Press release

Final reports in review of EU Balance of Competences published

The government published the last 7 reports in UK’s review of EU Balance of Competences today.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
Foreign and Commonwealth Office building

Today’s publication marks the conclusion of the most extensive analysis ever undertaken of the UK’s relationship with the EU. The 32 reports draw on nearly 2300 pieces of written evidence which together demonstrate why the EU needs ambitious reform to make it more open, competitive, flexible and democratically accountable, for the benefit of everyone in Europe.

The final reports in the series cover: economic and monetary policy; police and criminal justice; information rights; education, vocational training and youth; enlargement; voting, consular and statistics; and subsidiarity and proportionality.

Welcoming the conclusion of the review, the Foreign Secretary, Phillip Hammond, said:

This two-year review to examine the impact of EU membership on the UK is unprecedented in its size and scale. Many themes that have emerged chime with priorities that the UK and European partners have pressed the Commission to pursue. In particular, they underline the need for the EU to focus on those areas where it genuinely adds value, alongside pursuing an ambitious reform agenda for the benefit of all 28 Member States. There are many areas where action can and should be taken in Member States rather than at the EU level.

The review provides a wealth of material that anyone interested in reform can draw upon and the 32 reports provide evidence about every area of EU activity, allowing people to judge for themselves how the current arrangements are working. These reports provide further evidence of the need for a change in Britain’s relationship with the EU.

The 7 new reports were produced after extensive consultation with a wide range of interested parties in the UK and beyond, including businesses, professional bodies and representative organisations, civil society organisations, think tanks, academics and members of the public.

The final reports pick up on a number of themes which recur across the review:

  • Subsidiarity and proportionality underpins the application of EU competence in all areas. However, many contributors believed these principles have been insufficiently implemented, pointing to EU action which they considered unnecessary, overly harmonising or resulting in disproportionate costs to business or governments. Many felt that this had contributed to undermining the EU’s legitimacy in some Member States.
  • Respondents highlighted the need for greater democratic accountability of EU institutions with some arguing that the ECJ had too wide a margin over interpretation of competence. They thought accountability could be improved by giving national parliaments a greater role.
  • Contributors also commented that the UK has often been successful in shaping the EU agenda. Respondents to the Enlargement report emphasised the UK’s influence in directing reforms of the enlargement process. Other reports highlighted how EU programmes benefit the UK- the Russell Group noted the importance of wider funding opportunities offered by the EU for UK universities in light of the importance of education as an export industry to the UK.
  • But respondents also called for further progress in many areas. The need for less and better EU regulation was a common theme in all reports, as was the need for more effective implementation and enforcement of existing legislation. The Economic and Monetary Policy report drew attention to the need to protect the rights of all EU Member States as the Eurozone integrates further, to ensure the integrity of the single market.
  • Finally, many stated the importance of the EU focusing on the areas where it adds genuine value. Member States should retain the ability to take actions appropriate to national circumstances, in recognition that one size does not always fit all. This was particularly true in areas where questions were raised over how far the single market provided a rationale for action.

All reports can be found at here.

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Published 18 December 2014