The United Kingdom has left the European Union but the EU remains a key global partner.
However, it is important that UK-EU relations are not just dealt with at the government level. As the elected voice of citizens, it is vital that parliamentarians can also have their voice heard. Therefore, I am proud to be co-chair of the UK-EU Parliamentary Partnership Assembly (PPA), alongside my friend Nathalie Loiseau from the European parliament.
The UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA), in operation since 1 January 2021, states that a Parliamentary Partnership Assembly can be established. Under the terms of the TCA, the assembly is able to request relevant information from the Partnership Council – the main governing body of the TCA – on how the TCA is being implemented. In addition to receiving information from the Partnership Council about their decisions and recommendation, the PPA can also make recommendations to the Partnership Council.
Our inaugural session took place in Brussels in May, and now I am delighted to be welcoming colleagues from the House of Commons, the House of Lords and the European parliament for the first session to be held in Westminster.
Our two parliaments are close partners, indeed there are a number of parliamentarians in both the Commons and the Lords who have previously been MEPs, and the PPA is a chance to discuss a number of key issues that concern all of us.
At our first meeting earlier this year we discussed issues including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the state of the Northern Ireland Protocol. We called for urgent technical talks about the Protocol, and it is encouraging that such talks are ongoing.
In our forthcoming session, as well as general discussions about the future of Europe, and future UK-EU relations, we will also discuss the topic of energy cooperation. Energy security and combatting energy price rises is something that crosses borders and cannot be dealt with in isolation, so I am pleased this is high up on our agenda.
We will also be discussing matters as varied as how travelling musicians and artists can travel easily for their work in both the UK and Europe, citizens’ rights, and better co-operation on cyber-security and defence. Ministers due to attend, including Europe minister Leo Docherty and energy minister Graham Stuart, will look to the future on a debate on how UK-EU relations can be put on a better footing in the context of European co-operation on vital matters.
Whilst the PPA does not have formal decision-making powers, it already has the potential to become a useful forum to build constructive links between our legislatures. It is a consensual assembly and, working alongside my co-chair and parliamentary colleagues, we are keen for it to be a practical and forward-looking organisation.
One area which will be looking at is the relationship between the PPA and the devolved legislatures. Although MPs, peers and MEPs can be formal members of the PPA, I am pleased that, at our inaugural session, we agreed that the UK’s three devolved legislatures may send observers.
The parliamentary assembly wants to press successfully for good relations between the UK and the EU and to achieve more cooperation in vital areas of interest at the commission/governmental level.
Global events have meant that the period since the UK left the EU has been turbulent, but the PPA plays an important role in driving a new era of UK-EU relations, to ensure mutually beneficial outcomes for all the people we represent.
Oliver Heald, Conservative MP for North East Hertfordshire and co-chair of the UK-EU Parliamentary Partnership Assembly.