One of the reasons the EU now has so much influence over how we are governed is the permanent threat of infraction proceedings which hangs over lost Whitehall departments. Departments like Environment, Climate Change and Energy and the Business department are very constrained by EU law owing to the large n umber of Directives, regulations and Treaty articles that apply to them. Even more domestic departments like Welfare and Education are being dragged into the EU net as the powers of the EU expands. We were told tax stays outside EU jurisdiction, yet there have been a series of cases over VAT (an EU tax) and Corporation Tax which force changes to UK tax law.
The existence of a supreme court in the form of the ECJ means at any time the UK can be found guilty of failing to implement a Directive, or failing to enforce a Directive or regulation properly. Much of Whitehall’s time is taken up with revising and amending so called UK law to fit it into the pattern of Treaty and Directive law which we have to accept. All our c0mpetition law, for example, was put into EU shape by the last Labour government.
Past Ministers have often presented a new UK law as a desirable item thought up in the UK when they should have said it was being introduced entirely so we can comply with the EU. The latest row over Data Retention was really a row over the application of EU law, though many politicians and the media seem to want to present it as an entirely UK based debate.
Ministers in many departments are very controlled by the framework and detail of EU law and policy. It is high time this was better understood and more fully debated. I have tabled some questions to find out what has been the recent pace of EU law generation department by department. Some departments find it difficult to keep up with the ever active EU legislative machine.