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 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 draft Regulation updates EU trade defence tools aimed at tackling unfair trading practices, such as steel dumping from China. First proposed in 2013, it faced three years of political stalemate over proposed revisions to the ‘lesser duty rule’, which impacts the level of duties imposed on unfair imports. Negotiations accelerated in late 2016 (driven by the EU steel crises), and the proposal is due for adoption in the Council in April. The Government is intending to vote against the proposal, as it considers that the proposed revisions to the lesser duty rule could lead to a significant rise in duties that the EU imposes on dumped or subsidised imports and would place disproportionate costs on consumers or downstream users. The Government also provides an update on the future UK trade remedies system, stating that it is intending to apply the current lesser rule after Brexit. The Committee clears the proposal from scrutiny, but seeks further information on how UK divergence from the EU trade defence regime after Brexit could a) impact trade patterns (e.g. deflect ‘dumped’ goods from China to the UK away from the EU27) and b) influence wider trade relations and the negotiation and conclusion of the UK-EU future relationship and other UK trade agreements (for example with the US, noting its recent imposition of steel and aluminium tariffs).
Cleared; further information requested; drawn to the attention of the Committee on Exiting the EU and the International Trade Committee.
The next EP elections will take place in June 2019, after the UK’s exit from the EU as a Member State. When the Committee first considered this proposal (a) to amend the existing Regulation on European political parties (EUPPs), the Government therefore considered that it was likely only to have a minimal impact on the UK. However, it considered that transparency requirements in relation to EUPPs could in turn impose obligations on national political parties for a short time before Brexit. In particular, the Government was concerned about any indirect obligation to publish gender diversity data in respect of candidates and previous MEPs. We kept the proposal under scrutiny to see how it might progress and asked the Government to also update us on a previous EP proposal to reform EU electoral law.
In the meantime, the Government submitted an EM on a related Court of Auditors’ Opinion which we now report. The Government has also now written to update us on overall progress and timing of the proposal, to report that its concerns about impact on national political parties have been addressed and to make clear its commitment to voluntary submission of gender diversity data by national political parties. Informed by that response, we now clear the proposal from scrutiny in advance of its expected adoption in April and a “coming into force” date of 30 June 2018.
Cleared from scrutiny.
These Annual Reports on subsidiarity and proportionality and the Commission’s dialogue with National Parliaments are non-legislative documents which do not raise significant policy implications. However, they do present the opportunity to raise with the Government whether there will be any informal arrangements for dialogue between the UK Parliament and the EU institutions during any implementation period. During this period the UK Parliament will no longer be a National Parliament of a Member State and will not be able to submit Reasoned Opinions in respect of new legislation which could potentially bind the UK before the end of that period. The chapter also refers to last week’s developments in relation to the Committee’s recommendation for a Reasoned Opinion on the Drinking Water Directive. In particular, the initial uncertainty as to whether the Government would support that recommendation in terms of the debate motion. The chapter highlights the need for better communication across Whitehall of the Government’s position that until Brexit, it will continue to support the efforts of Parliament to influence EU law-making through the submission of Reasoned and Political Dialogue Opinions by either Chamber.
Cleared from scrutiny; further information requested.
These proposals would authorise the Commission to negotiate agreements enabling Europol to exchange personal data with the law enforcement authorities of eight countries— Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt and Algeria. The Government told the European Scrutiny Committee that it would need to be “fully assured that exchanges of personal data come with sufficient protections to ensure they are consistent with fundamental rights”. The Committee asked what additional assurances the Government would like to see, whether the proposed negotiating directives should be amended to include specific safeguards and whether they should be tailored to address specific human rights concerns in each country. The Government was also asked to report back on the outcome of its efforts to secure a justice and home affairs legal base and a recital making clear that the UK’s opt-in applies.
In its response, the Government says that the Presidency is expected to seek agreement before the three-month deadline for the UK to decide whether to opt in expires on 30 April and invites the Committee to express a view on the opt-in decision. We are unwilling to do so (given that key information is missing) but nonetheless recommend clearing the proposals from scrutiny so that the UK can participate in the vote in Council if the Government decides to opt in. This is because the agreements are the first to be concluded with third countries under the new Europol Regulation and are likely to establish the framework for future agreements on the exchange of personal data between Europol and third country law enforcement authorities (including, potentially, the UK once it leaves the EU). The Government may therefore wish to have some involvement in overseeing the negotiations (through its participation in a specially constituted Council committee). We expect the Government to provide further information on the legal base agreed for the proposals; the Government’s opt-in decision; and human rights and data protection safeguards.
Cleared from scrutiny; Drawn to the attention of the Home Affairs Select Committee and the Joint Committee on Human Rights; further information requested.
In December 2017, against a general backdrop of intensified cooperation on defence matters at EU-level, twenty-five EU countries—all except the UK, Denmark and Malta—formally launched Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO). This is a political framework within which EU Member States can choose to make commitments intended to improve their military assets and defence capabilities in the context of specific initiatives and projects.
While the UK is not a formal participant in PESCO, the Government has supported its launch, as well as consistently calling for a legal framework—which is still being discussed by the participating countries—that will allow non-EU countries to request involvement in specific projects. This would enable the Ministry of Defence and UK industry to seek participation in PESCO after Brexit on a case-by-case basis where there is value in doing so from a national security or industry perspective. The Minister identified the ‘military mobility’ project as the one of principal interest to the UK. The European Commission is due to set out its specific proposals for the removal of customs and regulatory barriers to the movement of troops and military equipment within the EU in an Action Plan in spring 2018.
Given its political importance, the Committee recommended that PESCO, and its implications for UK defence policy after Brexit, should be debated on the Floor of the House.
In March, the Defence Ministers of the participating countries agreed a roadmap for PESCO’s practical implementation (on which the UK did not have a vote). It sets out a timetable for the adoption of detailed governance arrangements for individual projects (June 2018), the addition of new projects to the existing list (November 2018) and the legal principles for ‘third country’ participation (“by the end of 2018”). Today’s Committee Report summarises these developments, and adds the latest EU documents to the Committee’s previous debate recommendation.
Not cleared from scrutiny; recommended for debate on the Floor of the House; drawn to the attention of the Defence Committee and Foreign Affairs Committee.
(‘NC’ indicates document is ‘not cleared’ from scrutiny; ‘C’ indicates document is ‘cleared’)
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee: Radioactive waste and spent fuel [(a) and (b) Commission Reports (C)]
Defence Committee: Permanent Structured Cooperation [(a) Recommendation (NC), (b) Decision (NC)]
Exiting the European Union Committee: EU Trade Defence Instruments [(a) Communication (C), (b) Proposed Regulation (C)]
Foreign Affairs Committee: Permanent Structured Cooperation [(a) Recommendation (NC), (b) Decision (NC)]
Home Affairs Committee: Delivering the EU’s Agenda on Migration [Commission Communication (C)]; Europol: exchanging personal data with third countries [Proposed Decisions (C)]
International Development Committee: Delivering the EU’s Agenda on Migration [Commission Communication (C)]
Joint Committee on Human Rights: Europol: exchanging personal data with third Countries [Proposed Decisions (C)]
3 April 2018