The Committee looks at the significance of EU proposals and decides whether to clear the document from scrutiny or withhold clearance and ask questions of the Government. The Committee also has the power to recommend documents for debate.
The Committee is now looking at documents in the light of the UK’s decision to withdraw from the EU. Issues are explored in greater detail in report chapters and, where appropriate, in the summaries below. The Committee notes that in the current week the following issues and questions have arisen in documents or in correspondence with Ministers:
The Committee has published an update on the EU’s “Military Mobility” initiative, based on a progress report issued by the European Commission. The initiative aims to eliminate barriers to the rapid cross-border movement of troops and military equipment between EU Member States. It consists of both regulatory measures at EU-level, for example related to customs, VAT and infrastructure, and inter-governmental discussions relating to matters such as streamlining diplomatic procedures to give permissions for troops from one EU country to enter the territory of another. The Ministry of Defence has previously indicated the Military Mobility initiative is of potential interest to the UK even after it has left the EU, and we therefore felt it appropriate to draw it to the attention of the House.
Cleared from scrutiny; drawn to the attention of the Defence Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee
As has become standard practice, the European Commission is consulting in advance of publishing its proposals for annual fishing quotas—in this instance, for the 2020 fishing year. Brexit is a key unknown for the setting of EU quotas in 2020. If the UK withdraws from the EU without a deal by 31 December 2019, it will be an independent coastal state and thus able to negotiate quotas separate from the EU. As the Committee notes, however, international law places an obligation on the UK and EU to cooperate on the management of shared stocks, of which there are around 100. The Committee therefore explores what this means in practice and how much latitude, in reality, there would be to depart from the management framework established under the reformed Common Fisheries Policy. The Committee also asks what preparation the Government is making to act as an independent coastal state, including plans for a UK-EU fisheries agreement and how that would be scrutinised by Parliament.
Not cleared from scrutiny; further information requested; drawn to the attention of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee
The question of what, if any, role the EU might play in the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption body GRECO has been a long-running question. A Communication, proposing a staggered process for EU participation in GRECO and on which little progress had been made, has been held under scrutiny by successive European Scrutiny Committees since 2012.
Matters have now come to a head with the adoption of a Council Decision supporting an observer role for the EU. This was with a view to the matter being considered at the plenary of GRECO from 17–21 June 2019. The JHA opt-in applies to the Council Decision. Despite not being afforded the usual three-month opt-in period, the Government says it has not opted in to the proposal and is not bound by it. The Committee’s conclusions in its chapter flag numerous concerns about the scrutiny handling of this dossier. These include:
Not cleared from scrutiny; further information requested
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee: European Labour Authority [Proposed Regulation (C)]
Defence Committee: The EU’s “Military Mobility” Action Plan: Progress Report [Joint Report (C)]
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee: 2020 Fishing Opportunities [Commission Communication (NC)]
Foreign Affairs Committee: The EU’s “Military Mobility” Action Plan: Progress Report [Joint Report (C)]
Work and Pensions Committee: European Labour Authority [Proposed Regulation (C)]
Published: 9 July 2019