Observations on the neonicotinoids challenge

Observations on the neonicotinoids implementing act challenge

 On 7th April 2017, Julie Girdling (UK/ECR) submitted three objections to restrictions on 3 neonicotinoid pesticides: active substance coinciding; imidacloprid; ethiamethoxam.

Neonicotinoids  are a group of pesticides that mimic nicotine.  They have been subject to EU restrictions because questions of impacting bees.

The grounds put forward to objecting to the 3 draft implementing acts were that the Commission had exceeded the implementing powers provided for in the basic act.  Please go the bottom of the post for the 3 objections.

As is normal, after a discussion in the Environment Committee on 21 June, the Committee voted the next day.

On 22 June, the European Parliament rejected the move.

The amendments were defeated. 8 MEPs backed the challenged and 43 voted against.

As there is no automatic roll call vote, it is not possible to identify how individual MEPs voted.

I understand it was supported by some ECR MEPs and some classical liberals in the ALDE Group.




  • The trend for motions being put forward by a single group being defeated continues.
  • The focus of challenges to be directed towards sensitive issues – pesticides, GMOs, baby food – continues.
  • Anything that does not have broad cross party support, in particular from the Social Democrats, is unlikely to succeed.
  • At times, it seems like a theoretical possibility that the EP will support a challenge against a restriction on some substances.
  • As with delegated legislation in general, and implementing acts in particular, the key stage to influence the outcome is to influence the Commission’s proposal. Whatever the Commission is, in all likelihood, going to be adopted.


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.