Tuesday 29 October 2019

Should the EU sanction its Member States for breaches of rule of law and human rights? Part 2: The Application of Ordinary EU law

Professor Steve Peers, University of Essex

Should the EU sanction its Member States for systematic breaches of human rights and the rule of law – and if the answer is yes, how should it do so?

This is the second of three blog posts discussing this issue. The first post examined the formal process set up to sanction Member States to this end: Article 7 TEU. As I discussed there, this process – which could lead to suspension of some aspects of EU membership for a Member State – is highly political, with a very limited role for the EU courts, and is very difficult to apply. However, in the last year or so, ‘ordinary’ EU law has been used to challenge Member States for such breaches instead. This blog post is an overview and discussion of how this alternative process works. A third blog post will discuss the broader constitutional dynamics and historical context of sanctioning Member States.

The EU court process

Before looking more at the details of how ordinary EU law is being used to address general concerns about human rights and the rule of law, it’s necessary to summarise the key features of the relevant parts of the CJEU’s jurisdiction.

First, the infringement procedure allows the Commission (or a Member State) to take a Member State to the CJEU to argue that it is infringing EU law as such. The Court’s ruling in such a case is binding on the Member State concerned, but does not strike down a national law as such. If requested, the Court can order interim measures against a Member State while such a case is pending.
Secondly, the ‘preliminary ruling’ process (Article 267 TFEU) provides that any national court can ask the CJEU about the interpretation of EU law, if necessary to decide a case pending before it. These latter cases often concern an individual arguing that a Member State has not applied EU law correctly. The CJEU’s answers to the questions are binding on the national court, which resumes its proceedings after the CJEU’s judgment and decides on what remedy to apply – which could involve disapplying national law. 

Compared to Article 7, these are not just different processes (judicial, rather than essentially political) with a different remedy, but have in principle a much narrower subject-matter: the application of EU law as such, not the values of the European Union (as discussed in the first blog post). It’s literally the difference between building a bypass without doing an environmental impact assessment, and locking up the leader of the opposition. (Of course it’s always possible, as an homage to Douglas Adams, that an unauthorised bypass construction turns out to be an ironically clunky foreshadowing of more drastic developments to come).

Having said that, as I noted in the first blog post, there are times when an issue falls within the scope of both ordinary EU law and general human rights breaches. First of all, in some cases there are very specific links between the Article 7 process and ordinary EU law issues. Secondly, there are cases concerning the general protection of human rights and the rule of law where the Article 7 process and the ordinary EU law process can and do run in parallel, as the CJEU implicitly confirmed in June in its first ruling on Polish judicial independence (discussed further here). (See also the Advocate-General’s opinion in a further pending case against Poland, para 73). I’ll examine these two categories of cases in parallel.

Specific links: Asylum and the European Arrest Warrant

The two areas where specific links already exist between the Article 7 process and ‘ordinary’ EU law are asylum and the European Arrest Warrant.


As regards asylum, the explicit link is not with EU asylum legislation, which concerns asylum applications by non-EU citizens – although systematic human rights breaches can have an impact there (see below), but to the protocol to the EU Treaties, which in principle rules out asylum claims by EU citizens.  

According to this protocol, since human rights are well-protected in the EU, ‘Member States shall be regarded as constituting safe countries of origin in respect of each other for all legal and practical purposes in relation to asylum matters’. Therefore, asylum applications by EU citizens ought to be rejected automatically in other Member States except where: (a) a Member State derogates from the ECHR on an emergency basis pursuant to Article 15 ECHR; (b) ‘if the procedure referred to Article 7(1) of the Treaty on European Union has been initiated and until the Council, or, where appropriate, the European Council, takes a decision in respect thereof with regard to the Member State of which the applicant is a national’; (c) ‘if the Council has adopted a decision in accordance with Article 7(1) of the Treaty on European Union in respect of the Member State of which the applicant is a national or if the European Council has adopted a decision in accordance with Article 7(2) of that Treaty in respect of the Member State of which the applicant is a national’; or (d) if a Member State decides to consider an asylum application unilaterally in an individual case, subject to certain limits.

Of these four cases, the second and third explicitly link to the Article 7 process. In short, asylum applications by EU citizens are admissible either if a ‘yellow card’ sanction process is pending, or if the EU institutions have issued either a yellow card or a red card to a Member State. As discussed in the first blog post in this series, while no yellow cards or red cards have ever been issued, a yellow card process is pending against both Poland and Hungary. It follows that Polish and Hungarian citizens can already apply for asylum in other Member States – a surprisingly underappreciated point.
One reason that this possibility has been overlooked is because of the parallel existence of free movement of persons. There’s no Iron Curtain across the EU, far from it: Poles and Hungarians who are annoyed with their governments can simply move to another Member State if they meet the fairly liberal criteria to move under free movement law, and doubtless some disgruntled Polish and Hungarian citizens have moved within the EU (or to non-EU countries, on the basis of those countries’ immigration laws) for such reasons.  

The relevance of the possibility to make asylum claims would only apply in limited circumstances: where the person concerned moved beforehand (see a CJEU judgment from last year on a Croatian citizen with refugee status, discussed here); where the citizen does not qualify under free movement law because of lack of a job or support; where a transitional restriction on free movement after accession to the EU applies; or where the EU citizen is resisting a European Arrest Warrant (which was indeed the reason why the asylum protocol was originally added to the Treaties in the 1990s in the first place: to override asylum claims which were being made in order to defeat extradition requests).   

In the event of a crisis involving many thousands of EU citizens fleeing a Member State (cf Hungary 1956), the Protocol would come into its own, as many of those concerned would lack jobs or support. Odd as it might sound, EU asylum law would not apply to such a case, since it only applies to non-EU citizens; there would perhaps be some ad hoc arrangements quickly agreed to determine responsibility and eligibility, possibly applying EU asylum law by analogy.

European Arrest Warrant

So far, the CJEU has not been asked about the asylum protocol. However, it has been asked many times about the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) and human rights. Some of these cases concern detention conditions (see the line of cases discussed here), or independent prosecutors (see discussion here), but one judgment, the LM ruling of 2018 (discussed here), specifically addresses the application of the EAW where there are broader concerns about the rule of law in the State issuing warrants (in this case, Poland).  

According to the CJEU in that case, the preamble to the EAW law, which states that this law can only be suspended if an Article 7 ‘red card’ is issued, meant that the courts had to defer to the absence of a decision by the EU’s political institutions, and could not suspend the law as a whole by themselves. However, the courts could still consider whether there was a breach of the rule of law in individual cases, taking account of the arguments about a systemic problem with the rule of law in the issuing State which had been put before the EU institutions in a pending ‘yellow card’ proceeding (which was already underway against Poland).

Systematic human rights problems and ordinary EU law

The most important group of cases on this point relate to the independence of the judiciary, and consist largely (but not entirely) of cases concerning Poland. In its June judgment on the first of these cases, an infringement action concerning early retirement ages for the Supreme Court (discussed here), the Court of Justice confirmed that the requirement of respect for judicial independence is inherent in Article 19 TEU, which describes the EU judicial system, including the role of national courts. In doing so it clarified its earlier judgment on the Portuguese courts (discussed here), in which concern about judicial independence arose in the context of salary cuts which were the consequence of austerity linked to EU law.

Crucially, in this first judgment about Poland, the Court confirmed that no specific link to a particular EU law is necessary in order to argue that a Member State has infringed the principle of judicial independence. In effect, Article 19 TEU is a free-standing rule of EU law: arguments about judicial independence are inherently linked to specific EU laws, because EU law depends upon an independent national judiciary for its enforcement. However, the Court did not clarify whether Article 19 TEU only applies where there is a systematic problem with judicial independence (as the Advocate-General’s opinion argued), or could also be invoked in disputes about a specific incident.

A second infringement case against Poland, concerning early retirement ages for the ordinary courts, is also pending. An Advocate-General’s opinion in this case argues that the Commission’s claims are mostly well-founded, along similar lines to the first judgment (update: the Court’s judgment in this case, ruling against Poland, was released on November 5). A third batch of cases, referred from the national courts, concerns judicial disciplinary proceedings. In this case, an Advocate-General’s opinion argues that the case is linked to specific EU law, rather than Article 19 TEU as a free-standing rule, but that in any event Poland is again breaching EU law. The remedy is for the national courts to disapply the offending national law if necessary (judgment is due November 19). A fourth batch of cases might be inadmissible, in the opinion of an Advocate-General. A third infringement case, with a request for expedited proceedings, was brought in October. Furthermore, a number of other cases referred from Polish courts are pending, as summarised here.

A number of cases concerning specific EU law points have been brought against Hungary. In particular, the Commission has brought infringement actions concerning: the independence of the central bank (withdrawn), age limits for judicial retirement (successful; linked to age discrimination law, not Article 19 TEU as such), independence of the data protection authority (successful; discussed here); the removal of the Central European University (pending; an Advocate-General’s opinion is due in November); NGO funding (pending); systematic problems with the asylum system (pending); and withdrawal of food from irregular migrants (at the ‘reasoned opinion’ stage). These cases don’t explicitly raise systemic arguments about Hungarian protection of the rule of law – but their sheer volume, and the broader political context, notably as regards the independence of regulators, reflects some of the broader concerns that led the European Parliament to trigger the Article 7 process against Hungary.  

As regards Romania, a series of recent cases sent to the CJEU query whether the post-accession process of checking Romanian compliance with its obligations related to civil and criminal judicial cooperation has some legal effect, in order to address concerns about the rule of law in that country.

Moving away from specific countries, issues arise regarding EU funding. Should Member States with a questionable record in protecting the rule of law be hit in the pocketbook? That’s what the Commission suggested in a proposal relating to the next multi-annual EU budget, which would sanction Member States financially if a systemic deficiency in the rule of law ‘affects or risks affecting the principles of sound financial management or the protection of the financial interests of the Union’.

The EU Council legal service has concerns about the EU’s legal power to adopt this proposal, which have been rebutted by Professors Kelemen, Lane Scheppel, and Pech. The legal service’s view is that the proposal would breach the exclusivity of the Article 7 process. In my view, while I have legal doubts about the notion that the EU has general power to sanction Member States financially for breaches of the rule of law outside that process, this proposal is more tightly drawn than that: it only applies where there is a link between the rule of law deficiencies and the EU’s financial interests. To put it bluntly, it’s possible that corrupt officials or politicians might be shielded by biased judges. In that light, and taking account of the subsequent CJEU judgment finding that a lack of judicial independence is intrinsically linked to the application of EU law, it should follow by analogy that the EU has the power to adopt this proposal. However, it remains to be seen whether it is de facto blocked as part of a broader quid pro quo when agreeing the EU’s next multi-annual budget.  


As I noted in the first blog post, the use of ‘ordinary’ EU law means to address rule of law concerns, instead of the Article 7 process, could be a means of addressing those concerns by conventional means, given that some perceive Article 7 as a kind of ‘nuclear button’. Certainly it has its advantages compared to the Article 7 process, as it avoids the obvious reluctance of Member States to condemn each other in that context. Its use as a route to ensure the rule of law is strengthened by the CJEU’s willingness to assert jurisdiction over concerns about judicial independence more broadly. However, outside specific links with EU law and the issue of judicial independence, it might prove hard to use the ordinary EU legal system to deal with a number of concerns about the political system in a Member State besides those issues.

There’s also a risk that once national courts are ‘packed’, it’s too late to expect them to send questions to the Court of Justice. The Commission can still bring infringement actions, but these have less direct impact on the national legal process. And the Commission could in turn be ‘captured’ by those deferential to governments. At present, there are robust challenges to Member States as regards the rule of law via both national courts and the Commission – but it took awhile for the Commission to get going, and its willingness to be active in this field cannot be taken for granted.

If both national courts and the Commission are ‘captured’, there might still be some pressure from the courts of other Member States. But, for instance, placing indirect pressure via EAW cases has its limits: the CJEU has ruled out a general suspension of the EAW system except where Article 7 has been invoked, and anyway 'we won’t send you these fugitives' may not be too much of a threat; the issuing Member State might just think 'Fine, you’re welcome to them'. It might be legally difficult (for instance, due to lack of jurisdiction) or expensive for the requested State to try the fugitives instead, and in any event if the issuing State has problems with the rule of law, how could one trust a sentence handed down there, or evidence supplied by its legal system for the purpose of a trial in the requested State instead?  

