The European Parliament is unlovely and unloved, except by itself. It appears to exist as an attempt to cover the absence of any real democracy in the EU. It makes a lot of noise and smoke but achieves little of note.
Such influence as it does exert probably acts as a reminder to the other EU institutions of why they wish to remain protected from the inconsequential ramblings of a disdained electorate. However, we feel that we should report and comment on their pompous and verbose contribution to Brexit, even though the Parliament is irrelevant, despite their claims to the contrary.
Whatever agreement is finally put before it, the Parliament will make a lot of noise, to remind everyone that it exists, and perhaps suggest a few insubstantial amendments; it will then signal its approval. Then the Commission will declare that the agreement has the democratic approval of its citizens, thus continuing the pattern of deceit that has characterised the project since its inception.
On the 4th of April the European Parliament used a JOINT MOTION FOR A RESOLUTION “on negotiations with the United Kingdom following its notification that it intends to withdraw from the European Union”.
The document highlights, no doubt unintentionally, the irrelevance of the Parliament within important legal actions of the Union. The resolution echoes without challenge the European Council’s draft Guidelines, which we reviewed in Divorce Guidelines. Otherwise its purpose seems to be simply to persuade the senior EU institutions to take notice of the Parliament, which perhaps they would not do otherwise. The document is as pompous and bureaucratic as one would expect.
The opening preamble includes the following:
“…whereas although it is the sovereign right of a Member State to withdraw from the European Union, it is the duty of all remaining Member States to act in unity in the defence of the European Union’s interests and its integrity…”
“Defence” is the word to note here, as it represents the blinkered view of the EU’s leaders that Brexit threatens their project. Had they real confidence in the project, and not just the propaganda variety, they would see the departure of one half-hearted member as a blessing that could enable them to undertake reforms that would help them to achieve a true community.
“whereas negotiations on the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union will begin following adoption by the European Council of guidelines for those negotiations; whereas this resolution represents the European Parliament’s position for those guidelines and will also form the basis of Parliament’s assessment of the negotiation process and of any agreement reached between the European Union and the United Kingdom…”
This Motion is no more than a pale – and rather laboured – echo of the Guidelines already issued by the European Council (the Guidelines were produced on 31 March, the Joint Motion on 4 April).
“whereas, nevertheless, continued membership of the United Kingdom of the internal market, the European Economic Area and/or the customs union would have been the optimal solution for both the United Kingdom and the EU-27; whereas this is not possible as long as the United Kingdom Government maintains its objections to the four freedoms and to the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Union, refuses to make a general contribution to the Union budget, and wants to conduct its own trade policy…”
This appears to be drawing a conclusion of failure before the negotiations even begin.
“whereas without a withdrawal agreement the United Kingdom would automatically exit the European Union on 30 March 2019, and would do so in a disorderly manner…”
This highlights the phased approach to Brexit expected by the EU, with a withdrawal agreement taking up the full two years of the Article 50 timeline.
“Recalls that the withdrawal agreement can only be concluded with the consent of the European Parliament, as is also the case for any possible future agreement on relations between the European Union and the United Kingdom as well as any possible transitional arrangements”
The Parliament has in effect a veto over the outcome of the negotiated withdrawal agreement, if there is one.
[Under: “General principles for the negotiations”]
“Recalls that, in this respect, it would be contrary to Union law for the United Kingdom to begin, in advance of its withdrawal, negotiations on possible trade agreements with third countries
This may well be ignored by the UK Government. It doesn’t need to hold “negotiations”, it can have ‘discussions’ (which could be minuted in detail).
“Warns that any bilateral arrangement between one or several remaining Member States and the United Kingdom, in the areas of European Union competence, that has not been agreed by the EU-27, relating to issues included in the scope of the withdrawal agreement and/or impinging on the future relationship of the European Union with the United Kingdom, would also be in contradiction with the Treaties…”
More evidence of the climate of fear in which the negotiations will be conducted.
“…considers that a state withdrawing from the Union cannot enjoy similar benefits to those enjoyed by a Union Member State, and therefore announces that it will not consent to any agreement that would contradict this…”
This is an implicit self-contradiction: since the EU supposes membership of the Union to be the highest form of benefit, so any form of non-membership must be worse.
“Stresses that the United Kingdom must honour all its legal, financial and budgetary obligations, including commitments under the current multiannual financial framework, falling due up to and after the date of its withdrawal…”
Detailing and substantiating these ‘obligations’ will be an interesting challenge for the EU, as they appear not to be enshrined in treaty or law but are based on a supposition.
“Notes that an agreement on a future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom as a third country can only be concluded once the United Kingdom has withdrawn from the European Union…”
The second phase, or later if a transition arrangement is agreed meanwhile. Perhaps they mean “may only” or “should only” be concluded, if they have any say over it; clearly the EU can agree a future relationship if it wishes to. This is intended to be part of the punishment; for Britain to live under the EU regime for an indefinite period, with all the obligations and few of the benefits, as they see it.
[Under: “Withdrawal agreement”]
They demand, “the designation of the Court of Justice of the European Union as the competent authority for the interpretation and enforcement of the withdrawal agreement;” but the ECJ is not independent, it is mandated to further the “spirit” of the EU treaties. This must be rejected by the UK’s negotiators.
They demand, “a single financial settlement with the United Kingdom on the basis of the European Union’s annual accounts as audited by the European Court of Auditors”. But the EU’s accounts have not been signed by the auditors for decades.
[Under: “Future European Union-United Kingdom relationship”]
“notes that Article 8 of the Treaty on European Union, as well as Article 217 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which provides for ‘establishing an association involving reciprocal rights and obligations, common action and special procedures’, could provide an appropriate framework for such a future relationship…”
“underlines that after its withdrawal the United Kingdom will fall under the third-country regime provided for in Union legislation…”
The UK Government seems to have been slow to recognise the implications of this.
“Notes that if the United Kingdom asks to participate in certain European Union programmes it will be as a third country, entailing appropriate budgetary contributions and oversight by the existing jurisdiction; would welcome, in this context, the United Kingdom’s continued participation in a number of programmes, such as Erasmus…”
Provided we pay for it and accept remaining under the ECJ regime.
“Believes that transitional arrangements ensuring legal certainty and continuity can only be agreed between the European Union and the United Kingdom if they contain the right balance of rights and obligations for both parties and preserve the integrity of the European Union’s legal order, with the Court of Justice of the European Union responsible for settling any legal challenges…”
The ECJ regime will become a major sticking point in the negotiations.
[Under: “Issues for the EU-27 and the Union institutions”]
“the remaining 27 Member States of the European Union, together with its institutions, need to strengthen the present Union by means of a broad public debate and to start an in-depth interinstitutional reflection on its future;”
Here, as in increasingly frequent comments by EU representatives, there is an acknowledgement that the EU is very imperfect, and yet elsewhere they struggle to accept this blindingly-obvious fact. It is this contradiction that drives the vindictiveness of their stance. Brexit has forced them to recognise there must be problems, not confined to UK citizens’ disenchantment, but it is also a convenient scapegoat. [Scapegoat-1]
[Under: “Final provisions”]
Finally the EP pleads for its relevance: “Expects the European Council to take this resolution into account”.
So we move from, ‘You have to take us into account’ through ‘You are supposed to take us into account’ to ‘Please take us into account’.