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19th Oct 2019

Leaving EU would be 'historic error,' UK group says

  • Leaving EU would be an 'historic error" (Photo: Valentina Pop)

Quitting the EU would be an "historic error" for the UK, according to a cross-party campaign group.

In a manifesto released on Monday (15 July) titled 'Better off in a Better Europe', the British Influence group said that the UK should instead seek to "reboot the EU for the 21st century" and to make the EU "leaner and meaner."

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The EU should "focus only on essential tasks.., do better in getting value from its budget and eliminate fraud and be more transparent with its decision making processes which often appear opaque and distant from voters," it argues.

The paper also called on UK politicians to step up their scrutiny of EU lawmaking noting that "the UK needs to radically improve its national parliamentary oversight of Brussels. Both Houses of Parliament should be far more effective in holding Brussels to account and working with other European governments and parliaments to achieve this.”

But the group warns against shifting further powers to EU level, noting that "it should be recognised by EU leaders that the time of an ‘ever closer union’ in every possible policy area lies in the past.”

It also conceded that future reforms to the EU treaties were "inevitable” and could lead to the repatriation of certain policy areas.

British Influence is headed by Ken Clarke, the veteran Conservative minister widely regarded as the party's sole remaining europhile in government. Meanwhile, treasury minister Danny Alexander represents the Liberal Democrats, with Labour's Peter Mandelson, a former EU trade commissioner, representing his party.

For his part, Alexander described EU membership as "one of the central pillars of British prosperity and security".

In a nod to the EU's intentions to negotiate a series of bilateral trade agreements, Alexander added that "EU trade deals with the US, India, Canada and Japan will be worth billions to the UK economy but could not be won by the UK alone."

In January, UK prime minister David Cameron set out his intention to renegotiate the terms of his country's EU membership if his Conservative party won the next election, followed by an 'in/out' referendum in 2017.

But Cameron has since faced mounting pressure from factions within his party to pass legislation make a referendum legally binding on the next parliament.

Both the opposition Labour party and the pro-European Liberal Democrats, who are in Cameron's government coalition, have so far opposed a referendum.

Last week, home secretary Theresa May indicated that the government would opt out of almost 100 EU measures covering police and legal issues, using a clause in the Lisbon treaty.

However, she told MPs the country planned to continue its involvement in around 35 areas of co-operation including the European arrest warrant and Europol, the EU's intelligence agency.

The government is also expected to soon publish the first reports from its so-called 'Balance of Competences' review, aimed at assessing EU lawmaking across a range of policy areas.

British Influence commented that the review should be used as "a factual backdrop to push for change in the EU for all its members and not just a special deal for Britain."

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Britain has taken another step towards an in/out referendum on EU membership after MPs unanimously approved a bill to do it by the end of 2017.

UK to scrap 100 EU justice laws

The UK wants to retain 35 out of some 130 EU-wide police and justice laws in its wider efforts to claw back power from the EU.

Crucial summit: last EU-28 format?

The EU summit will be crucial for the future of the EU, but especially for the UK. The next EU summit will not be the same since the UK's withdrawal will have consequences for the power relations within the council.

EU leaders to warn von der Leyen over 'giving in' to MEPs

The new commission president-elect Ursula von der Leyen will meet for the first time with EU leaders who nominated her for the job. She will be asked to lay out her plans for getting her commission through parliament.

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