Tag Archives: democracy & scrutiny

  • Brexit: Now The Real Problems Start

    Proceeding with Brexit involves difficult choices. The Johnson deal does not “Get Brexit done”. In fact, it’s simply the end of the first, easier, and less important part – the exit arrangements. Now come the negotiations on the future relationship. It means years more wrangling, arguments and division.

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    BBC News Interview – Friday April 5

    Talking to BBC News about the extension of Article 50, European elections and the importance of having a confirmatory ballot on whatever deal emerges.

  • Courtesy Gwenael Piaser via Flickr

    Rebutting Richard Aikens

    Richard Aikens has argued that the EU cannot succeed because it will become a federal state that most of its citizens do not want. He makes a number of assumptions and, in my view, latches on to several misconceptions, which I address in this piece.

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    Challenging false narratives about the European Union

    Speaking in the European Parliament debate on the Evaluation of the Lisbon Treaty (for which I was Rapporteur) to dispel some of the false narratives that opponents of the EU like to peddle.

  • JP

    The Tory’s Costly and Chaotic Brexit

    Speaking in the European Parliament debate in preparation for the next European Council meeting on 18-19 October, I point out that the Brexit being offered to the UK, including Leave voters, is not what they were told and not what many voted for.

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    Interview on Daily Politics

    I was interviewed by Jo Coburn on Friday’s Daily Politics show, discussing the lack of progress with the Brexit negotiations at the crucial June European Council. 

  • UK government not ready to negotiate Brexit

    Two years after the referendum, the Conservative government still has not clarified its starting position for the Brexit negotiations. 

  • EU laws reduce red tape

    Speaking in a debate on the Better Law Making report I explain how the EU has a higher threshold than many national parliaments for introducing regulations, and how these reduce red tape across all 28 countries. Divergence creates more complexity, as the UK government is quickly discovering.

  • Interview Still

    Interview with Core Politics on Brexit

    Discussing the Labour Party’s positions on various aspects of the ongoing Brexit negotiations – May 2018.

  • Courtesy PxHere

    The Dangers of a Skeleton Brexit

    The government could well be aiming for a Withdrawal Agreement that leaves all contentious issues to be solved only after Brexit, during the transition phase which in the meantime keeps the status quo.

  • Courtesy Flickr

    Democracy Rules OK in the EU

    I responded to John Redwood‘s bogus claims in The Yorkshire Post that Brexit is justified because it is somehow undemocratic for 28 democracies to work together in the EU.  (Redwood will try anything to avoid discussing economic damage of Brexit!)

  • Courtesy Wikimedia

    Personal data use in UK referendum

    Cambridge Analytica, the data company used by both Leave.EU and Vote Leave during the UK referendum on EU membership, have refused to comment on how they used personal data during the referendum campaign. Indeed, the only public knowledge on their use of data has come from research by individuals.

  • Tory MEPs sacked for stating the obvious

    The Conservatives have removed the whip from two of their MEPs, Richard Ashworth and Julie Girling, for voting in favour of a non-binding European Parliament resolution which noted that “sufficient progress has not yet been made” in the Brexit talks.

  • Courtesy descrier.co.uk via Twitter

    A Brexit that works for Britain?

    The reason why there is so much confusion and chaos about what Britain should aim for in the Brexit negotiations is simple. Neither of the two possible types of Brexit is an easy option. And in its attempts to force one or the other through, the government risks sidelining both parliament and the people.

  • Courtesy Vimeo

    Theresa in Wonderland

    The utter foolishness of Theresa May’s ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ mantra when it comes to negotiating a new relationship with the EU is back in every speech by her and senior cabinet ministers as well as appearing in the Conservative manifesto. It can’t be emphasised enough that ‘No deal’ is simply not an option.

  • Statement in European Parliament on the Brexit Resolution

    Today the 73% of the European Parliament agreed a resolution in response to article 50 being triggered. It is Labour’s responsibility to hold Theresa May’s government to account for their promise secure “exactly the same benefits”.

  • courtesy wikimedia

    The Brexit Bill: My response

    The government’s determination to push the European Union (Notice of Withdrawal) Bill through the Commons with such limited time for debate to consider the many implications of such a momentous decision, is a serious affront to the parliamentary sovereignty that they claimed to hold dear.

