The Government’s aim remains to ensure that the UK leaves the EU on 29 March with a negotiated deal which honours the result of the referendum. As the UK leaves the EU, it will also leave a number of international agreements to which it is currently party by virtue of EU membership. If the UK leaves with a deal, the EU has agreed that it will notify treaty partners and third countries that the UK is treated as an EU Member State for the purposes of its international agreements during the Implementation Period up until 31 December 2020. This approach provides a basis for the UK to continue to be covered by EU international agreements during the Implementation Period. During this period, the UK will also be able to negotiate, sign and ratify new international agreements that come into effect after the Implementation Period ends.This approach provides continuity and gives businesses and international partners the certainty and confidence they want and need.
However, the Government is also continuing to plan for all eventualities, including a no deal scenario. Colleagues across Government have been working with our third country partners and international organisations to transition existing EU international agreements. My Department has coordinated the cross departmental programme for the delivery of these agreements across a broad range of sectors, including fisheries, nuclear and transport.
This is essential preparation for our departure from the EU to ensure the UK can, where relevant and possible, maintain the benefits of these agreements, thereby providing continuity and stability to businesses and individuals.
It is the duty of government to ensure that, as we leave the EU, business and citizens have the certainty, clarity and access to information they want and need in order that they can prepare accordingly. Departments have been communicating progress on plans to transition agreements to stakeholders and, where necessary, laying agreements before Parliament for scrutiny ahead of ratification.
In addition to this, my Department is today publishing on gov.uk further information on international agreements in the form of guidance, which will support stakeholders in preparing for our departure from the EU, and information on specific agreements. This information details those agreements that the Government is seeking to transition, including in a no deal scenario, and clarifies whether they are expected to be in place for 29 March 2019. This information will be updated as further international agreements are agreed, signed and ratified. This includes information relating to trade agreements. Further details on trade continuity were recently published by the Department for International Trade on 21 February (here).
If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, it will not be possible to complete the transition of all agreements by 29 March 2019. Where an agreement or arrangement is not in place on exit day, Government will seek to ensure successor agreements and arrangements are in place as soon as possible thereafter. The information that will be available on gov.uk ensures that our stakeholders are aware where this is the case.
For those EU agreements for which the transition is not yet complete, discussions continue with our international partners to replicate their effects as far as possible and to minimise any potential disruption, and more agreements are likely to be finalised ahead of exit day. Unless an exceptional case should arise, the Government will continue to lay treaties subject to ratification before Parliament for scrutiny in accordance with the provisions of the Constitutional Reform & Governance Act 2010 (‘CRaG Act’).
Given that there are limited sitting days, we are also exploring other means through which we could prevent any potential gaps. One option would be the use of provisional application. Provisional application would allow an agreement to be applied after signature, but before ratification, pending completion of Parliamentary scrutiny. This would enable the Government to deliver its policy objective of securing continuity for the effects of existing EU - third country international agreements as far as possible. In exceptional cases it may be justified for the Government to use its powers under Section 22 of the CRaG Act and ratify a treaty without parliamentary scrutiny, thus ensuring continuity from exit day. However, the Government’s strong preference remains to avoid using this power unless there was a justifiable case for doing so.
Specific country situations
It is not the Government’s intention to transition all agreements in their entirety. This includes the EEA Agreement, the EU-Swiss Free Movement of Persons Agreement and the Ankara Agreement.
The EEA EFTA States (Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) participate in the EU Single Market through their membership of the European Economic Area (EEA). The EEA Agreement is the primary basis for the UK’s current cooperation with these countries in a number of important areas, including on trade and citizens’ rights to reside and work in another EEA state. The trade elements of our relationship with these countries are described in the annexed list.
In the absence of any further action, the EEA Agreement will no longer operate in respect of the UK when we leave the EU, including in a no deal scenario. However, if the UK leaves with a deal, the EU has agreed that it will notify treaty partners and third countries that the UK is treated as an EU Member State for the purposes of its international agreements during the Implementation Period up until 31 December 2020. This includes the EEA Agreement. Once the Implementation Period ends, the UK will no longer be covered by the EEA Agreement.
The UK and the EEA EFTA states have reached an agreement, which will mean that in a ‘no deal’ scenario UK and EEA EFTA nationals living in each others’ countries before exit day will be able to continue living their lives broadly as they do today. The Government has also published guidance on how the EU Settlement Scheme, which will be open to EEA EFTA nationals, will work after exit day.
Through the UK’s membership of the EU, we are party to the EU-Swiss Free Movement of Persons Agreement. In a no deal scenario, this agreement will no longer apply to the UK from exit day.
The UK and Switzerland have reached an agreement which will mean that in a no deal scenario UK and Swiss nationals living in each others’ countries before exit day will be able to continue living their lives broadly as they do today. The Government has also published guidance on how the EU Settlement Scheme, which will be open to Swiss nationals, will work after exit day.
We are in discussions with Switzerland on transitional arrangements for UK workers wishing to move to Switzerland and Swiss workers wishing to move to the UK after exit in a no deal scenario. We are close to reaching an agreement and details on this will be published in the near future.
Turkey’s relationship with the EU is largely governed by the Agreement creating an Association between the Republic of Turkey and the European Economic Community (also referred to as the “Ankara Agreement”) and its additional protocols and council decisions. The trade elements of our relationship with Turkey are described in the annexed list.
Turkish nationals enjoy particular rights derived from the Ankara Agreement. Following exit from the EU, the UK’s obligation to this agreement falls away either after 31 December 2020 in a deal scenario, or earlier in a no deal scenario. However, as a transitional arrangement, the UK will seek to replicate the effect of the ECAA arrangements for the resident Turkish population. This will allow resident ECAA workers and ECAA business persons and their family members to apply for further leave with similar eligibility requirements as they have now, and apply to settle in the UK. We have not yet entered into any commitments in respect of Turkish nationals arriving after the UK’s departure in a no deal situation.
I hope the House welcomes this statement as a demonstration of our commitment to transparency in our approach to transitioning international agreements, and will agree that it will help those affected to prepare for all eventualities.