'STAYING [longer] in the transition period would mean continuing to pay into the EU without having a voice in the Multiannual Financial Framework that determines how much we would pay [and] continuing to be subject to EU laws…” Michael Gove to House of Commons Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, 18 June 2020, repeated to Scottish Parliament’s EU Committee, June 25.


THE binding UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement specifically states that any fresh British contributions have to be decided not under the Multiannual Financial Framework but by mutual agreement on the Joint Committee, of which a certain Gove is co-chair. In other words, the UK has a veto on future payments to the EU.


GOVE implies that any extension to the transition period – as called for by the both Scottish Parliament and Northern Ireland Assembly – would mean paying more into the EU budget without the UK Government having any say on the matter. This is demonstrably false.

The Withdrawal Agreement (which came into legal force on February 1, 2020) lays down in detail a joint arrangement for deciding financial arrangements between the UK and EU, in the event of the transition period being extended beyond the end of 2020. The Withdrawal Agreement certainly says: “For the period from 1 January 2021 to the end of the transition period, the United Kingdom shall make a contribution to the Union budget”. However, Article 132 of the WA stipulates that this contribution would be decided not by the EU but by the EU-UK Joint Committee overseeing the transition. Gove is co-chair of the Joint Committee.

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According to the Withdrawal Agreement, it would be up to the Joint Committee to “establish the appropriate amount of the contribution of the United Kingdom to the Union budget” during any extended negotiations. In other words, the UK has a deliberative voice and ultimate veto on any such payments – though one presumes that failing to reach an agreed settlement might terminate negotiations.


GOVE further confuses matters with his reference to the so-called Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF). He says explicitly that the MFF “determines how much we would pay” if the transition arrangements were extended into 2021. Again, he is in error – though we cannot say whether deliberately so or because he has not read his brief.

The MFF sets out the rules governing the EU budgeting process for 2021-27. Thus the MFF determines the share of resources contributed by each full member state. However, the current MFF round does not apply as such to the UK, contrary to Gove’s claims.

The Withdrawal Agreement specifies the UK “shall be considered as a third country for the purposes of the implementation of the Union programmes … under the Multiannual Financial Framework as from the year 2021”. That means the UK is outside the EU and EFTA for the purposes of the European budget: “Union law concerning the Union's own resources relating to the financial years covered by the extension of the transition period shall not apply to the United Kingdom after 31 December 2020.”

As noted, it is the Joint Committee – not the MFF – that would determine any UK contributions after December 2020.


WHERE Gove is partially correct in his answers to the HoC Northern Ireland Committee and the Holyrood EU Committee, is that were the transition arrangements extended beyond December 2020, Articles 127 and 132 imply that the UK would be expected to follow any new Union rules during the interim period. The derogations in Article 132 seem to apply only to exempting the UK from the MFF.

However, the existence of the Joint Committee also means that there is an agreed mechanism for discussing impending changes to EU law, so the UK would not lack the ability to influence events – the opposite of what Gove tried to imply.


 Gove needs to read his briefing notes again.

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