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Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Parliament needs to get a grip on EU justice and home affairs laws

At a time when MEPs are trying to grasp every possible opportunity to extend their own powers (and give themselves more cash), it’s about time that national parliamentarians showed some assertiveness over EU decision-making – or they risk becoming even more marginalised in EU affairs. The Lisbon Treaty shifted substantial control away from national parliaments to MEPs (hardly credible protectors of democracy in Europe), the Commission and EU judges. As a result, the UK Parliament was weakened (and the Lisbon Treaty’s yellow card procedure did not make up for this, as now is becoming increasingly clear).

But MPs now have a chance to claim some of these powers back.

How? In a new briefing published today, we argue that by a series of simple amendments to the Government's proposed EU 'referendum lock', the UK Parliament could turn itself into one of the most powerful chambers in Europe, insofar as EU policy is concerned. These amendments would require Ministers to seek the approval of Parliament before signing up to any EU laws in justice and home affairs. If the answer is No, the government can’t opt in.

This may seem like a boring detail, but on the contrary – it’s absolutely vital.

For the first time, this would give Parliament, and voters, a real democratic check on the extension of the EU's powers – although it would still fall far short of repairing all the damage caused by the erosion of democracy through successive EU Treaties.

Policing, crime, immigration and asylum are issues are hugely politically sensitive and any decisions to sign up to new EU laws in these areas need to be thoroughly debated and democratically accountable. This should be Parliament's job. As the German Constitutional Court argued in its ruling on the Lisbon Treaty:

Due to the fact that democratic self-determination is affected in an especially sensitive manner by provisions of criminal law and criminal procedure, the corresponding basic powers in the treaties must be interpreted strictly - on no account extensively -, and their use requires particular justification.

As it currently stands, the Government's proposed Bill, although a significant step forward, fails to address the day-to-day transfer of crime, policing and immigration powers from the UK to the EU. So any decision to opt in to a proposal like the controversial European Arrest Warrant will not be covered by the lock.

And the thing is, justice and home affairs is the area in which the EU gains the most new powers under the Lisbon Treaty. The EU now has two Commissioners rather than one, 17 databases and a rapidly expanding budget to fulfil its ambitions here.

Most importantly, European judges will have the final say over any law that the UK Government decides to opt in to. By definition, this is a transfer of powers.

In other words, it's a zero-sum game: every new justice or policing law the Government signs up to gives more power to the EU institutions at the expense of MPs, Parliament and the British courts. This is a big decision, which currently rests solely on Government Ministers' discretion.

The EU's growing ambitions in justice and home affairs deserve Parliament's undivided attention. It is perfectly reasonable for MPs to demand the power to vote on these crucial decisions that the Government makes in the name of their constituents. In fact, it would be a dereliction of duty not to.


PaulN said...

I am as horrified by the sweeping cross-border powers of the new EU gendarmerie as I am by the apathy of our MPs who continue to watch UK sovereignty leech away to the EU. UK Parliament - our democratic instrument - will soon be just a regional assembly in a European super-state. But this is of course the declared agenda of the Europeans anyway.
When will our MPs wake up to their loss and this betrayal of our democracy? So what are MPs for I really wonder?

Anonymous said...

We should not be dictated to by the EU as the Lisbon Treaty was a failed document even before it started, that Moron Gordon Brown had NO Right at all to sign it as he knew at the time that he was at the front of a 'failed party' which would be OUT of power very soon, and the Moron still went ahead against everybody's wishes
just to spite all of Britain, that Treaty should be scrapped immediately so that WE the people can have our say, governments are supposed to "Govern on behalf of the people" we haven't seen much of that.

Anonymous said...

The whole of the UK transfer of powers to Europe from the very beginning has been a big mistake. If Tony Blair had not been brownnosing to europe for his own ends we would not be in this mess today. Every move approved by the government of transfer of any power at all to Europe should be amended ASAP. If David Cameron has any idea of how the majority british people think and feel he would know this. If he does not kerb Europe's interference in British policies he may well be very sorry at the next election.

David Barneby said...

I fully endorse the two above posts .
I would go further and say that the present British Government should renege on the Lisbon Treaty . Is the British government just a gutless louse ?
The Lisbon treaty was only introduced by slight of hand and should never have been accepted by EU member states . Gordon Brown was knowingly a TRAITOR to Britain and the British people .

John. Leicester said...

It is a sad fact that our MP,s are sleepwalking into extinction. They no longer have the intelligence nor the will to understand the complexities of the EU legislations. Our so-called "wonderful" Democracy has given us a House full of Actors,Professional Politicians,full of their own importance but without the brains to do the job or the desire to serve the public rather than themselves.

FullOn said...

Fully agree with anonymous regarding the signing of this pernicious treaty. Giving this level of power to the EU will be catastrophic for the UK and WILL definately terminate our Sovereignty.
The level of power the EU has over us already has proved detremental in many aspects to our lifestyle and will ultimately render our parliamentary system unnecessary.

delboy said...

I am in full agreement with all the 6 comments. Its time Cameron addressed the problem of the Lisbon treaty and the ridiculous human rights bill.
He needs to get a grip and revise all his manifesto promises and stop giving ground to the lib dems who conned Cameron into the coalition I voted for a Conseravative goverment on the basis of Camerons promises appears it was all a fantasy

Anonymous said...

Totally agree with anonymous. So many promises by our Prime Minister but not a lot of action on the EU front