Common Foreign and Security Policy: decision making by Qualified Majority Voting

On 25 October 2018, the EU External Affairs Sub-Committee considered the Communication on introducing qualified majority voting to Common Foreign and Security Policy decision-making. 


The Sub-Committee decided to retain the Communication under scrutiny and wrote a letter to the Rt Hon Sir Alan Duncan MP, Minister for Europe and the Americas, asking him:

  • When the Government will assess the impact that the change to qualified majority voting will have on UK interests during the transition period after the UK has left the EU.
  • How the  EU will ensure decisions taken by QMV will also be implemented by Member States that have not voted in favour, particularly in the field of sanctions.
  • What criteria are being used to assess whether the stated reasons of national policy are vital and who makes this assessment.
  • What the Minister's assessment of the effectiveness of the process following the application of the 'emergency brake' is.

Letter from the Minister

Within his letter dated 24 December 2018, the Minister states:

  • The discussions are at an early stage and the Commission has not provided further information on the proposals.
  • It is not clear whether EU Member States will agree to the change or what the timing of its introduction would be.
  • The changes proposed apply to specific areas of CFSP, rather than CFSP as a whole. The EU’s strategic approach would remain subject to unanimity as currently. Yet if the changes were introduced during the implementation period, the intention is that it will make it easier for the EU to take decisions in the specific areas referenced in the Commission Communication, where the EU has found difficult to reach consensus. Where the UK agrees with the policy, this could be a positive outcome. However, it would also have the effect of making it easier for the EU to agree policies that the UK does not agree with.
  • The UK is committed to a successful CSFP and is working to agree a range of mechanisms that will allow dialogue and coordination with the EU on foreign policy during the implementation period.
  • Decisions adopted by QMV are expected to be binding on both those Member States who voted against it as well as those who voted for it. However, as the Commission Communication notes, there are safeguards in the Treaties in the form of the Emergency Brake, and the commitment that decisions with military or defence implications will not be taken by QMV. He will write to the Committee as more information becomes available as the Commission have not yet presented any additional information about how these treaty commitments would operate in practice.

Letters to the Minister

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