The Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee met yesterday, 21 February, in Brussels. I co-chaired the meeting alongside European Commission Vice President, Maroš Šefčovič. A Joint Statement was agreed and published on GOV.UK.
The Committee received an update on the work of the Withdrawal Agreement Specialised Committees since the last meeting on 9 June, They also discussed citizens’ rights and progress on negotiations to find practical solutions to the problems with the Northern Ireland Protocol.
On citizens’ rights, both parties noted the continued constructive collaboration to ensure the rights of our respective nationals are protected. The UK urged the EU to ensure consistent support for all UK nationals living in the EU with a focus on three areas of concern. First, UK nationals in Member States having difficulties accessing their rights because of requests for permits which are not required. Second, Member States requesting information of UK nationals which is not required under the Withdrawal Agreement in order to secure their status; and third, a lack of safeguards and clarity on appeals where residence is not granted. The EU raised its concerns with aspects of the UK’s EU Settlement Scheme, focused on the legal base for guarantee of rights and the need for those with pre-settled status to apply for settled status at the point of qualification. The UK made clear there is no legal uncertainty for EU citizens in the UK.
In relation to the Northern Ireland Protocol, both parties emphasised that they shared an overriding commitment to protect the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement in all its dimensions. The UK outlined the problems the Protocol posed for trade within the UK internal market and Northern Ireland’s integral place in the United Kingdom, which was putting at risk the delicate balance essential to that Agreement and political stability in Northern Ireland. This underlined the increased urgency of finding solutions. Both sides reiterated the importance of further engagement, including with the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive, and wider Northern Ireland civic society and business.
The UK and EU also discussed activity in the Withdrawal Agreement Specialised Committees since the previous Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee on 9 June 2021, and agreed to adopt two technical Decisions:
- DECISION No /2022 amending of the Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community - principally covering data sharing linked to social security coordination.
- DECISION No /2022 amending Decision No 7/2020 establishing a list of 25 persons who are willing and able to serve as members of an arbitration panel under the Agreement - to reflect a change on the EU side.
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords