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 record of behaviour recently, it’s no surprise that UKIP MEPs are more likely to come to blows than to talk to each other. So to help Paul Nuttall avoid a knockout blow so early in his leadership, given his inability to get even his own CV right, here are the actual facts about about some of the daft claims he made.
Claim: This is an explosively dangerous move by the big groups in the European Parliament because it reduces the public visibility of important legislative votes and transfers huge amounts of decision-making power to behind closed doors.
Reality: The proposals were drawn up by a working group including ALL political Groups, including UKIP’s. It will increase public visibility of important legislative votes, as it bans Committees from embarking on negotiations with other institutions without this being accepted by Parliament as a whole.
Claim: Though on the surface, a technical report, it will mean that more and more legislation will be fast-tracked without proper public deliberation onto so-called Trilogue meetings of the Commission, Council and Parliament.
Reality: Any EU legislation requires approval by ministers from elected national governments in the Council and directly elected MEPs in the Parliament, in a public vote. The so-called trilogue meetings are where members of these two bodies and the Commission meet to discuss any differences between their viewpoints, and suggest compromises, prior to the votes. One criticism is that parliamentary committees used to start with such trilogue talks too early in the procedure, before setting out an initial position on the issue. Under these reforms, trilogues will not now not possible without the committee adopting a public report and this being accepted by Parliament as a whole as a basis for such talks.
UKIP are clearly hoping that the arcane detail of this will lead to people swallowing their claims without checking the facts.
Claim: There will be less votes in public view, and smaller political groups, most of which are Eurosceptic, will have less ability to make amendments to the laws that impact on peoples’ lives. Eurosceptic groups will thus be denied an even playing field and a fair book of rules. This shows Federalist contempt for the electorates of Europe.
Reality: Nothing makes it more difficult for smaller Groups to table amendments and the threshold for individual members to do so is lowered.
Claim: Bad for smaller groups. Political group support can only be applied through the medium and higher thresholds, i.e at least 1/10th of Parliament (75 MEPs).
No, the lower threshold (a single political Group or 38 MEPs) applies for tabling amendments.
Claim: Amendment to rule 199 will block an EFDD seat on 2 committees, one relevant for Brexit.
Reality: No, this enters into force in 2019 and doesn’t affect this parliament.
Claim: Election to chairs of committee should be fairer using the D’hondt system.
Reality: Parliament already applies the D’hondt system, even if UKIP hasn’t noticed! In other words, committee chairmanships are shared out among Groups in proportion to their size, rather than going to a majority “winner takes all” coalition.
Claim: Minimum of 40 signatories needed to table amendments, alternative motion for resolution, inadmissibility of an agenda item, referral back to committee etc.
Reality: No, it used to be 40, now it’s been lowered to 38.
Transparency & Trilogue
Claim: The EFDD group put through an amendment asking that all votes be held by RCV, this was rejected and voting to be done by show of hands unless the President decides to use electronic vote.
Reality: All final votes on legislation are by RCV (Roll Call Vote, showing how each MEP voted), unchanged from now.
Claim: Trilogue – only documents intended to be discussed in the Trilogue will be circulated to the negotiating team, if a provisional agreement is made then the documents will be made available to the committee and published.
Reality: Of course, only documents to be discussed are circulated, not the ones that are not going to be discussed.
Claim: Trilogue negotiating team to comprise of Chair of committee (or Vice-Chair), at least shadow rapporteurs from each political group wishing to participate.
Reality: As now, and something that UKIP’s Group wanted.
Claim: Previously, negotiations with other institutions were done on a case by case basis, now under new rule 73(b) Where Parliament has adopted its position at first reading, this shall constitute the mandate for any negotiations with other institutions. Basically making it much easier.
Reality: Any negotiations with other institutions will now require a mandate from parliament, adopted in public and available to the public, which would seem to be something UKIP might support (as its representative on the committee did). The mandate is either from a committee report (where this is accepted by Parliament as a whole) or after a full debate and reading in Parliament.
Claim: A prime example of Trilogue negotiations and a regulation coming back as a 1st reading is the Port Services Transparency Regulation. In March 2016 it was at Plenary for 1st Reading but was referred back for Trilogue negotiations. It is now back on the agenda this plenary following negotiations as a First Reading again.
Reality: This happened under the old rules.