Tuesday 28 November 2017
Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Education, Youth, Culture and Sport Council
The Education, Youth, Culture and Sport (EYCS) Council took place in Brussels on 20 and 21 November 2017. The UK’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the EU represented the interests of the UK at the Youth, Culture and Sport sessions of this Council.
The Council achieved a general approach among EU member states on the proposals laying down the framework for the European Solidarity Corps. The UK voted in favour of the general approach, which achieved almost unanimous support. The Commission commented on how they would consider the expansion of geographical scope of the Corps, which is an important matter for the UK. Members also unanimously agreed to adopt draft Council conclusions on Smart Youth Work.
The main policy debate focused on the issues that matter to young people and possible European efforts to address these issues. The debate was positive, with the UK setting out the importance of hearing directly from young people about the issues that matter to them, as well as highlighting the important work of the British Youth Council. The Commission also provided information on a new narrative for Europe, which further emphasised the importance of giving a political voice to Europe’s youth.
Draft Council conclusions on promoting access to culture via digital means, were adopted by the Council with the UK supporting their adoption.
On audio-visual, the presidency provided an update on the Audio-visual Media Services Directive (AVMSD). This update acted as the first reading since a general approach was achieved at the last EYCS Council in May 2017. The discussion focused on the progress thus far of Trilogue discussions between the Council and the European Parliament. Crucial areas of agreement thus far between the EP and Council included the provision of greater access of online digital content to people with disabilities. The UK emphasised how it can be a valuable asset as discussion progressed with the EP.
A policy debate on the role of culture in building cohesive societies in Europe, and a later item on remaking Europe through culture, put forward by the French delegation, emphasised a number of important themes including cultural heritage, using culture to integrate migrants, and the mobility of artists. The UK’s position, in line with the spirit of the discussion, was supportive of the role culture plays in building community cohesion, raising the importance of tourism, and how creative and cultural exports shape the way member states, and the EU as a bloc, are viewed by the rest of the world.
Information was provided by the German delegation on the current legislative proposal regarding, the regulation on the import of cultural goods. This focused on the responsibility of member states to better regulate the illicit trade of cultural goods as a means to prevent such trade funding terrorist activities. The UK did not comment on these proposals, however my Department and HM Revenue and Customs continue to work with the EU in developing this file. In addition to this item, information was provided on international cultural relations, cultural property, and the role of the EU in the defence of cultural heritage crisis areas.
The Council session on sport led with a policy debate, covering the main challenges facing sport in the 21st century and co-operation between the EU, Governments, and the sport movement. The debate highlighted the crucial role of sport for society as a whole and the importance of protecting the autonomy and integrity of sport. The UK’s intervention emphasised how we are ensuring all citizens can access sport, targeting the least active in society. We also drew attention to the work that the UK Government are doing to combat corrupt practices in sport, through our Code for Sports Governance and our work alongside the International Olympic Committee to develop an “International Partnership Against Corruption in Sport”. Council conclusions on the role of coaches in society and a Council resolution on the EU structured dialogue on sport were adopted, with the UK supporting both items.
The Bulgarian delegation provided information regarding the meeting of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Foundation Board in Seoul on 16 November. The Polish delegation then announced the 2019 World conference on doping in sport to be held in Katowice, and provided an informal invitation to member states. There was also information from the Greek delegation on supporting the Olympic Truce during the Winter Olympic Games, to be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea in 2018.
The Council received information from the Bulgarian delegation, as the incoming presidency for the first half of 2018, setting out their work programme for the next six months. They highlighted a number of priorities for their presidency including:
continuing to move forward with the revision of AVMSD;
moving to the next stage of discussions on the EU Solidarity Corps, while focusing on the role of young people in peace-keeping and security;
highlighting the importance of cultural heritage and strengthening international relations through culture; and
fighting doping through information and education of young people.
The next Council is scheduled for 22 and 23 May 2018.
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
November Agriculture and Fisheries Council
I represented the United Kingdom at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council on 6 November in Brussels.
The Council opened with member states responding to the presidency’s questions on the sustainable use of pesticides. There was widespread agreement that national action plans are a good way for member states to tailor their approach to meeting the objectives of the sustainable use of pesticides directive, and widespread support for the principles of integrated pest management. The UK welcomed the European Commission’s report on the sustainable use of pesticides, highlighting that integrated pest management is the key to future crop protection.