So addressing the rule of law by conventional means has its strengths, but also its limits. And either Article 7 or the use of ordinary EU law raises more fundamental questions about the nature of the EU and its relations with Member States – to which I will return in the final blog post in this series.

Barnard & Peers: chapter 9
Photo credit: Steve Peers

Life’s a ditch – and then you lie: the third extension of EU membership

Professor Steve Peers, University of Essex

This was the extension that was never meant to happen. Despite the Benn Act (discussed here), requiring the Prime Minister to request a three-month extension of EU membership if a withdrawal agreement was not approved by Parliament by October 19, the Prime Minister said he would “die in a ditch” before he did so. Spurred on by mysterious Downing Street sources, there was endless talk that the Benn Act was unconstitutional, full of loopholes, would be overridden by emergency powers, or violated EU law. Flexing his Hulky legal biceps, Boris Johnson would slay the puny Benn Act with one titanic sunlit spaff. 

Legal commentators queried these claims, but many political journalists (with honourable exceptions) ignored them: what did mere legal commentators know, compared to huge-brained political advisors without any legal background, fresh from an 11-0 Supreme Court defeat? Failing that, some seemed certain that an extension (needing unanimous consent of EU Member States) would be vetoed: the Poles would drown it in vodka; Orban would poison it with goulash; Macron would guillotine it with a single arrogant Gallic shrug.

And yet we have an extension. As Johnson’s hero might say: never in the course of British political history have so many political journalists swallowed so much rancid legal bullshit fed to them by so few dodgy political advisors.

EU law issues

The starting point for discussing extensions of membership is Article 50(3) TEU, which provides, as regards a Member State withdrawing from the EU:

The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.

Unanimity can still apply despite abstentions (Article 235 TFEU), and the European Council can, if necessary, act by written procedure (see its Rules of Procedure), as it did in this case. The Member State concerned has to agree to the text of the relevant European Council decision, which was regulated by UK law (see below). There’s no formal role for the European Parliament or national parliaments. Article 50(3) is silent on whether or not there can be multiple extensions, but obviously the EU assumes that this is legally possible.

The first extension decision (discussed here) provided for two variations for extending membership beyond the original Brexit Day of 29 March 2019, depending on whether the House of Commons approved the first version of the withdrawal agreement by that date. Since it did not do so, the first extension lasted until 12 April 2019. The second extension decision (discussed here) lasted until 31 October, provided that the UK held European Parliament elections in May (which it did), although it would have ended earlier if the UK had approved a withdrawal agreement (which it didn’t).

The third extension decision simply provides for what Parliament asked for: a three month extension. The only further detail in the main text is that it mentions earlier Brexit dates, in the event that the withdrawal agreement is ratified earlier.

The preamble to this decision also refers (recital 11) to the regular functioning of the EU, including an obligation of the UK to appoint a Commissioner. This recital also notes that EU law continues to apply more generally to the UK during an extension, and observes that the UK can withdraw its notice of intention to leave the EU. There’s also a general reminder of the EU law principle of ‘sincere cooperation’, and a specific version of that for a withdrawing Member State:

The European Council recalls the commitment by the United Kingdom to act in a constructive and responsible manner throughout the extension period in accordance with the duty of sincere cooperation, and expects the United Kingdom to fulfil this commitment and Treaty obligation in a manner that reflects its situation as a withdrawing Member State.  

All of this also appeared in the preamble to the second extension decision, except the reference to appointment of a Commissioner, which was not an imminent issue at that time.

Recital 9 in the preamble refers to facilitating ratification of the withdrawal agreement, but other extension decisions referred to this too. Recital 12 notes that appointments made by the UK cease on Brexit day, but this simply restates the consequences of withdrawal (as the second extension decision noted already). Recital 13 states that the withdrawal agreement cannot be reopened – but then the second extension decision said the same thing, and the EU nevertheless agreed to renegotiate. This recital also says, like the second extension decision, that this is not an opportunity to start negotiating the future relationship. It also provides, as with the previous extension, that ‘[a]ny unilateral commitment, statement or other act by the United Kingdom should be compatible with the letter and the spirit of the Withdrawal Agreement, and must not hamper its implementation.’ One novel point, though: recital 8 notes that there’s discussion of a possible election in the UK.

There’s also a parallel declaration by the European Council, but it simply rehashes the preamble of the extension decision.

UK law

As noted above, the Benn Act required the Prime Minister to apply for an extension of three months if no withdrawal agreement was approved by October 19. He duly did so (albeit without signature, and in conjunction with other letters: the EU ignored this), after parliament voted to defer consideration of the revised withdrawal agreement (discussed here) in order to spend more time considering the proposed withdrawal agreement bill (discussed here). Although the Benn Act permits the Prime Minister to withdraw or amend the request if a withdrawal agreement is approved after October 19, the Speaker of the House of Commons ruled that a fresh attempt to vote on the withdrawal agreement was inadmissible, and Parliament later voted not to consider the bill over only a handful of days, making the October 31 deadline unfeasible – although the bill itself has passed second reading).

The Benn Act also required the Prime Minister to accept an extension decision once the EU adopted it, although if the date differed from three months then it was possible that Parliament could vote down the decision. To this end, the Prime Minister has accepted the EU decision. UK law is automatically updated to change the definition of ‘exit day’, according to another provision of the Act. (Update, October 30: the relevant secondary legislation to change 'exit day' has now been adopted.)

Due to doubts about the Prime Minister’s willingness to give effect to his obligations under the Act, two separate legal challenges were brought seeking its enforcement. In Scotland, the first instance court ruled that the challenge was premature, although on appeal the judges decided to hold the challenge in limbo to see if the Prime Minister would send an extension request if required, and subsequently to keep the challenge in limbo to see if he accepted an extension decision. In England, the High Court decided that the action was premature, and the Court of Appeal agreed. In separate proceedings, a challenge to bringing the revised withdrawal agreement before Parliament (on the grounds that the customs arrangements in the revised agreements breached previous legislation) was unsuccessful.


The reference to early termination dates if the withdrawal agreement is ratified simply states the law. As noted in the preamble to this extension decision (recital 10), this is inherent in the text of Article 50(3), as set out above, given that the agreement itself comes into force either on the first day of the month after both sides ratify it, or another date as specified in an extension decision. But there’s no other date set in this extension decision.

As for unilateral revocation of the notification of the intention to leave the EU unilaterally, this simply follows CJEU case law (see the Wightman judgment). Similarly, the point about the UK retaining obligations as a Member State reiterates a principle established in two earlier CJEU rulings (discussed here and here), and also noted in Wightman as regards extensions.

As for the appointment of a Commissioner, this is less urgent than it would have been since the new Commission is delayed taking office on the usual date (November 1) for unrelated reasons. I discussed the legal issues further in an earlier blog post on the Benn Act, but it’s striking that the third extension decision does not make appointment of a Commissioner a condition of granting the extension – unlike the second extension decision, which was dependent on the UK holding elections to the European Parliament.  Equally, while the preamble to the latest decision mentions the possibility of elections in the UK, the extension is not dependent upon them (although that prospect may have tipped the balance in convincing the French government to support a longer extension).

Ultimately it seems likely at time of writing that the UK’s relationship with the EU will be decided by a December election: a choice between the withdrawal agreement (the Conservative party), a no deal outcome (Brexit party), revocation of the notification (the Liberal Democrats), renegotiation followed by a referendum with an option to remain (Labour), or rejection of Brexit plus support for Scottish independence (the SNP), among other parties. A renegotiation and referendum would necessarily require a further extension; the other scenarios would not. So the next word falls to the public. We’ll see if this is decisive one way or the other.

Barnard & Peers: chapter 27
Photo credit: Indiana Watershed Initiative, via Wikicommons

Analysis 5 of the revised Brexit withdrawal agreement: the political declaration on the EU/UK future relationship

Professor Steve Peers, University of Essex


In the event that Brexit goes ahead on the basis of the revised withdrawal agreement, what would the future post-Brexit relationship of the UK and the EU be? The issue is dealt with in a revised political declaration on the future relationship, which (like the main agreement) was altered in the recent renegotiations between the UK and the EU.

While it would not be binding as an international treaty (it refers throughout to future negotiations, and largely avoids imperative language), the political declaration is made more legally relevant on the domestic level by the recently proposed withdrawal agreement bill (discussed here), which provides that any attempt by Parliament to set the agenda for the future relationship would be bound by it. (If the bill goes forward, however, parliament might try to amend it). And in the event that an election before Brexit day returned a Labour government, that government would likely focus on seeking amendments to the political declaration, subsequently (according to Labour policy) putting a revised deal to the public in a further referendum with a choice between that deal and staying in the EU after all.

The revised political declaration strengthens the wording which refers to completing the process of negotiating the future relationship by the end of 2020. This deadline was never very realistic, and it has become ever more fantastic as the UK’s membership of the EU has been extended. Despite that, the government’s policy is to leave the transition period in the withdrawal agreement at the end of 2020, no matter what (the transition period could be extended by mutual agreement of the UK and EU by up to two years, although this would entail further budget contributions by the UK, to be negotiated). This would create another ‘no deal’ cliff-edge, although more accurately it would be a ‘no trade deal’ cliff edge, since the other provisions of the withdrawal agreement (on citizens’ rights, Northern Ireland, the financial settlement and the separation provisions) would remain in force after the end of the transition period.

This is the fifth in a series of blog posts about the revised withdrawal agreement. The previous posts contained an overview of the agreement, examined the transition period, and looked at dispute settlement and the citizens’ rights provisions. This an update of a  blog post published last year, concerning the earlier version of the political declaration. 

This blog post annotates the text of the entire political declaration here, showing (by bold/underline and strikeout) how the version negotiated under Boris Johnson’s government has changed compared to the version negotiated under Theresa May’s government. It also explains the declaration in light of the broader context of EU membership and EU relations with other non-EU countries. (I make no claim to be exhaustive, though). I have not changed the text (all my annotations are indented), but I have added a few hyperlinks to other things which the political declaration mentions.

In parts, I have also added suggestions for possible amendments that would make the text more precise and strengthen the level of political commitment. (It’s odd, for instance, that the text uses ‘will’ in some places but not others). These amendments might give an indication of the sort of amendments that a Labour government might seek (although I have no inside information on this). Before the annotation itself, I have also summarised the structure of the political declaration, and compiled a list of deadlines that it refers to.

I have also made some comparisons of how the future relationship (coupled with the withdrawal agreement, where relevant) would compare to a no deal scenario between the UK and EU.

Structure of the political declaration

The first five paragraphs are an Introduction. Following that, Part I (paras 6-15) sets out Initial Provisions, including sections on the ‘basis for cooperation’ (core values and rights, data protection) and ‘areas of shared interest’ (participation in EU programmes, dialogues).

Part II is the Economic Partnership (paras 16-77). It has 14 sections, starting with ‘objectives and principles’, followed by ‘goods’ (objectives and principles, tariffs, regulation, customs, checks and controls), ‘services’ (objectives and principles, market access, regulation), ‘financial services’, ‘digital’, ‘capital movements and payments’, ‘intellectual property’, ‘public procurement’, ‘mobility’, ‘transport’ (aviation, road transport, rail transport), ‘energy’ (electricity and gas, civil nuclear). ‘fishing opportunities’, ‘global cooperation’ and ‘level playing field’.  It has been amended to insert references to a free trade agreement instead of a customs union-based relationship, taking account of the ‘level playing field’ measures and the original version of the ‘backstop’ being removed from the withdrawal agreement. It now explicitly accepts that trade will not be ‘frictionless’, accepting that UK/EU trade will be subject to rules of origin.
Part III, the Security Partnership (paras 78-117) has four sections, starting with ‘objectives and principles’, followed by ‘law enforcement and judicial cooperation in criminal matters’ (including data exchange, operational cooperation, anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing) ‘foreign policy, security and defence’ (including consultation and cooperation, sanctions, operations and missions, defence capabilities development, intelligence exchanges, space, development cooperation), and ‘thematic cooperation’ (cyber-security, civil protection, health security, illegal migration, counter-terrorism and violent extremism, classified information). It has been amended to remove a reference to the EU courts, and to make it even clearer that the UK is not obliged to participate in all EU defence measures, possibly to address frequent false claims about this issue.

