Select Committee on European Scrutiny Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60-67)



  60. With his views on this subject I am afraid I would not be entirely enthusiastic about the outcome.
  (Peter Hain) Perhaps you might take that up with him. Remember, there is a British Government position and then there is a position which may or may not be adopted by national parliamentarians.

  61. Your position is that you are wary and inclined but you are not going to rule it out?
  (Peter Hain) We are inclined to look at it just to see what it means.

  62. You have got the most brilliant lawyers in the Foreign Office who would be able to advise you on what a legal personality means. I might even dare to presume to tell you myself.
  (Peter Hain) Chairman, since Bill has invited my brilliant diplomat sitting next to me to advise the Committee, perhaps he would.
  (Mr Baird) We want to look at exactly what the consequences of a full legal personality in the Union would be and how you could draft to limit the consequences of that within the intergovernmental pillars. The fact is of course that at the moment in the CFSP Pillar and, by consequence, in the JHA Pillar, you have a power to enter into agreements, which is a limited form, but the question is what would be the difference if we moved from that limited form. We want to look at these issues and they are very complex legal issues.

  Chairman: I am sure it is very interesting for the constitutional lawyers. One last point.

Mr Cash

  63. It is simply this, that, as with the question of trade, when you deal with the United States the European Union speaks there with one voice and that is the final negotiator in respect of these extraordinarily important matters. This moves, if you apply the legal personality to the European Union, away from intergovernmentalism into the whole of common and foreign security policy etc as being spoken to by the European Union with one voice. I do not need to elaborate any more. It is extremely significant if you go that way, and I of course would fight it all down the line.

Roger Casale

  64. Chairman, I have always understood everything that Mr Cash has said to be premised on the idea that the European Union has a legal personality already and therefore to admit that it has not rather undermines many of the points that were made previously. Could I just ask the Minister to say that in assessing this with a weary eye—with a wary eye—
  (Peter Hain) Sometimes weary as well.

  65. Sometimes weary, always wary eye,—
  (Peter Hain) You spend a week in Brussels on these matters and you get a bit weary.

  66.—will he say that the criterion that he would apply to that would be a pragmatic one, looking at what is best in terms of Britain's long term interest and, just as we have already this legal personality in relation to trade does mean that in Britain's economic interests we have that powerful voice in relation to world trade matters, there may on an ad hoc basis be other instances where that legal personality is desirable too? Will he confirm that he will proceed on a pragmatic basis and not just on the basis of deciding in advance, as Mr Cash is suggesting he does, but actually looking at each case on its merits?
  (Peter Hain) Yes, subject to some pretty powerful constraints. I cannot see it applying in common foreign security policy, for example. That is one instance where that would not occur.


  67. Minister, thank you very much. It has been a very interesting session. I had a thought during the discussions today that you may be reaching the term of your office when you will be one of the longest serving European ministers because the tenure of previous European ministers has not been so long, so it is nice to see you keeping up the good work and I would like to thank you very much for coming along. I was particularly impressed by Mr Cash's recommendation of our report to you. He wrote a minority report and he put down 153 amendments and still thought it was an excellent report. Thank you very much for coming along, Minister.

  (Peter Hain) Thank you, Chairman. Could I say that your reminding me that I am about to exceed the longest serving minister makes me a little concerned. I hope to be here for a while yet.

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