As part of this blog’s ongoing monitoring of the two treaties, we regularly produce a tracker of meetings of the various bodies that they have set up.
These trackers are useful at a number of levels.
Firstly, the level of overall activity provides an indication of the vibrancy of the treaty and the extent to which the parties see it as the appropriate forum for handling issues: witness the volume of activity in the Withdrawal Agreement committees in the wake of its entry into force, to try to iron out the numerous implementation issues, most obviously on the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Secondly, the speed of setting up specific bodies points to relative priorities within the treaty framework. Thus the Trade & Cooperation Agreement – with its numerous organisational structures – has only one body that’s meet more than once: fisheries.
Finally, over time, it helps us to see how the pattern of moving from initial implementation issues to more regular operation works in practice. If the WA appears to have started to move towards the latter phase, with minimal activity this autumn, then the TCA is still very early on in its life-cycle, with much still to come into operation.
In the context of the wider EU-UK relationship, this matters, especially given the on-going uncertainty about the Protocol – and thus the entire WA/TCA architecture. If the UK were to unravel the Protocol with an Art.16 notification then the two treaties lack deep institutional roots that might help to contain the ensuing crisis. Even the WA hangs somewhat in the balance given the integral nature of the Protocol.
Of course, Art.16 would make these trackers a trailing indicator for the period of the crisis, but if the treaties were to stand, then they might also eventually come to be leading indicators of a rebuilding of relations.
Something to keep in mind in the coming months.