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On 24 December 2020, the EU and the UK successfully concluded a Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA), after a long and complex negotiation. As of 1st January 2021, this agreement applied on a provisional basis until the Council and EP completed the ratification process. In the same vein as other recent Free Trade Agreements, the agreement entails specific provisions on a civil society dialogue. The EESC, key actor of this civil society dialogue, thus decided on the institutional set-up to foster the relationship with the UK and its civil society (business, trade unions and other organisations), as well as a body to monitor the TCA.

This new set-up, adjusted in light of not only the deal concluded and the new EU-UK relationship but also of the recent institutional developments in the EC, includes:

  • the EU-UK Follow-up Committee, the political successor to the Follow-up Group on Brexit and an EESC Committee where we can set our own agenda and priorities, in order to meet the needs of the new reality;
  • the EU Domestic Advisory Group under the EU-UK TCA, the civil society institutional pillar of the EU‑UK trade relationship.

Now that the future relations have been governed between the two partners through such an important and comprehensive partnership agreement, the EESC is committed to play its role to optimize the potential of this agreement, particularly in relation to the UK civil society. The EESC is determined to maintain close contacts with the UK civil society after Brexit, encourage dialogue and exchange and bring the civil society organisations into the social decision-making process, thus ensuring that the strong economic, social and political ties developed over half a century of UK membership of the EU are protected.

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  • In particular the EESC:

    • supports the adoption and early implementation of the proposed regulation, which ensures adequate sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) standards for a transparent, streamlined and safe supply of the market of Northern Ireland from other parts of the UK;
    • acknowledges the significant effort made to reconcile the facilitation of procedures, to safeguard the integrity of the EU internal market and the protection of public animal and plant health;
    • urges the Commission to further clarify and provide solutions for the areas of more apparent divergence between SPS standards in the UK and the EU;
  • In particular, the EESC: 

    • supports the adoption and early implementation of the proposed regulation, which would ensure continuity of supply of medicinal products for human use in Northern Ireland;
    • agrees that it is essential that the proposed regulation contains a provision enabling suspension of the specific rules by the Commission in the event of the UK's non-compliance;
    • encourages ongoing consultation with key stakeholders to help ensure timely implementation as well as monitoring for any future risks to the delivery of the objectives of the proposed regulation;

    ...

  • At its January plenary session, the EESC adopted an information report on the Implementation of the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement, including the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland. The report shows that UK organised civil society is strongly in favour of a deeper and more constructive relationship with their EU counterparts and the EU as a whole. This could contribute to the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement and help maximise the potential of the EU-UK Trade Cooperation Agreement.

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