The UK-EU future relationship: the Trade and Cooperation Agreement Contents

2Next steps

Ratifying the Agreement

28.The deal needs to be ratified by both parties before it formally enters into force. Under Article FINPROV.11, the Agreement “enters into force on the first day of the month following that in which both parties have notified each other that they have completed their respective internal requirements and procedures for establishing their consent to be bound”.20 However, in the Agreement the Parties agree to provisionally apply it from 1 January 2021; provisional application ends when the Agreement enters into force or on 28 February 2021 unless the Partnership Council agrees a different date.. On the EU side, the Council will authorise the signature and provisional application of the Agreement. Once the European Parliament has given its consent, the Council will authorise the conclusion of the Agreement. Contrary to some earlier expectations, the Agreement is a so-called “EU-only” agreement. The Member States will not be parties to it and so it will not require ratification by the individual Member States in their own right. In the UK, the Government will bring forward a Bill to implement those parts of the Agreement that need to be made part of the UK’s domestic law. We expect that the Bill will disapply the requirements in the Constitutional and Governance Act 2010 that must be met before treaties can be ratified.

Implementing the Agreement

29.The focus will now shift from negotiating a deal to its implementation. As we set out in our Third Report, published earlier this month, business in the UK and the EU have faced a difficult year dealing with uncertainty about the future relationship on the one hand and responding to the global pandemic on the other.21 They are very stretched. The Trade and Cooperation Agreement may offer new opportunities but seizing these may require businesses to make changes to how they operate. The UK Government and the European Commission must move ahead swiftly with implementation, establishing the Agreements’ institutional arrangements and reducing or eliminating any remaining areas of uncertainty, for example: data adequacy and equivalence for financial services. The Government should ensure the terms of the deal and its implications are communicated quickly and clearly, helping them to prepare in the very short amount of time available, given the absence of any phasing in arrangements, so that businesses can reap the benefits of the deal.

Scrutiny of the Agreements

30.One of the consequences of only reaching agreement on Christmas Eve is that Parliament and the European Parliament have not been able to scrutinise the deal properly. The President of the European Parliament David Sassoli, said:

The [European] Parliament welcomes the intense dialogue and unprecedented exchanges and unity between the EU institutions throughout the process. However, [the European] Parliament regrets that the duration of the negotiations and the last-minute nature of the agreement do not allow for proper parliamentary scrutiny before the end of the year. The [European] Parliament is now ready to react responsibly to minimise disruption to citizens and businesses and prevent the chaos and negative consequences of a no-deal scenario. The [European] Parliament will continue its work in the responsible committees and the full plenary before deciding whether to give consent in the new year.

[The European] Parliament has been clear from the outset on our red lines and we have worked closely throughout the negotiations with the EU’s chief negotiator, Mr Michel Barnier, who had our full support. [The European] Parliament has consistently advocated for a fair and comprehensive agreement and we are confident that our priorities are reflected in this final deal. If the European Parliament decides to approve the agreement, it will monitor closely how it is implemented.22

31.The Agreement is necessarily complex. It will take time for people to analyse it fully and understand its implications. It will be important that the Agreement and its implementation and application are subject to ongoing scrutiny. We regret that the timing of the deal means there is not enough time for our Committee to scrutinise the deal more fully; we intend to report again in January with more analysis but this will be without the benefit of having had time to take extensive evidence on the deal. Members of the House are being asked to read the deal (published on 26 December), to read the Bill brought forward by the Government to give the deal effect in UK law (due to be made available on 29 December) and to form a judgement on its contents in time to debate and vote on the Bill on 30 December. There is no alternative given where we are but that both the Government and the EU Commission have put parliaments in this position is a matter of deep concern.

32.We will return to the question of future scrutiny of European affairs in a report early next year. Our Committee is established under a temporary Standing Order that expires on 16 January 2021.23 We intend to make recommendations on the arrangements the House may wish to put in place to ensure the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement, the Trade and Cooperation Agreement and the other recently concluded agreements is scrutinised, in particular looking at the work of the respective Joint Committees and the Partnership Council. We believe that the work of the new Parliamentary Partnership Assembly will be very important in this regard and we encourage both Parliaments to engage in a meaningful dialogue soon so that the institutional arrangements for establishing the new Assembly can be set in motion as quickly as possible.

21 Committee on the Future Relationship with the European Union, Third Report of Session 2019–21, Preparing for the end of the Transition Period, HC 1093, 19 December 2020

23 Votes and Proceedings, 16 January 2020, page 11 and House of Commons, Addendum to Standing Orders (Public Business) 2 October 2020

Published: 30 December 2020