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    Some comments on the Brexit White Paper

    The following is a summary of the Government’s Brexit White Paper – together with my comments in red: Great repeal bill and control of UK laws “We will bring forward a White Paper on the Great Repeal Bill that provides more detail about our approach.” The first promise of this white paper is to promise […]

  • The Corbett Report: Facts not Fiction

    A wildly inaccurate UKIP press release, picked up and sensationalised by the Express Online, has been published on the day that the EU parliament voted overwhelmingly to adopt rule changes that would increase transparency and efficiency, as well as holding all MEPs to a higher standard of behaviour than before. Given their less than impressive […]

  • Photo courtesy of European Parliament

    UK MEPs are staying for now

    I’ve had a number of enquiries asking what happens to British MEPs in the wake of the referendum result. Britain’s timetable for departure has not yet been settled (more on this here), but it is not likely to happen for quite some time. In the meantime, the UK remains a member of the EU, and UK citizens […]

  • Flag of the UN

    International democracy?

    A growing number of problems can’t be dealt with adequately by national authorities alone — they require concerted international action at various levels. And contrary to much anti-European rhetoric, the EU is actually the most democratic of all the international structures we belong to. Traditional methods of international co-operation are slow, cumbersome, opaque and, frankly, […]

  • Electoral Commission banner

    Votey McVoteface

    The EU referendum is now just around the corner — and the final deadline to register for this historic vote is almost upon us. It’s very simple and easy to do online. And if you’re not registered by Tuesday 7 June, you won’t be able to participate. There are currently 7.5 million eligible voters in […]

  • EU flags

    Some superstate!

    Yet another misleading allegation by the Brexit brigade is that the European Union is on an escalator, heading for a centralised superstate. They ignore the fact that the basic rulebook of the European Union, the treaties, is agreed unanimously by member states. There can be no increase in the powers of the European Union unless […]

  • courtesy secretlondon123 via Flickr

    The EU and referendums

    A new line of attack by eurosceptics came my way the other day: the claim that the EU ignored national democratic decisions when it came to the French and Dutch referendums on the proposed EU constitution, Ireland’s initial ‘No’ to the Lisbon treaty, and the Greek referendum of 2015. So what actually happened?

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    Impact assessments and regulation

    I make a short statement in Parliament about the improvements to lawmaking in the new ‘inter-institutional agreement’.

  • courtesy YouTube

    Benn’s five questions

    Tony Benn famously proposed five questions to be asked of anyone who holds power of one kind or another. One of the many organisations to fail his democracy test at the time was the European Commission. But, since then, the EU treaties have been changed to increase the accountability of the Commission. How would it […]

  • courtesy Christine Matthews via geograph.org.uk

    Our own laws, our own parliament

    “We should make our own laws in our own parliament” — this is a favourite slogan of the Brexit brigade. What’s the truth behind it? Of course, we do make our own laws in our own parliament — but that very same parliament has decided that some laws should be made jointly with our neighbouring […]

  • Cameron’s package: the view from Parliament

    Much is being made of the fact that, on some aspects of Cameron’s proposed EU deal, secondary legislation will have to pass through the European Parliament, which (it’s claimed) might water it down or even reject it. Legally speaking this is of course true. The European Parliament, like any other parliament, is by definition free […]

  • courtesy Ian Burt via Flickr

    Unilateral red cards would be disastrous

    In their latest attempt to laugh off Cameron’s draft renegotiation deal, hardcore Tory eurosceptics are now arguing that the proposed red card for national parliaments doesn’t go far enough. They insist instead that the British parliament, and therefore the parliaments of every other EU country, should not only be better involved before European legislation is […]

  • European Commission building

    Are these really EU failures?

    I sent this letter to the editor of the Daily Telegraph today. Dear Editor, You list “a democratic deficit, economic stagnation and chronic failure over mass migration” as the failures of the EU (Telegraph View, 10 Dec). But are they? “Democratic deficit” trips nicely off the tongue. But it would beggar belief that 28 democracies […]

  • via The Guardian

    Hopes and hurdles for the European project

    My letter about the EU was the leader in today’s Guardian comments section: Paul Mason relies on tired old cliches – and, bizarrely, his dislike of the Belgian police – to justify his claim that there is no democratic control over the European Union (G2, 19 October). He talks of “vast bureaucratic structures” and “the […]

  • BBC Radio 4 logo

    The EU is a place for democratic cooperation

    A short debate on BBC Radio 4’s The World Tonight programme about migration, and the democratic structures that underpin the EU.

  • courtesy Amio Cajander via Flickr

    MEPs back Labour proposals for stronger Commissioner confirmation hearings

    The European Parliament voted today for a more rigorous process of confirmation hearings for Commissioners, giving MEPs more power to cross-examine nominees. The proposals from the European Parliament constitutional affairs committee, in a report authored by Labour MEP Richard Corbett, include allowing follow-up questions in the event of non-answers; second hearings in case the answers […]

  • Speaking in plenary

    Introducing Commission hearings reform

    I spoke in Parliament to introduce a package of reforms to the way Commissioner candidates are approved by MEPs in future.

  • Commissioner hearings

    “We need more female Commissioners in the future”, say S&Ds

    In the future, EU governments should present one male and one female candidate to the post of Commissioner in order to enable the President of the Commission to ensure gender balance in the European Commission. This is one of the key recommendations of a resolution drafted by Labour MEP Richard Corbett and approved today by […]

  • courtesy EU naval force via Flickr

    The EU is not the USSR

    My letter was published this morning in the Times: Sir, The claim by John Neimer (June 29) that the EU is centralised “just like the old USSR” is absurd. The EU can only act in those fields where its member states, all democracies, have conferred powers on it. Even then, any EU legislation requires the […]

  • How much UK law is made at European level?

    I’ve just published an article in Business for New Europe’s blog on the simple point of how much UK law is made at European level, and how it has become a political hot potato: Of course, the question can be tricky to answer, because a lot depends on what counts as ‘a law’ and what counts as […]

  • courtesy David Caster via Wikimedia Commons

    Which democratic deficit?

    Almost every democratic system has aspects which are questionable. The unelected House of Lords in Britain. The role of money in elections in the USA. The pros and cons of different electoral systems. And, of course, the EU. EU institutions certainly suffer from the problem of distance. They are inevitably and unavoidably more remote from […]

  • Voter registration: use it or lose it

    As the old adage goes: decisions are made by those who show up. Sadly though, many people in the UK are unaware that in order to show up to vote on the big day, you first must be entered into the electoral register. National Voter Registration Day (5 February) has thus been created as a […]

  • European Commission building

    Commission work plan

    Question Can the Commission indicate what proportion of the legislation in its 2015 Work Programme consists of proposals to amend, update or adapt existing EU legislation, rather than to legislate in new fields? Answer The Commission Work Programme (CWP) 2015 [COM(2014) 910 final] reflects the Commission’s commitment to prioritise its work and to strengthen better […]

  • courtesy AlphaX News via YouTube

    Council use of impact assessments

    Question Could the Council list the impact assessments it has conducted in accordance with the 2005 interinstitutional common approach to impact assessment (Council Ref. 14901/05), in which each institution was deemed to be responsible for assessing its own proposals/modifications [paragraph 3] and the Council (and Parliament) undertook to carry out impact assessments when they consider […]

  • By Carlesmari via Wikimedia Commons

    Only 13.2% of UK laws come from what we agree in Europe

    The House of Commons Library has just updated its report on the percentage of law affecting the UK that’s agreed at European level. By looking at all Acts of Parliament and implementing measures passed in the last 20 years, they have come to the conclusion that an average of 1.4% of Acts and 12.9% of […]

  • courtesy Platforma Obywatelska RP via Flickr


    Question Does the President of the European Council intend to follow the same practice as President Van Rompuy in replying to written parliamentary questions concerning his own political activities? Answer The President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, intends to follow the same practice as the former President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, […]

  • Photo courtesy of the European Parliament

    Commissioner hearings: what change has Parliament secured?

    With the vote of confidence by the European Parliament (by 423 to 209) allowing the Juncker Commission to take office, it’s a good moment to ask what the Parliament has achieved after two weeks of intensive questioning, investigation and cross-examination of proposed commissioners. The media focus was on whether one or the other candidate would […]

  • Me in Commissioner-designate Vella's hearing

    MEPs keep the Commission in line

    As a member of the European Parliament’s constitutional affairs committee, I’ve been observing the commissioner hearings to see how the procedure can be improved in the future. The process, and my report, is yet to be finalised — but I have written some of my initial thoughts in an article for the Parliament Magazine: When it […]

  • Photo by Richard

    A lesson in democracy?

