Better Regulation & Ordinary Legislation in one easy chart

I wanted to put down in one easy chart how the Commission adopts ordinary legislation. This is the chart I came up with.

The advantage of the Better Regulation rules is that the process for adopting a legislative proposal is quite straightforward.

First, you have to go through the Better Regulation guidelines and toolbox.  If you don’t want to go through that, I have added a process chart.

Second, you need know who is involved in the Inter-service Steering Group and the Inter-Service Consultation at the Services and Cabinet level. You are going to need to know max around 50 people. That’s a lot less than 200 +  people you need to know when it goes to the ordinary legislation stage

Third, around a year after the political validation for the work to start, and the first road map/inception impact assessment, you are likely to see a legislative proposal being adopted.

Fourth, to be honest, the smoke signals that regulation in your area is likely to be seen many months and years before political validation. The only excuse for not seeing the signs is long term hospitalisation or political hibernation. After 25 years I  have not yet encountered a piece of legislative action that “came out of the blue”. As soon as the smoke signals are seen, and hopefully before, your work developing your case and story will start.

Finally, that gives you a few months to get your facts and story in a line to persuade 50 people that your solutions are the best and get them to back your side of the story.

Has the IEA delivered a post-Brexit fisheries solution?

Sea Change: How markets and property rights could transform the fishing industry.

The upcoming departure of the UK from the EU provides many opportunities to improve current policies. I was looking forward to reading this post Brexit solutions paper from the IEA.


Personal View

I’ve been working in fisheries for more than 25 years on and off. There are plenty of fisheries in the world that are both profitable and sustainable. It makes sense to copy and learn from them.

Personally, I believe the best way to secure profitable and sustainable fisheries is through market-based approach.  Subsidies do not work and should be phased out or preferably simply banned. There is no reason for discarding dish. It makes bad economics and the technology exists to make enforcement simple. A decent centralised market space solution is the best one. I have taken these broad approaches even when I worked as the Head of WWF’s European Marine Programme, but these views are my own.

What I was looking forward to

I was expecting to see such a plan from the IEA in this publication. The pamphlet is useful for those with no or very limited knowledge of fisheries policy and economics. But, it falls short of a serious roadmap for delivering a sustainable and profitable UK fishing industry.

I skimmed through most of the chapters. I have read most of the materials that are mentioned. It is a useful summary of current thinking.


What I found

The European common fisheries policy is dealt with in chapter 3. It provides a useful summary of the development of the CFP.

I am more struck by the gaps.

First, it is perplexing to see the from the pages of a so-called free market think tank the implicit support for the idea of discrimination on the ownership of assets based on nationality. That, is after all, all that is at stake by not allowing third country fishermen to buy quota and fish in British waters.

It would be ridiculous to require only “native born” people to own land in Britain, or a company, or any other form of property.  The European Union has always upheld the important idea of the free movement and nondiscrimination. The idea that there is a problem that a Dutch vessels owns a large amount of the UK quota is perplexing. Anyway,it was  the UK government who opposed the idea of requiring the quota owner to land their catch locally.

Second, it fails to note that fishermen from Britain have been fishing in third country waters for many hundreds of years as have fishermen, from other countries. These historic rights have been recognised by the 1964 Hague Convention. The common fisheries policy imported many of these historic rights.

Third, what is curious, is that when even considering the reason for TACs being set too high is only that  Ministers asked for higher catches “to avoid their own national quotas from being cut” (page 68). This bookish analysis has overlooked the fishermen themselves were in denial of the state of stocks, and actively and effectively lobbied their ministers and the commission to set the quotas to high.

Fourth, it is also curious there is no substantive consideration of the widespread industrialisation of fisheries from the early 1970s. Technological creep is seriously overlooked by the author. The decline in fish stocks and the corresponding decline in jobs can as well be levelled at vessel owners investment, sometimes with the support of state subsidies, to build massive vessels for industrialised fishing.

It is important to note that there is no genuine issue with large-scale vessels. Sure, it allows fishing at sea for longer, but, it has the advantage of fisheries being safer, and all into important factor in what is still the most dangerous profession that exists. Small-scale fisheries are not by their nature more sustainable, even though many people believe this to be the case. Some of the most sustainable economic fisheries of the mega hundred metre long mackerel fishery is the north-east Atlantic.

