Tag Archive: United Kingdom


EU Arctic Aspirations Stonewalled Again

For the second time, the Arctic Council has deferred an EU application to become an observer on the multilateral Arctic forum. The Arctic Council was formally established through the Ottawa Declaration in 1996. The impetus behind the Council’s inception was the need for an intergovernmental  forum in which Arctic states could cooperate in matters mutually beneficial for the region.

The European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Maria Damanaki, has argued that the EU “has a stake in what happened in the Arctic”, and “is an Arctic actor by virtue of its three Arctic states, Denmark, Finland, and Sweden.” The EU has not shied away from speaking about its Arctic interests. In June 2012, the Commission proposed a three point Arctic policy, the most salient of which is the sustainable development of resources.

It is undeniable that the EU has a stake in the future of Arctic development. It is estimated over 90% of Europe’s oil production and 60% of its gas production comes from offshore operations occurring in the North Sea and Norwegian Sea. Moreover, an estimated 13% of the world’s undiscovered oil reserves and 30% of its undiscovered gas reserves are lying within the Arctic seabed. Additionally, proponents of EU accession have argued that climate change is a trans-boundary issue, and thus, will adversely impact European weather patterns and fish stocks.

There have been two primary arguments against the EU attaining permanent observer status in the Arctic Council. First, the Heritage Foundation has repeatedly asserted that the EU is a “supernational” organization and, therefore, does not meet the criteria to join the Arctic Council as an observer. Second, the Canadian government has opposed EU observer status since the EU submitted its first application in 2009.

Canadian opposition began in May 2009 when the European Parliament voted 550-49 to impose a seal trade ban throughout the European Union. A Canadian Inuit group challenged the ban, but the General Court of the EU dismissed the appeal. Additionally, similar challenges have been brought before the European Court of Justice, but they also resulted in dismissal. Consequently, this lack of success in the European courts inspired a Nunavut-based group to begin the “No Seal, No Deal” petition calling on the Canadian government to reject the EU’s application for full observer status.

This second argument may carry more weight with the Arctic Council than the former. Following the announcement of the EU’s deferral, Leona Aglukkaq, the new Canadian chair of the Arctic Council, pointed out that one of the criteria that observers must meet is to demonstrate respect for the traditional ways of life of the indigenous people of the North.

The EU’s interests in the Arctic are not disappearing any time soon. Recently, Italy joined EU member states: France, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, and the United Kingdom, as observers on the Arctic Council while Finland, Sweden, and Denmark all have permanent membership. Hopefully these EU Arctic actors will keep the EU’s best interest in mind until relations are able to thaw with Canada.

UK Politician Pushing for Vote on Leaving the EU

UK Member of Parliament Adam Afriyie is pushing for a referendum on whether or not the UK should leave the EU.  A referendum in the UK is a yes/no vote put to the people for their opinion on the subject so that the politicians know what the public opinion is on the proposed question.  Referendums are not binding on Parliament, despite the fact that they may represent the public’s opinion on the matter.  Afriyie is pushing for the referendum now so that there is time for negotiations before the next election, because he feels that the “EU member states would need to ‘accommodate’ British demands for reforms ‘if they wish us to remain’.”

TEU Article 50 sets forth the procedure for a member state to leave the EU.  (To find Article 50 in the text, use the search function in your browser to locate the article).  According to Article 50(1) the UK may leave by the requirements of its own constitution.  Article 50(2) provides that the “Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union.”  This provision indicates that prior to the UK’s leaving, both the EU and the UK would consider the possible future relationships between the former member state and the Union.  This provision might ease some of the worries of British citizens who fear the financial and societal repercussions of leaving the EU.

Whether leaving the European Union is truly in the best interests of the British people is a question for their government to decide, but under current EU law, it is possible for the UK to leave using the procedures set forth in the Article.

The United Kingdom Challenges the Cap On Banking Bonuses

Part of Basel III, the international regulatory framework for banks  that the EU is currently putting into effect, is being challenged by the United Kingdom (UK).  The UK has a problem with the part of Basel III that imposes a cap on the amount that a banker can earn as a bonus. 

