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EU Veto

Volume 450: debated on Thursday 26 October 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether it is the Government’s policy to retain the national veto on Justice and Home Affairs at European Union level under all circumstances. (93744)

We welcome efforts to take forward EU co-operation in the Justice and Home Affairs field, in line with the Hampton Court delivery agenda. We would need to be fully satisfied that any changes to the existing arrangements would genuinely improve the decision-making process, and that such a move would be in the UK's national interest.

The proposal to change the current voting arrangements for police and judicial co-operation and move from unanimity to qualified majority voting was discussed by EU Interior and Justice Ministers at the JHA Informal Council in Tampere on 20-22 September and the JHA Council in Luxembourg on 5-6 October. A broad exchange of views took place, where there was limited support for the proposal.

The Government also set out the concerns which the UK had about the proposal, many of which were shared by other member states. These featured prominently in the negotiations on the JHA aspects of the draft constitutional treaty, where the UK identified a number of substantive concerns, including the potential impact on national security, the extension of external competence and the need for safeguards such as the emergency brake. These concerns remain as valid now as they were then.

It is, as yet, unclear whether the Finnish presidency will bring forward further work in this area but the Government consider the current debate to be over and that we should instead focus on practical measures in the current JHA agenda. We will keep Parliament informed of any developments.