Part IV covers Institutional and Horizontal Arrangements (paras 118-134), and has sections on ‘structure’, ‘governance’ (‘strategic direction and dialogue’, ‘management, administration and supervision’, ‘interpretation’ and ‘dispute settlement’) and ‘exceptions and safeguards’. It has been amended to reduce the level of detail as regards future dispute settlement and institutional arrangements.

Finally, Part V covers Forward Process (paras 135-141). The revised text has simplified this section, removing the references to a preparatory phase of negotiations.

List of dates in the Political Declaration
Immediately after Brexit Day: work programme of talks agreed (para 138)

As soon as possible after Brexit Day: Commission starts assessments on adequacy of UK data protection law (para 9)

June 2020: high level conference to review and progress negotiations (para 141)

1 July 2020: target for concluding and ratifying new fisheries agreement (para 74), so that it can apply from the first year after the transition period

End of 2020: target date for future relationship agreements to come into force (para 135), for Commission decision on adequacy of UK data protection law (para 9), and for completing assessment of financial services equivalence (para 36)

Barnard & Peers: chapter 27
Photo credit: Paramount

Annex: Annotation of the Political Declaration


1. The European Union, hereafter referred to as “the Union”, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, hereafter referred to as “the United Kingdom”, ("the Parties”) have agreed this political declaration on their future relationship, on the basis that Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) provides for the negotiation of an agreement setting out the arrangements for the withdrawal of a departing Member State, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union. In that context, this declaration accompanies the Withdrawal Agreement that has been endorsed by the Parties, subject to ratification.

2. The Union and United Kingdom are determined to work together to safeguard the rules-based international order, the rule of law and promotion of democracy, and high standards of free and fair trade and workers’ rights, consumer and environmental protection, and cooperation against internal and external threats to their values and interests.

3. In that spirit, this declaration establishes the parameters of an ambitious, broad, deep and flexible partnership across trade and economic cooperation with a comprehensive and balanced Free Trade Agreement at its core, law enforcement and criminal justice, foreign policy, security and defence and wider areas of cooperation. Where the Parties consider it to be in their mutual interest during the negotiations, the future relationship may encompass areas of cooperation beyond those described in this political declaration. This relationship will be rooted in the values and interests that the Union and the United Kingdom share. These arise from their geography, history and ideals anchored in their common European heritage. The Union and the United Kingdom agree that prosperity and security are enhanced by embracing free and fair trade, defending individual rights and the rule of law, protecting workers, consumers and the environment, and standing together against threats to rights and values from without or within.

Comment: Note the stress which the revised political declaration places on an FTA.

4. The future relationship will be based on a balance of rights and obligations, taking into account the principles of each Party. This balance must ensure the autonomy of the Union’s decision making and be consistent with the Union’s principles, in particular with respect to the integrity of the Single Market and the Customs Union and the indivisibility of the four freedoms. It must also ensure the sovereignty of the United Kingdom and the protection of its internal market, while respecting the result of the 2016 referendum including with regard to the development of its independent trade policy and the ending of free movement of people between the Union and the United Kingdom.

Comment: a mutual restatement of ‘red lines’ here: note that the UK government chose to refer to sovereignty, the UK internal market, trade policy, and the end of free movement of people, which is referred to again later on.

5. The period of the United Kingdom’s membership of the Union has resulted in a high level of integration between the Union’s and the United Kingdom’s economies, and an interwoven past and future of the Union’s and the United Kingdom’s people and priorities. The future relationship will inevitably need to take account of this unique context. While it cannot amount to the rights or obligations of membership, the Parties are agreed that the future relationship should be approached with high ambition with regard to its scope and depth, and recognise that this might evolve over time. Above all, it should be a relationship that will work in the interests of citizens of the Union and the United Kingdom, now and in the future.

Comment: the parties agree that the UK’s prior membership of the EU is a ‘unique context’ for their relationship, yet there are still parts of this text where the EU treats the UK like any other non-Member State: as regards the single market (para 4) as well as security.



A. Core values and rights

6. The Parties agree that the future relationship should be underpinned by shared values such as the respect for and safeguarding of human rights and fundamental freedoms, democratic principles, the rule of law and support for non-proliferation. The Parties agree that these values are an essential prerequisite for the cooperation envisaged in this framework. The Parties also reaffirm their commitment to promoting effective multilateralism.

7. The future relationship should incorporate the United Kingdom's continued commitment to respect the framework of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), while the Union and its Member States will remain bound by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which reaffirms the rights as they result in particular from the ECHR.

Comment: It is not clear how exactly the UK’s commitment to the ECHR would be expressed in legal terms. There is no explicit reference here to a legal commitment for the UK to remain a signatory to the ECHR. However, there is stronger wording in para 81.

B. Data protection

8. In view of the importance of data flows and exchanges across the future relationship, the Parties are committed to ensuring a high level of personal data protection to facilitate such flows between them.

9. The Union's data protection rules provide for a framework allowing the European Commission to recognise a third country’s data protection standards as providing an adequate level of protection, thereby facilitating transfers of personal data to that third country. On the basis of this framework, the European Commission will start the assessments with respect to the United Kingdom as soon as possible after the United Kingdom's withdrawal, endeavouring to adopt decisions by the end of 2020, if the applicable conditions are met. Noting that the United Kingdom will be establishing its own international transfer regime, the United Kingdom will in the same timeframe take steps to ensure the comparable facilitation of transfers of personal data to the Union, if the applicable conditions are met. The future relationship will not affect the Parties' autonomy over their respective personal data protection rules.

Comment: the EU rules on data protection law provide for the possibility of ‘adequacy decisions’ on the transfer of personal data with non-EU countries. Without an adequacy decision the transfer of personal data is harder, but not impossible. This point is relevant not only to commercial transfers, but to security-related transfers. There’s a limit on how much the EU can waive its standards, due to CJEU case law enforcing the right to data protection in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, and the likelihood that privacy activists will litigate if they believe that standards have been compromised. I’ve discussed this issue in more detail here.

No deal comparison: The Commission communication says that in the event of no deal, it will not consider drawing up an adequacy decision regarding the UK. This will complicate the transfer of data for both commercial and security-related reasons.

10. In this context, the Parties should also make arrangements for appropriate cooperation between regulators.

Comment: the possibility of international cooperation on data protection is provided for in Article 50 of the GDPR (the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation).


A. Participation in Union programmes

11. Noting the intended breadth and depth of the future relationship and the close bond between their citizens, the Parties will establish general principles, terms and conditions for the United Kingdom’s participation in Union programmes, subject to the conditions set out in the corresponding Union instruments, in areas such as science and innovation, youth, culture and education, overseas development and external action, defence capabilities, civil protection and space. These should include a fair and appropriate financial contribution, provisions allowing for sound financial management by both Parties, fair treatment of participants, and management and consultation appropriate to the nature of the cooperation between the Parties.

Comment: The UK will participate in current EU programmes until the end of the current EU budget cycle (end-2020) under the transition period clauses in the withdrawal agreement (if ratified). The EU’s financial programmes for the next EU budget cycle (2021-27) are currently being negotiated among the EU27, and they will subsequently be negotiated with the European Parliament. These programmes often allow for participation for non-EU countries, on the conditions set out in the legislation setting up the programmes; the details of those conditions are being discussed during the negotiations. For instance, see Article 16 of the latest draft of the proposed future Erasmus programme. Note that para 11 refers to the conditions for non-EU countries’ participation in the EU legislation, without suggesting that the UK and EU will negotiate amendments to those conditions.

The frequent assertion that ‘the UK will be cut out of EU research programmes/Erasmus/et al’ in future is not correct, as the declaration sets out a political commitment to agree terms on the UK’s participation in such programmes, if the UK meets the relevant conditions. It is true to say that the UK’s participation in those programmes is not absolutely certain, but there is no way it could be certain at this point given the EU’s unwillingness and perceived legal inability to negotiate a legally binding future relationship before Brexit day.

12. The Parties will also explore the participation of the United Kingdom to the European Research Infrastructure Consortiums (ERICs), subject to the conditions of the Union legal instruments and individual ERIC statutes, and taking into account the level of participation of the United Kingdom in Union programmes on science and innovation.

Comments: Non-EU countries can participate in ‘ERICs’. The conditions for their participation are set out in Article 9 of the Regulation setting up the legal framework for ERICs.

13. The Parties recall their shared commitment to delivering a future PEACE PLUS programme to sustain work on reconciliation and a shared future in Northern Ireland, maintaining the current funding proportions for the future programme.

Comments: The Commission has already proposed that this fund continue for the next EU budget cycle.

B. Dialogues

14. The Parties should engage in dialogue and exchanges in areas of shared interest, with the view to identifying opportunities to cooperate, share best practice and expertise, and act together, including in areas such as culture, education, science and innovation. In these areas, the Parties recognise the importance of mobility and temporary movement of objects and equipment in enabling cooperation. The Parties will also explore ongoing cooperation between culture and education related groups.
15. In addition, the Parties note the United Kingdom's intention to explore options for a future relationship with the European Investment Bank (EIB) Group.

Comment: notice there is no firm commitment to develop this relationship. The EIB has some links with non-EU countries (see the ‘Global Player’ section of its 2017 activity report), but its main focus is the EU.



16. The Parties recognise that they have a particularly important trading and investment relationship, reflecting more than 45 years of economic integration during the United Kingdom's membership of the Union, the sizes of the two economies and their geographic proximity, which have led to complex and integrated supply chains.

17. Against this backdrop, the Parties agree to develop an ambitious, wide-ranging and balanced economic partnership. This partnership will be comprehensive, encompassing a free trade area Free Trade Agreement, as well as wider sectoral cooperation where it is in the mutual interest of both Parties. It will be underpinned by provisions ensuring a level playing field for open and fair competition, as set out in Section XIV of this Part. It should facilitate trade and investment between the Parties to the extent possible, while respecting the integrity of the Union's Single Market and the Customs Union as well as the United Kingdom's internal market, and recognising the development of an independent trade policy by the United Kingdom beyond this economic partnership.

Comment: note the second reference to UK trade policy here. Also note the revised political declaration again stressing a ‘Free Trade Agreement’, although it is not obvious that there is a change in meaning from ‘free trade area’. 

18. The Parties will retain their autonomy and the ability to regulate economic activity according to the levels of protection each deems appropriate in order to achieve legitimate public policy objectives such as public health, animal health and welfare, social services, public education, safety, the environment including climate change, public morals, social or consumer protection, privacy and data protection, and promotion and protection of cultural diversity. The economic partnership will recognise that sustainable development is an overarching objective of the Parties. The economic partnership will also provide for appropriate general exceptions, including in relation to security.

19. The Parties recall their determination to replace the backstop solution on Northern Ireland by a subsequent agreement that establishes alternative arrangements for ensuring the absence of a hard border on the island of Ireland on a permanent footing.

Comment: the deletion of this provision reflects the change in the Northern Ireland protocol, which is no longer a temporary backstop but a permanent arrangement in the revised withdrawal agreement, although it is still possible to replace it.


A. Objectives and principles

2019. The Parties envisage having an ambitious trading relationship on goods on the basis of a Free Trade Agreement that is as close as possible, with a view to facilitating the ease of legitimate trade.

Comment: another reference to an FTA in the revised political declaration; note no reference to the May government’s objective of ‘frictionless’, and the deletion of ‘as close as possible’.
Suggested amendment: to take account of those in the UK who would like a closer relationship, this commitment should be more open-ended in the event that UK ‘red lines’ change. Add an additional sentence: ‘In the event that the UK Parliament supports UK participation in the EU single market, the Parties will negotiate to that effect.’

2120. These arrangements will take account of the fact that following the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the Union, the Parties will form separate markets and distinct legal orders. Moving goods across borders can pose risks to the integrity and proper functioning of these markets, which are managed through customs procedures and checks.

2221. However, with a view to facilitating the movement of goods across borders, the Parties envisage comprehensive arrangements that will create a free trade area, combining deep regulatory and customs cooperation, underpinned by provisions ensuring a level playing field for open and fair competition, as set out in Section XIV of this Part.

