The Council of the European Union is on an equal footing with the European Parliament when it comes to EU legislation. It could be considered as one of the two chambers of a European Parliament, to make it simpler.
The council has ten different sets of members depending on the issues being debated — its members are taken from the elected national governments of the individual member states. The ten different “types” of council which meet, along with the UK minister who attends these meetings is listed below:
- Agriculture and Fisheries (Liz Truss)
- Competitiveness (Sajid Javid)
- Economy and Financial Affairs (George Osborne)
- Education, Youth, Culture and Sport (Nicky Morgan or John Whittingdale)
- Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs (Priti Patel or Jeremy Hunt)
- Environment (Liz Truss or Amber Rudd)
- Foreign Affairs (Philip Hammond and possibly Michael Fallon or Sajid Javid)
- General Affairs (David Liddington)
- Justice and Home Affairs (Theresa May or Michael Gove)
- Transport, Telecommunications and Energy (Patrick McLoughlin, Ed Vaizey, John Whittingdale or Amber Rudd)
The make-up of particular councils depends upon exactly what is being discussed where certain member states may have more than one minister covering one council area. The relevant members of the European Commission also attend Council meetings. A more detailed look at how legislation is passed and the Council’s role in this is outlined here.
Like all bodies where negotiations take place, there needs to be the equivalent of a chairman in order to make sure the negotiations run smoothly. The position of President of the Council of the European Council is rotated amongst the governments of the EU members every six months, with their respective ministers in each Council holding the position of President. The UK last held the presidency from July — December 2005, and is due to hold it next from July — December 2017 (this is most probably subject to a remain vote — I can’t imagine they’d have us chair the Council if we’d left it)