Thursday, 8 December 2011

The Costly Club

The Spectator has, yet again, published an excellent article on the disadvantages of EU membership. 

Forget the European Council for a moment. For it is worth highlighting the things that the British Government could do immediately and unilaterally, here at home, to challenge EU power — and without recourse to Brussels whatsoever. And Lee’s paper gives the following six examples:

1. Commissioning a measured, independent and trustworthy cost-benefit analysis of EU membership. Such an exercise ought to consider both the concrete and abstract costs and benefits of our membership of the EU, and would both set the terms of a mandate for renegotiation and strengthen the hand of the team sent to Brussels seeking it.

2. Demonstrating an intent and capability to act unilaterally if necessary to improve Britain’s position. The Government should be prepared to begin to pass laws at Westminster including the phrase ‘Notwithstanding the European Communities Act 1972’, which would signal a clear intent to unilaterally change the terms of the UK’s relationship with the EU if there is gridlock in Brussels.

3. A review of the acquis communautaire. A Cabinet Minister should be appointed to review all the treaties, regulations and directives passed by the European institutions and judgements laid down by the Court of Justice in the context of the change in treaty terms.

4. An end to ‘gold-plating’ of EU regulations. The Government should print EU-sourced legislation on differently coloured paper to focus minds on the areas where the EU is calling the shots and to assist in calculating what proportion of laws originate in Brussels. The regulations should each be subject to a cost-benefit summary and should go no further than the basic text itself in order to avoid ‘gold-plating’ (i.e. extra red tape created by British civil servants).

5. Increased transparency and scrutiny at Westminster over EU legislation. All meetings of the European Scrutiny Committee should henceforth be held in public session — with no returning to past moves to shut out the public — and there should be greater opportunity for it to refer EU-inspired secondary legislation to the whole House for further scrutiny either in Westminster Hall or on the floor of the Commons. At present, far too many of these laws go through on the nod and without any scrutiny by elected MPs.

6. Improved use of the national scrutiny reserve.
Parliament would be brought closer to the law making process, and ministers made more cautious about agreements, if any such agreements were dependent upon domestic approval by MPs after the event.

These proposals could be implemented with immediate effect. To borrow a phrase from the author of The Spectator's Speech of the Year: if not now, when?

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