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Government's unilateral approach to EU Justice and Home Affairs measures should be abandoned - Lords EU Committee

The EU Justice, Institutions and Consumer Protection Sub-Committee, which conducted the inquiry, considered the precedent that is being set by the UK Government seeking unilaterally to decide whether or not it is bound by particular EU legal measures.

The Committee has also reviewed a series of rulings of by the Court, in each of which the Government's approach has been rejected. The Committee concludes that the Government's policy “raises serious questions about the UK's acceptance of the uniform application of EU law, the defining trait of the rule of law in the European Union”.

Chairman of the EU Justice Sub-Committee, Baroness Quin, said:

“We launched this inquiry following a letter from the Home Secretary and Secretary of State for Justice in June 2014. It set out the Government's strategy in relation to Protocol (No.21) of the Lisbon Treaty – the UK's ability to opt out of certain EU legislation in relation to justice and home affairs measures. We wanted to understand the Government's position and its implications.

“What we have discovered has astonished us. From the outset we struggled to find any witnesses who supported the Government's position. The weight of the evidence left us in no doubt of three things: that the Government's interpretation of the opt-in Protocol was legally unsustainable; that its litigation strategy ignored the case law of the Court; and that its stance could run counter to the UK's own interests as well as undermine its good standing among other Member States.

“The Government's broad interpretation of the treaty provisions governing the UK's opt-in would give the EU itself wide powers to increase its competence in other areas - a consequence this Government certainly does not want.

“Our principal recommendation is that the incoming Government should abandon what amounts to an unjustified policy of unilateralism that has brought no tangible benefit to the UK.”

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