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Friday, May 31, 2013

Hague says UK wants national parliaments to have power to show 'red card' to EU proposals

William Hague backs giving national parliaments
a new 'red card' to replace the current yellow card
William Hague will today further develop plans for a new 'red card' system for national parliaments to block unwelcome laws from Brussels, a move first proposed by Europe Minister David Lidington a couple of weeks ago. In a speech in Germany, Hague will argue that only by giving greater powers to national MPs, rather than MEPs in the European Parliament, will Europe be able to restore the democratic deficit.

The proposed 'red card' would beef up the little-known 'yellow card' system already in place, which is pretty weak in practice since it only forces the Commission to ‘reconsider’ a proposal.

We have long championed this approach and the idea of a ‘red card’ in particular, including in our paper making the case for ‘European localism’, published in 2011. Today, our Director Mats Persson backed the move and is quoted by PA as saying,
"Allowing national parliaments to block unwanted EU laws would go a long way to bring back democratic accountability over EU decisions.”
"However, whilst it's encouraging that the UK government is looking at this, it must press ahead with this reform now to avoid the impression that it has no immediate strategy in Europe - a charge that's becoming more frequent. There's support for this reform in other parts of the EU."
This is the first major proposal for EU reform the Government has made since Cameron's speech and it is a very welcome one. The fact Hague will make his speech in Germany is no accident and there is certainly a great deal of support for this idea amongst other member states who feel that for too long the EU institutions have run roughshod over national politics - yesterday's intervention from the Commission on migrant benefits (another area where the UK's concerns are shared with other powerful EU countries) is a case in point.

Its also worth noting that this option would enjoy substantial support among the UK public with 42% of respondents in the recent ComRes poll for Open Europe listing "giving the UK parliament more powers to block unwanted EU laws" as one of their top four priorities for renegotiation. Of all the available options, this was the second most popular after immigration.

We need to see much more of the same and, all importantly, the political will to make it a reality.


Jesper said...

A red-card system combined with the possibility to appeal previously implemented regulations/directives would be a good start.

Directives seem to be agreed, then written and after the directive is written only then it is possible to see the effect of the directive. If it is done some other way then I don't understand how the commission can be seen to be taking countries to court so often? Countries can block so why didn't they block but instead resort to delay implementation?

Currently countries have practically no way of changing/vetoing a directive after it has been written and implemented. A bad law made in Sweden can be changed, a bad regulation coming from the EU can not be changed and EUrocrats might be many things but they are most certainly not infallible so there WILL be bad regulations. Since regulations can be bad, it should be possible to change them and the current system makes that a practical impossibility.

I saw some statistics about challenges made to directives/regulations based on the subsidiarity principle. Old statistics but there were many complaints. Few complaints were upheld. It might be a good idea to go through those complaints again. Were the complaints not upheld as some countries thought that while the decision should have been taken at national level they didn't object as they'd have taken the same decision anyway at a national level?

Rollo said...

We used to call this a veto, before our politicians gave it away.

Freedom Lover said...

The astonishing thing is that this hadn't been proposed years ago. Britain - & others - should veto any treaties until this "red card" system is in operation!

christhai said...

One can imagine Dan Hannan saying, "Hey look, this is a Conservative idea, we thought of it first!"

Modifications to "immigration Laws", changes to European Parliamentary procedures, or Cameron's infamous, "I will jolly well renegotiate the membership rules of the UK or give the people a Referendum - so there.

It is all pissing on a burning building which is out of all control.

All of these "silly little cosmetic fixes, all these "Band-Aids on a burst artery" are simply taking the eyes of the public - OFF the Ball.

If anyone, other than UKIP, are serious about EU Reform, then let the UK invoke Article 50 and begin the leaving process, during which negotiations to halt our departure, may begin in earnest - or not.

The FIRST and ONLY important consideration is that the UK breaks off all political contact, and abrogates all EU / UK contracts as soon as possible.

Anonymous said...

This is a nothing idea that will come to nothing, because there isn't anyone in the Liblabcon/EUSSR Party who will EVER show a "red card" on any policy.

This is distraction, pure and simple.

Time and time again, Hague proves himself to be a cowardly Eurofascist.

Rik said...


'It is all pissing on a burning building which is out of all control'.

