The Justice and Home Affairs Council took place in Luxembourg on 4 and 5 June 2018. The UK was represented by a senior official from the Ministry of Justice on Justice Day (4 June). The Home Secretary represented the UK on Interior Day (5 June).
Justice Day began with a discussion on the Contract Law- Sales of Goods Directive. The UK supported the Presidency’s approach of a single set of rules in this measure for all goods (including those with embedded digital content), and on guarantee periods, but expressed concern on the potential for full harmonisation of remedies. A more general concern was expressed around the room, including by the UK, about the impact of the remedies provisions on consumer protections set out in national laws. Work will continue at technical level in line with the Digital Content Directive, taking this concern into account.
The Presidency secured a partial general approach on the Insolvency Directive provisions covering the discharge of debts for honest entrepreneurs, training for judges and practitioners and data collection, in line with UK views.
There was a discussion around certain policy questions on Brussels IIa, with broad support for circulation of provisional measures in relation to child abduction cases, as well as the need for consent in relation to the placement of children in foster or institutional care in another Member State. On the recognition and enforcement of judgments, Member States were divided on whether (and how) to treat cases involving children differently, with the Presidency concluding that further work would be required at technical level.
There was a report on the preparatory steps needed to be taken to ensure that the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) becomes operational in 2020. The UK will not participate in the EPPO.
Member States discussed the misuse of user data and the protection of democracy in relation to Facebook. The UK provided an update on the ICO’s (Information Commissioner’s Office’s) investigation. The Commission noted the importance of fully implementing the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and welcomed the cooperation between the UK and Ireland on the Cambridge Analytica case.
Judicial training and the role of the European Judicial Training Network was discussed over lunch. There was broad support for more money for the network in the next Multi-Annual Financial Framework.
The incoming Austrian Presidency provided an update on their programme. They will aim to achieve a general approach in a number of dossiers: insolvency, e-evidence, sale of goods, service of documents and taking of evidence; political consensus on Brussels IIa; and the adoption of the confiscation, Eurojust and ECRIS TCN (European Criminal Records Information System – Third Country Nationals) measures. The July Informal JHA Council will also include a discussion on mutual trust and mutual recognition, and developing ECJ jurisprudence (in particular the Irish references on UK and Polish European Arrest Warrants (EAWs)).
In a joint session of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers there was a policy debate on the draft EU legislation on improving cross-border access to electronic evidence. Ministers agreed on the need to explore further whether to include live intercept and direct access in the scope of the legislation. The Council also reaffirmed widespread support among Member States for a common EU approach towards the negotiation of an executive agreement with international partners, and concluded that the Commission should submit recommendations for negotiating mandates before the summer. The UK has a JHA opt-in decision to take on this Regulation by 22 August.
Ministers adopted Council Conclusions on support for victims of terrorism. A new Coordination Centre for Victims of Terrorism will bring together expertise and facilitate coordination.
Interior Day began with a discussion on progress made on negotiations on the reform of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS). Of the measures that make up CEAS, the UK has only opted in to the recast of the Eurodac Regulation. Member States remained split on the inclusion of a mandatory redistribution mechanism in the recast Dublin Regulation. The June European Council will aim to reach agreement as a priority.
There was a policy debate on the Regulation amending the Schengen Visa Code. The UK does not participate in the border and immigration aspects of the Schengen Acquis so this legislation has no impact upon the UK.
Over lunch, Ministers exchanged views on the current developments on the migration situation at the Eastern, Central and Western Mediterranean migration routes. The UK reinforced our commitment to the EU-Turkey Statement and called for focus on breaking the people smugglers’ business model and encouraged more action on strategic communications. The Council agreed the immediate and short-term measures proposed by the Presidency.
Ministers then exchanged views on enhancing cooperation between counterterrorism authorities. The Council endorsed the importance of the Counter Terrorism Group’s work and endorsed the call for heightened cooperation between intelligence and law enforcement communities.
On internal security, the Council signalled continued support for the multidisciplinary approach of the EU Policy Cycle to counter organised and serious international crime.
Finally, there was a discussion on co-operation between Common Security and Defence Policy operations and EU JHA agencies. The Council was updated on the establishment of the new ‘Crime Information Cell’ in the EUNAVFORMED Operation Sophia.
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: