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What are 'common frameworks'?

Now that the United Kingdom has left the European Union, laws made by the EU no longer apply in the UK. Some of these laws set rules in areas that, in the UK, are responsibilities of the devolved institutions. This includes regulations concerning  food standards, food labelling, animal welfare and environmental standards, among many others.

During the UK’s membership of the European Union, the devolved governments and the UK government (when making policies in these areas for England) both conformed to conform to the same set of EU rules. Although they might still have implemented these rules in different ways, following the same rules limited the differences between their policies and practices.

In preparation for leaving the EU, the UK and devolved governments agreed to work together to explore where it may be necessary or sensible to replace EU rules with common UK rules, or ‘common frameworks’. These frameworks are intended to limit the prospect of the governments developing their own separate rules, so as to make it easier for businesses to trade across the UK, for new trade agreements to be negotiated and implemented, and to manage common resources.

Common frameworks might come in the form of a law made in the UK parliament that then applies to the whole of the UK, despite concerning a policy area that is normally devolved. Less formal common frameworks take the form of intergovernmental agreements or ‘memorandums of understanding’, where the governments agree to follow the same rules and practices.

A key feature of the common frameworks process has been that all four administrations have worked together to reach agreement. The process is ongoing but has been adversely affected by heated political disagreements over the UK Government’s actions to create a law to uphold an internal market.