Why the doctrine of necessity can’t apply for the Northern Ireland Protocol

This week’s second reading of the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill moves the UK one step closer to a significant aggravation of the relationship with the EU.

With no Tories voting against the Bill – partly because it was presented as a technical exercise – the government is pushing on with a faster committee stage.

However, as discussed last week, the effects of the Bill are anything but technical, eviscerating almost all the substantive provisions of the Protocol – even those nominally protected.

One point that wasn’t addressed in that post was the use of the doctrine of necessity as a justification for the Bill.

In essence, the doctrine is a common law concept that sometimes one is forced to break one’s commitments because that’s the only way to deal with a serious problem. Unlike force majeur, where a state is involuntarily put in a Bad Situation, necessity is a voluntary action.

It’s not much used, mainly because states are pretty careful about signing up to stuff and because the other exit routes – coercion, error, etc. – usually cover it. The only case you might have hear of where it was used was the bombing of the Torrey Canyon after it ran aground in 1967. You’re not supposed to bomb ships [I know], but the action prevented further pollution, and no-one really complained.

As a result, the doctrine is not fully formed in international law.

The main reference point has been the International Law Commission’s Draft Articles on Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts, drawn up in 2001. While still draft, there are as close as we get to a benchmark.

The graphic sets out that benchmark, and the key tests that apply, plus whether they are met in the current situation.

As you’ll see, none of the tests are clearly – or even, much – met in the government’s explanatory notes for the Bill.

Moreover, two of the tests are definitely not met. The failure to use Article 16 of the Protocol – despite the government’s extensive discussion of how it would be justified in using it – is only surpassed by the government’s fundamental part in creating the current situation through its negotiation, ratification and implementation of the Protocol in the first place.

Thus, even if one accepts the framing of the threat to cross-community peace and stability as grave and imminent, that still does not allow for use of necessity as a justification for a Bill that not only breaks international commitments, but also very likely creates just the same threat to cross-community peace and stability, albeit by the removal of the Protocol.

This much will have been evident to all involved in Whitehall and Westminster beforehand. Liz Truss’ comments during Monday’s debate highlight that the Bill is much more about trying to push EU member states to reopen the Commission’s mandate than it is about following through on the Bill’s provisions: we might also add in a dose of leadership ambition here too.

But with no sign that the EU is going to move, it is hard to see how the government doesn’t paint itself into even more of a corner on this. With Johnson talking up the need to support Ukraine in defence of a ‘rules-based international system’, it seems especially counter-productive to be playing fast and loose with those rules.

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Making the Northern Ireland Protocol work

The title of this post feels insanely optimistic, given the events of the past weeks, but if we don’t try then we certainly won’t succeed.

Last month I submitted some evidence to the Follow-up inquiry on the impact of the Protocol, run by the Lord’s EU Committee’s sub-Committee on the Protocol. Being very aware of my limits, I only wrote about the dynamics of EU-UK interactions on the issue and how a possible restarting of constructive relations might look.

My unwritten conclusion was that the current UK government was really unlikely to make this work, or would even try to make it work, since its first step was to engage wholeheartedly with the current Protocol system, to show it was making best efforts. Only once that path is exhausted (and seen to be exhausted) would the UK get renegotiation on the table.

Of course, this has been overtaken by the publication last week of the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill.

Resting on a very dubious legal basis of a doctrine of necessity, the government argues that the Protocol’s effects are so terrible as to require urgent action, albeit through passing legislation that may need months to come into effect and while also arguing it is just ‘minor bureaucratic changes‘.

Even if we disregard the justification, then we can still say that the Bill proposes a fundamental reworking of the Protocol, as laid out in the graphic below.

Even those (few) parts of the Protocol that appear to be protected from changes – notably Art.2 rights for individuals – are compromised immediately by the removal of the ECJ from any UK-based legal judgements (so people can’t access definitive ECJ rulings on relevant provisions) and have the shadow of Clause 18 powers hanging over them.

Clause 18 would allow UK ministers to take whatever they like on any aspect of the Protocol as they see fit, without Parliamentary control. To call this sweeping would be an understatement and sets up a much more antagonistic passage through the Lords (and probably with some Tory backbenchers).

As a whole, the Bill reads like a legal embodiment of 1980s Millwall supporters.