B. Tariffs

2322. The economic partnership should through a Free Trade Agreement ensure no tariffs, fees, charges or quantitative restrictions across all sectors with appropriate and modern accompanying rules of origin, with ambitious customs arrangements that are in line with the Parties' objectives and principles above, build and improve on the single customs territory provided for in the Withdrawal Agreement which obviates the need for checks on rules of origin.

Comment: this text reflects the definition of a free trade area in Article XXIV GATT, and the revised text refers explicitly to an FTA, but oddly there is no specific reference to the GATT. The revised text drops reference to a single customs territory and accepts that rules of origin will exist. This is likely to increase costs and checks.

Suggested amendment: to increase the level of ambition and to take account of possible changes in the ‘red lines’ (the Labour party position), the text could read: ‘The economic partnership will ensure no tariffs, fees, charges or quantitative restrictions….In the event that the UK Parliament supports the negotiation of a customs union between the EU and the UK, the Parties will negotiate one.’

No deal comparison: in the absence of the withdrawal agreement and a subsequent free trade agreement, UK exports to the EU (and the other way around) will be subject to tariffs and non-tariff barriers. Although some in the UK believe that EU non-tariff barriers would violate WTO law, the EU takes a different view and intends to apply such measures, according to the Commission’s no-deal preparedness notices. The UK could challenge this in the WTO, but the WTO dispute settlement system is currently not fully functioning.

C. Regulatory aspects

2423. While preserving regulatory autonomy, the Parties will put in place provisions to promote regulatory approaches that are transparent, efficient, promote avoidance of unnecessary barriers to trade in goods and are compatible to the extent possible. Disciplines on technical barriers to trade (TBT) and sanitary and phytosanitary measures (SPS) should build on and go beyond the respective WTO agreements. Specifically, the TBT disciplines should set out common principles in the fields of standardisation, technical regulations, conformity assessment, accreditation, market surveillance, metrology and labelling. The Parties should treat one another as single entities as regards SPS measures, including for certification purposes, and recognise regionalisation on the basis of appropriate epidemiological information provided by the exporting party. The Parties will also explore the possibility of cooperation of United Kingdom authorities with Union agencies such as the European Medicines Agency (EMA), the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

Comments: the WTO technical barriers and SPS agreements set out basic standards to reduce checks on products, but there is a commitment to go further. The commitment to consider UK involvement with EU agencies is weak: it refers to ‘cooperation’, not participation, and the parties have only agreed to ‘explore the possibility’. Note that the EMA Regulation has no provision for participation of non-EU countries; the ECHA Regulation provides generally for their participation (with no details) in its Article 106; and the EASA Regulation provides either for limited technical cooperation with non-EU countries (Article 90) or for full participation in the Agency (Article 129) – but on condition that the non-EU country sign a treaty with the EU aligning to EU aviation law.

Suggested amendments: the second, third and fourth sentences are too weak: replace ‘should’ with ‘will’.

25. In this context, the United Kingdom will consider aligning with Union rules in relevant areas.

Comment: notice the deletion of a reference to alignment. Absence of alignment will make it difficult to join EASA, as the law stands.

D. Customs

2624. The Parties will put in place ambitious customs arrangements, in pursuit of their overall objectives. In doing so, the Parties envisage making use of all available facilitative arrangements and technologies, in full respect of their legal orders and ensuring that customs authorities are able to protect the Parties’ respective financial interests and enforce public policies. To this end, they intend to consider mutual recognition of trusted traders’ programmes, administrative cooperation in customs and value added tax (VAT) matters and mutual assistance, including for the recovery of claims related to taxes and duties, and through the exchange of information to combat customs and VAT fraud and other illegal activity.

Comment: note the addition of references to VAT in the revised political declaration.

Suggested amendments: the second and third sentences are too weak: replace ‘envisage making use’ with ‘will make use’ and ‘intend to consider’ with ‘will agree’.

2725. Such facilitative arrangements and technologies will also be considered in developing any alternative arrangements for ensuring the absence of a hard border on the island of Ireland on a permanent footing.

Comment: the revisions here reflect the changes to the Northern Ireland protocol.

Suggested amendments: the text is weaker than the backstop provisions of the withdrawal agreement. Add to the end: ‘in order to replace the backstop in the withdrawal agreement as soon as possible’.

E. Implications for checks and controls

2826. The Parties envisage that the extent of the United Kingdom’s commitments on customs and regulatory cooperation, including with regard to alignment of rules, would be taken into account in the application of related checks and controls, considering this as a factor in reducing risk. This, combined with the use of all available facilitative arrangements as described above, can lead to a spectrum of different outcomes for administrative processes as well as checks and controls, and note in this context their wish to be as ambitious as possible, while respecting the integrity of their respective markets and legal orders.

Comment: note the removal of a reference to alignment of law in the revised political declaration.

Suggested amendments: the possibility of considering a customs union should be referred to here as well.


A. Objectives and principles

2927. The Parties should conclude ambitious, comprehensive and balanced arrangements on trade in services and investment in services and non-services sectors, respecting each Party's right to regulate. The Parties should aim to deliver a level of liberalisation in trade in services well beyond the Parties’ World Trade Organization (WTO) commitments and building on recent Union Free Trade Agreements (FTAs).

3028. In line with Article V of the General Agreement on Trade in Services, the Parties should aim at substantial sectoral coverage, covering all modes of supply and providing for the absence of substantially all discrimination in the covered sectors, with exceptions and limitations as appropriate. The arrangements should therefore cover sectors including professional and business services, telecommunications services, courier and postal services, distribution services, environmental services, financial services, transport services and other services of mutual interest.

Comments: Some commentary on the future relationship suggests that ‘it says nothing on services’, a vital part of the UK economy, but this is false – even under the revised political declaration. The UK and EU intend to agree free trade in services, which will go beyond the basic provisions of the GATS (the services part of the WTO) – yet fall short of participation in the EU internal market for services. Oddly, the text of the political declaration does not refer explicitly to ‘free trade in services’, so this might explain some of the confusion.

Article V GATS is the provision providing for free-trade agreements in services. Unlike above, there is an explicit reference to the relevant WTO rule. The language here (‘substantial sectoral coverage’, ‘all modes of supply’, ‘absence of substantially all discrimination’) is taken from that GATS Article and its footnote.

The ‘modes of supply’ in GATS are: Mode 1 (cross-border supply), Mode 2 (the customer moves), Mode 3 (commercial presence, ie foreign investment and corporate service provision via a subsidiary), and Mode 4 (supply of services by natural persons). (See Article I:2 GATS). As for the list of services sectors, comparing the declaration to the list used for GATS classification, note that the declaration leaves out the audio-visual sub-sector (it’s part of the ‘communications services’ sector, along with telecoms, courier and postal services), the construction sector, the education and health sectors, and tourism and travel. These might ultimately be covered by ‘other services of mutual interest’, but it is notable that they are not referred to at the outset. For a more detailed discussion of future UK/EU services trade issues, see the report by Sam Lowe.

Suggested amendments: the degree of commitment should be strengthened, and the free trade intention should be explicit. Replace ‘should aim at’ with ‘will negotiate a free trade agreement on services, comprising’; replace ‘should’ with ‘will’ in the second sentence.

Comparison with no deal: if there is no withdrawal agreement or free trade in services, the two sides will fall back onto the more limited GATS commitments, entailing less provision of services in either direction.

B. Market access and non-discrimination

3129.  The arrangements should include provisions on market access and national treatment under host state rules for the Parties' service providers and investors, as well as address performance requirements imposed on investors. This would ensure that the Parties' services providers and investors are treated in a non-discriminatory manner, including with regard to establishment.

Comment: Market access (ie removal of quotas, economic needs tests, caps on foreign investment et al) and national treatment (ie treating foreign services and service suppliers equally with their national equivalents) are concepts described in Article XVI and Article XVII GATS. The purpose of a free trade agreement in services is to remove some of the restrictions on market access and national treatment which WTO Members otherwise retain as regards some services.

Suggested amendments: the degree of commitment should be strengthened. Replace ‘should’ and ‘would’ with ‘will’.

3230. The arrangements should allow for the temporary entry and stay of natural persons for business purposes in defined areas.

Comment: this reflects Mode 4 of the GATS. It does not amount to free movement of workers in general, as confirmed by the GATS Annex on movement of natural persons supplying services. GATS Article V bis refers to the possibility of labour market integration agreements, but there is no suggestion of agreeing such an agreement between the UK and EU in the text of the political declaration. Para 48 indicates that the UK is not interested in an agreement on the free movement of persons in general.

Suggested amendments: the degree of commitment has to be strengthened, as a free trade agreement omitting Mode 4 in services will not be consistent with the GATS, as para 28 already points out. Amend to read: ‘In accordance with Article V GATS, the arrangements will allow for…’

C. Regulatory aspects

3331. While preserving regulatory autonomy, the arrangements should include provisions to promote regulatory approaches that are transparent, efficient, compatible to the extent possible, and which promote avoidance of unnecessary regulatory requirements.

3432. In this context, the Parties should agree disciplines on domestic regulation. These should include horizontal provisions such as on licensing procedures, and specific regulatory provisions in sectors of mutual interest such as telecommunication services, financial services, delivery services, and international maritime transport services. There should also be provisions on the development and adoption of domestic regulation that reflect good regulatory practices.

3533. In this context, the Parties should establish a framework for voluntary regulatory cooperation in areas of mutual interest, including exchange of information and sharing of best practice.

Suggested amendments: the degree of commitment in the previous three paras is weak. Replace ‘should’ with ‘will’ throughout.

3634. The Parties should also develop appropriate arrangements on those professional qualifications which are necessary to the pursuit of regulated professions, where in the Parties' mutual interest.

Comment: There is no reference here to the concept of mutual recognition referred to in Article VII GATS, or as provided for in some free-trade agreements like the recent EU/Canada free trade agreement.

Suggested amendments: ‘The Parties will also negotiate appropriate arrangements for recognition of those professional qualifications which are necessary to the pursuit of regulated professions, where in the Parties' mutual interest.’


3735. The Parties are committed to preserving financial stability, market integrity, investor and consumer protection and fair competition, while respecting the Parties’ regulatory and decision-making autonomy, and their ability to take equivalence decisions in their own interest. This is without prejudice to the Parties' ability to adopt or maintain any measure where necessary for prudential reasons. The Parties agree to engage in close cooperation on regulatory and supervisory matters in international bodies.

3836. Noting that both Parties will have equivalence frameworks in place that allow them to declare a third country's regulatory and supervisory regimes equivalent for relevant purposes, the Parties should start assessing equivalence with respect to each other under these frameworks as soon as possible after the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the Union, endeavouring to conclude these assessments before the end of June 2020. The Parties will keep their respective equivalence frameworks under review.

Suggested amendment: replace ‘should’ with ‘will’ in the first sentence.

3937. The Parties agree that close and structured cooperation on regulatory and supervisory matters is in their mutual interest. This cooperation should be grounded in the economic partnership and based on the principles of regulatory autonomy, transparency and stability. It should include transparency and appropriate consultation in the process of adoption, suspension and withdrawal of equivalence decisions, information exchange and consultation on regulatory initiatives and other issues of mutual interest, at both political and technical levels.

Suggested amendments: replace ‘should’ with ‘will’ in the second and third sentences.


4038. In the context of the increasing digitalisation of trade covering both services and goods, the Parties should establish provisions to facilitate electronic commerce, address unjustified barriers to trade by electronic means, and ensure an open, secure and trustworthy online environment for businesses and consumers, such as on electronic trust and authentication services or on not requiring prior authorisation solely on the grounds that the service is provided by electronic means. These provisions should also facilitate cross-border data flows and address unjustified data localisation requirements, noting that this facilitation will not affect the Parties' personal data protection rules.

4139. The Parties should provide, through sectoral provisions in telecommunication services, for fair and equal access to public telecommunication networks and services to each other's services suppliers and address anticompetitive practices.

4240. The Parties should work together though multilateral and multi-stakeholder fora, and establish a dialogue to exchange information, experience and best practice relating to emerging technologies.

Suggested amendments: replace ‘should’ with ‘will’ in paras 38-40.


