Fifth Report Contents

Scrutiny of international agreements: Amendments to the UK-Swiss Free Trade Agreement, and the International Civil Aviation Convention

Agreements reported for information

Decision No 2/2021 of the UK-Switzerland Trade Joint Committee of 16 July 2021 amending the Appendix to Annex 1 of the Trade Agreement between the Swiss Confederation and the United Kingdom (CP 692, 2022)1

1.Decision No 2/2021 of the UK-Switzerland Trade Joint Committee of 16 July 2021 amending the Appendix to Annex 1 of the Trade Agreement between the Swiss Confederation and the United Kingdom (the UK-Swiss Amending Agreement) was laid on 15 June 2022, and the scrutiny period is scheduled to end on 20 July 2022. It was considered by the Committee on 14 July.

2.The UK-Swiss Amending Agreement relates to provisions on rules of origin contained in the Free Trade Agreement between the UK and Switzerland. The Explanatory Memorandum (EM) accompanying the Agreement notes it updates the rules of origin to reflect the recently revised rules of origin of the Regional Convention on Pan-Euro Mediterranean Preferential Rules of Origin (PEM Convention) in force between Switzerland and the European Union.2

3.The recitals to the Amendment Agreement note that, while the UK is not a contracting Party to the PEM Convention, “Protocol 3 to the incorporated Free Trade Agreement, as set out in Appendix to Annex 1 to the Trade Agreement reflects the provisions of the PEM Convention in a bilateral context” between the UK and Switzerland.

4.The Amendment Agreement aims to simplify customs processes for manufacturers and trading companies who want to benefit from preferential duty rates within the Pan-Euro-Med zone.

5.The full details of these changes are set out at part 4 of the EM; but, in short, they liberalise and extend the UK’s and Switzerland’s ability to cumulate content and processing from any Party to the PEM Convention with whom both have a free trade agreement, including the EU. The Agreement also updates product-specific rules to make it easier for exporters to meet the rules of origin requirements.

6.The Amending Agreement was signed on 16 July 2021 and has been provisionally applied since 1 September 2021.

Governance and amendments

7.The Amending Agreement was agreed between the Parties at the Joint Switzerland-United Kingdom Committee established under the provisions of the incorporated Free Trade Agreement. That Joint Committee has the power to amend an Annex, Appendix, Protocol or Note to the incorporated Free Trade Agreement.

8.The Amending Agreement contains a dispute resolution provision whereby disputes between customs authorities may be submitted to the Joint Committee.3 The provision makes clear that “in all cases the settlement of disputes between the importer and the customs authorities of the importing Party shall take place in accordance with the legislation of that country”.

9.We welcome that the Amending Agreement has been laid before Parliament under the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 (CRAG). It contains important provisions for UK companies which trade with the Swiss Confederation. We regret that the Government has yet to provide us with any clear criteria under which it determines whether amendments will be subject to ratification and thus subject to scrutiny under CRAG

10.We reiterate our recommendation, made in our report Working Practices: One Year On, that the Government should agree a list of clearly defined criteria with Parliament as to when an amendment will be laid under CRAG. Without such an agreement, scrutiny of amendments like these becomes discretionary.

Entry into force

11.As noted above, the Amending Agreement has been provisionally applied since 1 September 2021 and was implemented in domestic law by the Customs Tariff (Preferential Trade Arrangements) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 (S.I. 2020/1457), as amended by the Customs Tariff (Preferential Trade Arrangements) (EU Exit) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2021 (S.I. 2021/871).

12.The Amending Agreement will enter into force on the first day of the second month after both Parties have confirmed that they have completed their respective domestic procedures.

Territorial scope and consultation

13.The Agreement applies to the UK, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man.

14.The paragraph in the EM on consultation contains several typographical and grammatical errors and is, consequently, unclear. It suggests that the Devolved Administrations were provided with some information about the proposed amendments and that they have not requested any further information on the Agreement from the Department for International Trade. Due to the poor drafting of this section of the EM, we have contacted the Devolved Administrations directly to ascertain their views on the Amendment Agreement.

15.Given the number of times that we have requested detailed information about consultation with the Devolved Administrations we regret the EM’s lack of clarity on this point and reiterate our previous request that EMs are subject to proper quality control checks before they are published.

16.We report the Amending Agreement between the Swiss Confederation and the UK to the House for information. We highlight, in particular, our comments at paragraphs 9, 10 and 15.

