Open Europe Blog

William Hague backs giving national parliaments
a new ‘red card’ to replace the current yellow card

William Hague will today further develop plans for a new ‘red card’ system for national parliaments to block unwelcome laws from Brussels, a move first proposed by Europe Minister David Lidington a couple of weeks ago. In a speech in Germany, Hague will argue that only by giving greater powers to national MPs, rather than MEPs in the European Parliament, will Europe be able to restore the democratic deficit.

The proposed ‘red card’ would beef up the little-known ‘yellow card’ system already in place, which is pretty weak in practice since it only forces the Commission to ‘reconsider’ a proposal.

We have long championed this approach and the idea of a ‘red card’ in particular, including in our paper making the case for ‘European localism’, published in 2011. Today, our Director Mats Persson backed the move and is quoted by PA as saying,

“Allowing national parliaments to block unwanted EU laws would go a long way to bring back democratic accountability over EU decisions.”

“However, whilst it’s encouraging that the UK government is looking at this, it must press ahead with this reform now to avoid the impression that it has no immediate strategy in Europe – a charge that’s becoming more frequent. There’s support for this reform in other parts of the EU.”

This is the first major proposal for EU reform the Government has made since Cameron’s speech and it is a very welcome one. The fact Hague will make his speech in Germany is no accident and there is certainly a great deal of support for this idea amongst other member states who feel that for too long the EU institutions have run roughshod over national politics – yesterday’s intervention from the Commission on migrant benefits (another area where the UK’s concerns are shared with other powerful EU countries) is a case in point.

Its also worth noting that this option would enjoy substantial support among the UK public with 42% of respondents in the recent ComRes poll for Open Europe listing “giving the UK parliament more powers to block unwanted EU laws” as one of their top four priorities for renegotiation. Of all the available options, this was the second most popular after immigration.

We need to see much more of the same and, all importantly, the political will to make it a reality.

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