The Balance of Competences report on Police and Criminal Justice has been published today. Based on the evidence submitted the report reached the following conclusions:

“The majority of respondents pointed to the benefits of practical co-operation mechanisms (such as the EU Organised Crime Policy Cycle).

There is a broad consensus that more time is needed for the current legislation to be fully implemented and bedded down before consideration of any further legislative instruments.

Views are split about whether the collapse from Third into First pillar was necessary or has been of benefit to this area. The European Parliament has an enhanced role as co-legislator while the overall responsibility to keep people safe is retained by governments. For some this raised issues of democratic accountability, while others considered the development positively as potentially providing balance in tensions between internal security and personal liberty.

The ‘opt-in’ under Protocol 21 to the Treaties is seen as a positive tool, however opinions diverged on how and when it is best used. There were concerns, in particular from legal practitioners, that a decision not to opt in to new proposals had the potential to negatively impact the United Kingdom’s ability to influence negotiations. However there was also evidence from stakeholders who felt that the ability of the UK to opt in on a case-by-case basis was beneficial, allowing the Government to, for example, consider the impact of proposals in light of our specific legal systems.

Judicial and police cooperation benefit from both ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ arrangements resulting from EU action.

Improving procedural standards across Member States was widely supported, however there was a lack of consensus regarding what, if any, role the EU has in delivering on this. Instruments based on mutual recognition require trust in the level of procedural standards in other Member States, but views were mixed as to whether EU legislation setting out such minimum procedural standards is the best vehicle for achieving this, or whether the aims could be achieved through inter-governmental agreements or non-legislative means.

There is no appetite for standardising criminal law. Mutual recognition has helped to address issues raised by the differing penal codes and criminal justice systems in each Member State.

Progress is needed to rebalance action in this area better to support victims of crime. Victims’ groups in particular considered EU action to have been insufficiently focussed on areas key for them such as supporting victims and witnesses when engaging with Criminal Justice Systems (CJS) in other Member states.

Emerging challenges include responding to the increasingly international nature of crime such as the evolving nature of the threat from foreign fighters, terrorists and serious and organised crime gangs who operate without respect for national or EU borders and increasing technological challenges, including cybercrime – which does not recognise physical borders. To tackle these challenges the Government need to ensure a genuine focus on practical cooperation is established, as well as finding ways to work more effectively with partners in EU Member States and in third countries.

Further challenges include adapting to full European Court of Justice (ECJ) jurisdiction from 1 December 2014, and the effective implementation of existing legislation.”

Margarida Vasconcelos was quoted as saying:

“The ordinary legislative procedure and qualified majority voting are the rule, and, accordingly, the secret trilogues and first reading deals have been extended to these matters [...] with adverse consequences to the UK democracy and sovereignty.”

”The CJEU has been deeply interfering with the UK legal system, overriding national rules as regards a wide range of EU policies and legislation [...] the CJEU’s interpretations are likely to change the content, reach and impact of measures and the way they apply to the UK. The CJEU has been expanding the reach and scope of European Law, using a purposive interpretation, to promote European integration.” Please read here Margarida Vasconcelos - evidence.

The European Court of Auditors published yesterday a special report entitled “EU-funded airport infrastructures: poor value for money”. The EU’s airport infrastructures have received around €4.5 billion, over the 2000-2013 programme periods, through the European Regional Development Fund, the Cohesion Fund and the Trans-European Transport Networks (TEN‑T). The Court scrutinized 20 EU funded airports in Estonia, in Greece, in Italy, Poland and in Spain, which received from the European Regional Development Fund and the Cohesion Fund 666 million euro from 2000 to 2013, €460 million of that total was audited. The report reveals that only half of these airports could in fact show the need for EU-funded investment, and the Court concluded “the EU‑funded investments in airports produced poor value for money.” ...continue reading

Pursuant to Article 17 TEU and Article 245 TFEU the European commissioners are required to swear a solemn declaration, before the Court of Justice of the European Union, pledging to be completely independent in carrying out their responsibilities in the general interest of the Union as well as to respect the Treaties and the Charter of Fundamental Rights in the fulfilment of their duties. The European Commissioners are therefore required to be independent and to act on the Union general interests.