Fifth,the author is correct in the lack of political will to deal with overcapacity. The lack of will was felt in most countries. The lack of political will to address control and enforcement was and is a serious issue. However, only Denmark seriously addressed the issue of control and enforcement, and few other countries were serious about it. Even the United Kingdom until recent years was plagued by illegal landings, questionable employment practices of migrants, and what can only be described as opaque ownership of quotas.

Sixth,the  reference to, without serious examination, of the idea of days at sea is startlingly. It  has been used in other regimes, such as the Faroe Islands. It has been an economic and stock disaster.

What is important is what the report does not mention.

Seven, Member states have been free to introduce free-market regimes within the existing common fisheries policy. Denmark and Estonia introduced ITQs. This helped address the issue of overcapacity in the market, and incentivized good stock management.

Eight, under the old common fisheries policy substantial discard ban trials existed. I worked with Denmark to introduce one many years ago. It worked. Before the new common fisheries policy, discard trials happened in other countries including the United Kingdom in England and in Scotland. They were  a success.

Ninth, the report fails to mention that then Commissioner Damanaki, a former Communist revolutionary, introduced in the Commission’s proposal the idea of mandatory  rights based management like ITQs. This was opposed by many countries including the United Kingdom.

Tenth, The report also does not mention the new common fisheries policy was inspired by the practice and lessons of Iceland and in particular Norway. It is interesting to note that this booklet does not consider seriously  Norway. Is this because many years ago then socialist fisheries minister overnight banned subsidies and discards and introduced mandatory ITQs.



These are things the UK could do overnight. Indeed,  it could now most of it today. But, Ministers and officials, who are all too often too close to the fishing industry prefer a more cosy pact.

I look forward to a system that ensures a profitable and sustainable fisheries. The manual needs to be written.

REACH ban challenge falls – but closer than many thought

This morning the European Parliament  Environment Committee voted on Julie Girling’s (UK/ECR) challenge against the listing for authorisation of Triton X-100 under REACH.

The vote was closer than many expected: For 23, Against 34, 1 abstention.

It is the closest any challenge has got to date. I recall a challenge against the phase out of lead in crystal by Swarovksi glass many years ago. It came to nothing.

Challenges usually succeed when a cross party group of MEPs from the S&D, Greens, radical left, and Liberals work together (often with the far right). But, to be fair, challenges are very rare, and successful challenges even rarer. We are talking about cases happening at the margins.

The  EPP have a rule not to support challenges to authorisation listings under REACH.

I don’t think there was a roll call vote for today’s vote. If there is I will update this blog.

This case was peculiar. The reason for the challenge was more with a view to influence the Commission for a longer grant for continued permitted use of an otherwise phased out substance. Julie Girling, a respected British Conservative MEP, who serves as the liaison with ECHA supported the challenge. This was not a frontal challenge against a substance being listed.

I will have to wait longer until the Environment Committee, who lead on REACH matters, launch a successful challenge against a REACH authorisation listing. However, as these are implementing acts, the Commission does not have to follow the EP.

Time will tell if the tactic works and the Commission grant a longer period for continued use after the official phase out. To date, the longest so far is 12 years. That can be renewed.

Is there an alternative?

Coming in this stage is a last resort. There must be an alternative? I think there is. I was chatting with one of Europe’s leading experts on chemical regulation. I asked them how a substance, vilified by many NGOs and many politicians, had walked away from microscopic independent scientific review.

The answer was the substance had lots of world-class scientific studies and data, going back decades, that they handed over.

They brought in world-class scientific experts to present the science clearly and answer all and any questions clearly, humbly, and helpfully.

They stuck to the science, did not verve off message and talk about socio-economic impacts, and played the game as it was meant to be, and not how most people do.

After many hundreds of pages later one of the most disliked substances of the 20th century walked away.

Many may find it strange for a political consultant to suggest such a staid and scientific approach. I think you should keep the “dark arts” for the very few times when they are needed. That’s usually when, for exceptional  reasons,things go wrong.

