Open Europe Blog

Theresa May MP may have committed a future Conservative
government to renenegotiate ECJ power over crime and policing

Yesterday the House of Commons voted to opt out of c.130 EU crime and policing measures and then seek to opt back into ones the Government judges to be in the national interest (c.35 at present). These 35 will for the first time become subject to the juristiction of the European Court (ECJ). Given the past history of the ECJ’s rulings and the difficulty of amending EU law once (mis)interpreted by EU judges this is no small thing.

Many Conservative MPs were rightly concerned and presured the Coalition to first give more time for the Committees to examine these measures and then amend the motion to remove the specific list so as not to prejudge the outcome.

We have argued before that the Conservative part of the Coalition faces a difficult decision and given this, it should hold open the probability that ECJ jurisdiction would form a part of a wider Conservative renegotiation of the UK’s EU membership terms. So did the Home Secretary do that?

Theresa May set out her position on ECJ juristiction claiming “we have pursued a policy of seeking co-operation not control” (incidentally the title of an Open Europe paper written by Dom Raab MP on this issue). She then went on to explain that a Conservative Government would revisit ECJ juristiction.

As part of that renegotiation, it would be odd indeed, and colleagues would question it, if the Conservative party, as part of its commitment, said, “We will renegotiate, but not these bits.” We will renegotiate the United Kingdom’s relationship with the European Union.

The issues involving justice and home affairs to which I referred earlier are being considered in the Government’s “balance of competences” review. Undoubtedly the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice will need to be considered when, after the election, a future Conservative Government renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the European Union; but the choice that is before us now is binary. We are a coalition Government with no mandate to seek a renegotiation of our relationship with Europe..

…Before I took a number of interventions, I mentioned the European Court of Justice. I also want to refer to the European Court of Human Rights, which contradicts laws passed by our Parliament, overrules judgments made by our courts, and interprets the articles of the original convention on human rights in an expansionist way. That is totally unacceptable. I therefore believe that we also have to consider very carefully this country’s relationship with Strasbourg as well as our relationship with Brussels.

Justice Minister Chris Grayling MP added later in the debate that:

I am clear about the fact that the Lisbon treaty paves the way for the creation of a European justice system. That system is now taking shape. A raft of new measures is emerging from Brussels, and the recent addition of a new justice scorecard creates a platform that will enable more to follow soon. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr Redwood) and many others were right to say that the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice was a key element… We have decided we do not want to follow a path that leads to a European justice system… 

To my Conservative colleagues, I say simply this: everyone knows my position on matters European—I believe that Britain’s position in the European Union needs, at the very least, to change pretty radically

So we seem to be reaching a clear commitment to renegotiate the ECJ’s juristiction over EU crime and policing measures. We have long argued that this is right, necesary and achievable but, like the referendum commitment, will it survive any future coalition talks?

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