The Foreign Office has today published the following response to public comments on The Coalition: Our Programme for Government on Europe.
We understand that so many of you feel jaded and sceptical about the EU. Speaking about the EU in Parliament, the Foreign Secretary said he knows there is “a profound disconnection between the British people and what has been done in their name by British Governments”. We want to deal with this.
That is why we have said we will not agree to any further transfer of sovereignty or powers from the UK to the EU during this Parliament. We are committed to ensuring that the British people have their say on any future proposed transfers of powers to the EU. So we are introducing a law to ensure that any future EU Treaty that transfers competences or areas of power from the UK to the EU will be subject to a referendum. This ‘referendum lock’ will ensure no Government will be able to pass more powers to the EU without your consent. This is part of our commitment to be more accountable to you for what we do in the EU.
The EU does need to change and do better. As is widely recognised across Europe, European countries through the EU really need to focus on how we can get our economies growing strongly. The Single Market could work better and cross-border regulation needs to be be simpler and smarter. We can help achieve this - and move Europe in the right direction. The government is clear that, at a time when so many countries across Europe are tightening their belts, the EU must do the same. At the same time, we are pushing for a larger EU. This would not just promote UK values of stability, security and prosperity to millions of people, but would also benefit UK interests. We stand to gain from the economic growth, energy security and low carbon growth in a larger EU. We are fighting for the UK’s interests in the EU and will play an active and activist role in making the EU a success.
The EU does offer real benefits and opportunities for people and businesses and we want to ensure that the UK is able to make the most of them.
As a result of our EU membership British firms can sell their products and services in the 27 countries which make up the Single Market. That’s 500 million potential customers. And this means our firms don’t have to deal with 26 separate lots of rules and regulations. They don’t have to get their products approved separately in 27 different countries. There are no customs documents, saving hours of form filling and delays at ports. This all saves money for the 300,000 UK firms which do business in the single market. Investors from other EU countries also put money into the UK, which helps create jobs. In 2007, over half the investment in the UK economy came from EU countries . Keeping costs down and increasing investment are vital for the economic growth if we want to get Britain working again.
The Single Market also helps British consumers. EU action has led to lower mobile roaming prices across EU borders. It’s also improved consumer rights on the sale of goods. British citizens now have protection against faulty or substandard products bought locally, in another country or even from, say, Amazon in France .
Doing things through the EU helps in other ways too: from the laws that protect our birds as they migrate between the British Isles and Africa, to working with other EU countries to get our collective voice heard in world affairs. With so many world issues affecting us, working in partnership with group of nationals in the EU enables us to take more effective action for Britain’s security and prosperity.
So yes, while the EU - that’s the EU institutions in Brussels and the governments of the countries that make up the EU - does some things well, there are many things it could do better - and some of what it does can be justly criticised. And it’s certainly true that the Government needs to become more democratically accountable for what happens in the EU. The Coalition Government wants to listen to what you have to say on this issue and, where there’s room for improvement, act on it.