Common UK policy frameworks

Background

Following the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, it was necessary for the UK Government and the devolved administrations to create common UK-wide approaches - or ‘frameworks’ - in policy areas that are governed by EU law, but that are within the competence of the devolved administrations or legislatures.

 

On 16 October 2017, the Joint Ministerial Committee (EU negotiations) published a communique (PDF, 71.8KB) that set out the principles that would govern the frameworks.

The communique stated that common frameworks would be established where they were necessary in order to:

  • enable the functioning of the UK internal market, while acknowledging policy divergence;
  • ensure compliance with international obligations;
  • ensure the UK can negotiate, enter into and implement new trade agreements and international treaties;
  • enable the management of common resources;
  • administer and provide access to justice in cases with a cross-border element;
  • safeguard the security of the UK.

 

On 9 March 2018, the UK Government published a provisional assessment (PDF, 197KB) of areas of EU law that intersected with devolved competence in each devolved administration  The framework analysis covered 153 different policy areas, including agriculture and environmental policy, and concluded that there were:

  • 49 areas where no further action was required;
  • 82 areas where non-legislative frameworks may be required;
  • 24 areas where legislative common framework arrangements might be needed.

The analysis also concluded that there are 12 policy areas that the UK Government believed to be reserved but that were subject to ‘ongoing discussion’ with the devolved governments. These included protected food names and state aid.

On 4 April 2019, the UK Government published a revised breakdown (PDF, 342KB) of the areas of EU law that intersect with the devolved administrations.

 

The European Union (Withdrawal) Act

On 25 April 2018, the Welsh and UK Governments published an Intergovernmental Agreement (PDF, 125KB) on the EU Withdrawal Bill (now Act) and the establishment of common frameworks. The Agreement allows devolved legislatures to legislate on any areas within their powers. However, it also placed restrictions on the 24 devolved areas highlighted in the framework analysis above, which were under discussion. The Agreement further set out the political undertakings in relation to creating legislative common frameworks.

During 2018, ‘deep dive’ exercises took place within the areas identified by the UK Government as intersecting with devolved powers, to investigate what UK-wide common frameworks might look like.

The Act also required the UK Government to report to the UK Parliament relating to common frameworks:

  • the first report (PDF, 238KB), covering the period from 26 June 2018 to 25 September 2018, was published on 13 November 2018;
  • the second report (PDF, 1.48MB), covering the period from 26 September 2018 to 25 December 2018, was published on 7 February 2019;
  • the third report (PDF, 465KB), covering the period from 26 December 2018 to 25 March 2019, was published on 16 May 2019;
  • the fourth report (PDF, 931KB), covering the period from 26 March 2019 to 25 June 2019, was published on 17 July 2019;
  • the fifth report (PDF, 267KB), covering the period from 26 June 2019 to 25 September 2019, was published on 17 October 2019;
  • the sixth report (PDF, 166KB), covering the period from 26 September 2019 to 25 December 2019, was published on 19 March 2020;
  • the seventh report (PDF, 167KB), covering the period from 26 December 2019 to 25 March 2020, was published on 20 May 2020;
  • the eighth report (PDF, 1.01MB), covering the period from 26 March to 25 June 2020, was published on 24 September 2020;
  • the ninth report (PDF, 1.06MB), covering the period from 26 June to 25 September 2020, was published on 10 December 2020;
  • the tenth report (PDF, 1.7MB), covering the period from 26 September to 25 December 2020, was published on 18 March 2021.

 

The Senedd and common frameworks

The Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee published a report on UK common frameworks relating to agriculture and environment in July 2018.

 

The External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee held frequent scrutiny sessions with Welsh and UK Government ministers to scrutinise the process of framework creation.

 

On Monday 14 January 2019, the Committee held an expert panel evidence session on the development of common UK policy frameworks and legislating for Brexit. This was followed up with a further expert panel evidence session on 17 June 2019, focussing on the scrutiny of common UK policy frameworks.

 

The Chair wrote (PDF, 380KB) to the Counsel General and Brexit Minister on 7 May 2019 to request further information on the Welsh Government’s position in relation to each of the areas identified in the UK Government’s provisional assessment as intersecting with Welsh devolved competence.

 

In response, the Committee received a technical briefing from Welsh Government officials at its meeting on 20 May 2019, and the Counsel General and Brexit Minister followed this up with a letter (PDF, 460KB) to the Chair on 24 May 2019.

 

The Committee held a scrutiny session with the Counsel General and Brexit Minister on 3 June 2019 at which the Counsel General and Brexit Minister answered questions about common UK policy frameworks.

 

On 3 July 2019 the UK Government issued a written statement on common frameworks and intergovernmental relations, announcing the publication of four documents:

  • a progress report on the formation of the common frameworks;
  • a document outlining key phases necessary to deliver the common frameworks;
  • an outline framework relating to Hazardous Substances Planning; and
  • a set of draft principles for intergovernmental relations.

 

On 3 July 2019, the Counsel General and Brexit Minister wrote (PDF, 253KB) to the Chairs of the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee, the External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee, and the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee to draw their attention to the publications, and to state that he welcomed the progress made on common frameworks.

 

The Committee published a report on UK-wide common policy frameworks - discussion paper in August 2019. The paper aimed to provide an overview of what frameworks are and what Senedd committees might need to consider in terms of scrutiny.

 

The Committee held a round table discussion with academics on the scrutiny of UK-wide common policy frameworks on 14 October 2019.

 

The Committee published its report on Common policy frameworks: Assembly scrutiny, on 9 December 2019. The report proposes an approach to Senedd scrutiny of UK-wide common policy frameworks. The Welsh Government responded to the report on 23 January 2020.

 

Provisional Framework Outline Agreements

On 16 October 2017 the Joint Ministerial Committee (European Negotiations) agreed that the four governments would work together to establish common UK policy frameworks in some areas of devolved competence that are currently governed by EU law.

 

Framework summaries were provided to parliamentary committees on a confidential basis to help explain a common framework area and the approach taken to the development of a framework agreement. They were eventually followed by a provisional Framework Outline Agreement, which was the substantive framework document to be scrutinised by committees.

Reason considered: Senedd Business;

Type: For information

First published: 11/01/2019

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