Legally, the Bill stands on the weakest of justifications, just as the chances of it forcing the EU to the negotiation table like vanishingly small. Given that both of these things was very evident beforehand,  the key question is ‘why carry on regardless?’

As I’ve long said, it reflects much more on the state of domestic debate than on real, existing international relations.

For more evidence of this, we might look to yesterday’s publication of the Centre for Brexit Policy’s report on Global Britain.

I only focused on the EU/Europe section in my thread below, but it suffers from the flawed assumption that just because you think the EU is rotten, so must everyone else.

And so we continue to go round the same old problems, again and again.

Even if the NIP Bill gets binned and even if the CBP’s ideas don’t become official policy, the issues still remain about how to find a mutually-acceptable and stable solution for Northern Ireland. Which seems rather lost in this debate.

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Challenging implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol

Since we’re back in a hotter phase of the NIP rhetoric cycle, it’s useful to revisit various points.

None of it’s new and I’ve shared all the content below with you before, but apparently that’s not got through to everyone.

The UK government is seemingly on the verge (again) of producing a bill that would resolve its problems with the Protocol. This time, there’s talk of a dual-track system for checks, which I leave to the trade people to deconstruct.

However, the framing of this current effort is that the primary objective of the government’s push is a negotiated resolution, to address the problematic implementation of the Protocol by the EU. Conor Burn gave evidence on this to Parliament yesterday, helpfully summarising in this thread by Tony Connelly:

If implementation is the problem, then the Protocol and the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) within which that Protocol sits has a ready-made process: Title III.

Title III deals with dispute settlement, in a graduated and progressive manner, from talks to arbitration to remedies. The graphic below lays out the detail.

This process covers all issues with implementation and (per Art.168) is the only procedure that should be used. That there is no sign of this happening will raise the obvious question about the objectives of the UK government, which makes it less surprising that the EU has trust issues.

We might also note that neither Title III nor Art.16 of the Protocol allows for unilateral domestic legislation to address problems of non-compliance.

Of course, non-compliance is only one option: the UK government also continues to talk about renegotiating the Protocol.

Again, the mechanisms for changing the text are set out in the Protocol and WA itself, as summarised below:

So change is possible, but only by joint agreement: even the Art.18 NIP consent provision ultimately leaves the parties still having to find a common solution to their various obligations (e.g. Good Friday Agreement, EU law, WTO, etc.), which probably brings them back to something like the Protocol.

To summarise all this, we can see that options for unilateral action really don’t exist:

Which raises the obvious policy implication that the UK’s best chance of securing change might be to try those joint paths, rather than going off-range with its planned bill. That is almost certainly the advice the government has been given by its advisers. If it does follow through on advancing the bill, then it’s driven by domestic political exigencies rather than the legal or political conditions that materially shape the EU-UK relationship.

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WA/TCA meeting tracker: April 2022

A short post this week, to update the trackers for meetings of the assorted committees of the EU-UK’s Withdrawal Agreement and Trade & Cooperation Agreement.

As you can see, things have been quiet so far this year. WA activity has been winding down (although that might change should the UK follow through on its reported plans for disapplying parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol).

Likewise, the TCA seems to be heading for annual meetings of most bodies, with a few exceptions. The Parliamentary Partnership Assembly has still to meet at all, suggesting that its scope for building more links between the parties is going to be – at best – a long-term prospect.

As always, you can click through the PDF links below to get a version with clickable links to minutes, agendas and reports.


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Ukrainian accession to the EU: run now, walk later?

The question of whether and how Ukraine joins the EU ranks relatively low on the list of priority topics right now, for reasons that are both too obvious and too horrific to discuss right now.

However, it is still a question that demands attention. The rapid return of the Commission’s preliminary questionnaire by the Ukrainian government – 11 days after receiving it – sets the stage for a rapid publication of the Commission’s opinion, to then allow the June European Council to declare the country an official candidate.

For comparison, Bosnia & Herzegovina took over three years to get that status. Even Finland – the all-time record-holder for speediest accession – took eight months. Ukraine is on track for half that time.

So it’s all good. Right?

Not really.