4341. The Parties should include provisions to enable free movement of capital and payments related to transactions liberalised under the economic partnership, subject to relevant exceptions.

Comments: EU free trade agreements usually provide for the free movement of payments related to liberalised transactions, ie to ensure that goods and services moving in accordance with the treaty can be paid for. Article XI GATS sets out the same rule for payments related to services movements covered by the GATS. It should be noted that Article 64 TFEU provides for the free movement of capital between the EU and non-EU countries, subject to exceptions.

Suggested amendment: replace ‘should’ with ‘will’.


4442. The Parties should provide for the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights to stimulate innovation, creativity and economic activity, going beyond the standards of the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights and the World Intellectual Property Organisation conventions where relevant.

Comment: it is usual for free trade agreements to provide for intellectual property protection higher than the level of WTO and other international treaties referred to here, but this is sometimes controversial as some argue (for example) that this stifles innovation and keeps drug prices high.

4543. This should preserve the Parties' current high levels of protection, inter alia, of certain rights under copyright law, such as the sui generis right on databases and the artists' resale right. Noting the protection afforded to existing geographical indications in the Withdrawal Agreement, the Parties should seek to put in place arrangements to provide appropriate protection for their geographical indications.

Comment: This refers to some existing EU laws (on databases and resale rights; the UK was not keen on the latter law), but not others. Notably there’s no reference to the Unified Patent Court linked to EU law, one part of which is to be located in the UK, although the UK’s withdrawal from the EU may arguably cause legal complications for this plan. Since the EU is very keen to ensure that all free trade agreements contain provisions for geographical indications, the UK should not agree to commit itself on this issue unless the EU makes a significant concession on an issue important to the UK.

4644. The Parties should maintain the freedom to establish their own regimes for the exhaustion of intellectual property rights.

Comment: This refers to the question of whether once a product has been legally sold on the market by the right holder, it can be sold again anywhere on the market by anyone. If it can, this increases competition but reduces the de facto protection for the rights holder. EU law currently has EU-wide exhaustion, but not international exhaustion (see the CJEU’s Silhouette International judgment).

4745. The Parties should establish a mechanism for cooperation and exchange of information on intellectual property issues of mutual interest, such as respective approaches and processes regarding trademarks, designs and patents.

Suggested amendments: replace ‘should’ with ‘will’ in all the paras in this section.


4846. Noting the United Kingdom's intention to accede to the WTO Government Procurement Agreement (GPA), the Parties should provide for mutual opportunities in the Parties’ respective public procurement markets beyond their commitments under the GPA in areas of mutual interest, without prejudice to their domestic rules to protect their essential security interests.

Comment: It’s not unusual for free trade agreements to provide for additional access to public procurement. The UK’s accession to the GPA has already been agreed within the WTO.

4947. The Parties should also commit to standards based on those of the GPA ensuring transparency of market opportunities, public procurement rules, procedures and practices. Building on these standards, the Parties should address the risk of arbitrary behaviour when awarding contracts, and make available remedies and review procedures, including before judicial authorities.

Suggested amendments: replace ‘should provide’ and ‘should also commit to’ with ‘will negotiate’ in the previous two paras, and replace ‘should address’ with ‘will address’.


5048. Noting that the United Kingdom has decided that the principle of free movement of persons between the Union and the United Kingdom will no longer apply, the Parties should establish mobility arrangements, as set out below.

Comment: While the following provisions, as well as the section above on free trade in services, deal with the movement of people to some extent, this should not be confused with the free movement of persons with the EU, which is not UK government policy.

Suggested amendment: replace ‘should’ with ‘will’.

5149. The mobility arrangements will be based on non-discrimination between the Union's Member States and full reciprocity.

5250. In this context, the Parties aim to provide, through their domestic laws, for visa-free travel for short-term visits.

Comment: The EU has adopted a law on short-term visa-free travel for UK citizens visiting the EU after Brexit (discussed here), subject to reciprocity for all Member States by the UK (reflecting para 49). Note that the reference here is to reciprocal matching domestic laws, not to a treaty on visa-free travel. EU practice on this is mixed – it has treaties on visa-free travel with some countries (such as Brazil), but otherwise has matching reciprocity (with Japan, for instance).

5351. The Parties agree to consider conditions for entry and stay for purposes such as research, study, training and youth exchanges.

Comment: The EU has not signed any treaties on this form of movement with non-EU countries, but there’s no explicit reference to a treaty here. It’s not clear what ‘agree to consider conditions’ means. The reference to these four issues is perhaps because the EU has a law partly harmonising admission of non-EU nationals for these four purposes, which applied from spring 2018, replacing and amending previous EU laws (see discussion of the newer law here).  Since UK/EU relations are ‘unique’, there is a case for negotiating on this issue; and Brexit supporters may wish to consider whether they can offer something concrete (although falling short of full free movement) to young people who largely reject their project.
The previous Prime Minister appeared to suggest that the declaration could establish free movement for these groups of people. This is false, since the conditions are stricter. For instance, non-EU students do not have the right to equal treatment in access to education and tuition fees, or family reunion, or to stay to work after studies (the EU law on non-EU students says something on this possibility, but it falls short of free movement). The EU law also limits how much non-EU students can work while a student.

Suggested amendment: Amend to ‘…agree to consider negotiations on conditions…’

5452. The Parties also agree to consider addressing social security coordination in the light of future movement of persons.

Comment: Again, there’s no explicit reference to a treaty here, but it’s hard to see how social security coordination can work without one. There are social security coordination provisions in several EU association agreements, although a stand-alone treaty on this issue should also be possible in theory. Notice the reference to future movement, not future free movement of persons. Presumably the reference to future movement is because social security coordination for those EU and UK citizens who moved before Brexit day (and before the end of the transition period provided for by the withdrawal agreement) is regulated by the withdrawal agreement.

5553. In line with their applicable laws, the Parties will explore the possibility to facilitate the crossing of their respective borders for legitimate travel.

Comment: This refers to issues such as the EU travel authorisation system, the EU entry-exit system (neither of which is operational yet) and the use of fast-track lanes at external border crossing posts. The commitment is to ‘explore the possibility’, not to ensure the outcome. EU policy (as set out in the relevant legislation) is to facilitate crossing only where the non-EU country concerned has agreed to free movement of people with the EU. (See more on the EU travel authorisation system here, and on EU immigration law implications for UK citizens post-Brexit here).

5654. Any provisions will be without prejudice to the Common Travel Area (CTA) arrangements as they apply between the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Comment: The continuation of the CTA has never been controversial. It is protected by the withdrawal agreement and also by Protocols to the EU Treaties.

5755. To support mobility, the Parties confirm their commitment to the effective application of the existing international family law instruments to which they are parties. The Union notes the United Kingdom's intention to accede to the 2007 Hague Maintenance Convention to which it is currently bound through its Union membership.

Comment: The reference here is to international family law measures, not treaties between the UK and EU.  However, the following paragraph suggests possible such treaties. (For the EU ratification of the Hague Convention, see here). Note that the UK can accede to the Hague Convention unilaterally, without needing approval of the EU or the other parties to that treaty (see Article 60 of the Convention).

5856. The Parties will explore options for judicial cooperation in matrimonial, parental responsibility and other related matters.

Comment: The commitment to ‘explore options’ does not indicate an intended outcome. The existing EU law governing the two issues mentioned (which the UK has opted in to) is the Brussels II Regulation. It was recently amended. The UK also opted in to the EU’s maintenance Regulation, which goes beyond the Hague Convention mentioned in the previous paragraph. The EU has not previously signed treaties with non-EU countries on their participation in such EU laws.

Proposed amendments: the absence of measures on this issue will complicate the lives of many ordinary people in both the UK and EU, especially children. Suggest: ‘The Parties will negotiate continued UK participation in EU judicial cooperation measures on matrimonial, parental responsibility and maintenance matters’.

5957. These arrangements would be in addition to commitments on temporary entry and stay of natural persons for business purposes in defined areas as referred to in Section III of this Part. Those commitments should not be nullified by the right of either Party to apply their respective laws, regulations and requirements regarding entry, stay and work.

Comment: the ‘nullify or impair’ language comes from the GATS Annex on movement of natural persons supplying services.


A. Aviation

6058. The Parties should ensure passenger and cargo air connectivity through a Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement (CATA). The CATA should cover market access and investment, aviation safety and security, air traffic management, and provisions to ensure open and fair competition, including appropriate and relevant consumer protection requirements and social standards.

Comment: the commitment falls short of UK participation in the European Common Aviation Area (which is open to non-EU countries in Europe), which would have entailed continuing to apply the status quo in terms of aviation market access and aviation law. A separate agreement is likely to entail less market access than at present.

Suggested amendment: replace ‘should’ with ‘will negotiate to ensure’; add sentence to the end: ‘If agreed by the UK Parliament, the UK shall seek instead to retain its membership of the ECAA, and the Parties will negotiate to ensure that continued membership’.

No deal comparison: the EU has adopted a short-term unilateral law on flights in the event of no deal. The preamble to this law refers to an intention to negotiate an aviation agreement with the UK after Brexit.

6159. The Parties should make further arrangements to enable cooperation with a view to high standards of aviation safety and security, including through close cooperation between EASA and the United Kingdom's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

Comment: As noted above, full participation in the EASA is conditional on signing up to EU aviation law, implicitly as set out in the ECAA. Therefore it is unclear how far this cooperation between aviation regulators can go.

Suggested amendment: Add sentence to the end: ‘If agreed by the UK Parliament, the UK shall seek instead to be a full participant in EASA, pursuant to its membership of the ECAA.

B. Road transport

6260. The Parties should ensure comparable market access for freight and passenger road transport operators, underpinned by appropriate and relevant consumer protection requirements and social standards for international road transport, and obligations deriving from international agreements in the field of road transport to which both the United Kingdom and the Union and/or its Member States are signatories, notably concerning conditions to pursue the occupation of a road transport operator, certain conditions of employment in international road transport, rules of the road, passenger carriage by road and carriage of dangerous goods by road. In addition, the Parties should consider complementary arrangements to address travel by private motorists.

Comment: The declaration contemplates arrangements for both commercial drivers and private motorists, but is not very clear about either.

Suggested amendment: replace ‘should’ with ‘will negotiate to ensure’ in both sentences.

No deal comparison: as with aviation, there is a short-term unilateral EU measure.

C. Rail transport

6361. The Parties agree that bilateral arrangements should be established, as appropriate, for crossborder rail services, including to facilitate the continued smooth functioning and operation of rail services, such as the Belfast-Dublin Enterprise Line and services through the Channel Tunnel.

Suggested amendment: replace ‘should’ with ‘will’.

D. Maritime transport

6462. The Parties note that passenger and cargo connectivity in the maritime transport sector will be underpinned by the international legal framework. The Parties should also make appropriate arrangements on market access for international maritime transport services.

6563. The future relationship should facilitate cooperation on maritime safety and security, including exchange of information between the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) and the United Kingdom Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), consistent with the United Kingdom's status as a third country.

Comments: the EMSA is open to the participation of non-EU countries which apply EU maritime safety law (see Article 17 of the EMSA Regulation), but the declaration appears to consider a more limited exchange of information instead. It might be questioned why the UK apparently does not wish to seek full participation.


A. Electricity and Gas

6664. The Parties should cooperate to support the delivery of cost efficient, clean and secure supplies of electricity and gas, based on competitive markets and non-discriminatory access to networks.

6765. The Parties should establish a framework to facilitate technical cooperation between electricity and gas networks operators and organisations, such as the European Networks of Transmission System Operators for Electricity and Gas, in the planning and use of energy infrastructure connecting their systems. The framework should also include mechanisms to ensure as far as possible security of supply and efficient trade over interconnectors over different timeframes.

B. Civil Nuclear

6866. Recognising the importance of nuclear safety and non-proliferation, the future relationship should include a wide-ranging Nuclear Cooperation Agreement between the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM) and the United Kingdom on peaceful uses of nuclear energy, underpinned by commitments to their existing high standards of nuclear safety. The agreement should enable cooperation between EURATOM and the United Kingdom and its national authorities. This should include exchange of information in areas of mutual interest such as safeguards, safety and cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). It should facilitate trade in nuclear materials and equipment, and provide for the participation of the United Kingdom as a third country in Union systems for monitoring and exchanging information on levels of radioactivity in the environment, namely the European Community Urgent Radiological Information Exchange and the European Radiological Data Exchange Platform.