Hence, Lord Hill is required to uphold all the principles and values enshrined in the Treaties and the Charter of Fundamental rights. He is bound to represent the interests of the EU as a whole rather than the UK. Consequently, Lord Hill is prevented to uphold and protected the UK’s interest. Lord Hill is required to act and defend the Union general interest hence he will not be able to defend the City of London interests, particularly if they conflict with the EU’s general interest. ...continue reading

The Daily Mail reports: “Britain has been forced to hand over £15 million to the European Union to settle a bizarre dispute over garlic.” It pointed out “Brussels demanded the sum because it ruled that the UK did not charge enough duty on shipments of garlic from China.” The ECJ held that “the British taxman should have classed the imported garlic as fresh rather than frozen, and so charged a higher tariff.” ...continue reading

From globalisation to the financial crash and from climate change to the european debt crisis, the challenges of the 21st century have produced small and defensive politicians whose obsession with deficit reduction has bled into a reductionism of the spirit of endeavour, patriotism, pride and citizenship. Nowhere is this more evident in today's Italy, whose condition as a nation state has been gradually eroded by an unprecedented surrender of its sovereignty to Brussels and an abdication of responsibility at a national political level. For years now the Italian public debate has been dominated by a series of academic theories in supercilious economism where the european construction proved to be a great cover up to minimize or even hide the effects of an historical period which has marked Italy's recent decadence. Some Italian politicians are certainly to be blamed for having allowed this to happen but the Brussels elite bears the ultimate responsibility for having devised too much "europeinism" at the expence of Italian internal politics and economics. It is during the 80's and beginning of the 90's, when the framework of the Italian political and constitutional system was in urgent need of reform ( from the pension schemes to the welfare system, from public expenditure to excess state debt ) to grant a proper functioning of its democracy, that the Italian political class and its public opinion declined responsability and started looking at Brussels and the European construction for cover. The Italian left in particular, with an exemplary lack of foresight, was its main actor.  ...continue reading

The 1st of December 2014 is indeed, as described by the European Commission, “the beginning of a new era for the whole field of Justice and Home Affairs”. It is important to recall that the Lisbon Treaty abolished the Maastricht Treaty pillar structure and the third pillar provisions on police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters were incorporated into the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. The so-called “third pillar” has now officially ended and as First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said “From December 1st, no more special status: all EU policies for police and criminal justice are “normal” EU policies.” In fact, Member States gave up part of their sovereignty over police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters, which since 2009 is no longer intergovernmental but subject to the Community method, consequently there is no veto power, and this is irreversible. The ordinary legislative procedure and qualified majority voting are the rule, and, accordingly, the secret trialogues and first reading deals have been extended to these matters, as well as the principles of Community law, created by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), such as supremacy of EU law, direct effect, indirect effect and state liability.  From 1 December 2014 the new system is fully applicable. The CJEU has full jurisdiction to review and interpret measures on judicial cooperation in criminal matters and police cooperation. ...continue reading

Bill Cash presented yesterday a Bill make provision for the supremacy of the sovereignty of the United Kingdom Parliament in relation to the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union, including matters in respect of borders and immigration; and for connected purposes. Download The United Kingdom Sovereignty Bill and Jurisdiction over Borders Bill.

The Government has been against the introduction of EU legislation imposing a cap on banker’s bonuses from the outset. However, the European Parliament, who proposed limiting the variable amount of remuneration to one times the fixed component of the total remuneration, was able to change the outcome of negotiations. The UK voted against the proposals but due to QMV and the ordinary legislative procedure the cap on bankers’ bonuses has been introduced, which clearly demonstrates that the Government is not always able to form political alliances to stop damaging legislation from being adopted. ...continue reading