Documents considered by the Committee on 27 June 2018 Contents

1The European Citizens’ Initiative

Committee’s assessment

Legally and politically important

Committee’s decision

Not cleared from scrutiny; further information requested; drawn to the attention of the Committee on Exiting the European Union

Document details

Proposal for a Regulation on the European Citizens’ Initiative

Legal base

Article 24 TFEU, ordinary legislative procedure, QMV

Department

Cabinet Office

Document Number

(39040), 12307/17 + ADDs 1–2, COM(17) 482

Summary and Committee’s conclusions

1.1The European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) was introduced by the Lisbon Treaty. It is intended to give EU citizens a direct say in shaping the laws that govern them by inviting the Commission to propose new measures in areas where it has powers to act under the EU Treaties. A 2011 Regulation sets out the procedures and conditions for implementing the ECI. These seek to ensure that an ECI is representative of opinion across the EU. To reach the stage of formal examination by the Commission, the ECI must attract the support of at least one million EU citizens and achieve a minimum number of signatories in at least a quarter of all Member States—the qualifying threshold for signatories in the UK is currently 54,000.1

1.2Following a process of review and consultation, the Commission has concluded that the ECI has not met its full potential and, unless made more accessible for EU citizens and less burdensome for organisers, could eventually become obsolete.2 It has proposed a new Regulation on the European Citizens’ Initiative which seeks to remove “bottlenecks” in the operation of the ECI and clarify the rules and conditions governing its use.3 Most of the changes are designed to streamline the ECI process. The most eye-catching is giving young people aged 16 the right to support an ECI, even if they have not reached voting age in their home Member State. The Regulation is expected to apply from 1 January 2020, although some preparatory provisions would take effect earlier.

1.3The Government largely supports the changes proposed by the Commission and has made clear that extending the right to participate in an ECI to 16-year olds would not affect the franchise for elections in the UK. It intends to “engage openly and cooperatively with our EU partners” while still a member of the EU and “consider all our obligations and take decisions in relation to the timing and implementation of these proposals as required during the exit negotiations period”.4

1.4Whilst we, too, have no concerns with the substance of the proposed Regulation, we have sought to clarify how it (and the earlier 2011 Regulation) will be dealt with under the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill and the Withdrawal Agreement and Implementation Bill, as well as how the UK’s exit from the EU will affect the participation of UK citizens (either as organisers or signatories) in ECIs initiated before exit day.

1.5In her letter of 25 April, the Minister for the Constitution (Chloe Smith) told us that:

1.6In our Report agreed on 9 May, we noted that the draft EU/UK Withdrawal Agreement appeared to contradict the Minister’s view that the 2011 Regulation on European Citizens’ Initiatives and its proposed successor would apply to the UK during the transition/implementation period (for reasons we explain in the background section of this chapter).5 We asked the Minister to explain this apparent contradiction.

1.7We also asked the Minister:

1.8We questioned the Minister’s assertion that UK nationals would no longer be EU citizens from 30 March 2019, given that the draft Withdrawal Agreement provides that “Union law shall be applicable to and in the United Kingdom during the transition period” unless it is expressly stated not to apply and that any reference to Member States in EU law “shall be understood as including the United Kingdom”.6 We asked the Minister to clarify the status of UK nationals during the transition/implementation period and the extent to which they would be entitled to exercise rights associated with EU citizenship. We also requested further information on the concept of associated citizenship being mooted within the EU and the Government’s position on its feasibility.

1.9In her letter of 6 June, the Minister explains that only the parts of the proposed Regulation that are “operative […] at the time of our departure will be retained by the Bill”, adding:

“This staggered applicability may mean that only certain parts of the Regulation may be retained by the Bill.”

The relevant provisions of the draft Withdrawal Agreement (Articles 121 and 122) mean that “the 2011 Regulation […] and any successor agreed before the UK leaves the EU or during the implementation period will not apply to UK nationals during the implementation period”. The UK will, however, “continue to implement and recognise” this legislation “insofar as it applies to the rights of EU nationals in the UK”.

1.10The Minister reiterates that British nationals will no longer hold EU citizenship when the UK ceases to be a member of the EU unless they are also a dual national of another EU Member State, but adds:

“The terms of the implementation period reached with the EU in March mean that UK nationals will, for certain purposes, be treated as if they are EU citizens, such as in relation to the right to move and reside freely, but they will not retain all the rights that flow from EU citizenship during this period, for example the right to vote and stand as candidates in the European Parliament.”

1.11Whilst “associate citizenship” has been suggested by some members of the European Parliament, the Minister considers that this would require changes to the EU Treaties.

1.12Since writing, officials at the Cabinet Office have informed us that the Council will be invited to agree a general approach on the proposed Regulation before the end of the Bulgarian Presidency, most likely on 26 June.

Our Conclusions

1.13It is unfortunate that the Minister was unable to give us earlier warning of the Bulgarian Presidency’s intention to seek a general approach on the proposed Regulation before its term ends on 30 June. We ask her to report back to us on the outcome of the Council meeting, highlighting any significant changes to the Commission’s original proposal and explaining the position taken by the Government. We would also welcome details of the European Parliament’s position (once agreed) and the prospects for reaching agreement on a compromise text before the UK leaves the EU.