As I set out in the thread below, speed now has come by avoiding some difficult questions (data here):

Crucially, the EU has side-stepped the Copenhagen criteria, which is has used for the past 30 years to gatekeep accession. Whether you accept the official line that the criteria are for everyone’s benefit, or see them just as another barrier that member states use to brush off awkward applicants, they still speak to the crucial question of what the EU stands for.

Remove the current war from the equation and the Commission would likely have spent an age on screening and scrutinising Ukraine over the robustness of its political system, the effectiveness of its anti-corruption work and the capacity of its economy to cope with being dropped into a huge and much-richer single market. The war adds another huge challenge on top of all that (not least because of the Art.42 TEU obligations to mutual defence).

However, the war has undoubtedly also thrown all that over.

The geopolitical – maybe even civilisational – imperative to support and protect Ukraine has already engendered huge shifts in the EU, both politically and in policy terms. The hard push to get to candidate status is reflection of that, and rightly so.

But the EU is also well-aware of the limits to its powers. In particular, securing internal reforms is much more effective when you can dangle membership as a reward, as compared to the limited tools available for sanctioning those inside. Take your pick of contemporary examples.

So does the EU continue to push that to one side and work out the problems once Ukraine is inside? Or does it press for changes beforehand?

In either case, Ukraine might well lack the capacity to make the requested reforms, especially in the context of the on-going conflict. Plus any concessions on reforms you make for Ukraine will be taken up by other states as a demonstration that the EU doesn’t really need to be quite so difficult and intrusive.

As I conclude in my thread, none of this should stop the EU and Ukraine working together hard to get to the latter’s accession: morally, strategically and politically it is the right thing to do. But that will also require frank and deeply engaged discussions about how to square the circle that both sides face. Ukraine needs membership, but membership of an organisation that is still worth joining: the EU needs to protect its interests, but not if the price is the collapse of a democratic state.

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A problem for 2024? Consent in the Northern Ireland Protocol

Given the amount of political anguish caused already by the Northern Ireland Protocol (NIP) since its conception during the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) talks, it might seem odd to write today about one provision that can’t be used until late 2024 at the earliest.

However, the Art.18 provisions on consent represent a key safeguard for the Protocol’s long-term survival, whatever comes of the endless debate about what should happen.

As a reminder, the NIP can only be amended or revoked by the joint agreement of the signatories – the EU and the UK – something that appears deeply unlikely, either now or for the foreseeable future. Likewise, the Art.16 provision on safeguards only allows for a temporary and limited suspension of some parts of the NIP while the signatories find a solution: as discussed elsewhere, it’s not a unilateral (or long-term) solution.

So the only mechanism available to just one party to make a lasting change to the Protocol is Art.18.

As the graphic below sets out, the Northern Ireland Assembly gets to vote in late 2024 on whether to continue the main substantive elements of the NIP (excluding citizens’ rights) for another four years (eight if majorities of both unionist and nationalist designated MLAs can be found).

This not only accords with the intention of the Good Friday Agreement to make the Northern Irish the deciders of their situation, but also provides a way for both the EU and London [sic] to distance themselves from any repudiation of the Protocol

The coming Assembly elections will be a test of this, both in the campaigning approach of unionists (who seem very determined to push for the NIP’s collapse) and in the likely shifts in MLA numbers.

This latter point is not only about the likely rise in the number of Sinn Fein MLAs (which will help with the basic overall majority requirement), but also the potential growth of ‘other’ designated MLAs. Under Art.18(6), these do not count in the ‘cross community support’ calculations, possibly making it yet harder to achieve the necessary threshold for an eight year continuation.

However, to return to the present, consent isn’t the main topic of debate around the Protocol right now. The EU’s easement on medicine supply this week points to the on-going efforts to demonstrate how the NIP can be made to work better through engagement, but this will not be the rhetoric of the DUP and other unionists in coming weeks.

At the same time, if the current Art.16 ‘shall we, shan’t we’ argument is outridden, then Art.18 will come much more sharply into view and the way voters split this May might turn out to be crucial in deciding the outcome.

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The old rules don’t apply any more

The non-invitation of Boris Johnson at last week’s European Council on Ukraine came after a period of improved EU-UK relations, driven strongly by the Russian invasion. However, that close cooperation – highlighted by Liz Truss’ appearance at a Foreign Affairs Council earlier in the month.

So what gives?

