The UK is one of 27 member states of the European Union and is subject to European Union (EU) legislation. UK government ministers are involved in deciding this legislation and should not agree to proposals before Parliament has examined them.
What is Parliament’s role in Europe?
1 Scrutinising EU draft legislation and other EU documents
2 Changing UK law to reflect agreed EU legislation and treaties
3 Holding the government to account on its EU policies and negotiating positions in the EU institutions.
Can the European Union change the law in the UK?
The EU has the authority to apply legislation in the UK but actually putting it into action may require Parliament to pass new or amended legislation.
The Scrutiny Reserve Resolutions
The Scrutiny Reserve Resolutions provide that no government minister should agree in the Council of Ministers or the European Council to a proposal that is still 'subject to scrutiny' by Parliament — and if they do, they have to explain their reasons.
The UK Parliament receives copies of EU documents, together with an Explanatory Memorandum (EM) prepared by the relevant government department. Documents are considered by the Scrutiny Committees in both the Commons and the Lords.
The Commons committee
In the Commons, the European Scrutiny Committee considers all EU documents and reports its opinion on the legal and political importance of each one. The committee may decide that no further scrutiny is required, or it may request further information from the government or recommend the document for debate in a European Legislation Committee or in the Commons chamber.
The Lords committee
The Lords examines proposals for EU legislation through the European Union Select Committee and there is close co-ordination with Commons committees. The Lords look at fewer EU documents but carry out detailed reviews on subjects selected for their general importance. These reviews are reported either just for information or to recommend a debate in the Lords.