Reported by Kate McNeil, CSaP Communications Coordinator
In a workshop held in the Spring of 2021, practitioners and academics gathered at a CSaP-convened event to explore the dynamics of alignment and divergence in UK regulatory policy after Brexit. This event was the second in a series hosted by Professor Kenneth Armstrong in the context of his Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship on The Brexit Effect – Convergence, Divergence and Variation in UK Regulatory Policy. This event garnered responses to a discussion paper on the Brexit Effect: Regulatory Alignment and Divergence after EU Membership – Evaluating the Scrutiny Challenge. This workshop presented an opportunity for those gathered to explore the broader dynamics of regulatory divergence or alignment after Brexit, and a chance to discuss the political and policy choices out there to be made as the UK and its devolved administrations set their trajectories for the post-membership period.
Now that the United Kingdom has left the transition period, the potential for policy divergences to emerge has become a live issue. These divergences are not only between the UK and the EU but also within the UK itself. At the same time, the landscape for parliamentary scrutiny is changing as the ways of working during EU membership evolve into new structures for scrutiny of UK policymaking. The aim of this workshop was to explore the interaction between the policy choices to align or diverge from the baseline of rules at the end of the transition period and the processes for parliamentary scrutiny.
Throughout the workshop, participants from the devolved UK governments were quick to highlight the ways in which the scrutiny landscapes within their respective parliaments are changing due to the Brexit process. Since the beginning of the transition period, parliamentarians have been much more interested in how external affairs will interact with the policies and priorities of the devolved governments. Participants also noted that they and their colleagues are facing novel challenges in scrutiny dynamics, while highlighting that with respect to our relationship with the European Parliament in terms of scrutiny monitoring, it will be important to bring “collective pressure to bear” in terms of transparency. Other topics addressed during the event included the distinctions between scrutiny and monitoring; the role of domestic scrutiny bodies; committee organization and prioritization; and how to improve coordination and communication.
Reflecting on how to proceed following the workshop, participants expressed an interest in continuing a conversation about the role academics can play in this area, and in exploring what academics can do to help develop the field of scrutiny and new practical ways of working. Possible next steps discussed included the possible development of a report or toolbox, with the goal of developing a useful point of reflection for people to use and which focused on ‘practical possibilities.’