Thursday 2 May 2019
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Agriculture and Fisheries Council
I represented the UK at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Luxembourg on 15 April.
The main item on the agenda was the reform of the common agricultural policy (CAP) post-2020, with a focus on the proposed new green architecture. Ministers highlighted their willingness to commit to higher levels of overall ambition such as spending 30% of pillar 2 funding on climate change actions, and endorsed the new policy design. However, some member states also pressed for large chunks of the Commission’s proposals to be optional, including some of the Commission’s eco-schemes.
This was followed by a ministerial lunch debate which focused on the impact of large carnivores and other species on agriculture. The Commission’s position that 100 % state aid was permissible to compensate for attacks on livestock did not satisfy several member states, who wanted greater latitude for farmers to shoot wolves and other predators.
Council reconvened with an exchange of views on the task force in rural Africa, with the final report proposing a new alliance between the EU and Africa. I intervened on the item, highlighting the importance of developing countries in the global food supply and giving examples from UK projects that increase smallholder inclusion in the value chain and empower women economically.
Commissioner Hogan also provided an update on the market situation, describing a stable and positive picture overall with concerns in sugar, apples and pears, and olive oil.
A number of other items were discussed under “any other business”:
The Netherlands informed Council about EU action against deforestation and forest degradation. I intervened, stressing our support for the proposal and encouraged the Commission to prepare an ambitious communication to step up action against deforestation.
Slovakia presented its joint declaration with the Czech Republic and Poland on the renewable energy directive post-2020.
The presidency informed the Council of the outcome of the research and agriculture conference held in Bucharest on 5 April.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Foreign Affairs Council: 8 April 2019
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and I attended the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) on 8 April. It was chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for foreign affairs and security policy (HRVP), Federica Mogherini. The meeting was held in Luxembourg.
The High Representative and Foreign Ministers had an exchange of views on the most pressing issues on the international agenda. In particular, they expressed their concern over developments in Libya. They urged all parties to implement immediately a humanitarian truce, refrain from any further military escalation and return to the negotiations. They reiterated their full support for the efforts of the UN Special Representative Ghassan Salamé in working towards peace and stability in Libya.
Foreign Ministers also referred to the implementation of the penal code order in Brunei and expressed their strong opposition to cruel and degrading punishments, prohibited by the convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, which was signed by Brunei in 2015.
In relation to the 1996 Helms-Burton Act, the Council reiterated the EU's strong opposition to the extraterritorial application of unilateral restrictive measures, which it considered contrary to international law.
Ministers discussed the situation in Afghanistan. They focused on how the EU could best contribute to current peace efforts. The High Representative debriefed Ministers on her visits to Islamabad on 25 March and Kabul on 26 March.
Ministers discussed the eastern partnership (EaP) in view of the EaP ministerial meeting (13 May) and the high-level event (14 May) to mark the EaP’s 10th anniversary. Ministers highlighted the importance of the partnership, which is based on shared values and principles, and an approach combining inclusivity and differentiation.
Ministers welcomed the progress achieved with eastern partnership countries within the “20 deliverable for 2020” framework, and in particular the tangible and concrete results in trade, people-to-people contact, transport, connectivity, infrastructure and economic reform. They agreed that implementation of reforms in sectors such as governance, anticorruption and the judiciary require additional efforts.
Informal lunch on Venezuela
Foreign Ministers exchanged views on Venezuela. They discussed the outcome of the second meeting of the international contact group (ICG) on 28 March in Quito. They agreed to step up work on the two tracks of the ICG: facilitating humanitarian access, and creating the conditions for free, fair, transparent presidential elections.
The Council agreed a number of measures without discussion:
The Council adopted conclusions on the Afghanistan’s peace process.
The Council endorsed the framework on counter-terrorism, developed jointly by the UN and the EU. The framework identifies areas for UN-EU co-operation and priorities until 2020.
The Council endorsed the 2018 progress report on the EU strategy against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
The Council concluded the agreement establishing the EU-Latin America and the Caribbean international foundation.
The Council adopted conclusions on the European Court of Auditors’ special report No 15/2018 entitled “Strengthening the capacity of the internal security forces in Niger and Mali: only limited and slow progress”.
The Council authorised the signature of the EU-Pakistan strategic engagement plan on behalf of the EU.
The Council endorsed the continuation of the EU’s action in support of the UN verification and inspection mechanism for Yemen (UNVIM), from 1 April 2019 to 30 September 2019. The EU is contributing €4.9 million to UNVIM for one year.
The Council authorised the opening of negotiations with Vietnam for an agreement to establish a framework for its participation in EU crisis management operations.
The Council adopted conclusions on an EU strategic approach to international cultural relations and a framework for action (ST 7749/19).
Police Pursuits Consultation
Last year, we published a public consultation on the initial findings of a review of the legislation, guidance and practice surrounding police driving in England, Wales and Scotland. As we said last May, this Government are determined to get ahead of and tackle emerging threats like motorcycle-related crimes, including those involving mopeds and scooters. People must be able to go about their daily lives without fear of harassment or attack and criminals must not think they can get away with a crime by riding or driving in a certain way or on a certain type of vehicle.
Since this work commenced, we have already seen an impact on offending behaviour through operational responses, such as ensuring that merely removing a crash helmet will not result in the police discontinuing a pursuit. The Government will continue to work closely with the police in England, Wales and Scotland, the College of Policing and other organisations to clarify driver training standards, including the requirements for refresher training.
I am grateful to the 383 individuals and organisations that responded to the consultation, including 222 police officers, forces and other related organisations. We will be publishing a full response later today on gov.uk. I am pleased to confirm that the overwhelming majority of responses were supportive of the proposals set out in the consultation, either in full or in principle. In addition, during and since the consultation period, we have also continued to work with the Independent Office for Police Conduct, the Crown Prosecution Service, the Police Federation, the National Police Chiefs Council and others in order to refine our proposals.
The Government will seek to introduce a new test to assess the standard of driving of a police officer when parliamentary time allows. This new test will compare the standard of driving against that of a careful, competent and suitably trained police driver in the same role rather than use the existing test which compares driving against a standard qualified driver who would not normally be involved in police action.
As a result of the responses to the consultation and the related work, the Government have also decided to examine how we can best:
Make clear that police officers should not be regarded as being accountable for the driving of a suspected criminal who is attempting to avoid arrest by driving in a dangerous manner, providing the pursuit is justified and proportionate.
Review the various emergency service exemptions to traffic law to ensure they remain fit for purpose.
We have been clear from the beginning of this review that we must ensure that the outcome of these changes enables the police to do their job effectively and keep us safe while ensuring that we continue to keep our roads among the safest in the world. I believe that the action we intend to take will do just that, while giving police officers greater confidence that they will be appropriately protected by the law if they drive in accordance with their training with a view to protecting the public.
We would like to develop a uniform approach across Great Britain and will engage with the devolved Administrations in recognition of devolved interests.