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David Lidington

Minister for Europe, London

Part of FCDO Outreach

28th March 2012 London, UK

In Europe sticking to the rules matters

I was struck by the European Court of Justice’s (ECJ) recent report that highlights how well Member States implement EU legislation that they have signed up to.  I was pleased to see how the UK fares.

From time to time the ECJ faces criticism in the UK that it looks to interpret EU competence too widely.  But it does take its role seriously in ensuring that Member States fulfil their pledges, such as on competition law, the single market, intellectual property and consumer protection.  It is crucial that rules are enforced and that they apply equally to everyone.  British companies expect and deserve a level playing field when they compete and do business in other EU countries. Businesses don’t expect countries that have signed up to the rules, to then ignore them. That is why it’s right and important that the ECJ takes firm action when other countries aren’t living up to their commitments and we support them in doing that.

I think there are some pretty clear conclusions from the report:

  1. Better Europe does not automatically mean more Europe;
  2. We should only legislate where really necessary. Jobs and growth must remain the absolute number one priority for us all.  We need to drive forward the commitments made at the Spring Council ahead of the June Council.  Unnecessary legislation – or legislation that does not promote jobs and growth – should not be top of the agenda. That goes to the heart of the better regulation agenda;
  3. The definition of being a good European is not about espousing the rhetoric of ever further integration. A good European is someone who wants to act in the interest of the peoples of Europe and who wants to uphold European values and democratic processes.  It is someone who freely and constructively questions and speaks up. It is someone who wants to ensure that EU activity is robust and prioritised so that – once agreed at 27 – it is implemented.   Why waste time, effort and money if implementation is either unrealistic or not taken seriously?
  4. The UK is right to make the case for a better, reformed and targeted EU; the gauge of success is not how much legislation is passed.  I – and my colleagues in the Council of Ministers – have a responsibility to question Commission proposals in terms of growth, value added, competence, subsidiarity and proportionality. We should be honest and flag up how realistic implementation really is.  If we don’t, no-one else will. After all, the Commission and European Parliament are not fined for failure to implement legislation. Member States are;
  5. Our colleagues from Central and Eastern Europe such as Bulgaria (I am loath to use the term “new Member States”) generally have a very good rate of implementation. They share our approach to the purpose of legislation.

Legislation needs to be realistic and targeted. It is not an end in itself. The consequences of unfulfilled legislation is that we will fail to meet our commitments and lose respect and credibility. We have to do things better – with less. There is nothing anti-European in that.

About David Lidington

David Lidington MP was appointed Minister of State at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office on 14 May 2010. David Lidington was elected to Parliament in 1992 and is the Member…

David Lidington MP was appointed Minister of State at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office on 14 May 2010.
David Lidington was elected to Parliament in 1992 and is the Member of Parliament for Aylesbury.
He worked for BP and RTZ before spending three years as Special Advisor to Douglas Hurd in the Home Office and Foreign Office.
His proudest political achievement was successfully promoting a
Private Members Bill which became the Chiropractors Act in 1994. He
believes that this piece of legislation has made a real difference to
many people’s lives.
He has a long standing passion for history, and has twice captained a
champion team on University Challenge, first in 1979 and then in 2002
when the Sidney Sussex team became “champion of champions” in University
Challenge Reunited.
He is married to Helen Lidington and has four sons.