Lords inquiry to examine role of UK's opt-in and international agreements

28 July 2014

The House of Lords Justice, Institutions and Consumer Protection EU Sub-Committee today invites contributions to its new inquiry, which will examine the role of the UK’s opt-in and international agreements.


In recent months, there has been much discussion, both in Parliament and in the media, about the UK’s option to exercise its opt-out from a number of EU justice and home affairs measures – the so-called “block opt-out”– which will come into force later on this year. The Committee has conducted two joint inquiries into the 2014 Opt-out decision.

Besides scrutinising the block opt-out, the Committee has repeatedly questioned the Government’s application of the opt-in to international agreements. The opt-in entitles the UK and Ireland to opt-out of, on an individual basis, all European Union legislation that specifically concerns justice and home affairs policies. However, based on the content of the proposed measure, the Government believes that the opt-out applies even where its negotiating partners do not agree, and in those cases applies it unilaterally. In the past year alone, the Government’s assertion that its opt-out rights apply have been challenged three times in the Court of Justice of the European Union, and three times the Court has found against them.

With all the confusion surrounding the correct interpretation of Protocol 21, the Committee will, through this inquiry, attempt to shine a light on the Government’s opt-in policy, consider its impact and implications and provide factual, balanced recommendations to the new Government after next year’s general election.


The Committee will be asking questions relating to a number of areas, including:

  • the impact of the policy on other Member States;
  • the view of the institutions and other Member States of the policy, particularly Ireland and Denmark;
  • the consequences of the policy for legal certainty in international agreements; and
  • the consistency of the policy with Treaty provisions and general principles of EU law.

Any interested parties are invited to submit written evidence by Tuesday 30 September 2014.

Image: iStockphoto

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