6967. The Parties note the United Kingdom's intention to be associated with the EURATOM research and training programmes as provided for in Section II of Part I.

Comment: Non-EU countries are associated with Euratom and its research programmes, as I discuss here (with further links).

Suggested amendments: replace ‘should’ with ‘will’ throughout para 66; para 67 to start ‘The Parties will negotiate the UK’s association with…’

7068. The Parties note that the Euratom Supply Agency intends to reassess in a timely manner the authorisations and approvals of contracts for the supply of nuclear material between Union and United Kingdom undertakings which it has co-signed.

7169. The Parties will also cooperate through the exchange of information on the supply of medical radioisotopes.

C. Carbon pricing

7270. The Parties should consider cooperation on carbon pricing by linking a United Kingdom national greenhouse gas emissions trading system with the Union's Emissions Trading System.


7371. The Parties should cooperate bilaterally and internationally to ensure fishing at sustainable levels, promote resource conservation, and foster a clean, healthy and productive marine environment, noting that the United Kingdom will be an independent coastal state.

Comment: note that the EU has exclusive external competence over fisheries conservation, meaning that as with trade, EU Member States will negotiate as a bloc, through the EU, with the UK.

7472. While preserving regulatory autonomy, the Parties should cooperate on the development of measures for the conservation, rational management and regulation of fisheries, in a non-discriminatory manner. They will work closely with other coastal states and in international fora, including to manage shared stocks.

7573. Within the context of the overall economic partnership the Parties should establish a new fisheries agreement on, inter alia, access to waters and quota shares.

7674. The Parties will use their best endeavours to conclude and ratify their new fisheries agreement by 1 July 2020 in order for it to be in place in time to be used for determining fishing opportunities for the first year after the transition period.

Comment: the ‘best endeavours’ wording echoes Article 184 of the withdrawal agreement. Note that the transition period (as discussed here) preserves the current shares of fishing quotas.


7775. The Parties recognise the importance of global cooperation to address issues of shared economic, environmental and social interest. As such, while preserving their decision-making autonomy, the Parties should cooperate in international fora, such as the G7 and the G20, where it is in their mutual interest, including in the areas of: a) climate change; b) sustainable development; c) cross-border pollution; d) public health and consumer protection; e) financial stability; and f) the fight against trade protectionism.

7876. The future relationship should reaffirm the Parties' commitments to international agreements to tackle climate change, including those which implement the United Nations Framework Conventions on Climate Change, such as the Paris Agreement.


7977. Given the Union and the United Kingdom's geographic proximity and economic interdependence, the future relationship must ensure open and fair competition, encompassing robust commitments to ensure a level playing field. Provisions to ensure this should cover state aid, competition, social and employment standards, environmental standards, climate change, and relevant tax matters, building on the level playing field arrangements provided for in the Withdrawal Agreement and commensurate with the overall economic relationship. The Parties should consider The precise nature of commitments in relevant areas, having regard to should be commensurate with the scope and depth of the future relationship and the economic connectedness of the Parties. These commitments should prevent distortions of trade and unfair competitive advantages. To that end, the Parties should uphold the common high standards applicable in the Union and the United Kingdom at the end of the transition period in the areas of state aid, competition, social and employment standards, environment, climate change, and relevant tax matters. The Parties should in particular maintain a robust and comprehensive framework for competition and state aid control that prevents undue distortion of trade and competition; commit to the principles of good governance in the area of taxation and to the curbing of harmful tax practices; and maintain environmental, social and employment standards at the current high levels provided by the existing common standards. In so doing, they should rely on These commitments should combine appropriate and relevant Union and international standards, and include adequate appropriate mechanisms to ensure effective implementation domestically, enforcement and dispute settlement as part of the future relationship. The future relationship should also promote adherence to and effective implementation of relevant internationally agreed principles and rules in these domains, including the Paris Agreement.

Comment: this was rewritten to move the binding annexes to the Protocol on the Irish border backstop to the non-binding political declaration. This move raised concern among those who believe it indicates a risk of lowering standards as regards labour and environmental law.

Suggested amendment: Add a final sentence: ‘In particular, the future relationship treaty will include binding rules to ensure that labour and environmental standards are not lowered’. 



8078. With a view to Europe's security and the safety of their respective citizens, the Parties should establish a broad, comprehensive and balanced security partnership. This partnership will take into account geographic proximity and evolving threats, including serious international crime, terrorism, cyber-attacks, disinformation campaigns, hybrid-threats, the erosion of the rules-based international order and the resurgence of state-based threats. The partnership will respect the sovereignty of the United Kingdom and the autonomy of the Union.

8179. The Parties will promote global security, prosperity and effective multilateralism, underpinned by their shared principles, values and interests. The security partnership should comprise law enforcement and judicial cooperation in criminal matters, foreign policy, security and defence, as well as thematic cooperation in areas of common interest.


8280. The future relationship will provide for comprehensive, close, balanced and reciprocal law enforcement and judicial cooperation in criminal matters, with the view to delivering strong operational capabilities for the purposes of the prevention, investigation, detection and prosecution of criminal offences, taking into account the geographic proximity, shared and evolving threats the Parties face, the mutual benefits to the safety and security of their citizens, and the fact that the United Kingdom will be a non-Schengen third country that does not provide for the free movement of persons.

Comment: There’s no legal requirement on the EU to distinguish between non-EU countries which apply Schengen and free movement of persons and non-EU countries which don’t, but it reflects existing EU practice to have a closer cooperation on security with the former countries – namely Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. 

8381. The Parties agree that the scale and scope of future arrangements should achieve an appropriate balance between rights and obligations – the closer and deeper the partnership the stronger the accompanying obligations. It should reflect the commitments the United Kingdom is willing to make that respect the integrity of the Union’s legal order, such as with regard to alignment of rules and the mechanisms for disputes and enforcement including the role of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in the interpretation of Union law provided for in paragraphs 129 to 132.. It should also be underpinned by long-standing commitments to the fundamental rights of individuals, including continued adherence and giving effect to the ECHR, and adequate protection of personal data, which are both essential prerequisites for enabling the cooperation envisaged by the Parties, and to the transnational ne bis in idem principle and procedural rights. It should also reflect the Union's and its Member States' commitment to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

Comment: the revised declaration drops explicit reference to the CJEU here. EU treaties with non-EU countries on internal security do not require any non-EU countries to agree jurisdiction for the CJEU, although in some cases there is a requirement to take account of relevant CJEU case law and/or to hold discussions as to how to deal with a divergence of case law if it happens. (For more details, see my blog post on the prospect of a post-Brexit UK/EU security treaty). There is no good reason to treat the UK any differently on this issue.
For more on this issue see the recent report from the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, and the earlier report from the House of Lords EU Committee (note that I was a special adviser to the latter enquiry).

There is CJEU case law on human rights protection as a condition for the application of EU rules on criminal law cooperation – including as regards the UK in the run up to Brexit (see discussion here). Logically this must apply by analogy to non-EU countries. While the EU has signed criminal law treaties with countries that have not signed the ECHR simply because of geography (ie, the US and Japan), it is unlikely to be willing to sign or keep in force treaties with European countries that have denounced that Convention. There would be legal challenges if it did. Again, it is not clear if a future relationship security treaty would directly require the UK to remain a party to the ECHR, or rather provide for a review and/or denunciation by the EU side if it did not.

As for personal data, as noted above, see the comments on para 9 above.

8482. Noting these commitments, the future relationship should cover arrangements across three areas of cooperation: data exchange; operational cooperation between law enforcement authorities and judicial cooperation in criminal matters; and anti-money laundering and counter terrorism financing.

A. Data exchange

8583. Recognising that effective and swift data sharing and analysis is vital for modern law enforcement, the Parties agree to put in place arrangements that reflect this, in order to respond to evolving threats, disrupt terrorism and serious criminality, facilitate investigations and prosecutions, and ensure the security of the public.

8684. The Parties should establish reciprocal arrangements for timely, effective and efficient exchanges of Passenger Name Record (PNR) data and the results of processing such data stored in respective national PNR processing systems, and of DNA, fingerprints and vehicle registration data (Prüm).

Comment: the UK has signed up to the EU law on PNR data. However, the EU also has treaties with non-EU countries on this issue, which have different systems for exchanging data. It is not clear whether the idea is to retain UK participation in the EU law, or set up a separate arrangement. Note that the CJEU has ruled that one of the EU treaties on PNR failed to protect personal data rights sufficiently (see discussion here); that treaty is now being renegotiated as a result.

The exchange of national information on DNA, fingerprints and vehicle registration data within the EU takes place on the basis of the ‘Prüm’ Decision (which was named after the place where a previous treaty dealing with these issues was signed). Although the text of the political declaration is not explicit, presumably the idea is for the UK to keep applying this law as a non-EU country. The EU already has a treaty with Norway and Iceland which associates those countries with the relevant EU law (another such treaty is being negotiated with Switzerland and Liechtenstein). This treaty could easily be adapted to apply to the UK (taking account of the fact that the UK already applies the relevant EU law).

8785. The Parties should consider further arrangements appropriate to the United Kingdom's future status for data exchange, such as exchange of information on wanted or missing persons and objects and of criminal records, with the view to delivering capabilities that, in so far as is technically and legally possible, and considered necessary and in both Parties’ interests, approximate those enabled by relevant Union mechanisms.

Comments: This paragraph describes – but does not name – two EU laws in which the UK currently participates – namely ‘SIS II’ (the second-generation Schengen Information System) and ECRIS (the European Criminal Records Information System). The UK has participated in SIS II since 2015 (see discussion here); it also opted in to an updated SIS II law, which was adopted by the EU in 2018.  The UK uses the SIS II system frequently in practice. To date, the only non-EU countries which the EU has agreed to participate in this system are the four Schengen associated countries.

ECRIS was initially set up on the basis of two EU laws: a Framework Decision and a Decision. These laws were amended and replaced by a Regulation and Directive. The EU has not previously agreed that any non-EU countries could be associated with this law.

No deal comparison: if there’s no deal, the UK will immediately lose any access to EU security databases and frameworks for exchange of information (SIS II, ECRIS, PNR, Prum and others) from Brexit Day.

B. Operational cooperation between law enforcement authorities and judicial cooperation in criminal matters

8886. The Parties recognise the value in facilitating operational cooperation between the United Kingdom’s and Member States’ law enforcement and judicial authorities, and will therefore work together to identify the terms for the United Kingdom’s cooperation via Europol and Eurojust.

Comment: this is rather vague. The terms of non-EU country cooperation with each agency are set out in the Europol Regulation (Articles 22 and 25) and the Eurojust Regulation (Articles 52-54 and 56) respectively.

Proposed amendment: replace the second part with ‘…and will therefore negotiate the UK’s cooperation with Europol and Eurojust on the basis of the relevant EU legislation’.

8987. The Parties should establish effective arrangements based on streamlined procedures and time limits enabling the United Kingdom and Member States to surrender suspected and convicted persons efficiently and expeditiously, with the possibilities to waive the requirement of double criminality, and to determine the applicability of these arrangements to own nationals and for political offences.

Comment: this provides for a fast-track extradition treaty probably not with all the provisions of the European Arrest Warrant (EAW), but that would remain to be seen. The EU has agreed on a fast-track extradition treaty which is very similar to the EAW with Norway and Iceland, which comes into force on 1 November 2019.

Suggested amendment: The commitment here is too weak. Replace ‘should establish’ with ‘will negotiate’.

No deal comparison: if there’s no deal, the UK and the EU Member States will, from Brexit day, fall back upon the Council of Europe extradition Convention and its protocols, which provide for slower and more complicated procedures than the EAW.

9088. The Parties should consider further arrangements appropriate to the United Kingdom's future status for practical cooperation between law enforcement authorities, and between judicial authorities in criminal matters, such as joint investigation teams, with the view to delivering capabilities that, in so far as is technically and legally possible, and considered necessary and in both Parties’ interests, approximate those enabled by relevant Union mechanisms.