Fully agree but did you realise it are your neighbours (and you live in an appartmentblock, I might add)

Denis Cooper said...

Rollo -

If it's a veto it's not the national veto we used to have before politicians gave it away.

The crucial point is that it's always a group of "parliaments", plural, that could show a yellow card or a red card or whatever; our national Parliament would not have its own national veto which it could exercise independently of other parliaments.

Back in January we had a demonstration of how this works; our MPs debated whether there should be an EU Directive prescribing gender quotas for company boards, the House went along with the government's position that any such EU law would breach the principle of subsidiarity and accordingly sent a "reasoned opinion" to Brussels, and nine days later it was announced that our Parliament had been outvoted by other national parliaments and the Commission was going ahead anyway.


"Parliaments back EU-level gender quota law"

"Most national parliaments in EU countries say the European Commission should go ahead with a law on female quotas on corporate boards. But six disagree.

Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva told press in Brussels on Wednesday (16 January) the consultation with MPs was not about the content of the proposal, but about "subsidiarity" - the question whether a given problem is best tackled at EU or local level.

Parliaments are entitled under the Lisbon Treaty to provide opinions on whether proposals adopted by the commission subscribe to the subsidiarity principle. If one third contest, then the commission must review its draft."

Anonymous said...


Our neighbours set fire to the building and are trying to lock us in.

The time for red cards has gone.

The people want their politicians to listen and give them their Referendum. The democratic deficit will split the UK if this continues further.

My trust in Parliament and our MPs is near zero.

Jesper said...

Fun to read some old analysis:

" True subsidiarity would mean that all proposals start bottom-up rather than top-down. National parliaments could meet and decide the annual catalogue of laws and also decide whether they propose binding EU laws or softer instruments such as voluntary coordination. Today the annual catalogue is decided by the Commission after consultations with the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament.

True subsidiarity could also mean a first reading of all proposals for EU regulation in the national parliament’s specialised committees followed up by formal decisions in the plenary or the European Affairs committee with a protocol showing who voted for and against.

True subsidiarity could also mean a more precise description of a European catalogue of competencies including a description of competencies of the member states.

The Lisbon Treaty proposes a so-called competence catalogue in Art. 4-6 TFEU. The wordings are so broad that the Danish government has not been able to mention one single Danish law which cannot be touched upon by the Lisbon Treaty.

The European Court can reach all national laws and also overrule the national constitutions. With the Lisbon Treaty there will be no area of national legislation which cannot be affected by EU law or verdicts. If the European institutions may also reach or touch every corner of national law then everything changes for the worse "

Especially the closing remark:

"Today far reaching verdicts can change the distribution of competences between the member states and Brussels. These changes can only be repealed by a change in the basic treaties. This requires a unanimously decided treaty amendment followed up by ratifications in all 27 national parliaments. "

Combined with this:

"The problem boils down to the current trend of making basic EU laws very general.

This helps achieve consensus in politically important but sensitive areas, on the understanding that the nitty gritty will be fixed at the secondary legislation level.

Secondary legislation is either a general delegated act or a more technical implementing act enabling the European Commission to respectively tweak laws or decide on how they should be implemented."

Commission in control of the nitty gritty, ECJ interprets nitty gritty -> Competences can with ease be transferred from national parliaments.

Denis Cooper said...

Jesper -

"National parliaments could meet and decide the annual catalogue of laws and also decide whether they propose binding EU laws or softer instruments such as voluntary coordination."

I wouldn't really want our national Parliament involved in that, or in any other arrangement which ends with decisions being made by transnational majority voting.

I just want our national Parliament to have its own national veto on everything, not just EU treaty changes but every proposed EU law.

That's because I believe in our national sovereignty and democracy, and totally reject a pan-European federal system or any attempts to edge us in that direction.

Jesper said...

@Denis Cooper,

I think & hope we might be saying the same thing: National parliaments to have the supreme power to legislate.

Coordination with other parliaments if, and only if, the parliament so chooses and no power can force the national parliament to coordinate against the parliaments wishes. All decisions are to be taken by national parliaments and a national parliament can reverse a decision it has taken without consultation with others.

It would turn the EP and a few other EU-institutions into places to discuss and nothing more. No supra-national power.