1.14We remain unclear as to the status in domestic law of the 2011 Regulation and its proposed successor post-exit. The Minister indicates that the UK will “implement and recognise” EU legislation on European Citizens’ Initiatives during a post-exit transition/implementation period “insofar as it applies to the rights of EU nationals in the UK” but says it will not apply to UK nationals. This distinction between the rights of EU citizens and UK nationals during the transition/implementation period is not apparent in Article 122 of the draft EU/UK Withdrawal Agreement which states simply that EU measures based on Article 24(1) TFEU “shall not be applicable to and in the United Kingdom during the transition period”. We ask the Minister to clarify what she means by “staggered applicability” and how this can be reconciled with the current wording of the draft EU/UK Withdrawal Agreement. Does she anticipate that the Agreement will need to include specific provisions on transitional arrangements for European Citizens’ Initiatives?

1.15Pending further information, the proposed Regulation remains under scrutiny. We draw this chapter to the attention of the Committee on Exiting the European Union.

Full details of the documents

Proposed Regulation on the European Citizens’ Initiative: (39040), 12307/17 + ADDs 1–2, COM(17) 482.

Background

1.16Our earlier Reports listed at the end this chapter provide a more detailed overview of the proposed Regulation and the Government’s position.

1.17Under Articles 121 and 122 of the draft EU/UK Withdrawal Agreement, EU law will continue to apply during a transition/implementation period ending on 31 December 2020, subject to a number of exceptions. One of these exceptions concerns EU measures based on Article 24 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).7 The 2011 Regulation on the European Citizens’ Initiative and its proposed successor are both based on Article 24 TFEU. This Treaty Article authorises the EU Council and European Parliament to establish the procedures and conditions for citizens’ initiatives. Article 122(1) of the draft Withdrawal Agreement provides that measures based on Article 24(1) TFEU “shall not be applicable to and in the United Kingdom during the transition period”.

The Minister’s letter of 6 June 2018

1.18The Minister first seeks to clarify whether the 2011 Regulation and its proposed successor will form part of the body of retained EU law incorporated by the EU (Withdrawal) Bill:

“The purpose of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill is to provide for a functioning statute book on the day we leave the EU without prejudice to the outcome of the negotiations. To ensure there is maximum clarity within our statute book, the Bill is designed to preserve and retain within our domestic law EU law which applies in the UK immediately before our departure from the EU, as far as is possible and appropriate.

“Therefore the Regulation and its successor will only be retained within the Bill if they are not only in force but are stated to apply in the UK before our departure from the EU. If certain parts of the Regulation are stated to apply before our exit and others are not, only the operative parts at the time of our departure will be retained by the Bill. This staggered applicability may mean that only certain parts of the Regulation may be retained by the Bill.”

1.19If the 2011 Regulation and its proposed successor are to be incorporated by the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, we asked the Minister what further action might be needed to disapply the legislation during the transition/implementation period. She responds:

“The UK is leaving the EU on 29 March 2019 and from this point UK nationals will no longer be EU citizens unless they hold dual nationality with another EU Member State. As agreed at Articles 121 and 122 of the draft Withdrawal Agreement, the 2011 Regulation on European Citizens’ Initiatives and any successor agreed before the UK leaves the EU or during the implementation period will not apply to UK nationals during the implementation period.

“For the duration of the implementation period, the UK will continue to implement and recognise the 2011 Regulation on European Citizens’ Initiatives and any successor agreed before the UK leaves the EU or during the implementation period, insofar as it applies to the rights of EU nationals in the UK.

“The Withdrawal Agreement and Implementation Bill will implement the major elements of the Withdrawal Agreement and will therefore also make provision to give effect to the provision agreed in relation to citizens’ rights.”

1.20The Minister seeks to clarify the status of UK nationals during the transition/implementation and the extent to which they will be entitled to exercise rights associated with EU citizenship:

“EU treaty provisions make it clear that only citizens of EU Member States are able to hold EU citizenship. Therefore, when the UK ceases to be a member of the European Union, British nationals will no longer hold EU citizenship unless they hold dual nationality with another Member State.

“The UK recognises dual nationality, but not all countries do. Each Member State will have different rules surrounding citizenship—some will allow dual nationality, some will not.

“The terms of the implementation period reached with the EU in March mean that UK nationals will, for certain purposes, be treated as if they are EU citizens, such as in relation to the right to move and reside freely, but they will not retain all the rights that flow from EU citizenship during this period, for example the right to vote and stand as candidates in the European Parliament.”

1.21Finally, responding to our request for further information on the concept of associated citizenship, the Minister observes:

“The Government is determined to get the best possible deal for UK nationals living in the EU and is considering very carefully the options open to it. Associate citizenship is a matter that has been suggested by some members of the European Parliament but is not currently provided for by the EU Treaties. The Government believes that changes to the Treaties would therefore be required to pursue this further.”

Previous Committee Reports

Twenty-seventh Report HC 301–xxvi (2017–19), chapter 3 (9 May 2018) and Fourth Report HC 301–iv (2017–19), chapter 2 (6 December 2017).


1 The threshold for signatories corresponds to the number of MEPs elected in each Member State, multiplied by 750 (roughly approximating to the total number of MEPs—751—in the European Parliament). Under the changes proposed by the Commission, the minimum number of signatories in the UK would increase to 54,750.

2 See p.8 of the Commission Staff Working Document—ADD 2.

3 See p.3 of the Commission’s explanatory memorandum accompanying the proposed Regulation.

4 See the Explanatory Memorandum of14 November 2017 submitted by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Cabinet Office (Chris Skidmore).

5 See Articles 121 and 122 of the draft Withdrawal Agreement.

6 See Article 122 of the draft Withdrawal Agreement.

7 Strictly-speaking, Article 122(1)(b) of the draft Withdrawal Agreement refers to the first paragraph of Article 24 TFEU.




Published: 3 July 2018