Monday, October 25, 2010

A couple of interesting items from the House of Lords

Here is Lord Stoddart again, this time asking a Written Question:
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Neville-Jones on 11 October (WA 40) concerning the European Investigation Order, whether they will reconsider their decision to accede to the directive before final agreement is made; and what arrangements they are making for Parliamentary discussions of this issue.
Naturally enough, HMG does not exactly bother to reconsider anything, no matter how foolish it was. But we do have another problem. Even if they did, mirabile dictu, reconsider their decision to opt in the European Investigation Order, they cannot do anything about it, as Lady Neville-Jones explains:
My Answer of 11 October 2010 stated that the United Kingdom will be unable to withdraw from the directive. I can further explain that, in line with Article three of Protocol 21 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union concerning the position of the United Kingdom (and Ireland) in respect of the area of freedom, security and justice, the UK is able to opt in to a draft directive within the three month opt-in period, but that the Government cannot then subsequently reverse this decision (to opt in). This means that the UK will be bound by any text that is agreed after qualified majority voting (QMV) in the Council of Ministers. However, should the Government not like the final negotiated proposal the UK can vote against it and attempt to form a blocking minority alongside other likeminded member states in order to prevent its adoption.
Good luck with that: the new rules for QMV make it well-nigh impossible to form a blocking minority. The whole process used to be rather easy as this BBC site explains: there were 87 votes and 62 were needed to pass a proposal while 27 constituted a blocking majority. You could do a bit of negotiating here and there. All that has changed. This gives you some idea of the complications, which are due to increase in 2014 when a system of double majority will be introduced as it was decided in the Constitutional Lisbon Treaty. (Article 16 on page 24 of the Treaty on European Union, known as the TEU, since you ask.)

The House of Commons produced a good paper on the Treaty of Nice (whose arrangements for QMV still stand) and pages 19 to 24 discuss the subject exhaustively. Suffice it to say that, at present, a blocking minority in most circumstances is 91 votes. As I said good luck with getting that on any important subject.

On the same day there was a Written Statement from Lord Howell of Guildford, which was a copy of the one in the Commons, made by David Liddington. It summed up what was going to take place in the forthcoming Foreign Affairs Council, to be attended by that great giant of international statesmanship, William Hague and the General Affairs Council, to be attended by another giant of political thinking, David Liddington.

I thought this paragraph might be of interest, given the Prime Minister's stated intention to lead a rebellion about the EU Budget, which has, in fact, been decided on.
October European Council

Ministers will look ahead to the October European Council, which takes place in Brussels on 28 and 29 October and will be attended by the Prime Minister. The Council agenda includes economic governance, the Single Market Act, climate change, the Seoul G20 summit, and the EU-US summit. There may also be discussions on the EU-Russia summit, Pakistan (see below) and the EU budget review.
It would appear that a possible discussion of the budget is very low on that list. What we really need to be paying attention to is the Boy-King's stand on that economic governance.


  1. "Between 1977 and 1982, Neville-Jones was seconded to the EU commission where she worked as deputy and then chef de cabinet to commissioner Christopher Tugendhat, making her a fully paid-up member of the 'project'."

  2. Oh she is a thoroughly unpleasant and unreliable person but she is not speaking as an individual here. Nor did she actually write her reply.

  3. Ooops! How utterly incompetent. I was posting a reply from another computer and forgot to put my name on. Anyway, that guest is moi.