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Common frameworks are crucial in strengthening the Union after Brexit, says Lords Committee

Wednesday 31 March 2021

The relationships between the four parts of the United Kingdom face significant strain because of Brexit. It is necessary to reset intergovernmental relations, finds Lords Committee.

 

The House of Lords Common Frameworks Scrutiny Committee today publishes its report, Common frameworks: building a cooperative Union, emphasising that such a reset should be based on a consensual common frameworks approach.

The report finds that common frameworks provide a flexible mechanism that acknowledges policy interdependence between the UK government and devolved administrations, while also recognising each administration's autonomy.

However, despite the success of common frameworks, the report also identifies several areas of concern. This includes the delays to the common frameworks programme, the limited stakeholder engagement or opportunities for parliamentary scrutiny, and the lack of clarity on the relationship between the frameworks and the Protocol for Ireland/Northern Ireland.

The UK Internal Market Act raises further concern as market access principles in the act could constrain the devolved administrations' ability to regulate effectively in devolved policy areas.

Recommendations in the report include:

  • Common frameworks are innovative mechanisms for developing UK-wide policy by collaboration and consensus between the four administrations, taking account of the interests of each part of the UK. They should be used as a model to reset UK intergovernmental relations and build a cooperative Union
  • The UK Internal Market Act has strained relations with the devolved administrations, particularly in Scotland and Wales, and could severely compromise common frameworks unless the UK government exempts them in an appropriate manner
  • The government should use common frameworks to discuss changes introduced through the Northern Ireland Protocol and minimise divergence between Northern Ireland and Great Britain
  • Parliamentary scrutiny of common frameworks will need to continue even after they have been finalised. The House of Lords could play a valuable role in providing a neutral forum for the views of devolved legislatures and facilitating closer interparliamentary cooperation.

Baroness Andrews, Chair of the Common Frameworks Scrutiny Committee, said:

“Common frameworks are a crucial legacy of leaving the EU that has too often been overlooked. They create the processes necessary for day-to-day cooperation across the UK in areas such as food safety, farming and the environment.

“During the Committee’s inquiry, we found widespread support for common frameworks across sectors and in every part of the UK. However, the UK Internal Market Act has clearly damaged relations with the devolved administrations and could severely compromise the common frameworks programme. We also have concerns about transparency and how the frameworks will relate to the Northern Ireland Protocol.

“While the relationships between the UK government and devolved administrations are acknowledged to be severely strained, we believe that the collaborative approach of common frameworks should be used as a model to reset UK intergovernmental relations and build a cooperative Union.”

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