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Lords explore the UK opt-in and its use in international treaties with leading academic experts


The House of Lords EU Justice, Institutions and Consumer Protection Sub-Committee will question academic experts in the first evidence session of its new inquiry, examining the UK's opt-in and its application to international agreements.

It is a golden rule of EU law that EU legislation should state the legal base on which the EU has power to act. Citing the legal base both ensures that the EU is acting within the scope of the power conferred on it by Member States, and reflects what has been agreed between the EU institutions to be the limits of the legislation. Without a legal base being cited Member States could decide the scope of a provision unilaterally, based on a subjective view of its content. This would lead to uncertainty and inconsistency in the application of EU law.

The House of Lords EU Justice, Institutions and Consumer Protection Sub-Committee has considered a large number of EU international agreements over the last few years where the Government has asserted that the opt-in Protocol applies to certain provisions within those agreements, despite the relevant legal base not being cited. The Government's policy is to consider that it is the content, rather than the legal base, of a provision which enables a decision to opt in or out of it. It seems to be alone among Member States in pursuing this policy, and has recently unsuccessfully challenged two agreements over the last 12 months where a Title V legal was not added. Its policy is leading to confusion about the domestic effects of the agreements in the UK, and about whether enhanced Parliamentary procedures for opt-in decisions apply.

The Committee will, through this inquiry, attempt to shine a light on the Government's opt-in policy in relation to international agreements, consider its impact and implications and provide factual, balanced recommendations to the new Government after next year's general election.

At 4pm, the Committee will question Professor Steve Peers, University of Essex, and Professor Gavin Barrett, Professor of European Constitutional and Economic Law at University College Dublin.

The witnesses will be questioned on a variety of issues including the interpretation of the Justice and Home Affairs Protocol by the Home Secretary and Justice Secretary, as per a letter written by them, to the Chairman of the Lords EU Select Committee in June; the application of the opt-in Protocol by the Irish Government; the circumvention of the UK and Ireland's opt-in rights and the European Court of Justice's decisions and the UK's litigation strategy.

The evidence sessions will take place on Wednesday 29 October at 4.05pm in Committee Room 1 of the House of Lords.

The session will be webcast at www.parliamentlive.tv and is also open to the public. Journalists wishing to attend should go to Parliament's Cromwell Green Entrance and should allow time for security screening.

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