In Supervision after Brexit, the Institute for Government argues that there is a hole in the Government’s Brexit proposals, because ministers have said little about who will take over the ‘supervisory’ role of the European Commission and EU agencies.
The Government has made proposals on the resolution of legal disputes and the role of the European Court, but research shows that disagreements between the UK and the EU tend to be resolved through the exchange of letters and information between the European Commission, regulators and the Government: most cases never reach court. The paper says that this “supervision” process will be particularly important if the UK is to retain the unprecedented market access the Government has said it wants. That access would be based on close alignment with and adherence to many EU rules.
The report sets out various options. The UK could ask the European Commission to keep doing these jobs even after Brexit. Alternatively, the “joint committee” of UK and EU officials that oversee the agreement could be beefed up with a secretariat do supervision work. If the UK wanted to “take back control” of supervision, it could create a new dedicated supervisory authority to keep the rest of government in check or distribute supervisory functions to various existing departments and regulators.
There are difficult design issues for Government to grapple with, the authors say. If the UK does want to build a homegrown supervisory body, the Government must find a way to guarantee that it is sufficiently independent of ministers. If it faces the threat of abolition when it causes political problems for the Government, it will not be able to hold ministers to account. The authors suggest that the solution could be to make supervisory bodies accountable directly to Parliament rather than to government departments.