The presidency outlined the conclusions of the sustainable soil management conference held on 4-6 October in Tallinn, which highlighted the importance of managing soils and designing policies based on a strong evidence base. Responding to questions posed by the presidency, the UK informed Council that soil health goes hand in hand with farming productivity.
Commissioner Hogan then updated the Council on EU agricultural trade.
“Three further items were discussed under ‘any other business”:
The Slovakian and Czech delegations thanked Council for co-operation on the issue of dual quality foodstuffs.
The Agriculture Ministers of the Visegrad member states informed Council about the renewable energy directive post-2020.
The Agriculture Ministers of the Visegrad member states informed Council about the BIOEAST initiative.
On 23 June 2016, the EU referendum took place and the people of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. Until exit negotiations are concluded, the UK remains a full member of the European Union and all the rights and obligations of EU membership remain in force. During this period the Government will continue to negotiate, implement and apply EU legislation. The outcome of these negotiations will determine what arrangements apply in relation to EU legislation in future once the UK has left the EU.
Exiting the European Union
EU Exit: Release of Sectoral Reports
Following the Opposition day debate motion on 1 November, the Government committed to making arrangements to respond to the motion which called on the Government to provide the Committee on Exiting the European Union with impact assessments arising from the sectoral analysis they have conducted with regards to the list of 58 sectors referred to in the answer of 26 June 2017 to written question 239.
On 27 November the Department for Exiting the European Union provided analysis covering these 58 sectors of the economy to the House of Commons Committee on Exiting the EU and the House of Lords European Union Committee. The reports were also shared with the devolved Administrations on the same terms.
As the Government have previously made clear, the information requested in the motion does not exist in the form requested. During the Opposition day debate I told the House “there has been some misunderstanding about what this sectoral analysis actually is. It is not a series of 58 impact assessments.” The Secretary of State for Exiting the EU also made this clear before the House of Lords EU Committee on 31 October and to the House at DEXEU oral questions on 2 November.
The reports cover:
i. a description of each sector;
ii. the current EU regulatory regime;
iii. existing frameworks for how trade is facilitated between countries in this sector, and;
iv. sector views.
We now consider the motion of 1 November 2017 to have been satisfied.
November General Affairs Council
I represented the UK at the General Affairs Council (GAC) meeting in Brussels on Monday 20 November, in place of Minister of State Lord Callanan. The main items on the agenda were: preparations for the December European Council on 14 and 15 December; a follow-up to the October European Council; legislative programming, with the Commission presenting its 2018 work programme; the implementation of the inter-institutional agreement; and a roadmap of the European semester.
A provisional report of the meeting and the conclusions adopted can be found on the Council of the European Union’s website at:
Preparation of the European Council, 14 to 15 December 2017
The presidency presented the annotated draft agenda for the December European Council, which included defence; social issues, education and culture; and migration.
On the defence agenda item, the Council welcomed a discussion of both PESCO (Permanent Structured Co-operation) and EU-NATO co-operation. I intervened to agree on the importance of EU-NATO co-operation. I also stressed the need for third country participation in PESCO and welcomed early sight of the accompanying Council decision.
Ministers also welcomed the agenda item on social, education and culture following on from the Gothenburg social summit on 17 November. The outcomes of this meeting would provide the basis for Council conclusions. I confirmed the UK’s ongoing commitment to education and culture, as set out in the Prime Minister’s Florence speech and agreed on the importance of mobility and exchange programmes such as Erasmus.
Under the migration item, Ministers welcomed a discussion of both internal and external aspects of migration which would be discussed by leaders over dinner.
October European Council follow-up
The presidency and Commission highlighted the need to address the funding gap for the EU Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF) for projects in Libya. I emphasised the UK’s significant bilateral contributions to Libya, which contribute to EUTF outcomes.
Legislative programming—Commission’s work programme (CWP) 2018
Following a presentation by the Commission, Ministers exchanged views on the CWP. These views will determine the Council’s input for the joint declaration between the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission on legislative priorities for 2018 and the first few months of 2019. I intervened to express support for open, flexible markets which lead to prosperity and strong economies. I also reiterated the UK’s unconditional commitment to ensuring European security.
