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Government must clarify plans for links with Commonwealth after Brexit

06 February 2018

The European Scrutiny Committee has today published a report on the Brexit implications for the UK's political and economic relationship with the over forty Commonwealth nations in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific, warning that the Government's ambiguity over its future partnership with the EU on development policy risks diluting the UK's influence in upcoming negotiations on a new wide-ranging EU treaty with these countries.

European Commission proposals for a new EU-ACP treaty

After Brexit, the UK will no longer be a party to the EU's partnership and trade agreements with the so-called "ACP" group of states, which includes many Commonwealth nations. The European Commission has recently tabled proposals for a new EU-ACP treaty, which would provide the framework for cooperation and dialogue on a range of matters of mutual interest, including trade, climate change and migration, after 2020.

As the UK will no longer be an EU Member State by that point, the Government has less than two years to fill the gap, either via a new bilateral framework with some or all of the countries in the ACP bloc, or through continued involvement in the new EU-ACP agreement. Separately, the UK will also have to negotiate the rollover of specific trade pacts which the EU has concluded with a sub-set of ACP states.

Government hasn't offered details on the UK's EU-ACP involvement

The Government has told the Committee that it will participate actively on the EU's side of the negotiations for the new EU-ACP treaty, and reiterated its objective of agreeing an "unprecedented partnership" with the EU on development matters. However, it has failed to offer detail about the desired level of the UK's involvement in the EU-ACP institutions after Brexit. The Government has also refused to state clearly whether the UK intends to remain a contributor to the European Development Funds, which funds development assistance projects in ACP countries, after 2020.

DfID should clarify the Government's position

In its report, the Committee expresses concerns that the current ambiguity about the Government's objectives in this area risks diluting the UK's influence over the substance of the new ACP agreement at a point in the process where the EU's position is most flexible. It has urged the Department for International Development (DfID) to clarify urgently the Government's position on involvement in the EU-ACP framework and the European Development Fund after 2020.

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