How Conservative MEPs can stop the EU Parliament breaking its own legal rules.
It's easy to forget while the UK Government is engaged in fulfilling the democratic will of the British people – removing us from the European Union – our representative MEPs in Brussels continue to have a seat at the table when and where decisions are made. There are 73 British MEPs sitting in the EU Parliament. These MEPs still vote on decisions that affect our daily lives.They continue to have an essential vote on issues dear to the hearts of Eurocrats and federalists alike. Although, the EU Parliament may be going too far in what it is proposing in the coming weeks.
The EU Parliament is proposing to break it's own legal rules in pursuit of far-reaching energy legislation. Conservative MEPs, through the ECR Group, have an opportunity to either support, or oppose, this proposed rule-breaking. What will they choose to do? Consider their options.
Will they support the Renewable Energy Directive (known as RED)? RED sets targets, regulations, restrictions, bans, and provides many other types of interference in energy policies across all 28 EU countries. Essentially it provides more red tape for UK businesses. It legislates renewable energy levels by 2020 and 2030. The goals that are set have wide-reaching implications as key energy legislation is being used to treat all member states equally. Yet, Malta barely uses renewable energy at 10% compared to almost 50% produced in Sweden. The disparity is huge. Once again it appears that legislation and the implications for member states are not being thoroughly thought through. It also suggests that those unable to comply by the specified deadlines may face penalties or fines.
If MEPS reject RED, as they should do, they will arguably strengthen the hand of Theresa May during ongoing Brexit negotiations. The idea of increasing the amount of renewable energy member states use is a noble one. Much akin to integration of the eurozone members and Pesco members. Yet, repeatedly the same mistakes are being made. The disparity between North and South in the EU is ever present.
Of the 2 options acceptance will provide the EU Parliament an olive branch on yet another piece of policy AGAINST the interests of the UK and others. Approval from Conservative MEPs including the UK would be a disaster for our government during Brexit negotiations. It would inadvertently strengthen the hand of Brussels and provide yet another form of legislation that would need to be integrated or rejected by the Houses of Parliament post-Brexit. The EU Parliament would just have to indicate UK MEPs supporting such widespread policy to further undermine the position of our Prime Minister. It would also provide plenty of ammunition to those who evidently oppose Brexit. It may be argued that in supporting the EU on such a draconian policy would contravene the Brexit vote and put many of our MEPs in conflict with their voters.
Proponents of the RED aim to bring the vote forward to January 2018. Simply put, they are ramming it through the EU Parliament before opposition can be raised against it. Yet, it was originally up for a vote by MEPs in February 2018. The main problem is that the EU Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee has not pronounced on the legality of RED under existing EU's Treaties. The Chairman of the Parliament's Industry Committee has written to other senior MEPs warning them that this legal opinion is key to any vote.
It is crucial therefore that UK MEPs do not support RED until that legal judgement is made. For the EU Parliament to vote on legislation that does not adhere to its own rules would be self-defeating. It could be seen as hypocrisy. Why should member states like Poland and Hungary adhere to EU law when the EU Parliament itself fails to do so?
The proponents of this massive piece of energy legislation simply don't care. They are pushing ahead for a vote on January 17th 2018. They are doing so without the legal affirmation from the proper Committee, and without a properly assessed Legal Base. Political differences are to be expected. They are normal: but surely we can agree to live by the rule of EU law? Apparently not in Brussels.
Historically the EU legislature has created pillars of law to secure external borders, domestic markets and most aspects of our working lives. As the leading political party within the ECR Group, the Conservatives may remind the EU Parliament of the consequences of such a vote on members who have troubled economies and are struggling to meet the requirements of other legislation. We do not wish to see our European allies suffer via yet another ill-thought out piece of rushed legislation.
Conservatives have a powerful seat on all Parliament decision-making bodies, including the Conference of Presidents. Such a position is an opportunity to make a stand for the rule of law, and to stop the crass and politically-motivated rush to vote on a massive piece of legislation without due consideration. This needs proper legal scrutiny. It also requires proper Parliamentary scrutiny as well. The EU Parliament is not adhering to ECJ procedures and Tory MEPs must ensure it does.
The fact that the UK is leaving the EU doesn't mean we stop paying attention to what it does. Nor does it suggest our MEPs are all demob happy and lacking sound judgement on this issue. Tory MEPs must continue to stand up for the UK. They must oppose EU Parliamentary over-reaching wherever and whenever they find it. Not giving RED a green light is a good place to start.