The Committee looks at the significance of EU proposals and decides whether to clear the document from scrutiny or withhold clearance and ask questions of the Government. The Committee also has the power to recommend documents for debate.
The Committee is now looking at documents in the light of the UK’s decision to withdraw from the EU. Issues are explored in greater detail in report chapters and, where appropriate, in the summaries below. The Committee notes that in the current week the following issues and questions have arisen in documents or in correspondence with Ministers:
Pharmaceuticals escape into the environment following their use by humans and animals. They are thought to be contributing to increased anti-microbial resistance and have been shown to have direct effects on wildlife, such as impacting on fish reproduction by affecting hormone levels. The Committee notes that the Government’s response to the European Commission’s suggested approach is limited to a commitment to reflect. The Committee considers this to be inadequate and demands more robust analysis, noting that the EU’s approach is likely to be relevant to the UK in the future given the expressed intention to maintain a level playing field for environmental standards and potentially to align EU and UK rules on medicines and chemicals.
Not cleared; further information requested; drawn to the attention of the Environmental Audit Committee, Health and Social Care Committee and the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee
The EU’s Directive on unfair trading practices in the food supply chain has been adopted. While the Minister indicates that the UK abstained in the final vote, he does not explain why. The Committee asks the Minister to explain the Government’s position and also to set out why the Government chose not to table a formal explanation of vote at the Council. Noting that the legislation will affect the UK under any Brexit scenario, the Committee reiterates its request for an update on implementation and enforcement plans.
Cleared; further information requested; drawn to the attention of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee and the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee
The Commission’s ‘no-deal’ air connectivity proposal was adopted on 25 March 2019 and is a unilateral Union measure that would apply in the event of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit. It would provide for the continuation of basic air services between the EU and UK for a limited period of time (up until an air transport agreement with the UK enters into force or 30 March 2020, whichever is sooner). It is not indented to replicate current arrangements or to maintain the status quo (as prevails whilst the UK is an EU Member State).
As a Union initiative, the intended effect of the proposal—to ensure basic EU/UK air connectivity in the event of a no-deal Brexit—would be dependent upon UK reciprocity and similar domestic provision being made. On 7 March 2019, the Government published a policy statement outlining its plans in this regard. Put rather simply, should the Regulation become applicable (in the event of a no-deal Brexit), the UK would offer identical rights to EU carries alongside additional, ‘enhanced’, rights (justified on the basis of the benefits of liberalised air service markets and ensuring future UK operational capacity).
On the substance of the Regulation, a number of changes have been made to its final form since it was last considered by the Committee. These are viewed as improvements by the Government and include, for example, the granting of fifth freedom all-cargo service rights for UK carriers (operating services between EU Member States and third countries), the inclusion of (limited) leasing and cooperative marketing arrangements, and the (slight) softening of the Union’s position on ownership and control rules.
Although adopted, the Committee retains the file under scrutiny owing to outstanding questions relating to how the Regulation would operate in practice and, furthermore, the Government’s plans for giving effect to its commitment to reciprocate the rights it provides (for EU carriers).
Not cleared from scrutiny; further information requested; drawn to the attention of the Transport Committee
In October 2018, the Commission presented two separate agreements that will govern future EU trade and investment relations with Vietnam, in line with the Commission’s new approach to the architecture of free trade agreements (FTAs)—a) an ‘EU-only’ FTA, which requires the approval of the Council and European Parliament only (and not Member States) and is expected to enter into force late 2019/early 2020; and b) a ‘mixed’ investment protection agreement (IPA), covering investment protection and dispute settlement provisions, which will need to be ratified by individual Member States (including in some instances approval by their national parliaments) and is highly unlikely to come into effect for several years.
These agreements will impact future UK trade and investment relations with Vietnam after UK exit in all Brexit scenarios, whether negotiated or non-negotiated.
At its meeting on 19 December 2018, the Committee sought further information on the continuity of the proposed FTA post-exit (in both a deal and a no deal scenario), its expected potential benefits and costs for UK stakeholders and the Government’s approach to investment protection and dispute resolution after exit.
Following the Minister’s letter of 25 February 2019 and the Government’s impact assessment of the proposed FTA of 29 March 2019, the Committee:
a) draws to the attention of the House that:
b) retains the documents under scrutiny pending satisfactory responses to the outstanding or further questions identified by the Committee, including on:
Not cleared from scrutiny; further information requested; drawn to the attention of the International Trade Committee, the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Committee on Exiting the EU
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee: Unfair trading practices in the food supply chain [Proposed Directive (C)]; Copyright in the Digital Single Market [Proposed Directive (C)]; Copyright in the Digital Single Market Proposal [Proposed Regulation (C)]
Committee on Exiting the European Union: EU-Vietnam trade agreement and investment protection agreement [Proposed Decisions (NC)]
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee: Pharmaceuticals in the environment [Commission Communication (NC)]; Unfair trading practices in the food supply chain [Proposed Directive (C)]; Fisheries catch quotas for 2019 [Proposed Regulation (C)]
Environmental Audit Committee: Pharmaceuticals in the environment [Commission Communication (NC)]
Foreign Affairs Committee: EU-Vietnam trade agreement and investment protection agreement [Proposed Decisions (NC)]
Health and Social Care Committee: Pharmaceuticals in the environment [Commission Communication (NC)]
Home Affairs Committee: Cross-border access to electronic evidence in criminal proceedings [Proposed Decisions (C)]
International Trade Committee: EU-Vietnam trade agreement and investment protection agreement [Proposed Decisions (NC)]
Justice Committee: Cross-border access to electronic evidence in criminal proceedings [Proposed Decisions (C)]
Transport Committee: Commission ‘no deal’ preparedness: air connectivity [Proposed Regulation (NC)]
Published: 21 May 2019