The cap was designed to limit bonuses for bankers up to the amount of bankers salaries. The amount can be higher if the shareholders agree. The UK was the only Member State that opposed the plan during the discussions to implement this regulation.

The six reasons that the UK stated that it does not believe that the cap will not work are:

  1. “It is unfit for purpose, and was introduced without any impact assessment
  2. It unlawfully delegates to the European Banking Authority (EBA) because it concerns policy and is not simply a technical matter
  3. It is legally invalid because it contravenes the legal base of regulation that expressly excludes legislation ‘affecting the rights and interests of employed person’
  4. It is being rushed into effect without the necessary legislation in place including rules determining to whom the cap will apply
  5. It fails to protect personal data
  6. It wrongfully applies outside the European Economic Area”

The challenge was filed with the European Court of Justice on September 20th, 2013 by the Chancellor of Exchequer/Second Lord of Treasury for the United Kingdom. Chancellor George Osborne of Britain believes that this cap will increase the basic salaries of bankers and further reduce the ability to efficiently link performance with pay.

Commenting about the challenge to the regulation, the Chancellor stated that it was to “ensure the legislation respects the EU Treaty.” Cases usually take 18 months to two years to be heard so the UK has stated that it will adhere to the policy while the challenge is taken up.

UK Decision To Opt Out of EU Criminal Justice Provisions Has Long-Term Implications

The United Kingdom occupies a unique place in the European Union. While a member of the EU, the UK is not a member of the Eurozone and retains its own national currency. The UK’s tenuous position in the EU came into greater focus this week, when Prime Minister David Cameron announced that the nation would be opting out numerous criminal-justice provisions and measures before they become binding on member states. These agreements include the European Arrest Warrant (EAW), Europol and Eurojust, prisoner transfers, and access to EU police databases. UK’s decision has been met with consternation and condemnation within the EU, especially as the UK is widely recognized as a leader in criminal justice and security.

When the Lisbon treaty was enacted in December 2009, these agreements were non-binding. Under Protocol 36 of the Treaty, they are enforceable by law, and thus binding, starting in 2014. The general consensus is that member states, including the UK, are suspicious and critical of arrangements such as the EAW, which some argue is costly, overly-sweeping, and subject to the caprices of member states. The UK government has additionally disapproved of a EU-wide prosecutor with sweeping powers, highlighting concerns with protecting its own citizens.

However, some speculate that the UK’s decision runs deeper than dissatisfaction with particular institutions or regulations – specifically a general unwillingness to submit to the EU’s supreme authority over criminal-justice matters if it were to opt into the system. Rather, the UK wishes to preserve autonomy over an area at which it is an undisputed leader. For instance, the Economist’s article references a sentiment that “there is growing annoyance at what many see as the subcontracting of British justice to European courts.” This resentment is a microcosm of the British reluctance to fully integrate itself in the European Union, most visibly in regard to the Eurozone.

In fact, critics of the UK’s participation in the EU, commonly known as Eurosceptics, are increasingly calling for the country to remove itself from the Union altogether. Under TEU Article 50, every member state of the European Union has the option to withdraw from its membership in the Union. Public discourse regarding the UK’s membership in the EU has become so prominent that a potential referendum on leaving the EU has become a legitimate political issue.

An editorial in the New Statesman illustrates the perils that accompany a UK renegotiation – or exit –from the EU for the Community as a whole.  If the UK were to disengage from serious EU legislation under the pretense of protecting its national interests, the flood gates for other member states to do the same could open, wreaking havoc on the internal market and undermining the efficacy and legitimacy of EU institutions, in turn irrevocably harming the framework of the EU.

Necessary Power? The Development of the European Union Military

The Common Security and Defense Policy, CSDP, could be said to have had its historical beginnings with the signing of the 1947 Treaty of Dunkirk. The treaty was signed by France and United Kingdom after World War II due to a possible with German threat. This treaty of ‘Alliance and Mutual Assistance” might be the first of its kind between European countries in an attempt to bind together in warding off enemy attacks.

