EU membership offers UK 'economic benefits'
By Benjamin Fox
EU membership has delivered "appreciable economic benefits" for the UK, according to assessment reports published on Monday (22 July).
A report on the EU's single market said that it had "brought to the EU, and hence to the UK, in most if not all observers’ opinions, appreciable economic benefits" and had "spread the UK’s liberal model of policy-making more widely across the EU."
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"A broad consensus that [the single market] is at the core of the EU’s development, that it has driven growth and prosperity in the member states, and that it should continue to do so. All this means that the single market could once again be more at the centre of European political debate, which could open up opportunities for Britain," it added.
But it noted that single market regulation had created "a regulatory framework which some find difficult to operate within or find burdensome."
The review of the EU's single market is one of the first six reports of the so-called 'balance of competences' review launched in July 2012 by foreign secretary William Hague.
Their findings were based on over 500 individual submissions. A further 26 separate reports are expected to be published between now and autumn 2014.
The reports are likely to form the basis for any re-negotiation of the UK's EU membership. Earlier this year, prime minister David Cameron outlined plans to seek further opt-outs and derogations followed by an 'in/out' referendum if his Conservative party wins the next election.
Meanwhile, the report on health policy expressed concern that non-health legislation, such as the controversial working time directive - which regulated hours worked per week - could have a negative impact on the UK's national health service.
They also insisted that any changes to EU tax policy should be decided by unanimity rather than a qualified majority vote.
The reports on development aid and foreign policy also offered qualified support for EU action, noting that "the close alignment of UK and EU development objectives… mean the EU can act as a multiplier for the UK’s policy priorities and influence."
In a statement, Hague commented that the reports "bring together in one place evidence from across the spectrum to provide an accurate and detailed picture of the impact that the European Union has on our everyday lives."
These reports make a valuable contribution not only to the debate in this country but also to the debate taking place in other European nations about the future of the EU,” he added.
However, Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence party which seeks British withdrawal from the EU, accused the government of being "disingenuous", describing the review as "a futile and cynical PR exercise."
He claimed that 400 new laws had come into effect since the coalition government was formed in 2010, costing British businesses £626 million a year.