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Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Is the scrutiny of EU legislation only the preserve of the EU-critical?

Who cares about EU scrutiny?
The Hansard Society has today published a collection of essays on improving the current scrutiny of EU legislation in the UK Parliament - well worth a read. Open Europe's Christopher Howarth contributed an essay arguing for greater powers for national parliaments arguing "Scrutiny without power is not scrutiny, it is ritual" - along with a series of detailed suggestions (more on those later). Other contributors include Bill Cash MP, Chris Heaton Harris MP, Robert Broadhurst, Gisela Stuart MP and Lord Boswell and the foreword is written by none other than the Europe Minister David Lidington MP.

However, reading those names you might be struck by the absence of those on the more EU integrationist side of the UK EU debate. Surely those on all sides of the political spectrum have an interest in the EU's democratic accountability? Well here is what the Hansard Society's Ruth Fox had to say:
“A majority of the authors – though not all – might be said to occupy the more eurosceptic end of the political spectrum. We invited a wide range of politicians across all the major parties to our seminar in September 2012 but those who accepted came, in the main, from the eurosceptic perspective. Similarly, we invited a number of pro-Europeans to contribute to this pamphlet but, disappointingly, there were few expressions of interest. This underlines the concern that those engaging with the detail of European issues are drawn from too narrow a tranche of parliamentary representatives.”
So there you have it. Why are those who argue for the UK's place in Europe to remain unchanged and/or more integration so reluctant to say anything about increasing the ability of Parliament to scrutinise the goings on of the EU - what do they think they have to lose?


Anonymous said...

If eussr scrutiny is only being carried out by eurosceptics it is indeed bothersome, the europhiles will just acceot everything if they don't scrutinize what they are blindly signing up to.

Jesper said...

Might it be a symptom of increased polarisation?

If it is increased polarisation then I'd put the blame for the increased polarisation mostly on the integrationists. Their arguments tend to be a lot of the 'guilt by association' type. Critique the EU and risk being excommunicated from polite society and risk being associated with nazism...

It would be interesting to hear from someone in the integrationist camp: Is the EU perfect and therefore impossible to critique or would there be consequences (losing funding? ending career? losing job?) for anyone in the integrationist camp who dared to publicly criticise the current workings of the EU?

A code of silence should not be allowed among public servants. Are the integrationists in effect having a code of silence policy, are they not public servants or is there another explanation?

Rollo said...

Have you seen the European Parliament voting on legislation? Often several items are bunched into one because there are so many. Only the titles are read out, because no-one has the time to read the content. Then the vote: hands are simply raised, as sheep would if they had hands.
Even our own Parliament scrutiny committee only has time to look at 25% of items; and even then, they do nothing about the faults.

Rollo said...

Have you seen the European Parliament voting on legislation? Often several items are bunched into one because there are so many. Only the titles are read out, because no-one has the time to read the content. Then the vote: hands are simply raised, as sheep would if they had hands.
Even our own Parliament scrutiny committee only has time to look at 25% of items; and even then, they do nothing about the faults.

christina speight said...

This topic as stated is naive in the extreme. Firstly the europhiles have their hands on all the levers of power already so the whole corrupt edifice is already constructed to their design.

In country after country - as Eurobarometer increasingly shows - the peoples of Europe no longer trust those holding the power. We have France's National Front top of the polls, the Netherlands anti EU party also in the top slot. In Germany AfD made a stunning start and denied Merkel full power. In Britain UKIP is likely to upset the applecart in 2015 and possibly come top in the euro-elections. In Greece anti-EU sentiment runs ever higher.

The trend is clear and the sceptics are taking power.

jon livesey said...

There is no mystery here. It's a case of a cause selecting its own supporters.

This is pretty common. Talk to a Creationist and you will find yourself talking to someone who has trouble composing or critiquing logical arguments, who has little knowledge of biology, and who sees the World in terms of competing beliefs.

Did Creationism make them that way? No, it's simply that people like that are attracted by a belief system that makes minimal demands on their intellect, but offers an illusory promise of understanding the World.

Similarly, support for the EU is becoming more and more concentrated among insecure people who are comforted by the idea of a strong state looking after all the details of their daily life, and for whom the idea of scrutinizing that state is the last thing they want.

