Special highlights from EU decision making: EU-UK trade, Covid-19 vaccines, Green Deal and Social Pillar

This special briefing includes our latest observations regarding the politics behind EU policies on the following subjects:

- Digitalisation of the EP

- EU-UK trade relations

- Patents of COVID-19 vaccines

- Green deal policies on soil degradation and maritime emissions (for premium subscribers only)

- EU Social Pillar: harmonisation of policies on children (for premium subscribers only)

NB: the Commission pays attention to the size of EP majorities not only when voting on legislation, but also when own-initiative reports are being passed in the preparatory stages, hence the Commission is likely to shape the actual upcoming legislative proposals in line with these political majorities to avoid complications.

Importantly, the positions of some MEPs do change between the indicative votes on own-initiative reports and the decisions on the actual legislation, potentially turning a minority into a majority, or the opposite. In order to forecast which MEPs/parties might swing (and which hold strong/stable views), use our influence matrices (or contact us at [email protected]).

Digitalisation of the European Parliament

A relatively large majority of MEPs welcomed the teleworking arrangements in the European Parliament. Notably, however, a majority of French members, including MEPs from Macron’s governing party, are clearly opposed to maintaining these new measures in the future. This can best be understood when considering the impact such arrangements could have on the plenary in Strasbourg. Indeed, while the justification of reducing the Parliament’s environmental footprint is not new amongst those who support making Brussels the permanent home of the European Parliament, the new teleworking arrangements have become a new argument for those criticising the Strasbourg seat, as is the case on this proposal.

The pandemic has led to a wider usage of electronic roll-call voting (and a surge in participation by MEPs), which undeniably allows for more transparency of MEPs’ voting behavior, allowing citizens and stakeholders to better understand the actual positions of MEPs.

Find the full breakdown of the vote here.

EU-UK trade relations

A broad majority of MEPs support the ratification of the EU trade deal with the UK, in particular within the centrist groups S&D, Renew and EPP (full breakdown of the final vote here).

Interestingly, while Greens/EFA and The Left seem to generally support the final text of the EU-UK trade deal, they are using the occasion to express some criticism of the UK on several topics, ranging from climate (biodiversity and GMOs) to digital (data protection and data flows). While these areas were rather controversial during the negotiations of the agreement, it should be noted that the two groups are now unable to convince enough MEPs, even within their usual supporters such as S&D, resulting in the rejection of most of these proposals. Indeed, there generally is a strong consensus amongst MEPs in favour of the EU-UK trade agreement, and we thus observe similar patterns as for EU-US relations, with the fringe forces (from both sides of the political spectrum) taking a more critical approach than others.

This means that potential divisions within the more mainstream groups on this issue, in particular S&D and Renew, will play an important role in the future, as they could tilt the balance of power towards the more critical coalition of fringe forces. Certain divisions are in fact already visible in current votes, notably within S&D, where members from France, Belgium and the Netherlands are taking a more critical stance towards the UK than their counterparts. To a lesser extent, we also observe divisions within the other mainstream groups on specific votes. For instance, Austrian EPP members are siding with The Left and Greens/EFA when it comes to criticising the UK’s usage of GMOs shortly after the entry into force of the provisional trade agreement. Within Renew, German members from FDP, amongst others, are much more concerned than the rest of their group about privacy, data protection, and border data flows between the UK and EU.

Find the full breakdown of the vote on GMOs here.

Find the full breakdown of the vote on data flows here.


Interested in EU trade policy? Our influence matrix will show you how influential MEPs are on international trade, and in which direction each MEP is pulling EU legislation. You can find it here.

Patents of COVID-19 vaccines

Following the deterioration of the pandemic in their country, there was a recent call from India and other WTO members to waive the monopolies for Covid-19 vaccines and other medical tools. However, EU Member States stand out on the international stage for refusing to support these initiatives. Such positioning can also be observed amongst the European political groups in the Parliament, as demonstrated by the recent plenary debate on the Covid-19 pandemic in Latin America. As previously identified by Votewatch, political groups which tend to show support for a more market-based approach to health policy (including traditionally left-leaning or centrist forces such as Renew members and a large part of S&D) are strongly opposing the proposal to make these vaccines public goods. While most political groups are strongly united in terms of voting behavior, French and Italian S&D members (amongst others) are siding with left-leaning forces and calling for the waiving of patents on Covid-19 medical tools.

Find the full breakdown of the vote here.

However, there does seem to be stronger support on softer proposals. S&D members are notably more favourable towards starting discussions on waiving monopolies on vaccine patents, with the exception of their members from Nordic countries. Yet, as shown by the breakdown of the vote below, the coalition supporting discussions on lessening IRPs for Covid-19 vaccines is still short of a majority (-100 MEPs).

Find the full breakdown of the vote here.

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