Institute for Government highlights 'hole' in UK's Brexit proposals

By agency reporter
November 9, 2018

The Government must explain who will take over from Brussels officials in ensuring British ministers and legislators meet their agreed obligations to the EU after Brexit, says a new report.

In Supervision after Brexit, the Institute for Government (IfG) argues that there is a hole in the Government’s Brexit proposals: the Government has made proposals on the resolution of legal disputes and the role of the European Court, but ministers have not explained who will take over the ‘supervisory’ role of the European Commission and EU agencies.

The IfG’s research shows that disagreements between the UK and the EU tend to be resolved through a 'supervision' process – the exchange of letters and information between the European Commission, regulators and the Government. Most cases never reach court.

The paper says that this supervision process will be particularly important if the UK is to retain the unprecedented market access the Government has said it wants. That access would be based on close alignment with and adherence to many EU rules and will depend on the EU having confidence in the UK meeting its agreed obligations.

The report sets out various options. The UK could ask the European Commission to keep doing these jobs even after Brexit. Alternatively, the 'joint committee' of UK and EU officials that oversee the agreement could be beefed up with a secretariat doing supervision work.

If the UK wanted to 'take back control' of supervision, it could create a new dedicated supervisory authority to keep the rest of government in check or distribute supervisory functions to various existing departments and regulators.

There are difficult design issues for Government to grapple with, the authors say. If the UK does want to build a homegrown supervisory body, the Government must find a way to guarantee that it is sufficiently independent of ministers.

If such a body were to face the threat of abolition when it caused political problems for the Government, it would not be able to hold ministers to account. The solution could be to make supervisory bodies accountable directly to Parliament rather than to government departments, the report suggests.

Raphael Hogarth, IfG Associate and report author, said: “If the Government wants a long-term relationship with the EU that is built on cooperation, it needs to answer this fundamental question: who will keep a watchful eye on ministers, regulators and legislators to make sure that they are respecting the treaties? And who will send a strongly worded letter when they are sailing too close to the wind?”

Jill Rutter, IfG Programme Director, added: “A well thought-through system for supervision will provide more certainty to citizens and business that the rights the UK has committed to observe will be upheld – something Parliament has expressed concern about during the passage of the Withdrawal Act. A new supervisory body should also be able to act as a broker if any future conflicts arise between the UK and the devolved governments in relation to the future UK-EU relationship.”

* Read Supervision after Brexit here

* Institute for Government


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