For 99% of the time, I just hope the science is followed, and the rules of the game are followed to the letter. Lobbyists and politicians are not very good at deciding at what science is.

I hope more people go for the dull approach.



What did the EU do in 2016

Every year European commission publishes a journal report on the and the activities of the European Union. On 15 March they published a 2016 edition. Please find more information here. It is well worth reading.

Monthly to Yearly Reports

Many years ago, the commission used to publish a monthly version of the general report. It was a useful journal of record to see what the European Union, and in particular the European commission, were doing. I remember reading them when I was doing my PhD (uncompleted) and  a few years later drafting contributions for the activity report for DG environment. Unfortunately, for reasons I never fully understood, the monthly service was ended




The keywords throughout are investment, jobs, telecommunications, migration, defending  and empowers at home and abroad.

The annual report  is divided into 10 chapters:
chapter 1. A new boost for jobs, growth and investment
chapter 2. A connected digital single market
chapter 3. A resilient energy union with a forward-looking climate change policy
chapter 4. A deeper and fairer internal market with a strengthened industrial base
Chapter 5. A deeper and fairer economic and monetary union
chapter 6. A reasonable and balanced free trade agreement with the United States.
Chapter 7. An area of justice and fundamental rights based on mutual trust.
Chapter 8. Towards a new policy of migration.
Chapter 9 . A stronger global actor.
Chapter 10 a Union of Democratic change.


This was the first year that the Parliament, Council, and Commission agreed on a joint legislative priorities. They signed a joint declaration on 13th December  “on the EU’s legislative priorities for 2017” (see here).

Despite public concerns, unemployment has declined and growth has risen. Today, unemployment is lowest in the EU since 2009 and  the Great Recession.

Energy, Energy, Energy

Chapter 3 is given over to the energy union – see pages 28 to 34. There can be no doubt as to the political direction of travel for the European union. Looking at page 29  it states “  the global transition to clean energy is ongoing and irreversible, and new European union wants not only to adapt, but to lead. It is its global responsibility.”

They see clean energy as historical inevitable. They note clean energy in 2015 attracted global investment of  € 300 billion. They project 900,000 new jobs over the next 10 years. Let’s hope the central planners guess the future right (for once). Energy transitions have all taken a long time.

They want Europe to embrace  “energy efficiency as the cheapest and cleanest is that which is not used at all.” We still need to get around to people turning off their unused appliances in the meantime.

All slow at sea?

Environment and Fisheries have been unified under one Commissioner. Some thought that this would be too much for one man to lead. They need not worry. This Commission is doing so little new on fisheries and the environment field, and in fisheries it is hardly keeping up with implementing the new CFP.

What about industry

With many countries embracing plans to help industry – like Trump and May –  The discussion “ strengthening the EU’s industrial base”  is bare in comparison.

As they state, it  seems to cover 2 specific initiatives.

First, ‘a set of measures announced in April to support the links between national initiatives for the digitization of industry.


Second announcement in June of EU level smart specialisation platform for industrial modernisation. This assists cooperation between regions, clusters of companies, business networks and industrial partners.’

Better Regulation – the greatest achievement?

I think the greatest achievement of this Commission is that it has become serious about making better laws.  There is a lot of work to do, but a huge amount has been done.

Two pages are given over to better regulation – see pages 90 to 91. In relation to the regulatory scrutiny Board, in notes that in 2016, it is reviewed and issued opinions on 60 impact assessment and seven evaluations.

Perhaps the most important thing that this commission has done as the new web presence and feedback mechanisms. Draft delegated in implementing acts were from June 2016 open public feedback for a period of four weeks. By the end of the year 106 draft delegated in implementing acts had been published.
Roadmaps or inception impact assessments for new initiatives, evaluations and legislative proposals have been open for stakeholder comments and contributions since July 2015. By the end of 2016 338 roadmaps and inception impact assessment be published for feedback. During the same period 147  legislative proposals were published for feedback.

There are some gaps. The application of impact assessment for actions on substances – whether under REACH or international conventions – is still variable and problematic.

Much work needs to be done with the Commission Services to remind that all Directorate-Generals  fall under the rules.



There is scant reference to the UK voting to leave the EU. It is like the EU of 28 has been airbrushed to an EU of 27.