It is strange that the justice secretary reserves his full Eurosceptic wrath for the innocuous EU justice scoreboard.

Forget Vladimir Putin. The person sending the fear of god into the hearts of European countries is our very own justice secretary, Chris Grayling. The topic is the innocuous EU justice scoreboard, just published. It is described by the European Commission as ‘an information tool that presents objective, reliable and comparable data on the justice systems in the member states’. This is the second edition; I wrote about the first last year.

Our conquering Napoleon – I mean Grayling – refused to send information relating to the UK: ‘We have no intention of the UK becoming part of a one-size-fits-all EU justice system.’ Scorning the commission’s claim that the scoreboard is a tool for promoting effective justice and growth, he thundered: ‘I do not believe that the commission has any role in the detailed monitoring or assessment of the justice systems of member states to secure this goal.’

The scoreboard uses a variety of indicators, chiefly the following: efficiency of justice systems (such as length of proceedings, clearance rate and the number of pending cases); quality (for instance, compulsory training of judges, the budget and human resources allocated to courts, and the availability of IT, and of ADR); and independence.

From these indicators, various entertaining assessments emerge. (Criminal justice is not included, ‘because the commission is not ready to go that far’.) One-third of member states have a length of proceedings at least twice as long as the majority of the member states. The time needed to resolve litigious civil and commercial cases is nearly 700 days in Malta, while in Latvia it takes around 50 days.

Italy has the most pending civil and commercial cases. Perception of the independence of courts has improved in some member states (surprisingly, Hungary, which has had turbulent times recently), but worsened in others (Italy, Spain, Slovenia, Bulgaria and Slovakia). And so on.

This is all harmless enough. But it is too harmful for King Kong. What is perplexing is how his attitude to the justice scoreboard contrasts with his approach to a more substantive recent issue, the European Commission’s proposed regulation on an amended small claims procedure. The original 2007 regulation fixed norms and procedures in our courts (and all EU courts) for the handling of cross-border small claims. You would have thought that here was an opportunity for Tarzan to bang his chest and emit territorial noises – ‘Get out of our court system! We will decide procedures for claims in the UK!’

But that is not what he said. Instead his calm statement was all about how the UK government ‘recognises the value of a cross-border small claims procedure for consumers who have had difficulties when buying goods from other member states, holidaymakers wishing to resolve problems encountered when abroad or businesses trading across borders’. And there was more about how ‘it accepts that such a procedure can help the working of the single market and for that reason believes it is in the United Kingdom’s interests to opt in to the proposal.’ Well done, Chris! I cheer you – and see, no one laughed or threw sand in your face.

It is strange that he reserves his full Eurosceptic wrath for something which lacks substantive impact in the UK. Whether the UK participates or not in the scoreboard hardly moves the earth on its axis. It is true that the commission is trying to make more of it by including it as part of the “European semester”, the yearly cycle of economic policy coordination aimed at curtailing economic and budgetary problems by issuing recommendations to member states on a yearly basis.

Country-specific recommendations for this scoreboard should be issued in June 2014. In 2012, six member states received recommendations in the area of justice, and in 2013, 10. The UK has never received any.

Although I support the scoreboard’s development, I would have no problem about the UK saying that it was not a worthwhile exercise because, for instance, the comparison of matters which are deeply embedded in national cultures does not lead to profound conclusions. You don’t have to know about Latvia’s 50 days for resolution of certain cases to know that Malta’s nearly 700 is unacceptably long.

Yet our local alpha male likes to find any occasion to grandstand about how this time he has drawn a line in the sand, regaining sovereignty for his group. If there were a scoreboard for EU justice ministers, maybe that would lead in due course to the possibility of a cross-border exchange?

Jonathan Goldsmith is secretary general of the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe, which represents around a million European lawyers through its member bars and law societies. He blogs weekly for the Gazette on European affairs