31 March 2017

Not sure how this is going to work ...

As The Independent puts it, the Great Repeal Bill "will see every piece of EU law affecting the UK brought onto the UK statute book on the day of Brexit, with ministers then given the powers to adjust parts to make them workable in the UK and potentially ditch parts they do not like".

Now I am not a lawyer but I used to have a working knowledge of the EU regulations governing EU Structural Funds.  These funds, administered by the EU Commission, provide grants for economic and social development, particularly for regions whose GDP is well below the EU average.  This is beneficial for areas in the UK such as the Scottish Highlands and Islands and Northern Ireland.

The EU regulations provide - among other things - that the grants are awarded by the Member State and reclaimed from the EU Commission.  The individual projects supported in this way are required to conform with the Commission's priorities as set out in the regulations; they also have to form part of an overall programme for the area concerned which has to be submitted by the Member State for prior approval by the Commission.  The Member State seeks reimbursement on a prescribed schedule from the Commission of the grants it has paid out, as well as making periodic reports to the Commission in a prescribed form, detailing progress against the targets set out in the original area programme.  All very bureaucratic.

Back to the Great Repeal Bill.  Given the central position of the Commission in the processes, it makes no real sense to simply cut and paste the various EU regulations on Structural Funds into the UK Statute Book.  If the Structural Funds policy is to continue, the rules will need to be completely re-written.  And who knows if the policy will continue after Brexit?

Some further complications:

1.  The current Structural Funds programmes run until 2020, beyond Brexit, and the Commission reimbursement will (in theory at least) continue into 2021, while the EU auditing process is scheduled to continue thereafter.

2.  The role of the Member State in the above processes is devolved - where geographically appropriate - to the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish administrations.  And they therefore have a considerable interest in what will happen.

All very difficult. And this is only one relatively minor policy field among the myriad that needs to be sorted.  I am glad that I am retired.



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