Documents considered by the Committee on 27 June 2018 Contents

10EU-Singapore Partnership and Cooperation Agreement

Committee’s assessment

Legally and politically important

Committee’s decision

Cleared from scrutiny; further information requested

Document details

Proposal for a Council Decision on the signing, on behalf of the Union, of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between the European Union and its Member States, of the one part, and the Republic of Singapore, of the other part

Legal base

Articles 207 and 212 in conjunction with Article 218(5) TFEU; QMV


Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Document Number

(39873), 7322/18;—

Summary and Committee’s conclusions

10.1Negotiations on a EU-Singapore Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) were completed in 2013, the same year as the completion of the separate EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

10.2The PCA provides a framework for relations between the EU, its Member States and Singapore; covering issues such as health, environment, climate change, energy tax, education and culture, labour, employment and social affairs, science and technology, and transport. It also addresses legal and illegal migration, money laundering, illicit drugs, organised crime and corruption.

10.3The PCA has been held up due to issues related to provisional application i.e. whether all or parts of it should be applied before it is ratified (by Member States) and concluded (by the EU). It has also given rise to issues concerning the applicability of the UK opt-in. The more significant FTA was held up by a dispute over competence which was resolved by the Court of Justice’s formal Opinion 2/15 of May 2017.

10.4This proposal would authorise the EU to sign the PCA. Being a mixed agreement,89 it also needs to be signed by Member States in their own right. Separate proposals would need to be pursued in order to trigger provisional application of the PCA or its conclusion (ratification) by the EU.

10.5In a letter of 14 June 2018 the Minister for Europe and the Americas (Sir Alan Duncan) sought clearance of this document from scrutiny ahead of the a COREPER meeting of 20 June. We now understand from FCO officials that the signing of the PCA is being brought into line with the signing of the FTA and as a consequence the deadline has moved to 9 July 2018. We do not, therefore, need to comment on the timing of this matter.

10.6In his Explanatory Memorandum of 15 June 2018 the Minister indicates that

a)the UK has been a political champion of the SPA;

b)it will not be possible for the UK to ratify the PCA before the UK formally leaves the EU in March 2019;

c)its provisional application will be discussed after signature; and

d)the UK continues to assert that the UK opt-in is engaged to that part of the proposal which covers Article 19(6) of the PCA itself,90 and the UK has not opted in. A minute statement will be made in the Council minutes to this effect.

10.7As the PCA does not raise any political issue, we are content to clear it this document from scrutiny.

10.8As we have indicated in relation to other documents, we, like other Member States and the EU institutions, do not agree with the Government that the UK opt-in is engaged in a case, such as this, where the EU instrument does not have a legal base falling within Part Three of Title V TFEU. Our position is reinforced by the reasoning of the CJEU in paragraph 218 of its Opinion 2/15.

10.9The Government’s assertion that part of the Decision will not apply to the UK is not reflected in the legal text which, on its face, applies in its entirety to the UK. The proposal of a minute statement could help alleviate the confusion created by the Government’s minority view.91 We ask the Minister to provide a copy of the minute statement he intends to lay.

10.10Under the draft Agreement on the withdrawal of the UK from the EU, during any transitional/implementing period (scheduled to be from 29 March 2019 to 31 December 2020) the UK would have to comply with the obligations of the SPA to the extent that it applies either by provisional application or because it has come fully into effect after ratification/conclusion. We therefore ask the Minister (a) whether the Government has taken any steps to reach an agreement with Singapore, or anticipates that it will do so, for the UK to benefit from the SPA during the transitional/implementation period. If not, will the absence of such agreement have any significant practical effect? Also will the UK be taking steps with Singapore to agree an SPA to come into effect once any transitional/implementation period has passed?

10.11The UK policy is that, normally, Member States should exercise their competence (including shared competence) to enter into agreements with third countries, leaving the EU to exercise only its exclusive competence.92 The absence of any reference to the extent to which the EU is acting in the current text compromises this policy. Has the Minister taken any steps to clarify the extent to which the EU is exercising competence?

Full details of the documents

Proposal for a Council Decision on the signing, on behalf of the Union, of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between the European Union and its Member States, of the one part, and the Republic of Singapore, of the other part: (39873), 7322/18;—.

Previous Committee Reports

None, but see in respect of an earlier version of this proposal—Thirty-third Report HC 219–xxxii (2014–15), chapter 8 (11 February 2015); Forty-sixth Report HC 83–xli (2013–14), chapter 16 (9 April 2014); Forty-first Report HC 83–xxxviii (2013–14), chapter 6 (19 March 2014).

89 A mixed agreement is entered into by the EU and its Member States separately, as each are exercising competence over parts of the PCA.

90 “The Parties agree to negotiate, upon request, with a view to concluding an agreement between the Union and the Republic of Singapore regulating the readmission of nationals of the Republic of Singapore and of the Member States, nationals of other countries and stateless persons.”

91 That confusion is exacerbated by the recitals o the PCA itself which notes that “that the provisions of this Agreement United Kingdom and/or Ireland is bound as part of the Union in accordance with the Protocol (No. 21) on the position of the United Kingdom and Ireland in respect of the area of freedom, security and justice annexed to the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union”.

92 Where the EU has exclusive competence only it can act. Where competence is shared either the EU or the Member States (in their own right) can act—the choice is political.

Published: 3 July 2018