Anonymous said...

Again, Eurofascist Open Europe supporting the allegedly "Eurosceptic" policy of checking, negotiating, threatening, waiting ...


What the UK really needs is an in/out referendum as soon as possible.


jon livesey said...

"What the UK really needs is an in/out referendum as soon as possible."

It gets a bit tedious reading this day after day. If you want a referendum, you want a referendum you can *win*.

Try reading about the last UK referendum on the EU. It saw very wide swings in the lead up to the vote, and in the end the "in"s won.

If you want "out" to win this time, you'll have to wait until there is a significant majority in polls in favour of leaving, because a fair bit of that majority will get cold feet when faced with the actuality of voting.

A referendum that seeks to over-turn the status quo *always* has to have a good lead in the polls before the vote.

Wilfred Aspinall said...

I spent 12 years between 1986 - 1998 as a member of the European Economic and Social Committee, a part of which I sat as an Independent.  Since then as an EU Strategy Adviser for various concerns. I can tell you that whether you were  / are eurosceptic or not but simply undertaking a legislative scrutiny, in effect probing to understand the implications for the UK, business concerns, and people in general, whether the subsidiarity principle is being applied, some of us have been looked on as evil to the whole EU project if you argue against any proposal or try to recommend any sensible amendments

I would attend the European Parliament and still do and find that the scrutiny process is not even half baked and has worsened over the years. No examination on a clause by clause basis, often no contributions from MEPs whilst attending Committee. Voting in Committee on a show of hands often on over a thousand amendments tabled that nobody understands. The decision on that voting taken by the Rapporteur and Shadow Rapporteurs for each political Group. Often advised by the Group secretariat who in turn are not experts. The same applies in Plenary.

The speaking time controlled by the political Groups so that anybody who opposes a specific legislative proposal can be frozen out.

Specific important legislative proposals debated by MEPs who have little knowledge of the subject who listen to the lobby through their Assistants who in turn have no knowledge of the issue and are often undertaking their first employed job.

The same tactics in the Council where departmental civil servants examine the legislative proposals and try to negotiate the art of the possible. Direct opposition looked on as anti European and therefore instead looking for a compromise even before a debate has taken place. Where Ministers follow their Departmental brief and only concentrate on the main principle of the legislative proposal and not the detail.

When we then come to the UK scrutiny in the House of Commons we find that hardly 25% of EU legislative proposals are given any attention, the rest just nodded through. Where MP's don't get the chance to examine even the principles of the legislation and implementation is undertaken by Orders in Council - which are nodded through without debate and controlled by civil servants. Often nothing done until the EU legislative procedure has taken place and the Directive or Regulation has been adopted.

This is a tragedy to a democratic examination of the rules by which we are governed.

I have to admit I have not read the report mentioned, I will however read it,  but let's be clear each EU Directive or Regulation, each Commission Decision and Communication has an impact somewhere in this country. We need a greater analysis of what we want, how we can stop it, amend it even give consolidated support to make it compatible with our UK practices.  Whether it is in the national interest and we can find friends in the Council to act as a blocking minority to the vote covered by qualified majority voting.

Remember once passed we have to adopt the legislation even if we as a country do not like it.

It is for that reason that the pro European's don't want change because they are happy with the current structure which all moves in their direction. 

Wilfred Aspinall

Anonymous said...

The EU is imposing all kinds of over-regulation on London's Financial services sector.

Part of this regulation is a massive reporting regime for financial sector firms to the various EU financial services regulators such as the EBA, EMSA, ECB and others.

The question is :

What are these regulators doing with the information?!

EU regulators had lots of trade and other types of reporting in place when the credit crunch broke in 2008 and yet they didn't see it coming.

My bet, and I know that I am right, is that they are not looking at any of the reported data as ;

1. There is too much of it and it makes no sense. Much of it is contradictory.

2. There is nobody in the EU that has the skills to understand what the data points to.

It amounts to more cost for EU companies and a less competitive business environment.


Jesper said...

I don't remember reading much about John Dalli, the commissioner who resigned.

I came across this:
Contains a link to what is claimed to be the OLAF-report done before the resignation.

Might be of interest to people who are interested in scrutiny of EU-officials.