Interinstitutional Acts implementation
The presidency provided an update on the implementation of the interinstitutional agreement, particularly with regards to international agreements, delegated and implementing Acts and the transparency register. Meanwhile, the Commission explained the role of the new task force on proportionality and subsidiarity, as set out previously by Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in his State of the Union speech.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Developments in Zimbabwe
Since I updated the House on 15 November there have been historic developments in Zimbabwe. Robert Mugabe’s 37-year rule came to an end on 21 November, sparking joyous celebrations as Zimbabweans looked forward to the opportunity for a brighter future.
The UK’s objective has remained constant throughout these dramatic developments. We want to support the people of Zimbabwe in building a democratic, stable and prosperous country. The only way for Zimbabwe to achieve a legitimate Government is through free and fair elections held in accordance with the constitution. We stand ready to support a legitimate Government to rebuild their beautiful country, working alongside our international and regional partners, with whom we are already engaging in order to lead the response.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was inaugurated on 24 November, has stated that this marks the beginning of a “new unfolding democracy” in Zimbabwe. He must now demonstrate his sincerity by delivering political and economic reform. In particular, he must hold an election in which all Zimbabweans can participate without fear of intimidation or violence. A transition from one despotic ruler to another would be a tragedy for Zimbabwe and its people.
The process of democratisation and economic recovery will be led by Zimbabweans. The Minister for Africa visited Harare on 23 and 24 November and met with actors from across the political spectrum to discuss the transition to democracy. He made clear to the incoming Administration that the UK stands ready to play a key role in support Zimbabwe’s recovery, but only on the basis of genuine political and economic reforms, including respect for human rights and the rule of law. In this moment of hope for Zimbabwe, the UK will be looking for tangible indications of progress.
Foreign Affairs Council 16 October
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson), attended the Foreign Affairs Council on 16 October. The Foreign Affairs Council was chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini. The meeting was held in Luxembourg.
Foreign Affairs Council
The meeting covered discussions on Burma, Iran, Turkey, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and human rights.
The Council adopted conclusions on Burma, in the light of the humanitarian and human rights situation in Rakhine state.
EU Foreign Ministers agreed a statement underlining EU commitment to the continued full and effective implementation of the joint comprehensive plan of action (JCPoA), and also expressing concerns related to Iran’s ballistic missiles programme and increasing tensions in the region.
Over lunch, EU Foreign Ministers discussed Turkey in preparation for the European Council discussions held by EU Heads of State and Government on 19 October. They focused on co-operation with Turkey in the region, including Syria, Iraq and relations with Iran.
The Council discussed the situation in the Korean peninsula following recent provocative acts by the DPRK. EU Foreign Ministers agreed the need to maintain pressure on the DPRK, including through engagement with regional actors and outreach efforts to strengthen the implementation of UNSC resolutions by all UN member states. The Council adopted additional EU sanctions on the DPRK to complement and reinforce the UN Security Council sanctions.
EU Foreign Ministers discussed the EU’s policy on human rights. Conclusions were adopted on the mid-term review of the “Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy” and the “Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World in 2016”.
EU Foreign Ministers agreed a number of measures without discussion:
the Council adopted conclusions on an EU strategy on Afghanistan;
the Council adopted conclusions on Bosnia and Herzegovina;
the Council approved the EU programme of exercises and exercise-related activities under the common foreign and security policy (CFSP) for the period 2017-21;
the Council approved the signing and conclusion of a protocol to the partnership and co-operation agreement establishing a partnership between the EU and the Kyrgyz Republic to take account of the accession of the Republic of Croatia to the European Union;
the Council established and launched a new CSDP mission to support security sector reform in Iraq. The Council also adopted the operation plan and a decision authorising the opening of negotiations to conclude an agreement on the status of the EU advisory mission (EUAM);
the Council adopted three decisions authorising the opening of negotiations with Albania, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina for agreements on activities carried out by the European Border and Coast Guard Agency in those countries;
the Council adopted two decisions on positions to be adopted by the EU at the joint Council of Caribbean States (Cariforum) and EU member states to be held on 17 November 2017;
the Council received the high representative’s report on the six-monthly review of Operation Althea.
