Brexit and devolution inquiry launched

08 March 2017

Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee launches an inquiry to investigate channels of meaningful engagement between the UK Government and the devolved administrations during negotiations on the UK's withdrawal from the EU.

Scope of the inquiry

The UK referendum result on European Union membership, and subsequent plans for withdrawal, coalesce with an acute need to review and strengthen inter-institutional relations within the UK.  These relations are crucial practical concerns, and warrant further examination given the capacity and capability required to deliver Brexit. These questions of capability also relate to the work of the Civil Service, and the capacity of relevant departments to manage the Brexit process.

A report on inter-institutional relations, published by the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) in November 2016, emphasised the importance of diplomacy and intergovernmental relations to a successful withdrawal from the EU, not just at the level of the EU but also within the UK. The repatriation of EU competences will take place alongside a conversation – between all four UK legislatures – on how these competences can be discharged and distributed. These considerations constitute a fresh opportunity (and incentive) to develop more effective intergovernmental relations in the UK.

Call for written submissions

  1. The implications – for devolved governments – of repatriated legislative, policy and regulatory powers and responsibilities currently held at the EU level
  2. How leaving the EU changes the constitutional and political landscape in which the devolved governments were established
  3. Means of effectively incorporating the varied interests of the UK and its devolved institutions throughout the negotiation process, and in the establishment of a new relationship with the EU
  4. The capability and capacity of the Civil Service to deliver a successful Brexit within the prospective time constraints
  5. The importance of effective relationships between different administrations and institutions in facilitating a successful Brexit
  6. Quantifying a successful process and overall effectiveness

Repatriation of legislative, policy and regulatory powers and responsibilities

  •  How will powers and responsibilities be repatriated from the EU, and to what extent is this clearly set out in the current devolution settlements?
  • What funding arrangements must be in place in order to replace existing funding arrangements for devolved administrations and local government in the EU?
  • How relevant is the binary devolution settlement (i.e. competences being either reserved or devolved) with respect to Brexit negotiations? How much responsibility is likely to be shared?

Changes in the legal, constitutional and political landscape

  • How can the principle of subsidiarity be reflected in any new constitutional settlement?
  • Does the UK’s exit from the EU provide an opportunity to strengthen devolution to local areas, beyond the institutional level (i.e. devolved administrations)?

Accommodating differentiation

  • How can the Government’s commitment to an inclusive UK-wide approach co-exist with the varied interests (and referendum polling results) of an unevenly devolved UK, especially given the likely time constraints?
  • What would be the most effective means of achieving the full engagement of local areas to ensure that the interests of all parts of the UK are protected and advanced in relation to:
     The Brexit negotiation process;
     The ratification of an exit agreement;
     Reviewing and repatriating EU competences;
     Evaluating shared competences; and
     Establishing new relationships with the EU and its member states?

The role of the Civil Service, and its capacity and capability

  • A recent Institute for Government report suggests that the Civil Service is at its lowest capacity since the Second World War. What is the current level of capability within the Civil Service?
  • Looking ahead, how well will Brexit departments – and indeed all departments (particularly those departments whose remit is largely encompassed by the EU) – be able to deal with Brexit in terms of staffing, time and finance?

Dialogue and frameworks between devolved administrations and institutions

  • Which existing frameworks can replace (or potentially improve on) the EU’s facilitation of inter-regional engagement through EU governance structures?
  • How significant and effective is the Joint Ministerial Committee (JMC) in promoting and facilitating inter-governmental dialogue? In the context of Brexit, what role can (and should) it play, and to what extent is it equipped to do so?
  • What principles, or examples, should underpin future inter-institutional relationships and dialogue?
  • Are there broader cultural considerations to consider throughout the Brexit process (e.g. the preservation of minority languages)? If so, what are these considerations and how can they be most effectively incorporated into negotiations, as well as broader dialogue?

Quantifying a successful process

  •  How might effectiveness be measured going forward? Indeed, what criteria should apply to benchmark successful outcomes?
  • How can the quality of relationships be assessed and quantified, in order to make further improvements?
  • By what means can progress be maintained and scrutinised throughout the negotiation process?

The deadline for written submissions is Wednesday 27 April 2017.

Further information

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