Foreign secretary welcomes 'close and friendly ties' as UK-EU looks to 'mature' post-Windsor future

Tue 4 Jul 2023
Posted by: Phillip Adnett
Trade News

Official portrait of James Cleverly

[Image used under Creative Commons License,courtesy of the House of Commons.]

UK foreign secretary, James Cleverly, used a speech at the UK-EU Parliamentary Partnership Assembly yesterday (3 July) to promote a “post-Windsor Framework future”, although remained notably silent on a number of key issues.

He welcomed the “more mature” relationship the UK and EU had built since the framework was announced.

Cleverly was the first UK foreign secretary to speak at the assembly, which is used to discuss issues relating to the Windsor Framework.

Prime minister, Rishi Sunak, and European Commission (EC) president, Ursula von der Leyen, unveiled the framework in February, with both saying the agreement would lead to a “new chapter” in joint UK-EU relations.

‘Sensible and pragmatic’

Cleverly told the meeting it was “obvious” to him “that close and friendly co-operation between the UK and EU would be the ultimate and eventual outcome of Brexit”.

“That is the sensible and pragmatic outcome,” he added.

He conceded that the journey towards friendly relations was not always easy, saying it took “slightly longer to get here than many of us would have liked.”

He also hailed the “real progress” in the UK-EU partnership, noting the current co-operation on support for Ukraine in its struggle against Russia and welcoming the Memorandum of Understanding on financial services signed between the UK and EU last week.

Missing problems

However, Politico noted that the three most contentious ongoing issues – UK access to the Horizon science programme, the role of Gibraltar post-Brexit and the looming ‘cliff edge’ facing electric vehicle producers – did not get a hearing in Cleverly’s speech.

The FT notes that Gibraltar faces a possible hard border with Spain depending on the outcome of this month’s elections, which could see incumbent Spanish PM Pedro Sanchez replaced by leader of the opposition, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, who has pushed for a stricter policy on the shared border.

Talks on the UK joining the Horizon programme and on avoiding a tariff cliff edge on EVs are said to be ongoing.

‘More to be done’

Speaking at the same event, EC vice-president Maroš Šefčovič said that there had been progress, but there was more to be done.

He said that EU looked forward to making the most of the “significant potential offered by the Trade and Cooperation Agreement to further improve our partnership”.

However, the Slovakian diplomat added that “trade can no longer be as frictionless and dynamic as before. We must accept this reality”.

Joint committee

Cleverly and Šefčovič also hosted a joint meeting of the Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee.

According to a press release, the committee agreed to add two newly adopted Union acts on sanitary and phytosanitary measures (agri-foods) and medicines to Annex 2 to the Windsor Framework.

The two will reportedly “remain in close and regular contact” on further issues.