Fly on the wall at Brexit talks

There are 3 sources I look to for real news on Brexit:

Jennifer Rankin@  Guardian, Peter Ludlow @ Eurocomment, and the  FT.

 Mr Ludlow has produced another pre-summit Briefing gem.

Some interesting observations for me are:
  • The UK-EU trade agreement will be ready the mid 2020s at the earliest.
  • By which time, many of those currently involved in the process in London and in EU 27 will be politically, if not physically, long since dead.
  • Germany and France are united and take a hawkish position.
  • The UK has to comply with the EU Trade Policy for the 2 year transition (so no new trade deals for 2 years)
  • Phase 2 can only start when the UK provides clear guidance on the post transition relationship.
  • Negotiations in the second phase can only progress as long as all commitments undertaken during the first phase are respected in full and translated faithfully into legal terms as quickly as possible.

Let’s hope that David Davis starts to negotiate in good faith and read his papers.


Forces of open law making strike again in the EU


Open Law Making Wins Again

Yesterday evening, 1st Vice-President Frans Timmermans, struck another blow for open law making.

Until today,  the process for adopting delegated acts was a secretive affair. Today, you can track the development, adoption and scrutiny of delegated acts.

You can find out how to here.


This is important because most legislation in the EU – estimates argue between 97% to 99% – is secondary legislation. The important secondary legislation is often delegated acts.

For members of the public the whole process has been more or less secret. I think that the people should be able to monitor their governments law making. These changes make it easier for the people to see what is being done in their name

Today’s  system is a vast improvement. It gives a good summary of the status of where a piece of delegated legislation is. You can track the progress from the comfort of your own armchair.

The spirit  of Better Law Making has not yet filtered down to all Commission Departments. The idea of making up legal proposals on a whim, whatever or despite the evidence, still has many adherents within the Commission and in  too many governments.  Better Regulation, championed by Commissioner Timmermans, forces his colleagues to meet some basic standards  of good law making before coming up with new laws. I know many officials do not like it.

I think a lot of lobbyists won’t like it. Anything that makes the system less complex is bad for billable hours.

The EU is not the place to have policy and political decision making by way of political derogation. Following the Better Regulation Guidelines and Toolbox for bother ordinary and secondary law making is one of the greatest incentives Europe has to offer business doing business here.

I think that the positive lasting legacy of the Juncker Commission will be the step by step opening up of law making to public scrutiny and improved and better law making.


Next Steps?

There are  some improvements that could be made.

First, they could hyperlink to the actual text being considered.

Second, they could integrate creaking online system for Implementing Acts and measures adopted under Regulatory Procedure into this easier to use system.

Third, they could list the civil servants who attend the Committee. They are meeting as law makers.  It is usual for law makers to be recognised when they vote. The meetings could be online.

All these changes could be made quickly.


Dank U


Commissioner Timmermans and his team have worked around the clock to deliver on the  13 April 2016 Better Law-Making Interinstutional Agreement*. The system works.

* para 29: The three Institutions commit to set up, at the latest by the end of 2017 and in close cooperation, a joint functional register of delegated acts, providing information in a well-structured and user-friendly way, in order to enhance transparency, facilitate planning and enable traceability of all the different stages in the lifecycle of a delegated act.



Is “Sound Science” an indicator of how politicians vote?

Is “Sound Science” an indicator of how politicians vote?

I was chatting with some people who are convinced that if politicians just understood the science they would back them.

I get why some people may think “if only they understood our scientific case they would back us”. I understand it but don’t agree with it. More importantly, I don’t think there is any evidence to support the idea.

Having spent a long time  working for politicians and lobbying them, I think there are a lot more simple reasons to help explain why a MEP will vote for or against you.


The Background of MEPs

Looking at the Environment Committee you will see MEPs from a wide range of professional backgrounds.

  • Pastors
  • Political activists
  • Charity workers
  • Medical Doctors
  • Lawyers
  • Farmers
  • Civil Servants
  • Business men and women
  • Academics
  • Engineers
  • Scientists
  • Lobbyists

Top Professions for Politicians

I cross checked the background of this Committee with members of another Committee. The backgrounds are similar. Lawyers and political activists top the list.


Empircial Research

So, I have just spent a rainy December, using Vote Watch,  to see how a group of MEPs  of scientific backgrounds have voted. It’s dull work.

There are few votes that you could say are about science. The vote on DEHP is one of the few.

I looked at the voting habits of the scientists and doctors to see if their “scientific understanding” changed how they voted. It did not.

By far the best indicator of support is Party Membership.

One vote is not an ideal indicator. So, I  looked at some similar scientific votes. Again and again the results were the same, but with an added twist.  It seems that the more an MEP’s background is from science or as a doctor, the MEP is the less likely to back industry on the “science”.

This is good news for me. I understand lawyers and political activists best (I have been both. I won’t have to learn to think like a scientist.

Political party card and nationality is the best indicator of whether a politician will back your case.  It seems clear that science is not going to win them over.



An aligned approach for endocrine disruptors soon?

What seems a long time ago, the European Commission tabled two proposals for Endocrine Disruptor Criteria. One for biocides and one for pesticides.  From the start, the Commission wanted a joined up approach. They just want the same regulatory  approach taken for pesticides, biocides, and indeed for anything else.

It has not been easy getting these rules agreed. Their hopes of an aligned approach appeared to be derailed in October. Then a text on biocides was accepted by the Member States and European Parliament,  but rejected for pesticides by the Parliament.

Today, the Commission came back to the drawing board and submitted a new proposal (see below).

It stands a good chance of being adopted. It removes an exemption for insect growth regulators. This was put forward by Germany. The European Parliament objected to it for rule of law concerns – it exceeded the strict limitations of delegated legislation. Without the offending provisions it should sail through.

Government officials look at on 12 or 13 December and may even vote on it. If they back it, the Parliament will let it through, and an aligned approach may well come true after several years.  Inevitably it will then start to work its way across other legislation.

Civil servants, who are often lawyers, like legal certainty and order. They may well secure it for Endocrine.