A New Legal Framework for EU-UK Relations: Some Reflections from the Perspective of EU External Relations Law

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Table of Contents: I. Introduction. – II. A complex legal structure including a Trade and Cooperation Agreement and supplementing agreements. – III. Legal basis: a pragmatic use of the Treaty provision on association (art. 217 TFEU). – IV. The option of an EU-only agreement and its consequences. – V. Provisional application and the role of the European Parliament. – VI. Concluding remarks: pragmatism and flexibility in EU-UK relations.

Abstract: The withdrawal of the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union (EU), commonly known as Brexit, resulted in the establishment of a new bilateral legal framework for the future development of EU-UK relations. The new framework is based on a Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA) in combination with more specific supplementing agreements concerning the exchange of classified information and the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Without entering into a detailed substantive analysis of these agreements, several innovative elements can be highlighted from the perspective of EU external relations law. This includes, in particular, the governance structure of the new legal framework, the use of art. 217 TFEU (on association) as a legal basis, the “EU-only” nature of the TCA and the provisional application without prior involvement of the European Parliament. It is argued that these key features are largely the result of an unprecedented process of negotiations under the time pressure of the expiry date for the transitional application of EU law in the UK.

Keywords: Brexit – United Kingdom – TCA – association – provisional application – mixity.

European Papers, Vol. 6, 2021, No 1, pp. 785-799
2499-8249 - doi: 10.15166/2499-8249/461

* Professor of European Union Law and Jean Monnet Chair, Ghent European Law Institute (GELI), Ghent University, Peter.VanElsuwege@UGent.be.


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