Tuesday 1 October 2013

EU Crackpots?

No matter how widely known and quoted the phrase "never believe what you read in newspapers" is, it often remains a surprise at how regularly the lesson it provides is ignored. This maxim is particularly true - doubly so in fact - when it comes to all matters EU.

Have genuine and hugely damaging examples of EU law and newspapers will ignore it. Throw them a bone of an inconsequential report that shows the EU up as nutters and they lap it up with gusto. Here we have a classic example from the Daily Express.

Despite it being a newspaper that advocates EU exit and despite its chief political commentator, Patrick O’Flynn putting himself forward as a UKIP candidate, it makes exactly the same errors as all the other papers. It appears to be completely incapable of putting forward a detailed and comprehensive case for EU exit. It ignored for example the reasons for VAT on pasties, despite being alerted to it in 2012 on twitter with acknowledgment. So in this spirit we come to the Daily Express's latest tabloid-style EU outrage. It thunders:
MEDDLING Euro politicians have put forward “crackpot” plans to force Britain to give gypsy women seats in the House of Commons.
Undoubtedly quite shocking if true, yet alarm bells always begin to ring when phrases such as "crackpot" and "meddling" are used. The EU does not "meddle", it is part of our country's government. Its job is to make laws for us, a process our country has fully signed up to, albeit without the full commitment of the British people. Unsurprisingly continuing to read on reveals more inconsistencies:
A report outlining a quota scheme is set to go before MEPs and may soon be adopted by the European Parliament.

If it becomes law, all the political parties in the UK will have to impose female gypsy candidates on the electorate and get them into ­Parliament.
For those who have followed the mechanics of EU institutions for some time would have already spotted the 'deliberate mistake'. But with this the Express has no desire to inform its readers, instead it wants to appeal to those who are used to “Parliament” making laws in the UK and who are unversed in the machinery of EU law.

EU lawmaking begins with the executive - the EU Commission - which is the only body that has the ability to propose new laws, and it can only do so with a legal basis that is outlined within EU treaties. The Commission proposes a draft law to both the EU Parliament and the Council which ultimately has to be approved by both bodies. 

This is 'ordinary legislative procedure', formally known before the Lisbon Treaty as 'co-decision' - the main legislative procedure by which EU directives and regulations are adopted. Article 294 lays the procedure here on page 197. The simplest way of describing the procedure is that it has three potential stages, or readings, and eight termination or exit points, for legislative outcomes - five exit points mean the act is adopted, three mean the act is not adopted.

With this in mind we immediately know that any report that goes before MEPs for possible adoption lies well outside the EU legislative procedure - it is not part of the lawmaking process. A quick look at the report itself confirms this:

In other words it is a non-legislative report and is non-binding. Nothing more than a kite flying exercise, which appears to have little support, it's nothing more than a Westminster Hall debate. Interestingly the Express carries quotes from UKIP MEP Gerald Batten:
Ukip Euro MP Gerard Batten said: “This is the start of yet another piece of ideologically motivated crackpot legislation from the EU. 
Only it's not legislation, it's not even close - a UKIP MEP should know this and he should be telling the British public that this is the case - informing the debate for exit. But he chooses not to. Batten continues:
"But if adopted, it’ll put yet more legal obligations on countries such as Britain with generous benefits systems. I can guarantee that when this goes before the European Parliament it will be voted for by a majority of MEPs. Ukip MEPs will of course vote against, but if we want to protect ourselves against the EU then we simply have to leave.”
Again he falls in line with the Express' article, clearly implying that adoption by the EU Parliament will place "legal obligations" on the UK. This is simply not the case, he should know better than this. But I guess this is the same chap who writes a paper that advocates a UK exit without invoking Article 50 - a policy of just ripping up international agreements which would be disastrous...a view that is now against official UKIP policy.


  1. Good blog Mr Frog, which I came to via Mr North. You and he do an important job, exposing the real from the bogus. Thank you.

  2. Was interested in your comment about Article 50 (the procedure for starting EU exit) and compliance with international (i.e. EU) legal obligation.

    If Britain is to stay in the EU for potentially 2 years while the terms of a post-EU membership relationship are decided, then perhaps you could give us an article on how we would cope with the following 'international' (i.e. EU) legal obligations....
    > Take 'any appropriate measure' to ensure fulfilment of the obligations arising out of the Treaties or resulting from acts of EU institutions, with 'sincere cooperation' [TEU Article 4]
    > Accepting the obligation to facilitate the achievement of the EU's tasks and refrain from any measure which could jeopardise the attainment of the EU's objectives [TEU Article 4]
    > Accepting as final and enforceable the decisions of the integrationist Court of Justice of the EU [TFEU Article 260, 280, 299]

    Whatever the incompatibility of what Batten proposes with 'international law', would there not be an argument for leaving the EU a.s.a.p., but in a way that guarantees a structured form of cooperation to wind down redundant working arrangements?

    Surely there could be some way of withdrawing from the EU a.s.a.p. in line with our constitutional requirements and the UN Charter that upholds self-government?

    There is nothing in the EU Treaty that specifies that discussion
    on our future relationship is necessarily done as an EU member.
    There are some treaty articles that commit the EU to freest possible trade with its neighbours and elimination of trade barriers, so a certain inertia would work in our favour.

    1. Regarding your comments on articles 4, 260, 280, 299 you may be interested in these




      The short answer is, taking ECJ decisions as an example, we can delay and ignore any EU decisions until we leave and then it no longer matters...