University of Birmingham: The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement: Conference Report

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On Thursday 30 June 2022 and Friday 1 July 2022 the Institute of European Law hosted a conference on “The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement” funded by the EU through the now completed Innovative Training Network on EU Trade and Investment Policy (EUTIP) which had been coordinated by IEL Director Professor Martin Trybus from 2017 to 2021.

The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement
The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) has been the legal foundation of the relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom since it entered into force on 1 January 2021. As Wolfgang Weiss pointed out in his Institute of European Law Annual Lecture 2021, it is the first Free Trade Agreement erecting barriers to trade rather than eliminating or reducing them. While the TCA is incomplete and in parts controversial, it might well govern trade and law across the Channel for many years to come. Therefore, it was high time to take a closer look and start a discussion on the most important and the most controversial aspects of the TCA. The IEL assembled some of the most eminent experts in their fields from universities in the United Kingdom and beyond to start that discussion.

European high politics after Brexit
The conference kicked off with an opening panel on “European high politics after Brexit” chaired by Isabella Mancini (EUTIP, Brunel University) and opened by Martin Trybus (EUTIP, University of Birmingham), who provided an overview of the EUTIP network. In this panel Anthony Arnull (University of Birmingham) presented on “Politics and the law in the Brexit Era” before Michael Dougan (University of Liverpool) discussed “The Northern Ireland Protocol”, and finally Aris Georgopoulos (University of Nottingham) elaborated on “The TCA and the defence of Europe”.

Out of the Internal Market
This was followed by two workshops with the title “Out of the Internal Market”. In the first, chaired by Panos Koutrakos (City, University of London), Catherine Barnard (University of Cambridge) covered “Goods and services in the TCA” before Jeffrey Kenner (EUTIP, University of Nottingham) discussed “The level playing field”. In the second, chaired by Rilka Dragneva- Lewers (University of Birmingham), Luca Rubini (University of Turin) presented on “State aids after Brexit” and Anna Maria La Chimia (University of Nottingham) on “Public procurement law and policy after Brexit”.

Trade and Investment
In a further workshop on “Trade and Investment” chaired by Henok Asmelash (University of Birmingham), Elaine Fahey (EUTIP, City, University of London) covered “The TCA, data protection, and digital trade” and Szilárd Gáspár-Szilágyi (University of Birmingham) “The enforcement of intra-EU investment awards in the post-Brexit era”.

Legal Foundations after Brexit
A final panel on “Legal Foundations after Brexit”, chaired by Mariela de Amstalden (University of Birmingham), featured Adam Lazowski (University of Westminster) presenting a paper with the title “Stand up for your rights…before it is too late: the TCA and direct effect”, Wolfgang Weiss (EUTIP, German University of Administrative Sciences Speyer) with a paper on “Institutions and democracy in the TCA” and Holger Hestermeyer (King’s College London) with a paper on “Dispute settlement”.

Conclusion
The conference had 55 registered participants including undergraduate and postgraduate students from Birmingham Law School. Unfortunately, a few of them, including colleagues presenting papers on the strategic autonomy of the EU, the common fisheries policy after Brexit, and parliamentary oversight under the TCA, had to cancel at short notice for reasons related to Covid or the public transport situation in the UK at the time. However, it has been important for the organisers to offer an on campus rather than a digital or hybrid event, although precautions were taken (for example using a large lecture theatre for the event).

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