Lord Callanan, Minister of State for Exiting the European Union, has made the following statement:
I represented the UK at the General Affairs Council (GAC) meeting on 18 September in Brussels. A provisional report of the meeting and the conclusions adopted can be found on the Council of the European Union’s website at:
Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) 2021-2027
The Presidency provided Ministers with an update on the Commission’s proposal on the MFF. Ministers discussed the extent to which EU policy priorities and the allocation of funds to different policy areas were reflected in the MFF proposal. The Commission reiterated its intention to reach consensus on the proposals ahead of the 2019 European Parliament elections. I did not intervene in the discussion on the basis that, while the UK had an interest in participation in some programmes, it was for other Member States to discuss and agree the overall priorities and funds allocations for the next MFF.
Presentation of the priorities of the Austrian Presidency
The Presidency indicated that it intended to prioritise managing migration, removing over-regulation in the Digital Single Market and creating stability in the Western Balkans.
The Council discussed the Letter of Intent issued by the Commission on 12 September which set out its legislative priorities for 2019. The Commission will consider Member States’ views on the proposals as it finalises its work programme. The programme is expected to be published in October and will be discussed by Ministers at the General Affairs Council meeting on 12 November. The Presidency also highlighted the need to complete important legislative files before the end of the current Commission President’s term in 2019. Ministers continued their discussion on legislative programming over a working lunch where I intervened to reiterate the UK’s support for policy areas, such as the Digital Single Market, trade and external security, in which the UK is looking to build a new relationship with the EU following our exit.
Preparation of the October European Council on 18 October 2018
Ministers considered the annotated draft agenda for the October European Council. Leaders are expected to discuss migration and internal security. There were no interventions from Member States on this agenda item.
Rule of law in Poland / Article 7 (1) TEU Reasoned Proposal
The Council held a second hearing under Article 7(1) TEU on the rule of law in Poland. The Commission reiterated its concerns in this matter and presented the reasons behind its decision in July to start infringement proceedings against Poland in response to the lowering of the retirement age of Supreme Court judges from 70 to 65. In reply, Poland delivered a presentation on the evolution of its judicial reforms and argued its right to make changes which were consistent with the Polish constitution. The UK was among sixteen Member States which did not intervene in the hearing. The Presidency indicated that Ministers would return to this matter at future Council meetings.