Cabinet Office Minister Lord Frost and EU Commission Vice President Šefčovič held an informal meeting on Thursday evening in Brussels to discuss outstanding issues on the Protocol on Ireland / Northern Ireland. In a statement published by the UK Government following the meeting, Lord Frost said that some “positive momentum had been established”. However, he added that “a number of difficult issues remained” and agreed to “intensified contacts at all levels” in the coming weeks. Both parties reiterated their commitment to further outreach with business groups, civil society and other stakeholders in Northern Ireland.
In a statement by the EU Commission, the Vice President stated that the implementation of the Protocol is a “joint endeavour” and called for “mutually agreed paths towards full compliance with the Protocol, which includes clear end-points, deadlines, milestones and the means to measure progress”. The Vice-President also said that the Commission’s legal proceedings against the UK for breaches of the Protocol and the good faith obligation under the Withdrawal Agreement “will be continued as long as necessary”.
Beforehand, the seventh meeting of the Specialised Committee on the Protocol on Ireland/ Northern Ireland took place on 26 March, and was co-chaired by officials from the UK Government and the European Commission. The UK outlined its expectation to agree a work programme to resolve outstanding issues and avoid disruption to everyday life in Northern Ireland.
On Tuesday, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis made a statement to the House on the situation in Northern Ireland. He acknowledged concerns about the implications of the Northern Ireland Protocol in the context of wider questions about national identity and political allegiance following the economic uncertainty the pandemic has caused.
The European Scrutiny Committee published its report on the operation of the Northern Ireland Protocol. It called for greater clarity on proceedings in the EU Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee, and recommended that the UK Government should do more to facilitate Parliamentary scrutiny of the Joint Committee.
Elsewhere, both Houses have now agreed on the text of the Trade Bill, and it awaits Royal Assent to become law.
Finally, the Dunlop Review, an independent report that considered the capability of the Union, was published on 24 March. The Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove MP made a statement to Parliament on the UK Government’s work on the Union and intergovernmental relations with the devolved administrations. A progress update on the joint intergovernmental relations Review and the first Intergovernmental Relations quarterly report was also published.
- The International Trade Committee published its report on UK trade remedies policy, looking at the operation of the UK trade remedies regime.
- The Public Accounts Committee published its report on Digital services at the border that explored the delivery of the Home Office programme.
- The Lords Common Frameworks Scrutiny Committee concluded the inquiry into Post-Brexit common frameworks by publishing its report Common frameworks: building a cooperative Union.
- The Lords EU Environment Sub-Committee has published its report Beyond Brexit: food, environment, energy and health on what the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) means for food trade, fisheries, environment and climate change, energy and carbon pricing, chemicals and health.
- The Lords European Union Committee published a report Beyond Brexit: the institutional framework on 22 March.
- A Protocol on Ireland / Northern Ireland Protocol Sub-Committee has been established by the House of Lords.
- The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee has recently launched an inquiry into post-Brexit scrutiny of international treaties. It will explore the balance between the roles of Parliament and the Government in agreeing to and legislating for treaties.
The Lords Constitution Committee have recently launched an inquiry into the Future governance of the UK. The inquiry will explore how power can best be shared within the UK to establish stable and effective governance arrangements throughout the UK for the 21st century.
Key dates for 2021
- 31 March: Date by which the UK & EU aim to have agreed a Memorandum of Understanding establishing a framework for regulatory cooperation on financial services.
- 30 April: the agreed date for ending the provisional application of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.
- 30 June: End of temporary bridging period for the free flow of data from the UK to the EU.
- 1 July: End of six-month grace period for Great Britain-Northern Ireland trade on chilled meat products.
- 1 October: new date for ending grace period in relation to food safety paperwork when moving agri-food goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
31 December: End of 12-month adaptation period for Great Britain businesses to implement new EU regulation in relation to the flow of medicines to Northern Ireland.
Monday 19 April
In the Chamber, the Finance (no.2) Bill: Ways and Means (Freeports (Stamp Duty Land Tax)) will be debated. The Finance Bill will also be considered on its first day of committee stage.
At 4.15pm, the Procedure Committee continues its inquiry into the procedure of the House of Commons and the territorial constitution by taking evidence from Sir Paul Silk KCB & Paul Evans CBE.
Over at the Lords, the Financial services bill reaches its third day of report stage and third reading.
Tuesday 20 April
The Finance Bill will be debated on its second day of committee stage.
At 4.05pm, a Westminster Hall debate will be held on the scope of the proposed Turing scheme to replace the Erasmus student exchange programme.
At 2.30pm, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee takes evidence on moving animals across borders from representatives of the British Veterinary Association, Farmers Unions, an animal welfare organisation and the Scottish Rural College.
Wednesday 21 April
In the Chamber, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland will face oral questions at 11.30. The questions tabled will ask about the effect of the NI Protocol on levels of trade and trade flows between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, the implementation of the NI Protocol and the effect of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU on peace in Northern Ireland.
At 9.25 a debate will be held in Westminster Hall on accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee will take evidence on Brexit and the Northern Ireland Protocol from the following witnesses at 9.30am:
- Christian Benson, Client Managing Director for HMRC & Senior Responsible Owner for the Trader Support Service, Fujitsu
- Mary Scullion, Head of Delivery for the Trader Support Service , Fujitsu
- Shanker Singham, Senior Member of the Trader Support Service Consortium & Customs and Trade Policy Lead, Competere.
At 2.30 the International Trade Committee will continue their inquiry on digital trade and data by taking evidence from the following witnesses:
- Rt Hon John Whittingdale OBE MP, Minister of State for Media and Data, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport;
- Rt Hon Greg Hands MP, Minister of State for Trade Policy, and
- Graham Floater, Director of Trade Policy, Department for International Trade;
- Nick Russell, Deputy Director of the Digital Trade Team, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
Meanwhile, the Lords International Relations and Defence Committee continues its inquiry into the UK’s security and trade relationship with China at 10am by taking evidence from a range of experts.
At the Northern Ireland Assembly, Mr Aidan Stennett, Research Officer for research service RaISe will provide an oral presentation on the UK Internal Market Act 2020 to the Committee for Finance at 3.15pm.
Thursday 22 April
At 11.30am and 2pm, the Finance (No.2) Bill will be debated in committee meetings.
The International Trade Committee will take evidence on the UK-EU trading relationship at 10am with James Webber, Partner, Shearman and Sterling; Dr Emily Lydgate, Deputy Director, UK Trade Policy Observatory (University of Sussex) and Dr Damian Raess, Professor at the World Trade Institute, University of Bern.
At 11.30am, the Scottish Affairs Committee will hold a one-off evidence session on Fisheries and Scotland with representatives from fishing and seafood organisations. The second part of the session will question David Duguid MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, and Nick Leake, Deputy Director and Head of Policy Division, Scotland Office.
At the Northern Ireland Assembly, representatives from the Mid and East Antrim Borough Council will provide oral evidence to the Committee for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs at 9.35am on the withdrawal of DAERA and Local Authority Staff from Ports.