Wednesday

19th Feb 2020

New UK reports back EU powers, enrage eurosceptics

  • The UK government is publishing 32 reports on the balance of powers with Brussels (Photo: Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

EU policies ranging from the single market and trade, to culture and transport, are good for the UK, according to a series of government reports on the balance of power between London and Brussels.

The findings are contained in eight reports published on Thursday (13 February), which form the second batch of the UK's “Balance of Competences” review, comprising more than 30 separate studies by a range of government departments.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or join as a group

The remaining 18 papers are expected to be published later this year.

The reports were intended to form the basis for a future re-negotiation of the UK's EU membership.

Last year, PM David Cameron outlined plans to re-write the UK's membership terms followed by an “in/out” referendum in 2017 if his Conservative Party wins the next election.

However, Whitehall's analysis of the free movement of persons, which is expected to touch on the controversial issues of economic migration and welfare tourism within the EU, has been temporarily shelved.

Cameron's Conservative-led government has been embroiled in a long running row with the European Commission over whether economic migrants from other EU countries should be able to claim benefits, and has also mooted the possibility of imposing a cap on EU migration.

A row between Liberal Democrat members of the coalition government and home secretary Theresa May over the evidence behind her calls for tighter controls on migration is believed to be behind the shelving of the paper.

Eurosceptics are already unhappy the reports published so far have all offered qualified support for the way that Brussels is using its powers.

"The whole review has been commandeered by the pro-EU establishment and is going to be a total whitewash that claims EU membership has no downsides and only advantages," said the UK Independence Party (Ukip) in a statement.

"But for possibly the most important chapter of all to get held back altogether is totally unacceptable."

The reports are based on more than 600 pieces of written evidence from contributors including businesses, trade associations, think tanks and politicians, the vast majority of which have given broad support to the current settlement.

"Of the 14 reports that have now been published all of them have concluded that the balance of power between Westminster and Brussels is broadly right," Christopher Howarth, an analyst for the Open Europe think tank told EUobserver.

"For a Tory-led government this is a bit of a surprise to say the least.”

The report on trade and investment argues that EU trade policy has been beneficial for UK, despite the proportion of the country's exports going to the EU falling from 54 percent to 47 percent over the past decade.

However, the total value of its exports has increased in this period from £130 billion (€160 billion) to £240 billion (€275 billion).

"The balance of competence for the free movement of goods and IP [intellectual property] works in the UK's interests," another report says.

In a sign of just how surprising the outcome has been, Glenis Willmott, a senior MEP from the British opposition Labour party, also welcomed the texts.

"[They] highlight just how important European Union membership is to jobs and growth, showing the positive impact of the EU on the free movement of goods, trade and investment, research and development, tourism, and civil justice," she said.

UK promises thorough analysis of EU by 2014

The UK government has announced it will undertake a wide-ranging study of the EU so that any statements it makes about 'meddlesome' Brussels may be in future be backed up by hard evidence.

'Europe projects coldness'

Artists and writers invited to ponder on how culture can counter populism and euroscepticism have warned that Europe has lost its attraction.

EU leaders face major clash on rule of law budget link

One major issue dividing member states in the ongoing budget negotiations is inserting a direct link between EU subsidies and the rule of law. While the biggest battle will be over figures, the rule of law conditionality also creates tension.

News in Brief

  1. EU unveils white paper on AI and data strategy
  2. Dutch court rules against Russia in €46bn Yukos case
  3. Britain to bar 'Polish plumber-type' migrants
  4. Greece seeks EU help to get back classical statues from UK
  5. HSBC to cut 35,000 jobs worldwide
  6. Regions chief appeals against cutting EU cohesion funds
  7. Verhofstadt criticises UK Brexit negotiator
  8. Turkish court acquits Gezi park activists

Column

Western 'endarkenment' and the voodoo politics of Europe

The continent that gave the world the Enlightenment has collectively reverted to believing in fairy tales and the soothing power of cozy narrowness. Moscow and Beijing like what they see, and are doing everything to strengthen the trend.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  2. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December

Latest News

  1. EU leaders face major clash on rule of law budget link
  2. North Macedonia warns EU on 'dirtiest ever' election
  3. Western 'endarkenment' and the voodoo politics of Europe
  4. Warning of agricultural 'digital arms race' in EU
  5. Cayman Islands put on tax-haven blacklist after Brexit
  6. Boris' Brexit bluff? - UK will resist alignment to the end
  7. US still open to Kosovo-Serbia land swap
  8. EU countries enter final phase of budget talks

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us