Comment: this lacks mention of a number of measures, such as the European Investigation Order on the transfer of evidence, the EU law on the transfer of prisoners, and others. In some cases there is a Council of Europe fallback, which is less far-reaching than its EU counterparts.

Suggested amendment: The level of commitment and the content is too weak. Replace ‘should consider’ with ‘will negotiate’, and add specific references to the transfer of evidence, the transfer of sentenced persons and the freezing and confiscation of criminal assets.

C. Anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing

9189. The Parties agree to support international efforts to prevent and fight against money laundering and terrorist financing, particularly through compliance with Financial Action Task Force (FATF) standards and associated cooperation. The Parties agree to go beyond the FATF standards with regard to beneficial ownership transparency and ending the anonymity associated with the use of virtual currencies, including through obliging virtual currency exchanges and custodian wallet providers to apply customer due diligence controls.

Comment: there’s no explicit reference to EU law on money laundering here, and it is not clear what legal form all this will take.
Suggested amendment: Add to the end: ‘They agree to negotiate any necessary measures to this end’.


9290. The Parties support ambitious, close and lasting cooperation on external action to protect citizens from external threats, including new emerging threats, prevent conflicts, strengthen international peace and security, including through the United Nations and NATO, and address the root causes of global challenges such as terrorism or illegal migration. They will champion a rules-based international order and project their common values worldwide.

Comment: It should be recalled that Article 127(2) of the withdrawal agreement provides that a UK/EU foreign policy treaty could be drawn up early, before the end of the transition period. The declaration makes no specific reference to this possibility.

9391. The Parties will promote sustainable development and the eradication of poverty. In this regard, they will continue to support the implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the European Consensus on Development.

9492. The Parties will shape and pursue their foreign policies according to their respective strategic and security interests, and their respective legal orders. When and where these interests are shared, the Parties should cooperate closely at the bilateral level and within international organisations. The Parties should design flexible and scalable cooperation that would ensure that the United Kingdom can combine efforts with the Union to the greatest effect, including in times of crisis or when serious incidents occur.

9593. To this end, the future relationship should provide for appropriate dialogue, consultation, coordination, exchange of information and cooperation mechanisms. It should also allow for secondment of experts where appropriate and in the Parties' mutual interest.

A. Consultation and cooperation

9694. The Parties should establish structured consultation and regular thematic dialogues identifying areas and activities where close cooperation could contribute to the attainment of common objectives.
9795. In this regard, the Political Dialogue on Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) as well as sectoral dialogues would enable flexible consultation between the Parties at different levels (ministerial, senior official, working). The High Representative may, where appropriate, invite the United Kingdom to informal Ministerial meetings of the Member States of the Union.

Comment: informal meetings are usually held once every six months. Consultation at an infrequent informal meeting is a marginal level of UK involvement. However, there is a less precise reference to other dialogue at different levels.

9896. The Parties should seek to cooperate closely in third countries, including on security, consular provision and protection, and development projects, as well as in international organisations and fora, notably in the United Nations. This should allow the Parties, where relevant, to support each other's positions, deliver external action and manage global challenges in a coherent manner, including through agreed statements, demarches and shared positions.

B. Sanctions

9997. While pursuing independent sanctions policies driven by their respective foreign policies, the Parties recognise sanctions as a multilateral foreign policy tool and the benefits of close consultation and cooperation.

10098. Consultation on sanctions should include the exchange of information on listings and their justification, development, implementation and enforcement, as well as technical support, and dialogue on future designations and regimes. Where foreign policy objectives that underpin a specific future sanction regime are aligned between the Parties, intensified exchange of information at appropriate stages of the policy cycle of this sanctions regime will take place, with the possibility of adopting sanctions that are mutually reinforcing.

Comment: The EU mainly adopts financial ‘smart’ sanctions against companies or individuals linked to questionable regimes. Since much of the assets concerned (and therefore the necessary intelligence) are in the City of London, EU sanctions policy is weakened without close UK links. The declaration is quite vague when addressing this issue.

C. Operations and missions

10199. The Parties welcome close cooperation in Union-led crisis management missions and operations, both civilian and military. The future relationship should therefore enable the United Kingdom to participate on a case by case basis in CSDP missions and operations through a Framework Participation Agreement. Such an agreement would be without prejudice to the decision-making autonomy of the Union or the sovereignty of the United Kingdom, and the United Kingdom will maintain the right to determine how it would respond to any invitation or option to participate in operations or missions.

Comment: the EU has such agreements with several non-EU countries. The additional language added here in the revised political declaration addresses frequent false claims that the political declaration subordinates the UK military to EU defence cooperation, adding to the previous reference to case-by-case participation to make explicitly clear that the UK would be free not to participate in EU defence measures as a sovereign non-EU State.

102100. Where, following early consultation and exchange of information through the Political Dialogue, the United Kingdom indicates its intention to contribute to a planned CSDP mission or operation open to third countries, the Parties should intensify interaction and exchange of information at relevant stages of the planning process and proportionately to the level of United Kingdom's contribution. This would allow the United Kingdom to best tailor its contribution and provide timely expertise.

103101. As a contributor to a specific CSDP mission or operation, the United Kingdom would participate in the Force Generation conference, Call for Contributions, and the Committee of Contributors meeting to enable sharing of information about the implementation of the mission or operation. It should also have the possibility, in case of CSDP military operations, to second staff to the designated Operations Headquarters proportionate to the level of its contribution.

D. Defence capabilities development

104102. The future relationship should benefit from research and industrial cooperation between the Parties' entities in specific European collaborative projects to facilitate interoperability and to promote joint effectiveness of Armed Forces. In this regard, while both Parties should preserve their respective strategic autonomy and freedom of action underpinned by their respective robust domestic defence industrial bases, the Parties agree to enable to the extent possible under the conditions of Union law: a) the United Kingdom's collaboration in relevant existing and future projects of the European Defence Agency (EDA) through an Administrative Arrangement; b) the participation of eligible United Kingdom entities in collaborative defence projects bringing together Union entities supported by the European Defence Fund (EDF); and c) the United Kingdom's collaboration in projects in the framework of Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), where invited to participate on an exceptional basis by the Council of the European Union in PESCO format.

Comment: the EDA already has such Administrative Arrangements with several non-EU countries. The proposed EDF for the next budget cycle provides for involvement of non-EU countries, although only EEA States can participate without restrictions (the text is being negotiated). As for PESCO, the decision setting it up calls for general rules on limited participation by non-EU countries (Article 9), which are due to be adopted soon (see also this press story from October). Similarly with earlier paras on defence, the reference to autonomy and freedom of action rebuts frequent false claims that the UK is indefinitely subordinated to EU defence cooperation.

E. Intelligence exchanges

105103.  The Parties should exchange intelligence on a timely and voluntary basis as appropriate, in particular in the field of counter-terrorism, hybrid threats and cyber-threats, and in support of those CSDP missions and operations to which the United Kingdom will be contributing. While the Parties will produce intelligence products autonomously, such intelligence exchange should contribute to a shared understanding of Europe's security environment.

106104. The future relationship should allow for timely exchanges of intelligence and sensitive information between the relevant Union bodies and the United Kingdom authorities. The European Union Satellite Centre (EUSC) and the United Kingdom should cooperate in the field of space-based imagery.

Comment: the Decision setting up the EUSC provides for cooperation with non-EU countries (Article 20).

F. Space

107105.  The Parties should consider appropriate arrangements for cooperation on space.
Comment: this is an ironic masterpiece of content-free drafting. While the European Space Agency is an intergovernmental body separate from the EU, the EU has links with it and has a further space policy, explained here. This includes the ‘Galileo’ satellite project, which is the subject of a UK/EU dispute about further participation; that may explain the drafters’ sarcasm.

G. Development cooperation

108106. The Parties should establish a dialogue to enable strategies in the programming and delivery of development that are mutually reinforcing.

109107. On the basis of their mutual interest, the Parties should consider how the United Kingdom could contribute to the Union's instruments and mechanisms, including coordination with the Union's delegations in third countries.

Comment: for an overview of EU development policy, see here.


A. Cyber security

110108. The Parties reaffirm their commitment to promote security and stability in cyberspace through increased international cooperation. The Parties agree to exchange information on a voluntary, timely and reciprocal basis, including on cyber-incidents, techniques and origin of the attackers, threat-analysis, and best practices to help protect the United Kingdom and the Union from common threats.

111109. In particular, the United Kingdom should cooperate closely with the Computer Emergency Response Team – European Union (CERT-EU) and, subject to the conclusion of an agreement as provided for in Union law, participate in certain activities of the Cooperation Group established under the Union's Directive on Security of Network and Information Systems and of the European Union Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA).

Comment: The Directive on network information security provides for possible cooperation with non-EU countries (Article 13). ENISA has become a ‘Cybersecurity Agency’: see the vague provisions on cooperation with non-EU countries in the recently revised Regulation establishing this agency (Articles 12 and 42).

112110. The Parties should cooperate to promote effective global practices on cyber security in relevant international bodies.

113111. The United Kingdom and the Union will establish a cyber dialogue to promote cooperation and identify opportunities for future cooperation as new threats, opportunities and partnerships emerge.

B. Civil protection

114112. The Parties should cooperate in the field of civil protection in respect of natural or man-made disasters. This cooperation would be enabled by the United Kingdom's participation in the Union's Civil Protection Mechanism as a Participating State.

Comments: the Civil Protection Mechanism is open to the participation of non-EU European States (besides EEA and EU applicant/candidate States) subject to negotiations on the terms (Article 28).

C. Health security

115113. The Parties should cooperate in matters of health security in line with existing Union arrangements with third countries. The Parties will aim to cooperate in international fora on prevention, detection, preparation for and response to established and emerging threats to health security in a consistent manner.

Comments: the EU has a Health Security Committee, which coordinates responses to health crises, including with non-EU countries.

D. Illegal migration

116114. The Parties will cooperate to tackle illegal migration, including its drivers and its consequences, whilst recognising the need to protect the most vulnerable. This cooperation will cover: a) operational cooperation with Europol to combat organised immigration crime; b) working with the European Border and Coastguard Agency to strengthen the Union's external border; and c) dialogue on shared objectives and cooperation, including in third countries and international fora, to tackle illegal migration upstream.

Comments: links between non-EU countries and Europol were discussed above. The legislation establishing the EU borders agency, better known as ‘Frontex’, has recently been renegotiated (see text here, and discussion here and here).

E. Counter-terrorism and countering violent extremism

117115. The Parties should cooperate on counter-terrorism, countering violent extremism and emerging threats to advance their common security and shared interests. Recognising the mutual advantage of collective dialogue and operational cooperation, the partnership should support: a) sharing best practice and expertise on key issues and themes; b) cooperating with the appropriate intelligence analysis bodies to ensure effective assessment sharing between the Parties, including on counter-terrorism; and c) a close dialogue on emerging threats and new capabilities.


118116. The Parties agree to conclude a Security of Information Agreement, along with Implementing Arrangements, that would provide for reciprocal guarantees for the handling and protection of the Parties' classified information.

Comment: the EU has a number of treaties with non-EU countries on the exchange of classified information. See a list of them here.

119117. Where necessary, the Parties should set out the terms for the protection of sensitive nonclassified information provided and exchanged between them.



120118. The future relationship should be based on an overarching institutional framework covering chapters and linked agreements relating to specific areas of cooperation, while recognising that the precise legal form of this future relationship will be determined as part of the formal negotiations. Where appropriate, the Parties may establish specific governance arrangements in individual areas.

Comment: this provides for the possibility of different dispute settlement rules, rather than one common system.

121119. The Parties may also decide that an agreement should sit outside of the overarching institutional framework, and in those cases should provide for appropriate governance arrangements.

Comment: by derogation from the ‘overarching’ framework referred to in the previous paragraph, this provides for the possibility of stand-alone agreements, which would also have different dispute settlement rules. This may be particularly relevant for foreign and defence policy, where (as noted already) the withdrawal agreement already provides for a separate treaty to be concluded even during the transition period.