In 1999, after the initial Dunkirk Treaty and through other treaties, meetings, and agreements  among the 27 Member States of the European Union, EU, the European Security and Defense Policy, ESPD, was established.  The goal of the ESPD was to ensure the security of Europe in the globalizing world and to formulate a united European international security strategy in order to deal with the growing threats facing the EU. Further, another goal was to support the EU’s “Common Foreign and Security Policy.” These growing dangers might be too much for a single Member State  to face alone. Unlike its predecessor, the European Security and Defense Identity (ESDI), the ESPD included Member States of the EU that were not members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO. In so doing, the ESPD, first, fell under the jurisdiction of Europe and second, created the first united Military strategy of the EU because non-NATO Member States of the EU were allowed to become members. In 2009, the Treaty of Lisbon came into force/effect. That effect brought with it a change in name of the “united strategy” from the ESPD to the CSDP.

Before its renaming in 2009, the ESPD carried out its first mission in 2003 following the 1999 declaration of intent of the Member States for the ESPD. This mission consisted of EU troops watching over the country of Macedonia due to tensions of different ethnic groups due to the consequence of the Kosovo War. Since then the EU military have completed missions in Africa, Asia, and Europe. These missions range from  humanitarian (Africa) to peacekeeping (Europe). The 27 Member States that make up the EU military have a combined military budget of 194 Billion Euros  for military expenditures and over 5 million military personnel (active and reserve). In fact, the CSDP has been compared  to the national strategy of the United States’ military.

The United States, unlike the EU, is one country. The EU consist of nations with their own military power, budget and personnel. Furthermore, the 27 Member States each have their own Heads of States who make decisions that, although helps their national interest, must conform with the standards of the EU, because failure to do so would destroy the purpose of the EU. However, there is much to be seen when a Member State has every right to abstain from a mission but is not allowed to do so. It would be interesting to see what the remedy to that dilemma would be. After all, the EU was created for a common market, but whether a unified military was a rightful side-effect of such is still left to be seen.

UK Home Security: The Snoopers’ Charter

Britain’s Home Secretary, Theresa May, will introduce legislation next month in an attempt to allow Britain’s law-enforcement to “check in” on citizens using their Twitter, Facebook, email and Skype accounts.

The proposed legislation, the ‘Snoopers’ Charter,’ would allow for “on demand” knowledge in “real time” of who speaks to whom.  The agencies that would be able to receive the information gathered include MI5 and GCHQ. The Home Office stated, “the new law would keep crime-fighting abreast of developments in instant communications – and that a warrant would still be required to view the content of messages.”   The data gathered that would not require a warrant may include time and duration of citizens use of various media.  May  feels confident that the new law will be enacted because normally strong supporters of civil liberties, the Liberal Democrats, are backing the new law.

The proposed law has its critics.  Nick Pickles, director of the Big Brother Watch Campaign Group,  stated, “This is an absolute attack on privacy online and it is far from clear this will actually improve public safety.”  Pickles continued to describe the law as “an unprecedented step that will see Britain adopt the same kind of surveillance as in China and Iran.”

 

The Debt Crisis Impact on the United Kingdom

The continued discussion of the European debt crisis has driven speculation and discussion about what the European Union will look like in the future. In the United Kingdom specifically, news outlets reflect the public eurosceptic sentiment through their coverage of the crisis.

By way of background, the United Kingdom is not one of the Member States part of the “Eurozone,” the seventeen Member States that have adopted the Euro and closer economic ties.

Heightened speculation comes after attempts by some British Members of Parliament, including some in Prime Minister Cameron’s party, to seek a national referendum to discuss withdrawal from the Union. While the proposed legislation failed to garner sufficient votes, the introduction of the proposal to Parliament underscores an internal political debate on the United Kingdom’s future within the European Union.

Reaction to European Union negotiations were addressed in one article which advocates that the United Kingdom distance itself from the Eurozone and the Union itself. The article urges a strong united bargaining front led by Prime Minister David Cameron to protect the interests of the people of the United Kingdom.

Another article foresees Eurozone Member States strengthening the European Union, at least as it applies to economic policy. As of yet, there is not a consensus on what should (or may) be done to unite Members of Parliament in pursuit of one course of action.

While it seems that negotiations on addressing the debt crisis have arrived at some conclusion, at least one question remains. What will come of the heated internal debate which centers on the United Kingdom’s ties with the European Union?

 

 


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