Protocol Relating to an Amendment to Article 50(a) to the Convention on International Civil Aviation (CP 696, 2022)4

Protocol Relating to an Amendment to Article 56 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation (CP 697, 2022)5

17.The Protocols relating to amendments to Articles 50(a) and 56 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation were laid on 15 June 2022, and the scrutiny period is scheduled to end on 20 July 2022. They were considered by the Committee on 14 July.

18.Both Protocols were signed on 6 October 2016 at an Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in Montreal. They amend the Convention on International Civil Aviation and their purpose is to expand the membership of two ICAO bodies—that of the Council and Air Navigation Commission. Membership of the Council is increased from 36 members to 40, and that of the Air Navigation Commission from 19 to 21.

19.The Council is elected for three-year terms by the Assembly of the ICAO, which has 193 member states. The EM published alongside the Amending Protocol notes that Members had expressed a concern that the Council is not large enough to provide sufficient representation for the 193 member states.6

20.The Air Navigation Commission is appointed by specific ICAO members to recommend standards, practices, and procedures to the Council. Members of the Commission do not represent specific states, but rather provide technical expertise. The EM notes that “an expanded ANC will increase the amount of technical expertise available to ICAO, which will have a positive impact on its work”.7

Entry into force

21.Each Amending Agreement will come into force once 128 of the Assembly’s 193 member states ratify the relevant Protocol. As of 17 May 2022, the Protocols have been ratified by 70 member states and are not yet in force.

22.While the Convention is not yet in force, the EMs do not explain why the UK has delayed ratification of both Protocols for so many years. We call on the Government to set out why this is the case.

Territorial scope and consultation

23.Given the amendments relate to a fully reserved matter, the Devolved Administrations were not consulted.

24.The EMs note that the UK Overseas Territories (OTs) and Crown Dependencies (CDs) were consulted about the ratification of the Protocols and several expressed an interest in having ratification extended to them. Consequently, the Protocols will also apply to Guernsey, Jersey, the Isle of Man, Turks and Caicos Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, Akrotiri, and the British Antarctic Territory. The EM sets out that “the Department for Transport will work with any Overseas Territory that wishes the Protocol to be extended to it in the future”.8

25.We report the Protocols Relating to Amendments to Articles 50(a) and 56 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation to the House for information. We highlight, in particular, our comments at paragraph 22.


1 Decision No 2/2021 of the UK - Switzerland Trade Joint Committee amending the Appendix to Annex 1 of the Trade Agreement between the Swiss Confederation and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, 16 July 2021, CP 692: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1082742/CS_Switzerland_1_2022_UK_Swiss_Decision_2_2021_Joint_Committee.pdf [accessed 15 July 2022]

2 The PEM Convention allows for diagonal cumulation between the Parties, subject to a trade agreement being in place between them. The signatories to the PEM Convention are: the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Kosovo, the Faroe Islands, Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine. The UK Government has confirmed it is not seeking to accede to the PEM Convention at this time.

3 Article 32

4 Protocol Relating to an Amendment to Article 50(a) of the Convention on International Civil Aviation, June 2022, CP 696: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1082780/MS_4.2022_Protocol_Amendment_Article50a_Convention_International_Civil_Aviation.pdf [accessed 15 July 2022]

5 Protocol Relating to an Amendment to Article 56 of the Convention on International Civil Aviation, June 2022, CP 697: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1082781/MS_5.2022_Protocol_Amendment_Article56_Convention_International_Civil_Aviation.pdf [accessed 15 July 2022]

6 Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, Explanatory Memorandum on the Protocol Relating to an Amendment to Article 50(a) of the Convention on International Civil Aviation: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/protocol-relating-to-an-amendment-to-article-50a-of-the-convention-on-international-civil-aviation-ms-no42022 [accessed 15 July 2022]

7 Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, Explanatory Memorandum on the Protocol Relating to an Amendment to Article 56 of the Convention on International Civil Aviation: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/protocol-relating-to-an-amendment-to-article-56-of-the-convention-on-international-civil-aviation-ms-no52022 [accessed 15 July 2022]

8 Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, Explanatory Memorandum on the Protocol Relating to an Amendment to Article 50(a) of the Convention on International Civil Aviation: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/protocol-relating-to-an-amendment-to-article-50a-of-the-convention-on-international-civil-aviation-ms-no42022 [accessed 15 July 2022] and Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, Explanatory Memorandum on the Protocol Relating to an Amendment to Article 56 of the Convention on International Civil Aviation: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/protocol-relating-to-an-amendment-to-article-56-of-the-convention-on-international-civil-aviation-ms-no52022 [accessed 15 July 2022]




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