House of Commons Library

How the UK Government deals with EU Business

Published Thursday, May 10, 2012

This Note looks at UK Government and Civil Service structures and culture; what happens at the UK-EU interface, and methods for transposing EU law into UK law.

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Since the UK joined the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1973, successive UK governments have had an ambivalent attitude towards the EC/EU and the UK’s place in it. They have expressed a desire to be engaged in the European Union in order to exert influence within it; have also sought to distance the UK from some of its effects, yet at the same time over-implemented many of its laws.

Observers might conclude that for historical reasons, UK governments are simply not used to or very good at collaborating with other governments in law and policy-making, and therefore do not do it with much conviction. Others argue that it is not a matter of belief, tradition or culture, but of out-dated or inappropriate structures and mechanisms. The UK Government’s relationship with the EU and its handling of EU business could be affected by a combination of all of these.

The previous Labour Government commissioned two major reviews of the ways in which the UK deals with EU business and the implementation of EU law. The present coalition Government has also introduced changes, via legislation (e.g. the European Union Act 2011) and procedures (e.g. using ‘copy-out’ for the transposition of EU law into UK law). UK Government Departments have issued “guiding principles” on their approach to EU measures, which purport to maximise the UK's influence in Brussels and end the gold-plating of UK measures implementing European ones.

Commons Briefing papers SN06323

Author: Vaughne Miller

Topics: Central government, Civil Service, EU law and treaties, Europe, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

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