I’ve tried to set out so underlying reasons in the graphic below, but essentially the argument is that the UK is no longer an EU member state, so the terms of its relationship with the EU have fundamentally changed.

Within the EU, the UK had an institutionalised and a constitutionalised place at the table. That meant not simply a vote, but also participation in a set of practices that aim to keep all members together.

That means that should a state have a deep problem with a decision, other states (and the central institutions) will make considerable efforts to adapt that decision to allow the problem case to step back on. That doesn’t happen on more prosaic matters, when QMV kicks in on the understanding that it might not be the choice of everyone but it’s still within the bounds of acceptability.

This accommodation is reflected in the relative absence of a la carte integration: most members participate in most things, most of the time. When there’s a big issue – as with eurozone membership – then it’s made (effectively) optional, but with open doors for the rest to join later on (as they often do).

No one wants to be left behind, but not everyone can move at the same speed or in the same way, so mutually-supportive help is good for everyone. Look at Cameron’s renegotiation in 2016 for an example of how the system tries hard to work for a colleague in a spot.

Today, the UK doesn’t have that.

Instead, it’s a third country and so the EU will always put it clearly second to the needs of its remaining members.

Flex does occur, but within much tighter parameters set by those members’ needs: a concession to the UK will now only happen if it doesn’t damage the EU’s position relative to its internal politics.

Of course, the UK also is freed of the need to help out EU member states, and it holds an effective veto on all future cooperation outside the Withdrawal Agreement and Trade & Cooperation Agreement. But at the price of not having anyone else on its side of the table.

Those two agreements represented something of a transition and an aggravating factor.

Transitionally, the Commission did much to try to bridge the gap between the EU and the UK during both negotiations, especially under Art.50 when the British were still inside the system.

Aggravatingly, the intense difficulties of negotiating with the British and especially the accusations of not acting in good faith have strongly coloured current and future interactions. From the Internal Market Bill to the on-going tensions over the Northern Ireland Protocol, the UK has failed to give much confidence to EU counterparts that it will play by the rules it signed up to.

Trust is thus a chronic problem in the relationship and it’s this that helps explain Johnson’s absence last week.

The EU would like a constructive relationship with the UK, and it has been very happy that Ukraine has given reason for much working together, but the bonus of getting into the room with Biden and others requires more. The continuing appearance of Article 16 and the querying of certain EU members’ commitment to fighting Russia gave enough pause for thought for Charles Michel to not follow through on the tentative plans.

At one level, this is petty. At another, it’s not that important, especially given the NATO and G7 meetings around the European Council, where the UK did get its seat.

But it’s a mark of the long, hard road that the UK will have to grind along if it wants to regain the confidence of the EU. Actions and words will count, and for the time being, the presumption will remain that the UK cannot be trusted.

The EU would prefer to get along with the UK, but it doesn’t need to, so the UK is going to have to put itself out to get even the much-reducing status it can expect outside of the club. Whether the UK wants to do that is, of course, another question.

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The EU needs more than an external unifier

This post originally appeared on Encompass.

When trying to explain why European integration took off after the end of the Second World War, academics typically point towards some combination of factors. As well as the peace project in the wake of Holocaust and of the total war that had ravaged the continent, economic reconstruction and the shared personal experiences of many European leaders also played a role. In short, a window of opportunity opened up after 1945 that strongly incentivised much deeper ways of European states working together.

A key part of this was the emerging Cold War. Europe became the frontline of a global contest between the United States and the Soviet Union: integration in the western part of the continent held those countries together, strongly encouraged and supported by the US and in opposition to the USSR.

The threat from outside – either militarily across the North German plain or via significant communist parties in states such as France or Italy – was important in driving countries together. Coal and steel were not only symbolic of tying together French and German war industries, but also of the new shared enemy that they faced to the East. From the high tensions of the 1950s and 1960s into the détente of the 1970s and 1980s, the threat of Soviet communism provided both a backdrop and a stimulus to European integration.

Of course, the fall of the Berlin Wall changed this dynamic: the birth of a much more ambitious European Union occurred at just this juncture as Europeans saw how they might escape their constraints. The growth of deeper and more overt cooperation in defence and related matters was part of this, made possible by the scope to develop alongside NATO without the worries of looking less unified towards the primary threat to security.

