Jack Straw and Brussels lobbying – what he changed, and how, and who he met

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 11.27.46Relating to the Jack Straw lobbying on behalf of Ukrainian sugar firms (background here), a few quick remarks.

First, we know from this, that:

I got into see the relevant director general and his officials in Brussels … and we got the sugar regulations changed

We also know the meeting took place on June 4th 2013. It is impossible to get a list of the meetings for a given week between registered lobbyists and Commission officials. But the company that Straw was working for – ED&F Man – to this day does not appear in the Transparency Register. Today a Director General would not be allowed to meet a lobbyist from a company not on the register, but as far as I know that was not the case back in the summer of 2013.

The question then comes: what did his lobbying change, exactly, and through which legal process at EU level?

We know from the undercover reports that his lobbying relates to the equivalence system for sugar. Dated 30 October 2013 there is a Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 1063/2013 of 30 October 2013 amending Regulation (EEC) No 2454/93 laying down provisions for the implementation of Council Regulation (EEC) No 2913/92 establishing the Community Customs Code as regards the use of the equivalence system in the sugar sector. The date matches, and I can find nothing else relevant in 2013 or later in a EUR-Lex search.

So how does Commission Implementing Regulation No 1063/2013 work? As the line above states, it relates to Regulation 2454/93 (PDF here). The title of that Regulation is important: COMMISSION REGULATION (EEC) No 2454/93 of 2 July 1993 laying down provisions for the implementation of Council Regulation (EEC) No 2913/92 establishing the Community Customs Code. Firstly, this means we are clearly in the area of Customs law, not anything related to trade or agriculture. Secondly, this Commission Regulation relates to a further Council Regulation 2454/93 (text here) that sets up the whole system. Also recall that all of this was agreed in a pre-codecision era, hence the older titles of the legislation.

The relevant line of the Commission Implementing Regulation 1063/2013 (i.e. the one Straw pushed for) is this:

Having regard to Council Regulation (EEC) No 2913/92 of 12 October 1992 establishing the Community Customs Code, and in particular Article 247 thereof

And Article 247 of Council Regulation 2913/92 reads thus:

1. A Customs Code committee, hereinafter called ‘the committee’, composed of representatives of the Member States with a representative of the Commission as chairman, is hereby established.

2. The committee shall adopt its rules of procedure.

So what are the powers of this Committee? These are explained on the Commission’s website here, and in Article 249 of Council Regulation 2913/92. This then leads me to this record in the Comitology Register, where is states that the Commission Implementing Regulation 1063/2013 was agreed with the Examination Procedure. This procedure is explained in this PDF. The preamble to 1063/2013 states “The measures provided for in this Regulation are in accordance with the opinion of the Customs Code Committee”, meaning either the Committee gave no opinion or gave a positive opinion.

So, in short, as far as I can tell: the European Commission DG Taxation and Customs Union proposed a Commission Implementing Regulation after meeting with Jack Straw. This was submitted to the Customs Code Committee (that comprises representatives of Member States) and that Committee did not have a problem with the draft that was subsequently adopted.

Which then leads us to the final piece of the puzzle – who exactly did Straw meet? The Director General of the DG Taxation and Customs Union has been Heinz Zourek since 2012. So if Straw did meet the Director General, as he said, then Mr Zourek has a few questions to answer. The organogram of the DG is here (PDF) – Philip Kermode is the Director for Customs (Directorate A), and has held this position since at least 2011, but the exact positions of the officials that Straw met are not known.

[UPDATE 23.2.2015, 1415] Text above re. the transparency register amended. I had misunderstood the low amount of data available in the Transparency Register in 2013!

[UPDATE 24.2.2015, 1300] According to Bruno Waterfield on Twitter, Straw never met a DG and was boasting. That the Regulation was changed by Committee I’d worked out already yesterday (see above in this blog entry), but that it was agreed there does not necessarily exclude that Straw lobbied.

[UPDATE 24.2.2015, 1520] Although we now know some meetings, at a lower level, did take place:

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1 comment

  1. Daniel1979

    After Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al-Megrahi (Lockerbie Bomber) was returned to Libya the Sunday Times ran a piece saying that Jack Straw had lobbied for the release; soon thereafter BP secured a £15bn deal in Libya.

    A few months before the release published papers showed there was no consideration in ever releasing him, yet when the BP deal looked like it might go off the rails the UK Government suddenly felt it was in the “overwhelming interests of the United Kingdom”