28th Oct 2016

British Lords want more power over EU laws

  • National MPs should be able to review or reject EU laws - according to the UK House of Lords (Photo:

National parliaments should be able to initiate reviews of existing EU law, according to a report by the UK parliament.

The paper, published on Monday (24 March), by the House of Lords' EU committee, says domestic lawmakers should have more power in the EU legislative process.

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"There should be a way for a group of like-minded national parliaments to make constructive suggestions for EU policy initiatives," it notes.

"We would envisage a ‘Green Card’ as recognising a right for a number of national parliaments working together to make constructive policy or legislative suggestions, including for the review or repeal of existing legislation, not creating a (legally more problematic) formal right for national parliaments to initiate legislation."

The Lisbon treaty introduced a regime allowing national lawmakers to formally object to a proposed EU law.

If objections to a proposal are submitted by at least a third of the bloc's national assemblies, a so-called "yellow card" is triggered, and the European Commission is expected to review the proposal.

In the four years since the Lisbon treaty came into force, the yellow card has only been used twice, however.

A number of national parliaments have also accused the commission of ignoring their objections.

Frustration with the system reached a head last autumn when the commission ignored a yellow card by 18 parliaments on plans to establish a European Public Prosecutor’s Office.

The proposal, which would establish an EU-level body with the exclusive power to investigate and prosecute criminal offences relating to the EU's financial interests, is now being negotiated by MEPs and ministers.

The second yellow card was issued against a draft law affecting the right to strike, which the commission abandoned in 2012 citing opposition from governments.

"Technical deficiencies have meant that the [yellow card] procedure has not been as effective as hoped," said the Lords' report.

It added that when a yellow card is created, the EU executive should be required to "either drop the proposal in question, or substantially amend it in order to meet the concerns expressed".

Peers also want to increase the deadline for national chambers to issue an opinion on a legislative proposal, from 8 weeks to 16 weeks.

Giving national parliaments the power to block unwanted European legislation is one of the reforms demanded by UK prime minister David Cameron as he seeks to re-write the UK membership terms of the bloc. The plan has also been backed by a handful of other governments.

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