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European Union Act 2011

Section 7: Decisions requiring approval by Act

86.Section 7 provides that in respect of the specific matters set down in subsections (2) and (4) a Minister may not confirm the UK’s approval of a decision; vote in favour of; or otherwise support a decision, unless the decision is approved by an Act of Parliament. The Treaty Articles covered by this section have been identified as ‘ratchet clauses’ (also referred to as ‘passerelles’ or ‘bridging clauses’). If an Act of Parliament is not passed, the UK cannot agree to the use of any of these Treaty Articles. All of the decisions covered by section 7 are subject to a unanimous vote in either the Council or the European Council, meaning that any Member State can veto the proposal. Section 7 therefore applies when the Government has agreed to the use of one of the decisions set out in this section, and requires Parliamentary approval before the UK can approve formally the decision.

87.The specified decisions have been separated into two subsections because the Act of Parliament necessary to give final UK agreement to their use will be required at different stages in the decision-making process. All of the four decisions listed in subsection (2) will require an Act of Parliament after the decision to adopt them is taken in Council (in other words, after conditional approval but before formal approval is given by the Member States that the decision can enter into force). Subsection (1) stipulates that the UK cannot give final approval to the use of any of the decisions listed in this subsection until the decision has been approved by an Act of Parliament.

88.All of the decisions listed in subsection (4) would require an Act of Parliament before the UK can vote to agree their use in the European Council or Council (in other words, prior Parliamentary approval is required through an Act of Parliament before the UK can agree to the decision in the European Council or Council). The requirement for an Act of Parliament before the UK can agree to the decision in the European Council or Council is provided for in subsection (3). One of these decisions (Article 17(5) TEU) is subject to a unanimous vote in the European Council, while all the other decisions are subject to a unanimous vote in the Council. Sections 7(4)(b), 7(4)(e) and 7(4)(f) are the equivalent provisions to those in sections 6(5)(b), 6(5)(i) and 6(5)(j), in respect of any relevant proposals which would not affect any of the Treaty Articles set out in Schedule 1.

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