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David Lidington

Minister for Europe, London

Part of FCDO Outreach

4th April 2014 London, UK

BoC Review: Making the EU Work for You

Yesterday I attended a launch event for the fourth set of calls for evidence on the balance of competences between the UK and the EU. The consultations, which will be open until the week commencing 30 June, cover a range of issues including Education, Enlargement, Information Rights and Economic and Monetary Policy.

Together the first and second sets of reports received over 1,100 submissions from a broad range of organisations across the UK and beyond, including those of different political persuasions and with differing views on the EU. This valuable evidence about how EU action affects us is helping to inform the ongoing debate about reform both here in the UK and across Europe. But why should the Review matter to you or your organisation?

Reading the fourteen reports published so far it is clear just how many aspects of our everyday lives are affected by our EU membership. Did you know that the free movement of football players, transfer windows, and the right to play in national teams have all been shaped by European Court of Justice (ECJ) decisions? And easyJet was clear that, ‘without deregulation we would not exist’.

The reports identify benefits to EU membership, not least those associated with the single market – based on a US study, the European Commission estimates that greater variety from trade benefits the average European consumer by around €600 per year. But those who have submitted evidence to the reports also consistently highlight ways in which the EU could work better for us all.

First, many respondents called for better, and less, EU regulation, which they often considered to be too prescriptive or disproportionate. For example, EU waste legislation requires micro and small businesses, which only deal with very small quantities of waste, similar to domestic household volumes, to complete the same volumes of paperwork as medium or large businesses, which deal with far larger quantities.

That simply does not make sense and this Government is committed to improving the EU’s competitiveness, including through cutting more red tape to allow small businesses the space they need to flourish. We have already made progress on this, with the Commission agreeing that in future there will be a presumption that small businesses should be excluded from new regulations.

Second, many respondents highlighted that, in the case of the EU, one size does not necessarily fit all. While there are areas where some level of collective EU action can be effective, in many cases it is right that member states retain the flexibility to take actions appropriate to local circumstances. Hence the UK’s opt-in in relation to asylum and non-EU migration and civil judicial cooperation matters was seen as a key instrument enabling the UK to exercise flexibility to ensure the EU works in our national interest.  

Third, evidence submitted to the reports demonstrates how EU institutions and processes can appear opaque and bureaucratic to those citizens whose interests they were established to serve. Respondents to the Trade and Investment and Free Movement of Goods reports, in particular, called for more comprehensive impact assessments, and greater transparency in decision making and the legislative process. Others expressed concern about the ECJ extending the scope of legislation through its rulings. That’s why we are working to improve the EU’s democratic accountability, including by ensuring national parliaments play a more active role in the functioning of the EU.

Increasingly the argument isn’t about whether the EU needs to reform, but how it should reform. Through its evidence-based analysis of the impact of EU membership, the Balance of Competences Review is helping us identify ways to make a more flexible, competitive and democratically accountable EU. That is why I am pleased to have launched the fourth, and final, round of consultations in the Review – make sure you take this opportunity to have your say on how EU membership affects you.

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.