EU review a constructive contribution to the European debate – Kennedy
Originally published by East Midlands Liberal Democrats
Commenting on the announcement of a Balance of Competences review, former Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Charles Kennedy said:
"As the Foreign Secretary said, our EU membership is firmly in the national interest. This review will help inform people about our positive agenda for Europe by providing a constructive and serious British-led contribution to the wider European debate about how to modernise, reform and improve the EU.
"We are already delivering major positive EU-wide reforms such as devolving powers over fisheries policy, dramatically lifting the burden of regulation on small businesses and strengthening MPs' involvement in EU affairs at home. There is much more we want to deliver.
"But holding the EU to ransom as some want to do simply does not work. We will be left without a UK seat at the table, unable to stand up for the UK's interests when neighbouring countries make separate agreements on growth and financial services, and powerless over serious cross-border issues like pollution, climate change or organised crime. That is not standing up forBritain."
EU Reforms to Date:
- Localising and Reforming EU Fisheries Policy: The Coalition Government has fought hard to secure agreement from the 27 EU Fisheries Ministers in June 2012 to fundamentally overhaul EU Fisheries policies. This includes devolving powers over the design of sustainable fisheries to a national and regional level, so they can design innovative and tailored policies for their seas, within the overall CFP. The reform also includes banning discards and achieving sustainable yields across all species by 2016.
- Substantial Cuts in Red Tape for Small Companies: As Business Minister, Ed Davey negotiated Europe's first small business exemption from existing EU accounting rules, saving small businesses £400m a year. This success helped spur the EU to exempt small businesses from all new EU regulations wherever possible and to explore further area to cut red tape from existing EU regulations.
- Shining a Light on Brussels Lobbying: Liberal Democrat MEPs were at the forefront in setting up the new Transparency Register and Code of Conduct in 2011, obliging anyone lobbying the Commission and the European Parliament to sign up and provide detailed public information about who they are. Breaches of the Code lead to lobbyists being removed from the register. This is essentially the same reform we are putting in place in theUK inside the Coalition Government and theUK is supporting efforts to expand the Transparency Register and Code to cover the Council of Ministers.
- Strengthening MPs Role in EU Affairs: The Coalition Government has already increased the role for MPs to debate EU matters on the floor of the Commons. But Liberal Democrats want to go further and the Coalition Government has signalled its commitment to agreeing a fundamental overhaul of EU Parliamentary Scrutiny, so that all MPs engage in the European dimension of the Select Committees they follow, and hold Ministers to account for their actions on behalf of theUK when attending Council meetings inBrussels.