The Committee considered the following documents:
In response to significant challenges facing the steel sector in recent years—including global overcapacity in steel production and unfair trading practices by China, Russia and various other countries ‘dumping’ excess steel production on to EU markets—the Commission presented a strategy to ‘preserve jobs and growth’ in the EU steel industry in March. It identified short- and long-term actions in three broad areas—trade, investment and energy and environment.
The Committee recommended the Communication for debate in European Committee C, noting that the future of the UK steel industry would be affected by EU-level actions. As the debate was not tabled urgently, as requested, the Committee called the then Minister (Anna Soubry MP) to appear before the Committee (together with the BIS, Energy and Climate Change and Welsh Affairs Committees) on 6 July.
The new Minister (Nick Hurd MP) now updates the Committee on EU trade, state aid and energy developments applicable to the steel sector.
Not cleared. Previously recommended for debate in European Committee C. Drawn to the attention of the International Trade Committee, Committee on Exiting the EU, BEIS Committee, Work and Pensions Committee and the Welsh Affairs Committee.
The Committee considered two documents on EU security and defence policy. The first was a set of proposals constituting the EU’s Security and Defence Implementation Plan and the second was a proposed modest increase to the budget of the European Defence Agency. For the first time in six years, the Government supported the increase, noting the need for a more pragmatic approach in the new context of the UK withdrawal from the EU. The Government’s position across both documents was informed by its desire to continue cooperation with the EU on defence matters after the UK has withdrawn from the EU. This position includes an invitation to other Member States that they do not bring forward initiatives that could make such cooperation harder. The Government indicates that this invitation has been well received. We judged the documents to be of sufficient political importance to report them to the House and we suggest that they raise issues that would be worthy of debate within one of the Government’s general debates in the House on Brexit.
Cleared. Drawn to the attention of the Committees on Defence, Exiting the European Union and Foreign Affairs.
The Committee first considered this proposal for a new EU resettlement framework in September, along with three other proposals setting out far-reaching changes to EU asylum laws. All of the proposals are subject to the UK’s justice and home affairs opt-in, meaning that they will only apply to the UK if the Government decides to opt in. The Committee recommended that there should be an opt-in debate on the Commission’s asylum reform proposals. The Government has scheduled a debate on 19 December, after the expiry of the deadline for opting into the proposals. In his latest update, the Immigration Minister (Mr Robert Goodwill) reiterates concerns about the EUs’ competence to act on resettlement and seeks to clarify the Government’s position on subsidiarity (the need for action at EU level) and on the implications for future EU funding for resettlement in the UK should the Government decide not to opt into the proposed Regulation on resettlement. He also belatedly addresses concerns raised by the International Rescue Committee on the Commission’s resettlement proposal. The European Scrutiny Committee expresses deep concern that the Government’s delay in scheduling the opt-in debate effectively denies the House the opportunity to influence and inform the Government’s approach and ensure that the Government is accountable to Parliament before, not after, it has reached an opt-in decision. The Minister is asked to explain why he has failed to abide by commitments made by the previous Coalition Government in 2011 and in 2013 to strengthen parliamentary scrutiny of opt-in decisions and to provide a categorical assurance that he intends to do so in the future.
Not cleared from scrutiny; further information requested; opt-in decision recommended for debate (now scheduled for 19 December in European Committee B); drawn to the attention of the Home Affairs Committee.
This complex and technical proposal—a response to recent terrorist attacks in Europe—would amend the existing Firearms Directive (in force since 1 January 1993) to strengthen controls on the acquisition, possession and movement within the EU of firearms for civilian use. The changes are intended to make it more difficult to acquire firearms (including deactivated firearms), improve traceability, strengthen cooperation between Member States through a more systematic exchange of information, and establish common standards on the marking of firearms and on deactivation (to ensure that firearms are rendered “irreversibly inoperable”). The Government supports efforts at EU level to strengthen firearms legislation but has concerns about some of the detailed changes proposed by the Commission. It abstained on the Council’s general approach which was agreed in June. The EP agreed a negotiating mandate in August and trilogue negotiations began in September. In his latest update, the Minister for Policing and Fire Services (Brandon Lewis) sets out the Government’s position on the main changes proposed by the EP. The European Scrutiny Committee declines his request to clear the proposed Directive from scrutiny. It notes that the outcome of the latest trilogue meeting, on 5 December, appears to be highly contested and that both the Council and the EP have moved some distance from the Commission’s original proposal, with the treatment of semi-automatic weapons a particular bone of contention. The Committee asks the Minister to provide further information on the outcome of the trilogue meeting, the Government’s position and how he expects the Commission to respond.
Not cleared from scrutiny; further information requested; drawn to the attention of the Home Affairs Committee.
This overarching Commission strategy argues that existing EU trade defence instruments (TDIs) are no longer fit to deal with the global challenges of external overcapacities and ‘dumping’. It considers the following actions necessary:
Both have implications for the way that the EU deals with unfair trading practices from China and other countries, and have read-across to the Committee’s recommendation for a debate on steel, as technical trade matters involving ‘dumping’ and ‘market economy status’ directly impact domestic production, jobs and growth.
The Committee is content to clear the Commission strategy—a non-legislative document—from scrutiny, in order to focus on the progress and development of the key legislative proposals. We remind the Minister that the UK’s approach to the operation and implementation of trade defence, both while it is a member of the EU and after Brexit, is of significant political and public interest, and that any political endorsement of these legislative proposals, without being cleared from scrutiny, would constitute an override of parliamentary scrutiny.
Cleared. Further information requested. Drawn to the attention of the International Trade Committee and Committee on Exiting the EU.
(‘NC’ indicates document is ‘not cleared’ from scrutiny; ‘C’ indicates document is ‘cleared’)
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee: EU/Canada co-operation in competition law enforcement [(a) Council Decision, (b) Council Decision (C)]; The EU steel industry: preserving jobs and growth [Commission Communication (NC)]
Defence Committee: EU Security and Defence Policy [(a) Implementation Plan, (b) EDA General Budget (C)]
Exiting the European Union Committee: EU Security and Defence Policy [(a) Implementation Plan, (b) EDA General Budget (C)], The EU steel industry: preserving jobs and growth [Commission Communication (NC)], Strengthening EU trade defence instruments [Commission Communication (C)]s
Foreign Affairs Committee: EU Security and Defence Policy [(a) Implementation Plan, (b) EDA General Budget (C)]
Home Affairs Committee: Control of firearms within the internal market [Proposed Directive (NC)]; Establishing an EU framework for the resettlement of individuals in need of international protection [Proposed Regulation (NC)]
International Trade Committee: Strengthening EU trade defence instruments [Commission Communication (C)], The EU steel industry: preserving jobs and growth [Commission Communication (NC)]
Treasury Committee: EU/Canada co-operation in competition law enforcement [(a) Council Decision, (b) Council Decision (C)]
Welsh Committee: The EU steel industry: preserving jobs and growth [Commission Communication (NC)]
Work and Pensions Committee: The EU steel industry: preserving jobs and growth [Commission Communication (NC)]
16 December 2016