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Lord Committee calls for UK-EU relations reset after years of tension and mistrust

Saturday 29 April 2023

The House of Lords European Affairs Committee has today (Saturday 29 April) published its report The Future UK-EU Relationship examining the overarching state of the post-Brexit relationship between the UK and EU.

The report examines how this might be developed in the future, across four themes:

• Mobility of people;
• foreign policy, defence and security relationship;
• energy security and climate change; and the
• overall political, diplomatic and institutional relationship.

After years of tension and mistrust, recommendations focus on actions to be taken as a priority as part of a reset of UK-EU relations following the recent agreement of the Windsor Framework.

The Committee’s key findings and recommendations include:

Business and professional mobility

The Committee calls for complex post-Brexit business and professional travel rules, currently a significant barrier to mobility, to be dynamically updated and made more straightforward to navigate and interpret, including for small businesses and independent professionals.

The Committee is particularly disappointed by the little progress made in addressing the challenges faced by creative professionals, including musicians wanting to work and tour in the EU, and calls on the Government to take these matters up with the EU as a priority. The Committee feels that there is mutual benefit in addressing these areas.

School visits

The Committee deeply regrets the substantial decline in school visits from the EU since 2019 and is concerned this will have a considerable long-term cultural impact, as well as having a significant economic impact.

The Committee urges the Government to reintroduce a youth group travel scheme that would not require pupils travelling on school visits from any EU country to carry individual passports.

Student exchanges

The Committee regrets that the Turing student exchange scheme only supports outward mobility and calls on the UK Government to explore the addition of a reciprocal element to the Turing scheme, drawing on the experience of the Taith scheme introduced by the Welsh Government.

The Committee considers that UK association to Horizon Europe and other EU research programmes would be a win-win for the UK and EU and urges the UK Government and the EU to take the necessary steps to complete UK association to the EU's Horizon Europe research funding programme as soon as possible.

UK-EU youth mobility partnership

The Committee calls on the UK Government to approach the EU about the possibility of entering negotiations around an ambitious reciprocal youth mobility partnership to allow young people to apply for fixed-term visas to travel and work in the other partner on preferential terms, along the lines of the UK’s existing youth mobility arrangements with various countries.

Foreign and Defence Co-operation

Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Committee calls on the UK and the EU to step up cooperation on the implementation and enforcement of sanctions against Russia, and to establish more structured cooperation arrangements for foreign, defence and security policy, including UK attendance at the EU Foreign Affairs Council.

Energy Security and Net Zero

In response to the energy security challenges following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Committee urges the UK and the EU to cooperate closely on the installation of additional interconnectors, including in the North Sea. The Committee also calls on the UK and the EU to link their Emissions Trading Schemes, which evidence suggested would be of mutual benefit.

The Political and Diplomatic Relationship

The Committee calls for increased intensity of activity within existing institutional structures, and considers that there would be value in holding regular UK-EU summits.

Read the Committee's full report, findings and recommendations on the Committee website at 00.01 Saturday 29 April 2023. 

Lord Kinnoull, Chair of the Committee, said:

“The UK’s post-Brexit relationship with the EU has regrettably come under significant strain over the period since the TCA came into force, characterised by tension and mistrust.
“While the recent change in mood for future UK-EU relations following the announcement of the Windsor Framework is welcome, there is now the opportunity to move the relationship forward to the mutual benefit of both the UK and the EU.

“A particular theme running through our Future UK-EU Relationship report evidence was the significant impact of post-Brexit barriers to mobility young workers and professionals in the early stages of their careers, emerging artists, as well as students across different educational levels. Making progress here will benefit all in the short term but especially in the long term.

“The Committee feels that it is now time to address the considerable lack of structure in the foreign policy, security and defence relationship. Here we particularly recommend means of seeking to make sanctions bite harder through analysis and enforcement cooperation. We also feel that the time has come for the Government to follow up on its aims set out in the Political Declaration that accompanied the Withdrawal Agreement of establishing appropriate structured cooperation arrangements in this area.

“Another area we looked into was energy. Here again we have made many recommendations which will help our long term energy security. Especially important among these were those concerned with the mutual benefits of linking the UK and EU emissions trading systems and the need for engagement on Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanisms.

“We have also made a number of recommendations about the current institutional relationship and how improvements can be made. Most striking is the opportunity for both parties to use the existing institutional structures set up in the Brexit process that had been rather dormant due to the Northern Ireland Protocol impasse, operational but not operating.

“The Government must now intensify engagement with the EU institutions at all levels, utilising the TCA Committees to ensure that matters impacting the parties are properly discussed and resolved to the benefit of both parties.“

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