The House of Commons and House of Lords have given the go ahead for the UK to participate in the UK-EU Parliamentary Partnership Assembly (PPA).

This will bring together representatives of the UK Parliament and European Parliament. This Insight explains why the PPA is being set up and what steps have been taken so far.

What is the role of PPA?

The UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA), in operation since 1 January 2021, states that a Parliamentary Partnership Assembly can be established. This would act as a forum for the UK Parliament and the European Parliament to exchange views on their partnership. The TCA left it to the two parliaments to decide on whether and how to establish a PPA.

The TCA says the PPA will be able to request relevant information from the Partnership Council – the main governing body of the TCA – on how the TCA is being implemented. Its role will also cover any supplementing agreements that come under the TCA governance arrangements (there’s currently just one).

The Partnership Council is a joint UK-EU body established by the TCA to oversee its implementation. It is co-chaired by a UK Government Minister (Foreign Secretary Liz Truss) and a European Commissioner (Vice-President Šefčovič).

The PPA should be informed of decisions and recommendations made by the Partnership Council. The PPA will also be able to make recommendations to it.

The PPA will not have any formal decision-making role in how the TCA is governed. Its current remit doesn’t cover the Withdrawal Agreement.

How was the PPA set up?

Discussions on the PPA between the House of Commons, the House of Lords and the European Parliament have been taking place over the last year. Sir Oliver Heald MP led this work for the Commons, and the Chair of House of Lords European Affairs Committee, Lord Kinnoull, led for the Lords.

This led to agreement on a joint assembly between the UK and European Parliaments with each sending 35 representatives. The delegations on each side would reflect the relative strength of political forces across their Parliaments. Both delegations will also have substitute members.

At the beginning of October, the European Parliament decided to set up its delegation to the PPA. The UK Parliament gave the go ahead to the PPA later, with motions adopted in the House of Commons on 6 December and House of Lords on 8 December 2021.

UK delegation to the PPA

The UK delegation to the PPA will comprise 21 Members of the House of Commons and 14 Members of the House of Lords: a 60:40 split. In the Commons debate on the motion to establish the PPA on 6 December, Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg said the Commons delegation will consist of twelve Conservative MPs, seven from the Labour Party and the two from other parties. Of the 14 Members of the House of Lords, six will be from the Conservative benches. The governing party will have a majority on the UK delegation as a whole.

There have been calls from MPs to ensure that the UK delegation has a balance of representation from across the nations of the UK. In the debate on 6 December, the Leader of the House said it would be up to the parties to decide which part of the UK their delegation members come from.

Devolved legislatures

The devolved legislatures have also sought a role in the PPA. One possibility is that they are given observer status. The European Commission has raised the possibility of a creating a specific sub-structure focused on Northern Ireland (488KB, PDF). But any specific arrangements for Northern Ireland, the devolved legislatures or national Parliaments in the EU would be a matter for the UK and European Parliaments to discuss and would need to be agreed by the PPA itself.

The UK Parliament already has delegations to other Parliamentary Assemblies, including the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. The motion on 6 December confirmed that UK parliamentary procedures that apply to the nomination, support and funding of delegations to these assemblies will also apply to the PPA.

European Parliament delegation to the PPA

The European Parliament has already named the members of its delegation to the PPA.

The European Parliament’s delegation held its first meeting on 9 December. It confirmed Nathalie Loiseau as its chair, the former French Minister for Europe. She is a representative of the governing En Marche! party in France. Two vice-chairs were also confirmed:  First Vice-Chair Seán Kelly of the Irish Fine Gael Party, and Second Vice-Chair Bulgarian Socialist Tsvetelina Penkova.

Next steps

The members of the UK delegation will be confirmed formally through a written ministerial statement in the House of Commons.

The PPA is expected to meet twice a year from 2022 onwards. It will meet once in London and once in Brussels or Strasbourg, issuing a report following each meeting.

The PPA will be headed by a bureau, bringing together co-chairs and two vice-chairs from each delegation. The co-chairs and bureau may meet between PPA meetings.

Further reading

About the author: Stefano Fella is a researcher at the House of Commons Library, specialising in Brexit.

Photo by Rocco Dipoppa on Unsplash

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