    Left Foot Forward have published an article of mine reviewing the hearings process and comparing it to the national political scene: How illuminating it would be, then, if the Commons took a greater interest in ministerial appointments and submitted ministers to close questioning in public confirmation hearings before they could take office! What a powerful […]

  • Setting the record straight on hearings

    It’s great that there’s been some media interest — even in the UK — in the cross-examinations of candidate European commissioners which are happening this week and next in the European Parliament. Among a lot of surprisingly accurate coverage, one less plausible claim is also rearing its head. This is the suggestion that these hearings […]

  • Lord Hill in parliamentary hearing (photo courtesy of European Parliament)

    Hill hearing: initial reflections

    The highly anticipated cross-examinations of the British nominee for the Commission, Lord Hill, took place this afternoon. Earlier in the day I set the scene with my preview of the hearing, so now it’s time to share my initial reflections on his performance. Hill went out of his way to charm MEPs. He started his address […]

  • Me in Commissioner-designate Vella's hearing

    Hill hearings: a preview

    One of the most highly anticipated Commissioner cross-examinations kicks off today in the European Parliament at 12:30 (UK time): that of the British nominee, Lord Hill. By way of setting the scene, I’ve been asked many times in the last few days whether Parliament is ‘gunning for’ Lord Hill, or indeed any of the other […]

  • Palace of Westminster

    How to improve scrutiny

    As I said yesterday, the Conservatives’ claim that they’re trying to claw back an over-active EU, which has over-regulated and inflicted red tape on hapless countries against their will, should be taken with a pinch of salt. No EU legislation can be adopted without the support of an overwhelming majority of national governments. A ‘qualified […]

  • Image from Wikimedia Commons

    Weasels, wikis and the Beeb

    A rather dubious claim has crept into quite a few recent BBC articles on the process for appointing the new European Commission: The Commission is seen as the most powerful EU institution, as it drafts EU laws, ensures compliance with EU treaties and negotiates far-reaching trade deals with international partners. “The most powerful EU institution”? […]

  • Image by Wikipedia user Zinneke licensed under Creative Commons

    Vetting Juncker’s new Commission

    Putting together the next Commission isn’t as vital as you might think. After all, Commissioners don’t make EU laws — they only provide the first drafts, for elected governments and MEPs to debate and decide. But there’s still been a fair bit of fuss among the Brussels media (and predictably almost none in Britain) about […]

  • Courtesy jeffowenphotos via Wikimedia

    Are British MEPs usually outvoted?

    I sent this letter to the editor of the Telegraph today. Sir, The eurosceptic pressure group ‘Business for Britain’ has attempted to unpick the voting record of ‘the British’ in the European Parliament (How British MEPs are outvoted time and again in Brussels, 1 September). Sadly, their analysis is full of holes. First there’s the […]

  • Photo courtesy of European Parliament

    The point of democracy

    I predicted yesterday that UKIP would start bleating when their group’s candidates for a committee chair didn’t receive support from other political groups in the European Parliament. On Twitter, they are now claiming this breaks “EU rules” and that democracy requires them to be given a committee chair! So let’s get something straight. There is […]

  • Photo courtesy of European Parliament

    Who gets what?

    Today in Brussels, Parliament’s new committees meet for the first time to formally elect their chairs and vice-chairs. Traditionally, before we proceed to elect our important posts at the start of a term, the main political groups try to reach an agreement allocating these posts to candidates from each group in proportion to the size […]

  • A very kind email

    In the run-up to a national election, working in politics can seem even more exhausting than usual. But occasionally you receive an email — this from a Hertfordshire resident I’ve never met — which reminds you that it can also be immensely rewarding: Dear Richard, My voting card for the May 22 elections has been making […]

  • Turnout

    Turnout in European elections has become an issue, with commentators focusing on its lower level than national elections and its downward trend over the years. Of course, a higher turnout is always better. But actually, it’s normal that European elections should have a lower turnout. After all, most political issues are decided by our national parliament, not […]

  • The EU for Christians

    When we can’t trust the mainstream media or even our own government to talk straight on European issues, whom can we trust? A strikingly well-informed and constructive policy briefing on the importance of European issues was jointly published yesterday by the UK’s free churches (Methodists, Baptists and United Reformed). The briefing provides a Christian perspective […]

  • The eurosceptic narrative

    A lot of eurosceptic arguments flow from a basic narrative which goes something like this: “75% of our laws are imposed on us by an unelected giant bureaucracy in Brussels, stifling our businesses in red tape and costing us billions of pounds a day. We thought we were joining a free trade area, but it […]