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That dirty rotten scoundrel Cameron saying one thing and doing another.

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That dirty rotten scoundrel Cameron saying one thing and doing another.

Post  Panda on Wed 13 Nov - 19:35

We're handing over more power to the EU – but the Government doesn't want you to know
The rush towards a criminal justice and policing 'opt-in' puts our national sovereignty at risk, writes Jacob Rees-Mogg.

David Cameron delivers his January speech on Britain and Europe Photo: Bloomberg
Jacob Rees-Mogg, MP By Jacob Rees-Mogg
1:30PM GMT 13 Nov 2013
One of the most important parts of the Lisbon Treaty was to change police and criminal justice measures from intergovernmental arrangements to a responsibility of the European Union. This removed the veto, brought in the European Parliament and allowed the Commission to bring enforcement actions via the Court of Justice. The United Kingdom was given a block opt-out to be applied before the deadline of December 1, 2014. This has now been exercised, removing the United Kingdom from 129 measures – and the Government is now deliberating on those which it wishes to rejoin.

The Government set out its position in July and in response to some pressure agreed to allow time for a number of House of Commons select committees to review its options. Last week the European Scrutiny Committee, chaired with great distinction by Bill Cash, produced its thorough report. It is an important work that was completed under a tight time frame much to the credit of the Chairman and the Clerks.

As a starting point, the report reviews the six broad categories that the 129 measures fall into. These are: measures intended to influence the criminal law; those affecting criminal procedures; mutual recognition of other member states’ decisions; police cooperation; EU agencies and international agreements between the European Union and third countries. It then explains how the opt-out works, the transitional arrangements and the ease of opting back in. It asks the key question of whether the UK would be able to establish equally effective alternative arrangements. Next, it assesses the Government’s reasons for wanting to opt back into 35 measures and examines the decision-making process. Finally, the report tries to establish the extent to which each decision is a matter of policy or principle.

The conclusion is troubling. The European Scrutiny Committee, of which I am a member, is critical of the process. The Government promised to inform Parliament of its intention in February but delayed until July. At that point there was much urgency which has hindered the efforts of the House of Commons to hold the Government to account. The claims made for the block opt-out and opt back in are exaggerated. Theresa May, the Home Secretary, says that the block opt-out is “first and foremost...about bringing powers home” and Chris Grayling, the Lord Chancellor, views it as “part of a process of bringing powers back to this country” yet many of the 94 measures that will be permanently opted out of are defunct or trivial while the 35 to be re-entered bring the full authority of the Court of Justice of the European Union, the Commission and the European Parliament to bear.

This is a tangible transfer of power against an intangible return. As the report says: “Adherence to any legally binding EU police and criminal justice measure brings with it the risk of legal principles and practices of other jurisdictions influencing or interfering with our own, as the Court of Justice will have the ultimate say on how it is interpreted and applied.”

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The decision-making process itself is a matter of concern as similar measures are almost randomly opted into. Two specific examples from the report are worth quoting. Why does the national interest require participation in a peer review of national capabilities to tackle organised crime but not terrorism? Why is it worth remaining in part of a network of contact points for exchanging information on the investigation of genocide but opting out of a related measure to investigate this crime? The terms “national interest” and “reputational risk” are used to justify opt-ins without any real explanation of their meaning or specific relevance. They are a catch-all for whatever the Government wants to do. Probably, as the Lord Chancellor said: “It is the nature of coalition governments that you have to reach collective agreements.” However, the Coalition agreement itself said that there would be no further transfer of power to Brussels and unless failing to exercise the block opt-out is deemed to be the status quo any opt-ins are a surrender of sovereignty.

Fortunately, there is still time before any irrevocable opt-in is confirmed. It will prove a real test of the Government’s mettle and of its leading figures’ dispositions. If they cede ground on this what prospect is there for renegotiation?

Jacob Rees-Mogg is the Conservative MP for North East Somerset


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