Foreign Affairs Council 13 November
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson), and the Secretary of State for Defence, my right hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Gavin Williamson), attended the joint session of the Foreign Affairs Council (Foreign and Defence Ministers) on 13 November. The Council was chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini. The meeting was held in Brussels.
Foreign Affairs Council
EU Foreign Ministers discussed EU-Africa relations and EU strategic communications. EU Defence Ministers discussed EU-NATO and met as the European Defence Agency steering board. EU Foreign and Defence Ministers also participated in a joint session on security and defence co-operation.
The Council adopted conclusions on Venezuela and agreed targeted sanctions to encourage a peaceful, negotiated solution. These included an embargo on arms and related material that might be used for internal repression, and a legal framework for the possible targeted listing of persons.
Foreign Ministers discussed EU-Africa relations with particular reference to the upcoming fifth African Union-EU summit on 29 and 30 November in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. EU Foreign Ministers welcomed the focus on youth and discussed the common challenges which were expected to be covered at the summit.
EU strategic communications
Foreign Ministers discussed the European External Action Service’s current work on strategic communications for the eastern partnership region, the southern neighbourhood and the western Balkans. The Council agreed to further enhance the work, and supported the development of the three taskforces. EU Foreign Ministers underlined the need to counter disinformation where and when needed.
Security and defence co-operation
EU Foreign and Defence Ministers discussed the implementation of the EU global strategy in the area of security and defence. In the margins of the Council, 23 member states signed a notification for the establishment of a permanent structured co-operation (PESCO). The UK did not sign.
EU Defence Ministers discussed EU-NATO co-operation together with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
European Defence Agency
EU Defence Ministers met as the European Defence Agency (EDA) steering board.
Ministers agreed a number of measures without discussion:
the Council adopted the legal acts providing for the delisting of the FARC from the EU list of individuals and entities subject to restrictive measures to combat terrorism;
the Council adopted conclusions on a strategic approach to resilience in the EU’s external action;
the Council appointed Toivo Klaar as EU special representative for the south Caucasus and the crisis in Georgia;
the Council adopted a regulation reviewing the list of luxury goods subject to an import and export ban on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea;
the Council adopted a decision to open negotiations on a missions framework participation agreement with Jordan;
the Council approved the requirements catalogue 2017 which identifies the military capability requirements for the common security and defence policy stemming from the EU level of ambition as agreed by the Council in November 2016;
the Council endorsed the European Defence Agency report and adopted the guidelines for the work of the European Defence Agency in 2018;
the Council established the EU position ahead of the ninth meeting of the Stabilisation and Association Council between the EU and Albania which will take place on 15 November in Brussels; and
the Council established the EU position ahead of the fourth meeting of the Stabilisation and Association Council between the EU and Serbia which will take place on 16 November in Brussels.
On 28 November the Government published a call for evidence to identify UK interest in existing EU trade remedy measures. Currently, there are a number of trade remedy measures being applied by the EU, some of which are relevant and significant to UK industry. In preparation for the UK being an independent trading nation, it is important that we provide certainty and continuity to UK businesses, and avoid exposing them to injury from known unfair trade practices.
The call for evidence will obtain the necessary information from UK businesses to enable the Government to assess which measures matter to the UK and therefore can be maintained when the UK begins to operate its own independent trade remedies framework. The Government will take account of the terms of any time-limited implementation period agreed between the UK and the EU.
We recognise that new EU measures may be put in place after the call for evidence closes and before the UK begins to operate its independent trade remedies framework. We will approach those interested parties ahead of the UK operating its independent trade remedies framework to understand whether there is an interest for any future measures to be maintained.
We will assess whether the transition of an existing measure is important to UK industry, and can be retained based on three criteria:
We have received an application from UK companies which produce products subject to trade remedies measures;
The application is supported by a sufficient proportion of the UK companies which produce those products;
The market share of the UK companies which produce those products is above a certain level.
The Government are committed to ensuring continuity to UK industry as the UK prepares to leave the EU. We are also committed to maintaining a fair and transparent approach to the handling of these existing remedies and aligning them as far as possible with our WTO obligations.