Which brings us to today and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Such an overtly aggressive and indefensible action throws even the most optimistic hopes for a peaceful and collaborative system of collective cooperation in Europe into the dustbin.

The effects have been rapid and stark. From boosts to German defence spending and the willingness to use EU funds to support the provision of lethal aid to Ukraine; from historic shifts on Swedish and Finnish membership of NATO to the Ukrainian, Georgian and Moldovan applications to the EU; from the pointed distancing of populists across the Union from Vladimir Putin to the opening of borders and homes to the millions of Ukrainian refugees. All of these point towards a new phase in the EU’s development.

In so doing, they reinforce some of the dynamics set in train by the Covid pandemic. As Brigid Laffan has forcefully argued, both crises have demonstrated both the value and the reflex of collective action: neither would have been made any more simple by states going it alone. As a case in point, the Ukraine invasion has even brought the UK literally to the table of defence and foreign policy cooperation.

This cooperation is to be applauded, for the way that it has produced more effective and efficient action to deal with matters of life and death. It has not been without difficulties and it has not been quite as complete and uncomplaining as some might think, but it shows what it is possible when partners have a strong impulse to pull together.

And yet, it is not enough.

Here I am thinking of the bigger arc of the EU’s trajectory. Grave though both Covid and Ukraine have been (and continue to be), they are not the only factors at place. Just as the Cold War (nor even the wider post-WWII window of opportunity) did not result in a fully articulated and developed European system of governance, so the present situation will not either.

External pressures to work together will only even take us so far: what also matters are the internal dynamics. The problems of populism, of declining trust in political institutions of all kinds and of the perceived distance of European decision-making (to name but three) all remain. The surge of public feeling in sympathy with Ukraine and its people does not automatically translate into support for any organisation, domestic or European, just as the willingness to cooperate in a crisis mean that working together in more peaceable times is now a given.

For a Union that has been battered about for many years, the experience of the past couple of years has been a more positive one for the EU, but it is not a solution in itself. The work to embed legitimate, transparent and accountable governance into its structures must continue: this is work for the everyday, not for now and then.

If the EU wants to show how much it values the principles of democracy now under grievous attack in Ukraine, then it needs to build on these within its citizens and its member states, so that it makes a fitting home to all who want to (and who should) join it.

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Did Brexit change anything?


This week I went to a conference on ‘British politics after Brexit‘. We didn’t talk about Brexit very much, among the swirl of partygate, shifting opinion polls and questions over the viability of the Union. Which prompts a question about whether Brexit changed much and whether there’s still much impact of Brexit.

I ask these questions largely because to listen to much of the discussion, things are much as they ever were. Smaller parties feel locked out of the majoritarian electoral system, the non-English bits of the Union feel ignored by London, the demographic shifts to more-educated voters continues. All of this was as true in 2015 as now.

And yet, the conference did underline how Brexit has acted to reshape the political landscape. The report that accompanied the event draws this out in various ways.

Firstly, public opinion has been shifted and conditioned by the Brexit experience. The 2016 referendum and the following year’s general election resorted voting preferences to make party stances better match individual preferences, where before these had sat somewhat across both Tory and Labour core voters. Remain & Leave identities have weakened slightly, but 80% of people still express ‘fairly’ or ‘very’ strong positions on this cleavage, well beyond any party political affiliation.

Moreover, dissatisfaction with the unfolding of Brexit has grown in the period since the fuller effects of being outside the EU have been experienced, albeit possibly exacerbated by continuing Covid effects too. That notwithstanding, the potential for parties to exploit this unhappiness is considerable and suggests more repositioning in the UK-EU relationship is likely, even if there isn’t any robust majority for rejoining (and that’s even before we think about whether the EU would want the UK back in).

Secondly, party politics has also been scarred by Brexit. The Tories have flushed out most of their pro-European elements, but have still to settle on a clear vision of what Brexit is for: still the impression is of a grab-bag of ideas, rather than any coherent and integrated story that can be sold to voters. Labour (and the LibDems) have decided that Europe is an issue best avoided for now, partly because the fruits of the cost-of-living crisis hang much lower and partly because of the experience of the 2019 general election, where the Tories could wield the ‘will of the people’ line of argument.

