Monday

25th May 2020

Lack of UK chief EU negotiator 'recipe for confusion'

  • (Photo: Downing Street)

The planned division of labour within the UK government during the EU renegotiation process is a “recipe for confusion”, the House of Lords' EU committee said Tuesday (28 July) in a report.

The report suggested that the UK's EU presidency – in the second half of 2017 - could be postponed if it were to clash with the in/out referendum.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The committee said nine cabinet members will be involved in negotiating prime minister David Cameron's “better deal” for the UK in the EU, which will subsequently will be put to the test in a referendum.

In addition, it cited “a system of senior officials in Number 10, the Cabinet Office, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and HM Treasury, not to mention Brussels-based UK officials” also involved.

The report said it asked Europe minister David Lidington who EU interlocutors would have to contact if they wished to speak to the UK's chief negotiator.

He replied: “It depends a bit on who and which other government we are talking about.”

“Politicians will want to talk to politicians, and civil servants to civil servants, but we are approaching this by having co-ordinated our positions among those individuals and key departments,” he added.

The Lords said this “account of how the internal Whitehall [government] process for handling the renegotiation will work is unrealistic” and called on the government to rethink the process.

The document follows, but was written before, a newspaper reported Sunday that Cameron will announce a referendum on EU membership for June 2016.

This earlier date would fit with the authors of the report, who noted the referendum should take place “as soon as possible, in order to minimise uncertainty for citizens, financial markets, businesses and other stakeholders in the UK and across the EU”.

However, the report warned that the renegotiation process, which has to be finished before the referendum, could be delayed because it involves 28 member states.

EU presidency

In parallel to the UK referendum preparations, the British government is currently preparing for the EU presidency. The presidency co-ordinates the day-to-day meetings in Brussels and negotiations on on-going laws with the European Parliament.

But the report said holding a referendum at the same as the presidency would be an “insuperable distraction”.

“To stage a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU while it holds the presidency would not only be highly undesirable, but also so difficult as to be practically impossible. … On the other hand, an earlier referendum would create the possibility that the UK may have voted to leave the EU before its presidency takes place. This would make a UK presidency in 2017 politically untenable”, the report said.

The report added that if in the “coming months” it emerges that a referendum can't be held in 2016, then the UK government should look for alternatives “which could involve requesting one of the succeeding Presidencies to move forward to the second half of 2017”.

Estonia and Bulgaria follow the UK in holding the six-month tenure.

The report, which does not argue in favour or against EU membership, also urged Cameron to make sure “the concerns of all member states are taken into account, regardless of size or perceived influence”.

Analysis

Battle lines drawn for UK referendum

The Yes and No campaign teams are taking shape in the EU, despite uncertainty on what Cameron will get in EU concessions before the vote.

UK referendum rules could 'hobble' government

Preventing ministers from carrying out EU-related business in the run-up to the UK’s EU referendum could "hobble" the government, a top British official says.

Cameron planning June 2016 EU vote

David Cameron is poised to set out plans for the UK’s referendum on European Union membership to be held in June next year.

EU sued for funding 'forced labour' Eritrea highway

The Dutch Foundation Human Rights for Eritreans has initiated a court case against the European Union for financing highway projects in an Eritrea where forced labour is rampant. The lawsuit comes amid a European Parliament debate on the funding.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis
  3. UNESDACircularity works, let’s all give it a chance
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers call for post-corona synergies between economic recovery and green transition
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic co-operation on COVID-19
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic research collaboration on pandemics

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAMaking Europe’s Economy Circular – the time is now
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  3. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  4. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us