On 1 April 2020, the House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee published a report summarising the EU's policy and legal measures in relation to Covid-19 and assessing their implications for the UK.

The report characterises the EU's response as concentrating on three broad areas:-

  •  Movement of peoples and goods
  •  Supporting the fiscal measures undertaken by individual EU members states in response to the Covid-19 pandemic
  •   Accelerating the release of €29 billion (£27billion) of direct financial support from the EU's structural funds to help affected countries and businesses.

The report seeks an explanation from the UK Government as to which of the EU's policies is applicable to the UK during the transition period (currently due to expire on 31st December 2020) and whether it intends to access up to €555 million of EU structural funds  which may be available to the UK in respect of Covid-19 related projects. The report also questions what the UK Government's approach is to accessing other unallocated EU structural funds totalling  €2.4 billion  and to applying for support from the EU Solidarity Fund and from the EU Globalisation Adjustment Fund.

The report notes that the UK is in a somewhat difficult position during the transition market, being part of the EU single market and subject to EU laws but having no formal voting rights at EU level but also asks the UK Government to clarify its approach to co-operation with the EU on civil emergencies after the end of the transition period. In particular, it questions whether the UK will participate in the EU Civil Protection Mechanism and Early Earning and Response System (EWRS) and, if not, what measures of co-operation will be adopted in their place.

The report also seeks clarification on the UK Government's approach on joint medical equipment procurement programmes with the EU and  on health screening and entry restrictions at the UK / EU borders (particularly Ireland) and generally on the UK's co-operation with the EU on all these types of issue and the associated costs. It also asks whether the UK Government was consulted on the "Temporary Framework" that the European Commission has issued on permitted exceptional State Aid measures in the light of the Covid-19 crisis.

The relationship between Brexit and Covid-19 priorities for the UK Government seems very much a work in progress as the challenges posed by the pandemic escalate and the European Scrutiny Committee report provides a welcome oversight on key issues affecting this subject.