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David Lidington

Minister for Europe, London

Part of FCDO Outreach

2nd January 2015 London, UK

2014 – year in review

Quick EU pop quiz. Which European leader said in December: “As the European elections showed, the people do not think that Europe must do everything. Europe must do the things that can be done better than we do them in the nation states.”

You might imagine it would be someone from the Netherlands – we know the Dutch maxim “Europe where necessary, national where possible”.

It could be an Italian – Prime Minister Matteo Renzi called this year for “a better Europe, not more Europe”.

Or even someone from France. As President Hollande said in May: “Europe must be simple and clear, to be effective where it is expected to be, and withdraw from where it is not necessary.”

In fact, it was German Chancellor Angela Merkel, speaking after the European Council on 19 December.

Why the reference? It’s just that a greater understanding of the need for flexibility in Europe has been one of the strands of the UK’s EU reform agenda for which we have been quietly building support since Prime Minister David Cameron’s Bloomberg speech in January 2013.

Other strands include the urgent need to improve competitiveness in Europe: agreeing trade deals, cutting regulation and deepening the single market for services, digital and energy. And making Europe more democratically accountable, given that over half of Europeans (53% in the latest Eurobarometer opinion poll) think that their voice doesn’t count in Europe.

So how have we done in 2014?

Well, there’s a lot to improve on. With Europe’s economy in the doldrums, the EU needs a relentless focus on getting the economy moving. And it still needs to follow much more rigorously the basic maxim that the EU should only get involved when a national solution won’t work.

In the spirit of a year-end review, I have pulled together a list of examples where Europe has changed for the better – consider it my 12 Days of Christmas.

  1. The new Commission has made growth and jobs its top priority for the next five years link.
  2. There has been movement on the drive to streamline EU regulation, not least with the creation of a new First Vice President post in the Commission, held by Frans Timmermans from the Netherlands. As our Business Task Force said in November, “we are greatly encouraged by the progress that has been made over the past year” link.
  3. In December, leaders from UK, Italy, Spain, Poland, Latvia, Denmark and Finland met to underline their strong commitment to a historic, ground-breaking, trade deal with the USA that could be worth €545 to every family in Europe, and up to £10 billion to the UK economy each year link. Some 58% of people across Europe support this deal.ttip
  4. We’ve had a historic deal to tackle climate change and cut greenhouse gases by at least 40% domestically by 2030, which was a major win for the UK link.
  5. On 1 January, hard-won reforms to the Common Fisheries Policy took effect, with the beginning of a ban on the shameful practice of discarding unwanted fish at sea link.
  6. We exercised our right under the Lisbon Treaty to opt-out en bloc from around 130 European measures relating to justice and home affairs. After a successful negotiation, we then opted back into 35 measures we believe are in our national interest – practical measures that are necessary to protect us from serious criminals and terrorists. One of these is the European Arrest Warrant, which has been made fairer.
  7. We’ve concluded the balance of competences review – the most extensive analysis of EU membership ever undertaken by any Member State, which draws upon nearly 2,300 pieces of evidence link.
  8. In June, the European Council spelled out the importance of proportionality and subsidiarity in Europe, and respect for the principle that not every country in the EU will choose the same path or level of integration.
  9. We’ve seen a united response from Europe on foreign policy issues. In Russia, tough sanctions are really starting to bite; Europe is helping to tackle Ebola with €1bn in funding; and we’re working together against the threat of ISIL in Iraq and Syria. On Bosnia-Herzegovina, the EU has just adopted a UK-German initiative that offers hope of a way forward after almost 20 years of stagnation.
  10. There was recognition in the Annual Enlargement Report in October on the need to consider transitional controls on free movement for any future member states, and we’ve seen a ruling from the European Court of Justice in the Dano case in November that was simple common sense.
  11. We ended 2014 as the fastest-growing economy in the G7 (based on 31/12/2014 provisional data), with unemployment and inflation rates that are going down, and a budget deficit that is falling as our long-term economic plan takes effect.
  12. It’s been a year of momentous anniversaries. The sea of poppies in the Tower moat was a heart-wrenching memorial to the sacrifice made by Britain, Ireland and the Commonwealth, not just for our own liberty but for that of Europe as a whole. The illuminated balloons along the line of the Berlin Wall marked 25 years since the nations of central and eastern Europe recovered their freedom, and the truth that Europeans today, from the Atlantic to the Urals, regard freedom, the rule of law and democracy as their birthright.

There is a lot more to be done to deliver the competitive, democratically accountable and flexible EU which we seek. But I am encouraged by the progress that, working with our partners, we are already making.

I wish you all the very best for 2015.

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.