Brexit thus matters in party politics through its absence as much as its presence: the mobilising idea that carried the Tories through the 2010s – get Britain out – has now gone, but without a replacement. That hurts not only the two big parties, but also the smaller ones, especially for those who could use Brexit as a piggy-back ride to greater prominence. The big realignment along cosmopolitan/parochial lines that seemed possible in 2016 was hindered by the electoral system, so that moment has passed and raises a question of what scale of disruption would be needed to occur in future.

Finally, the settlement of the Union is placed under much more strain by Brexit. Northern Ireland is the key case here, with the Protocol heightening tensions ahead of the Executive elections. Whether and how a solution that is acceptable to all sides can be found is deeply unclear at present, especially with UK-EU negotiations effectively now on hold until after the campaigning.

But problems have also grown in Scotland and Wales. The strengthening local identity has been driven in large part by the feeling of England driving major constitutional change over local needs. For Scotland, that has fed the independence debate, while for Wales it has produced a shift towards more robust devolution.

If this all sounds a bit self-serving, given that I study Brexit, then also recall that major shifts in political systems rarely occur overnight. Even catastrophic military defeats take time to produce new models of government and governance: precisely because Brexit isn’t such a defeat, the imperative to effect speedy change is absent. Instead much of Brexit’s effects have been submerged in other processes and dynamics (much of what I’ve mentioned above was also a cause of the vote to Leave in 2016), so the secondary (and much bigger) impact of leaving the EU, beyond the actual withdrawal, was always going to take much longer to become clear.

In summary, even when we’re not talking about Brexit, we’re talking about Brexit.

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Building a Parliamentary post-Brexit relationship

After much delay, the membership of the Trade & Cooperation Agreement’s (TCA) Parliamentary Partnership Assembly (PPA) was finally settled in late January.

The Assembly is an advisory body to the TCA’s main Partnership Committee, “a forum to exchange view on the partnership” as the treaty has it (Art.11). Twice-yearly meetings will provide an additional line of communication between the UK and EU.

Members are drawn (35 apiece) from the UK Parliament and European Parliament: key information is summarised in the table below.

A number of points are worth noting on the profiles of each side, of which the central is that this is very much like other such bodies: very many of these relatively informal assemblies exist, attached to other trade deals, and so there’s no major surprises.

Given the lack of substantive powers, the PPA mostly attracts those with an interest in the subject matter. On the EU side, that means a lot of MEPs from states close to the UK, people with family or professional connections there and many members of the Foreign Affairs committee. On the UK side, it means several former MEPs or people with former roles relating to the EU and a healthy number of the Lords EU committee system.

Both sides contain a wide range of views on Brexit itself. The British range from strong Remain campaigners through to some of Leave’s leading lights, while the EU go from former ministers of European affairs to critics of the EU’s approach to the withdrawal negotiations. As such, the PPA isn’t automatically a cheerleader for the TCA or the rest of the EU-UK arrangements.

The spread of members reflects the different logics employed by each Parliament. The UK has a majority of Conservative members, a majority of MPs over Lords, plus some places for representatives of the four nations. The EP delegation is divided in accordance with the size of parliamentary groups and with some eye to geographic diversity: it also has a full set of substitute members, as against the 12 British ones.

The graphic below also highlights one interesting point: the representation of committees in the delegations. The EP delegation covers almost all the main committees, skewed towards Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Economic & Monetary Affairs; the UK has far fewer committee members to hand beyond the Lords EU Committee and the Commons International Trade Committee.

However, it is important here to note that while all MEPs sit on at least one committee – these being a key location for any substantive discussion on policy – most MPs or Lords do not – reflecting the centrality of the plenary sessions in their respective Houses. Nonetheless, it does raise some questions about how far British members will be able to get into substance should the need arise: the disbanding of the Commons’ select committee on Exiting the EU means there is no obvious place in which to locate expertise, beyond the individual capacities of former members such as Hilary Benn.

If there is one difference with other similar assemblies, then it is that this one has yet to meet, and so we do not know whether it might develop into something of substance.

This looks unlikely, partly because of the nature of it all, but also because of the long delay in getting it up and running: the TCA agendas are already in train and the British government-Commission relationship is in place (if not very happily). The space for the PPA to make its voice heard is relatively small, even before we consider the impact of its diverse internal voices. However, in the context of a long-term rebuilding of trust between the two sides, it will be a key venue for the exchange of ideas and the creation of links.

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