122120. The Parties note that the overarching institutional framework could take the form of an Association Agreement.

Comment: Article 217 TFEU provides for association agreements with the EU. They must be approved by unanimous vote of the Member States and the consent of the European Parliament, and usually (but not always) have to be approved by national parliaments too. Their content varies widely; having an association agreement does not mean that a State is an ‘associate member’ of the EU (in fact, there’s no such concept). Implementing them does not necessarily require a unanimous vote, as CJEU case law (discussed here) has confirmed.

123121. The Parties should provide for the possibility to review the future relationship.


124122. In order to ensure the proper functioning of the future relationship, the Parties commit to engage in regular dialogue and to establish robust, efficient and effective arrangements for its management, supervision, implementation, review and development over time, and for the resolution of disputes and enforcement based on the arrangements provided for in the Withdrawal Agreement, in full respect of the autonomy of their own legal orders.

A. Strategic direction and dialogue

125123. The future relationship should include dialogue between the Parties at appropriate levels so as to provide strategic direction and discuss opportunities for cooperation in areas of mutual interest summit, ministerial and technical level, as well as at parliamentary level. The Parties should encourage civil society dialogue.

126. In this context, the summit and ministerial level should oversee the future relationship, provide strategic direction and discuss opportunities for cooperation in areas of mutual interest, including on regional and global issues. This would foster a strong relationship between the Parties, support the operation of the agreements, and enable the partnership to evolve in response to changing and unforeseen circumstances.

127124. There should also be specific thematic dialogues at ministerial and senior official appropriate level, established as part of the economic and security partnerships, which should take place as often as is necessary for the effective operation of the future relationship.

128125. The Parties support the establishment of a dialogue between the European Parliament and the Parliament of the United Kingdom, where they see fit, in order for the legislatures to share views and expertise on issues related to the future relationship. The Parties should encourage civil society dialogue.

Comment: the ‘governance’ provisions are similar to those in other comparable EU agreements. For instance, see Articles 119-125 of the EU/Serbia association agreement. Note that the revised political declaration removes the detail regarding summits and ministerial meetings. (The civil society provision is not really new, just moved from another para.)

B. Management, administration and supervision

129126. The Parties should establish a Joint Committee responsible for managing and supervising the implementation and operation of the future relationship, facilitating the resolution of disputes as set out below, and making recommendations concerning its evolution.

Comment: Joint Committees are common in international treaties, and indeed the withdrawal agreement provides for one (Article 164). For another example, see Article 119 of the EU/Serbia association agreement (in that case, known by the different title of ‘Stabilisation and Association Council’).

130127. The Joint Committee should comprise the Parties' representatives at an appropriate level, establish its own rules of procedures, reach decisions by mutual consent, and meet as often as required to fulfil its tasks. As necessary, it could establish specialised sub-committees to assist it in the performance of its tasks.

Comment: These are common provisions. See, for instances, Articles 120 and 123 of the EU/Serbia association agreement. The withdrawal agreement provides for a number of specialised sub-committees (Article 165).

C. Interpretation

131128. In full respect of the autonomy of the Parties' legal orders, the Union and the United Kingdom will seek to ensure the consistent interpretation and application of the future relationship.
D. Dispute settlement

132129. The Parties will base the arrangements for dispute settlement and enforcement on those provided for in the Withdrawal Agreement. To that end, the Parties should first make every attempt to resolve any matter concerning the operation of the future relationship through discussion and consultation, including through the Joint Committee, if necessary for formal resolution. If either Party deemed it necessary, it should be able to refer the matter to the Joint Committee for formal resolution. The Agreement should include appropriate arrangements for dispute settlement and enforcement, including provisions for expedient problem-solving such as, in certain areas, a flexible mediation mechanism. Such a mediation mechanism would be without prejudice to the Parties' rights and obligations or to dispute settlement provided for under the Agreement.

Comment: In the withdrawal agreement, dispute settlement before the Joint Committee is the first recourse (Article 169), but the political declaration refers to informal bilateral discussions first. This has been strengthened in the revised political declaration, which attempts to draw a clearer distinction between the dispute settlement under the withdrawal agreement and under the future relationship.

133130. Unless otherwise provided, the Joint Committee may agree to refer the dispute to an independent arbitration panel at any time, and either Party should be able to do so where the Joint Committee has not arrived at a mutually satisfactory resolution within a defined period of time. The decisions of the independent arbitration panel will be binding on the Parties.

Comment: Compare to Article 170 of the withdrawal agreement, which says that either side can send a dispute settlement to arbitration if the Joint Committee does not settle it within three months, and both sides could agree jointly to send the dispute to arbitration before that point. Article 175 of that agreement equally provides that arbitration decisions are binding.

134131. The Parties indicate that should a dispute raise a question of interpretation of provisions or concepts of Union law, which may also be indicated by either Party, the arbitration panel should refer the question to the CJEU Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) as the sole arbiter of Union law, for a binding ruling as regards the interpretation of Union law. The arbitration panel should decide the dispute in accordance with the ruling given by the CJEU. Where a Party considers that the arbitration panel should have referred a question of interpretation of Union law to the CJEU, it may ask the panel to review and provide reasons for its assessment. Conversely, there should be no reference to the CJEU where a dispute does not raise such a question.

Comment: Compare to Article 174 of the withdrawal agreement, which equally says (in a more elaborate form) that the arbitrators must ask the CJEU to rule on interpretation of EU law, with a review process if it does not.  This is necessarily a legal ‘red line’ for the EU side, as the case law of the CJEU provides that only the EU courts can give an interpretation of EU law that binds the EU institutions or Member States (see, for instance, Opinion 1/92). However, such provisions may be less relevant under the future relationship than under the withdrawal agreement, as the future relationship treaties may make fewer references to EU law. The revised political declaration moves away from the CJEU somewhat, but a complete break as regards interpretation of EU law is not feasible.

135132.  Where a Party fails to take measures necessary to comply with the binding resolution of a dispute within a reasonable period of time, the other Party would be entitled to request financial compensation or take proportionate and temporary measures, including suspension of its obligations within the scope of the future relationship. The future relationship will also set out the conditions under which temporary remedies in case of non compliance can be taken, in particular obligations arising from parts of any agreement between the Union and the United Kingdom may be suspended in response to a breach by the other Party, including as foreseen in Articles 178 and 179 of the Withdrawal Agreement. Either Party may refer the proportionality of such measures to the independent arbitration panel.

Comment: This is less detailed than the withdrawal agreement, which provides for a process to determine what is a ‘reasonable period of time’ to comply (Article 176), then an arbitrators’ review of whether there was compliance (Article 177), then imposition of a lump sum or penalty payment by the arbitrators for non-compliance (Article 178(1)), then suspension of part of the withdrawal agreement or future relationship treaty due to non-payment of the financial penalty or non-compliance with an arbitration ruling (Article 178(2)). The revised text removes some of the detail here, although the added reference to Article 179 of the agreement covers review of retaliatory measures.

For anyone inclined to think that this process is outrageous as compared to ‘WTO rules’, note that it is in fact broadly similar to the way the WTO Dispute Settlement Understanding works, in case of non-compliance with a ruling finding breach of WTO law.


136133. The future relationship should provide for appropriate exceptions regarding security; national security is the sole responsibility of the Member States of the Union and the United Kingdom respectively.

Comment: there are national security exceptions in the EU Treaties, WTO law, and free trade agreements, so this is unexceptional (unless it is abused in practice, as Donald Trump is allegedly doing).

137134. The future relationship should address the possibility for a Party to activate temporary safeguard measures that would otherwise be in breach of its commitments in case of circumstances of significant economic, societal or environmental difficulties. This should be subject to strict conditions and include the right for the other Party to rebalancing measures. The proportionality of measures taken will be subject to independent arbitration.

Comment: free trade agreements usually provide for economic safeguard exceptions; this is very similar to the wording of Articles 112 and 114 of the EEA treaty. There’s no mention of whether measures against dumping or subsidies will be agreed. These are usually possible under the WTO and free trade agreements; EU law and the EEA are notable exceptions, due to harmonisation of State aid and competition law.


138135. In setting out the framework of the future relationship between the Union and the United Kingdom, this declaration confirms, as set out in the Withdrawal Agreement, that it is the clear intent of both Parties to develop in good faith agreements giving effect to this relationship and to begin the formal process of negotiations as soon as possible after the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the Union, such that they can come into force by the end of 2020.

Comment: this reflects the wording of Article 184 of the withdrawal agreement, which provides that that UK and EU must use their ‘best endeavours, in good faith and in full respect of their respective legal orders, to take the necessary steps to negotiate expeditiously the agreements governing their future relationship referred to in the political declaration…and to conduct the relevant procedures for the ratification or conclusion of those agreements, with a view to ensuring that those agreements apply, to the extent possible, as from the end of the transition period.’ Note that the wording of the political declaration here assumes that the transition period will not be extended after the end of 2020.

139136. Both Parties affirm that the achievements, benefits and commitments of the peace process in Northern Ireland will remain of paramount importance to peace, stability and reconciliation. They agree that the Good Friday or Belfast Agreement reached on 10 April 1998 by the United Kingdom Government, the Irish Government and the other participants in the multiparty negotiations (the “1998 Agreement”) must be protected in all its parts, and that this extends to the practical application of the 1998 Agreement on the island of Ireland and to the totality of the relationships set out in the 1998 Agreement.

Comment: this reflects the wording of the preamble to the Irish border protocol to the withdrawal agreement.

140. The Parties will progress the development of the legal agreements giving effect to the future relationship in two stages.


141. Between the approval of this declaration and the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the Union, the Parties will each engage in preparatory organisational work, with the aim of enabling rapid commencement of and progress in formal negotiations.
142. This work should draw up a proposed schedule to deliver the work programme required, having identified the areas likely to require the greatest consideration, such as those elements related to the alternative arrangements for ensuring the absence of a hard border on the island of Ireland on a permanent footing.

143. The Parties will also consider the logistical requirements of the formal negotiations.


Comment: the revised political declaration cuts out the preparatory phase of future relationship negotiations, perhaps because a shorter gap is now foreseen between agreeing the withdrawal agreement and its entry into force. Some of this text is moved to the new para 140 below.

144137. After the Union has taken the steps necessary to begin formal negotiations under Article 218 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), it is envisaged that the Parties will negotiate in parallel the agreements needed to give the future relationship legal form.

Comment: Article 218 TFEU sets out the rules (for the EU side) on the EU negotiating and approving treaties with non-EU countries. It’s significant that there’s a reference to multiple agreements, and to negotiations in parallel, here. The text is imprecise about when the EU will begin the formal process, and vague about the negotiations.

Suggested amendment: ‘Immediately after the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, the Union will take the steps necessary to begin formal negotiations under Article 218 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), and it is envisaged that the Parties will negotiate in parallel…’

145138. Immediately following the United Kingdom’s withdrawal, and based on their preparatory work, the Parties will agree a programme including: a) the structure and format of the negotiation rounds, including with respect to parallel tracks; and b) a formal schedule of negotiating rounds.

145139. This programme will be designed to deliver the Parties' shared intention to conclude agreements giving effect to the future relationship by the end of 2020 as set out in paragraph 138 135. The European Commission is ready to propose applying on a provisional basis relevant aspects of the future relationship, in line with the applicable legal frameworks and existing practice.

Comment: provisional application of treaties with non-EU countries is allowed (and often used) under EU law, even where treaties have to be ratified by Member States. This added wording suggests greater haste giving effect to future relationship treaties.

140. With a view to providing a sound foundation for the talks on the future relationship between the United Kingdom and the Union, both Parties will expeditiously: a) identify those areas that are likely to require the greatest consideration and the associated legal and technical issues that will need to be addressed, in order that the necessary technical preparations can be made on both sides; b) draw-up a full schedule for the negotiations, taking into account relevant internal processes; and c) consider the logistical requirements of the formal negotiations.

Comment: this new para takes up some of the content in paras 141-3 of the previous version, which have been deleted (see above).


147141.The Parties will convene a high level conference at least every six months from the date of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the Union to take stock of progress and agree, as far as is possible between them, actions to move forward. Following the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the Union, the Parties will convene to take stock of progress with the aim of agreeing actions to move forward in negotiations on the future relationship. In particular, the Parties will convene at a high level in June 2020 for this purpose.

Comment: meetings every six months are no longer mentioned, but a high level meeting in June 2020 replaces them.