Main news from Brussels this week
Statements on the situation in Turkey
Following the attempted coup in Turkey on Friday 15 July, President of the European Council Donald Tusk, President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker and High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini, on behalf of the EU member states present at the Asia-Europe Meeting, issued a statement saying: "Turkey is a key partner for the European Union. The EU fully supports the democratically elected government, the institutions of the country and the rule of law. We call for a swift return to Turkey’s constitutional order. We continue to follow closely the developments and to coordinate with the 28 EU member states." High Representative/Vice-President Mogherini also issued a joint statement with Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn, stating: "We condemn the attempted coup in Turkey and reiterate our full support to the democratic institutions of the country. […] We underline the need for a swift return to Turkey's constitutional order with its checks and balances and stress the importance for the rule of law and fundamental freedoms to prevail."
EU single market: compliance improving, more work needed in some areas. UK performance stable
The way member states apply EU single market legislation improved in 2015, partly due to new ways of looking at and resolving problems before the need for a formal procedure. The UK performance remained stable, compared to the previous year, 2014. In the same time, UK citizens continue to be among those that very actively use SOLVIT – an online mediation service for solving issues with the public authorities in other EU member states.
Commission fines truck producers €2.93 billion for participating in a cartel
The European Commission has found that MAN, Volvo/Renault, Daimler, Iveco, and DAF broke EU antitrust rules. These truck makers colluded for 14 years on truck pricing and on passing on the costs of compliance with stricter emission rules. The Commission has imposed a record fine of €2,926,499,000 (£2.4bn). Commissioner for competition, Margrethe Vestager, said: “We have today put down a marker by imposing record fines for a serious infringement. In all, there are over 30 million trucks on European roads, which account for around three quarters of inland transport of goods in Europe and play a vital role for the European economy. It is not acceptable that MAN, Volvo/Renault, Daimler, Iveco and DAF, which together account for around 9 out of every 10 medium and heavy trucks produced in Europe, were part of a cartel instead of competing with each other. For 14 years they colluded on the pricing and on passing on the costs for meeting environmental standards to customers. This is also a clear message to companies that cartels are not accepted." MAN was not fined as it revealed the existence of the cartel to the Commission. All companies acknowledged their involvement and agreed to settle the case. The infringement covered the entire EEA and lasted 14 years, from 1997 until 2011, when the Commission carried out unannounced inspections of the firms.
Statement by Commissioner Vestager
All this week's key European Commission announcements can be found here
EU and the UK
UK R&D leader but more investment needed to sustain this
An EU report shows that the UK is a European and global leader in research and development (R&D) with a significant number of world-class and highly innovative sectors such as pharmaceuticals, aerospace and automotive, as well as new sectors like digital design. But the report by the European Commission's Research and Innovation Observatory (RIO) at the Joint Research Centre also says that the UK invests less in R&D compared to other similar advanced economies.
At a Chatham House event on 18 July, Professor Sionaidh Douglas-Scott, a European constitutional law expert, outlined the legal requirements needed for the UK to leave the EU.
She started out by contrasting the UK's situation with other EU countries when it comes to referenda. She stressed that referenda have not been a major part of the UK's constitution, which means British people are often unaware of the constraints and of the laws that surround a referendum. She added that other EU countries have particular constraints on how referenda may be held (they might impose voting thresholds, requirements for more than a simple majority,…)
She went on to speak about article 50 which states "any member state may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.” She added that the UK is not very clear about what its constitutional requirements are.
In her opinion, there are therefore four possibilities:
Notification under the constitution is a matter for the Prime Minister;
Constitutional conventions: Parliament has to have a say and convention dictates that Parliament should have a vote;
It is not enough for the Prime Minister to go to Brussels and say the UK wants to withdraw. There has to be another act of Parliament first;
Neither is it enough to notify Brussels without the consent of the devolved nations.
Professor Douglas-Scott also covered what happens once Article 50 is triggered: the withdrawal agreement and future trade agreements. She spoke about different types of relationship the UK could have with the EU and concluded that only two options were feasible in her view: joining the European Economic Area or signing an ad-hoc agreement, based on WTO rules.
Watch the speech here
Brexit – the fallout for immigration and the economy
On 19 July, the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Social Science and Policy organised an event on the fallout for the economy and migration of the UK's vote to leave the EU.
Jonathan Portes, NIESR (National Institute Of Economic and Social Research) and ESRC (Economic and Social Research Council), argued that there had been contradictions on immigration in the Leave campaign. He also voiced his opinion on different options for a new relationship with the EU, such as "EEA (European Economic Area) minus" (meaning restrictions to single market access accepted in exchange for restrictions on freedom of movement). In his view, there could also be an emergency brake procedure once a certain number of National Insurance numbers have been issued in a given year, but he added that would lead to an increase in illegal work and would not appeal to the EU.
Professor Jane Falkingham, Southampton University, said studies from the University’s Centre for Population Change show it is largely young, skilled and educated people who come to the UK from the EU. Of those who are married or in a partnership, 40% have a partner who is a UK citizen and a third of those have dependent children. A pre-referendum survey found that 74% planned to take action to remain in the UK if the UK voted to leave but 71% of those did not know how to go about it. Citizens from the first 15 EU member states were more likely to plan to leave and those from the newer member states were more likely to want to stay. Professor Falkingham advocated a campaign of civic information on how to acquire the right to remain in the UK. The Centre will repeat the survey over time to ascertain how many choose to stay and how many leave.
UK Advertising standards authority cautions Kellogg's on health claims
The Advertising standards authority (ASA) – an independent regulator on advertising across all media in the UK – has cautioned Kellogg's for ads and information on its website that promote the health benefits of one of its products in what ASA sees as breach of its code based on the EU regulation on health claims for foodstuffs.
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EU in UK media this week
Every week, we pick out one of the week's most interesting stories or comment pieces….which does not mean we agree with everything it says:
Academies warn Brexit 'damaging science' by Pallab Ghosh for BBC News
EU fact of the week
Innovative EU countries
Nordic countries, Germany and the Netherlands remain the EU's innovation champions. Although not in the top group, the UK continues to perform well and is among the fastest growing EU innovators – countries which the 2016 EU Innovation Scoreboard shows have recorded the fastest progress compared to last year in a given set of criteria: from science excellence and how open a member state’s research systems are to human resources and intellectual assets.
Tweet of the week
Quote of the week
"Fair and open trade is Europe's best growth lever. Today's discussion was not about whether or not China is a market economy. It is about how to adapt our trade defence instruments to deal with the realities of over-capacity and a changing international legal framework. By acting on several fronts, together with the European Parliament and member states, we can treat both the symptoms and underlying causes of unfair trade and provide greater job security in Europe," EU Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness.
Picture of the week
Lord Hill's last day as Commissioner for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union