Internal market governance by consensus rather than conflict? Common Frameworks and the potential for positive harmonisation

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Thomas Horsley
Jo Hunt


Common Frameworks, UK Internal Market Act 2020, UK internal market, devolution, shared rule, harmonisation, Brexit, UK constitution


This article connects theories of positive and negative harmonisation with perspectives on self- and shared rule to examine emerging approaches to managing domestic (ie intra-United Kingdom (UK)) trade post-Brexit. Our particular focus is on a new tool of governance: the Common Frameworks – a consensus-based collaborative intergovernmental approach to policymaking in areas of devolved competence previously falling within the scope of the European Union Treaties. We explore the potential of the Frameworks as instruments of positive harmonisation with reference to emerging practice and consider their relationship with the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020. Our analysis unmasks internal market governance post-Brexit as a contested space, reflecting deepening divisions between the UK and devolved governments regarding self- and shared rule under the UK’s territorial constitution. We identify three key drivers of contestation: a lack of consensus on the UK internal market as a regulatory object; changes in political context; and enduring structural and attitudinal imbalances favouring political control from the centre. 

Abstract 101 | NILQ 75.1.2 Horsley and Hunt Downloads 36