Committee reports on UK EU legislation opt-ins

24 March 2009

The House of Lords EU Committee have today claimed that the UK Government’s decision not to opt-in to the EU Directive on Reception Conditions for Asylum Seekers will highlight a real doubt over the UK’s legal position when it chooses not to opt-in to EU amending legislation

The Government have stated they will not opt-in to the changes proposed in the new Directive which would establish a higher common standard of treatment for asylum seekers across the EU, including giving them greater access to the labour market.

The Government claim that the Directive would make the UK too attractive a proposition for asylum seekers and encourage bogus claims. This is a claim the Committee are still considering. However the Government also argue that by not opting-in to the new Directive the UK will automatically cease to be governed by any previous EU legislation on reception conditions.

The Committee dispute this, arguing that there is real uncertainty as to what the UK’s legal position will be following the adoption of the new Directive by other Member States. They argue that as the UK has opted in to the previous measure but refused to do so for this Directive, it is very possible that the UK will continue to be bound by the previous unamended legislation even though that is not what the Government want. The report states: "there is no policy or operational reason why the Directive should not continue to operate in the UK in its unamended form."

Commenting Lord Jopling, Chairman of the House of Lords EU Sub-Committee on Home Affairs, said:

"The current situation with the UK’s opt-ins on EU home affairs legislation is a recipe for confusion.

"The Home Office claims that by not opting-in to the new Directive setting out reception conditions for asylum seekers the UK will automatically cease to be governed by the current Directive. We have serious doubts.

"This is not just a technical issue. We need to know whether there will continue to be an EU law on the subject applying to the UK, or whether the Government will be free to act as they wish. We have explained how this can very simply be put beyond doubt. The Government and the Commission should follow our suggestions.

"This is a problem which will arise increasingly often with future EU home affairs legislation. It needs to be considered urgently in London and in Brussels."

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