Andrew Duff MEP reacts to House of Commons report on on EU Charter: Britain should uphold best European standard of fundemental rights

Andrew Duff MEP‘The House of Commons is wrong to seek to weaken the protection afforded by the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights’. That is the conclusion of Andrew Duff MEP, European Liberal Democrat spokesman on constitutional affairs, reacting to the Report of the European Scrutiny Committee published today (Wednesday), on the application of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights to the United Kingdom (HC 979).

In his statement, Duff says:

‘This enquiry is the first serious effort by the British Parliament to recognise the importance of the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights, which was made binding under the terms of the Treaty of Lisbon. The Scrutiny Committee is absolutely right to conclude that the Charter is fully applicable in the UK despite the fact that Protocol 30 of the Treaty appears to make an exception of the UK (and Poland) on how the Charter should be used by the British (and Polish) courts. The fact is that, contrary to the claims of the then Prime Minister Tony Blair, the UK has no opt-out from the Charter.

‘On the other hand, Tory MPs are entirely wrong to be intimidated by the Charter, whose purpose is to offer a higher level of protection and a more modern standard of fundamental rights to EU citizens than that offered by the older European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Why the UK should not benefit from the full force and scope of the Charter is not explained in the Commons Report.

‘The eurosceptic bias of the EU Scrutiny Committee is all too clear. Its final proposal that the European Communities Act 1972 should be amended to disapply the Charter to the UK is preposterous. It would result in legal chaos and would breach the EU Treaty. Such a move would effectively pull the plug on British membership of the European Union.

‘Instead, at the next general revision of the EU Treaties, the UK and Poland should ditch Protocol 30 altogether. It is encouraging that the Czech Republic, which had applied eccentrically to join the Protocol, has now changed its mind.

‘The European Court of Justice is right to insist that the level of rights protection in every Member State of the Union must be at least as high as that of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. The EU’s imminent accession to the ECHR will further secure the equal application of rights law to all tiers of European Union government. At a time when human rights are under attack elsewhere in Europe, Britain should be in the forefront of their promotion.’


Notes to Editors:

Andrew Duff, who gave evidence to Commons enquiry, was a member of the Convention which drafted the Charter and is the European Parliament’s long-standing rapporteur on its application.

Andrew Duff MEP: Proposal to improve MEP voting transparency postponed

Andrew Duff MEPFollowing opposition from the two largest groups in the European Parliament, the European People’s Party (EPP) and Socialists and Democrats (S&D), a proposal to record and publish the results of how MEPs vote in committees has been postponed for the foreseeable future.

The proposal was due to be voted on next Wednesday 5th February by MEPs during the European Parliament’s plenary session in Strasbourg. However, it has now been delayed following this morning’s meeting of the European Parliament Conference of Presidents, who have taken it off the final Strasbourg agenda.

Liberal Democrat MEP Andrew Duff called for all final votes in committee on draft laws to be made public back in 2012, but his proposal was rejected by EPP and S&D MEPs in the Constitutional Affairs Committee.

He now strongly supports the current proposal.

He commented:

“It is wrong to have delayed this important reform. People have a right to know how their elected representatives vote. The argument is not complicated.

“Many important legislative decisions are made at committee stage. MEPs should not hide the choices they make from voters, the media and lobbyists. I had hoped that the European Parliament would put in place higher standards of scrutiny and transparency than those that are met in national parliaments. Sadly we seem not quite ready for this.

“The democratic legitimacy of the European Union is being called into question. More openness about MEPs’ engagement in law making is an important element in the reform movement to which European Liberals are committed.”

Duff/ Ludford: European patent will boost UK businesses

Andrew Duff MEPLiberal Democrat MEPs have warmly welcomed today’s green light for the long-awaited deal on a unitary European Patent.

The European Parliament has voted to accept a hard-fought compromise package which has taken nearly forty years to negotiate. Two states,SpainandItaly, have declined to take part on the grounds that their languages are not included in the patent filing process.

Andrew Duff MEP, who represents the important cluster of science research in the East of England, commented: Continue reading

Lib Dem MEPs call on UK Government to support deal on European Patent Court

Senior Liberal Democrat MEP Sharon Bowles, chair of the European Parliament’s Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, has today called on the UK Government to support a proposed deal on the location of the new European Patent Court.

A European patent that covers the whole of the single market rather than the current system which requires patents to be registered in European countries separately and at greater cost (including substantial translation costs) has been on the table for over four decades.

Last year, the 40 year long battle over which languages should be admissible came to an end with the decision of 25 EU Member States to push ahead with the creation of a common patent regime without the involvement of ItalyandSpain. However, for the past 6 months,France,Germanyand theUK had blocked further progress over a disagreement on the possible location of the newEuropean Patent Court. Now a compromise deal has been proposed by Council President Herman van Rompuy to end the stalemate at the European Council this week. 

Commenting ahead of the European Summit this Thursday and Friday in Brussels, Ms Bowles, who is also the Parliament’s only European patent attorney, said: Continue reading

Duff: EP constitutional affairs committee rejects greater voting transparency

Andrew Duff MEPThe Constitutional Affairs Committee of the European Parliament today rejected – by 14 votes to 8 a proposal from Andrew Duff MEP (UK, Lib Dem) to make all final legislative votes in the Parliament, at whatever stage of the legislative process, subject to roll-call.

Reacting to the vote, Mr Duff said: “It is hugely disappointing that the two large groups in the Parliament decided not to open up legislative votes in committee to full democratic accountability. It sets the Parliament someway behind the best practice in many national parliaments and in the US Congress. Continue reading

Lib Dems vote for the UK to play a constructive role at the heart of Europe

Liberal Democrats today strongly condemned the obstructive Conservative approach at an EU level towards tackling the economic and financial challenges facing the Eurozone, saying it would threaten the economic recovery of the UK.

Calling on the Coalition Government to play a constructive role as a major EU player, Liberal Democrat members at their Spring Conference in Gateshead voted in favour of the fiscal compact as a concrete way of leading the Eurozone and theUKtowards the road of economic recovery. Continue reading

NEWS: Duff: MEPs elected on transnational basis would strengthen European democracy

Andrew Duff MEPThe Parliamentary Committee for Constitutional Affairs (AFCO) today adopted by a large majority (17 votes against 7 and 1 abstention) the report of Andrew DUFF to amend the European electoral system. The symbolic element of the report consists of 25 deputies elected in a single European constituency on the basis of transnational lists.

Andrew Duff, ALDE coordinator in AFCO, said: Continue reading

NEWS: Duff calls for a change to Parliament’s electoral procedure

Andrew Duff MEPAndrew Duff (ALDE/UK), who is Parliament’s rapporteur on electoral reform, has triggered a revision of the Parliament’s own rules for its internal elections. He has written to newly-elected President Schulz to propose a change to the Rules of procedure allowing for the Single Transferable Vote (STV).

In his letter to the President, Duff says: Continue reading