data sharing options in the negotiations with the EU

    150 150 ioana bere

    The Government is looking into ways of facilitating chemicals data sharing with the EU according to the Defra Minister, Lord Goldsmith, during a debate in the House of Lords. This is something the government is pursuing in the current negotiations with the EU. Article 120 of the EU’s REACH legislation allows for this possibility, but requires an international agreement between the EU and the beneficiary country.

    The Minister stated the UK will not seek regulatory alignment with the EU, “but will not diverge simply for the sake of it”. The UK might take different approaches on some chemical substances, but it is claimed not with the aim to reducing standards or level of protection, but to better respond to British circumstances. More rigorous rules minimising animal testing was mentioned as an example of an area the UK might want to diverge. However, there are concerns that avoiding animal testing has in practice meant that safety data of a substance has been missing, but the substance is still kept on the market.

    The House of Lords, debate on chemicals regulation

    The EU struggles with making the level playing field work

    150 150 ioana bere

    The EU’s proposal for a treaty with the UK keeps the reference to level playing field commitments and a soft form of dynamic alignment. Compared to the negotiating directives adopted by the Council on 25 February, the wording on level playing field requirements is not that straightforward and it remains unclear how this will be implemented. Despite this, it remains the most ambitious treaty the EU has ever proposed on the level playing field and environmental protection.

    The level playing field section on environment and health includes a non-regression clause on environmental protection with a time-reference – the end of the transition period. The term “environmental protection” is defined through a list of environmental areas. There is also a ratchet clause and four environmental principles the Parties shall respect in their national legislation and practice (among them the precautionary principle). A soft form of dynamic alignment is foreseen as well, but this has to be mutually agreed by both Parties in the Partnership Council. This body can adopt binding decisions and set higher levels of protection or introduce new areas in the level playing field. This reflects the evolving nature of the agreement as explained on other occasions by the chief negotiator Barnier. Under the monitoring and enforcement part, public authorities and individuals of the two Parties should be able to bring actions against violations of the environmental law that are not in line with the treaty obligations. An “independent body” shall ensure the effective monitoring in regard to treaty provisions covering the non-regression, legislative improvements above the non-regression level and the ratchet clause.

    Before being published, the text was discussed with the Members States in the Council. The Commission’s text proposal underwent minor changes concerning dynamic alignment: Member States want the robust commitments for the level playing field to be “long-lasting”. Under the environment and health section, a new article was added; it says that the level playing field should also include targets that are agreed within the Union at the end of transition but will be achieved after the transition period ends. If the transition period is extended, this clause has the potential to cover new legislation under the European Green Deal.   

    First version of the draft text of the agreement (proposed by the EU Commission)
    Second version of the draft text of the agreement (after Member States changes)

    UK approach: zero tariffs and quotas, but no stricter conditions than Canada deal

    150 150 ioana bere

    The UK published its approach to future negotiations with the EU, confirming what government officials have said already in public: the UK rejects any obligations on alignment and wants a comprehensive trade agreement similar to Canada.

    The UK wants the same ambitious market access as the EU is aiming for: no tariffs, fees, charges and quantitative restrictions, the most ambitious trade access ever considered by the EU. But the UK does not want to accept stricter trade-related conditions than those applied to other EU trade agreements such as with Canada or Japan.

    The chapter on environment and labour lacks the ambition of the EU’s proposal. The UK wants a trade and sustainable development chapter with more basic provisions similar to Canada’s agreement.

    The UK seems open for a more developed cooperation on chemicals management, showing willingness for data and information sharing mechanisms, as well as peer agency cooperation.

    There is no position yet on institutional arrangements. 

    According to the text of the mandate, a public consultation on the economic implications of the future agreement will be organised this spring.

    UK’s approach to negotiations on a future relationship with the EU

    Council strengthens level playing field requirements

    150 150 ioana bere

    EU Member States approved a tighter negotiation mandate on a new partnership agreement with the UK. The level playing field (LPF) requirements have been strengthened, which the European Parliament also asked for in its last resolution. LPF is now going well beyond the Commission’s proposal, which only required that non-regression from environmental and employment standards is in place by end of 2020. Barnier warned in a press conference that the EU will not go for a deal at any price and will firmly stick to the mandate’s conditions as well as to the general principles agreed with British counterparts in the Political Declaration.

    While the negotiating directives stay in large part the same, there are five new paragraphs added (11, 33, 46, 58 and 78) and multiple adjustments in different parts of the mandate. According to newly added paragraph 11, “the negotiations will be conducted in a way to ensure parallelism among the various sectoral tracks of the negotiation”.

    The chapter on the level playing field (LPF) has been strengthened at the request of France. There is a temporal dimension which has been added: the LPF must “stand the test of time” (paragraph 10), “last over time” (paragraph 94) which has echoes of dynamic alignment. This LPF temporal conditionality aims to ensure a sustainable and long-lasting relationship between the Parties. The EU standards are mentioned as a point of reference for the LPF. The enforcement side has also been strengthened, as the text now says that each area included in the LPF should have an adequate mechanism for implementation.

    Text capture: Adjustments done in Council are marked in yellow

    Council, negotiating directives on a new partnership agreement with the UK

    The EU Parliament ups the level playing field and urges EU-UK cooperation on chemicals

    150 150 ioana bere

    The EU Parliament wants the EU to be more forceful on the level playing field conditions, stating that the “level of quota and duty free access to the world’s largest single market fully corresponds to the extent of regulatory convergence and the commitments taken with respect to observing a level playing field for open and fair competition with a view to dynamic alignment.
    The mandate proposed by the Commission sets out that the level playing field is different for state-aid, requiring dynamic alignment, while for environment and employment it mainly relies on non-regression (i.e. not lowering standards which were in place before 1 January 2021).

    Here are the main asks the EU Parliament put forward:

    • strong requirements on the level playing field, which is considered a general principle for the whole agreement and for the economic part, as well as an indicator for the ambition of the future partnership;
    • dynamic alignment is also mentioned as a possible next step of the level playing field, being also a determinant factor for the comprehensiveness of the deal;
    • alignment on the chemicals safety legislation (REACH) and ensuring cooperation with ECHA;
    • legislation developed during the transition period should apply to the UK. The main legislative package with potential important consequences is the European Green Deal; and
    • application of the precautionary principle.

    The resolution was approved by 543 votes, with 39 votes against and 69 abstentions.
    EU Parliament, resolution on a new partnership with the UK (provisional edition)

    The EU Parliament ups the level playing field and urges EU-UK cooperation on chemicals

    150 150 ioana bere

    The EU Parliament wants the EU to be more forceful on the level playing field conditions, stating that the “level of quota and duty free access to the world’s largest single market fully corresponds to the extent of regulatory convergence and the commitments taken with respect to observing a level playing field for open and fair competition with a view to dynamic alignment.
    The mandate proposed by the Commission sets out that the level playing field is different for state-aid, requiring dynamic alignment, while for environment and employment it mainly relies on non-regression (i.e. not lowering standards which were in place before 1 January 2021).

    Here are the main asks the EU Parliament put forward:

    • strong requirements on the level playing field, which is considered a general principle for the whole agreement and for the economic part, as well as an indicator for the ambition of the future partnership;
    • dynamic alignment is also mentioned as a possible next step of the level playing field, being also a determinant factor for the comprehensiveness of the deal;
    • alignment on the chemicals safety legislation (REACH) and ensuring cooperation with ECHA;
    • legislation developed during the transition period should apply to the UK. The main legislative package with potential important consequences is the European Green Deal; and
    • application of the precautionary principle.

    The resolution was approved by 543 votes, with 39 votes against and 69 abstentions.
    EU Parliament, resolution on a new partnership with the UK (provisional edition)

    Barnier presents an ambitious negotiation mandate

    150 150 ioana bere

    The EU chief negotiator Barnier presented on Monday the most comprehensive negotiation mandate (the negotiating directives) ever prepared by the Commission. The 25 pages long text has three main substantive chapters: economic, security and institutional and other horizontal arrangements.

    There are several distinct features that makes it stand out in comparison to other free trade negotiation mandates in the past: 

    • the evolving nature and the possibility of periodical review (para 8 and 143)
    • the governing body in charge of overseeing the implementation of the treaty, and with the power to take decisions and recommendations in regard to the evolution of the partnership (para 150)
    • the level playing field (LPF) requirements are covered in an own chapter but also referred in the trade-related section, highlighting their importance. LPF requirements, as a condition for the partnership, are justified in the draft mandate by the “geographic proximity and economic interdependence” of the EU and UK. The areas covered by the LPF requirements are (para 89): state aid, competition, social and employment standards, environmental standards etc. The LPF requirements are supposed to evolve over time and the governing body will be in charge of modifying and extending them.
    • a ratchet clause has also been included to prevent both Parties from lowering high standards and the level of protection in the following areas: carbon pricing, labour and social protection, environment (para 105)

    The negotiating directives will be discussed by the Member States in the Council configurations and are expected to be adopted on 25 February at the General Affairs Council.

    EU Commission, communication on the negotiating directives
    Video of the chief negotiator Barnier
    Full statement of the chief negotiator Barnier

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