Eurosceptics & UKIP grateful for baby talk distraction as Tory review into EU powers comes up with ‘wrong’ answer

Baaaaah!  (Original images: BBC & via Conservative Home)

(Original images: BBC & via Conservative Home)

You may have missed it with all non-news around yesterday but the government quietly released the first part of its noisily conceived EU Competences Review. And guess what? It came out broadly in favour of the status quo!

Peter Bone was livid (and I bet Mrs. Bone, to whom the scruffy MP frequently refers in a jocular fashion when asking questions in the house of commons, was none to happy either!). Needless to say the Telegraph was not impressed and expressed its ire in that passive-aggressive way that it does so well but more of them later.

The review has taken evidence from business and governments who have put the case for how the EU’s policies have affected the UK.

Stage 1 of the review examines:

  • internal market
  • tax
  • foreign policy

Here are some key points summarised from the Financial Times, Conservative Home and others as noted:

  • PRO EU: Japan warned the UK that Japanese investment is dependent on UKs place in the EU. Japanese government expects Britain to maintain a “strong voice” and keep playing a “major role” in the union. “More than 1,300 Japanese companies have invested in the UK, as part of the single market of the EU, and have created 130,000 jobs, more than anywhere else in Europe,”. “This fact demonstrates that the advantage of the UK as a gateway to the European market has attracted Japanese investment.”
  • CON EU: Japan lent support to the UK’s attempt to cut the number of EU regulations, saying its leadership in deregulation had made the EU market more attractive to foreign companies. It also added that it expected the UK to continue to push for an extension of the single market into the service sector
  • PRO EU: Both Germany & France refused to assist the review earlier this year. A French diplomat dismissed it as a “British domestic political exercise”, designed to win over euro-sceptic voters. Although Chancellor Merkel may well change Germany’s stance, according to the FT she ” has made it clear she will not support the unravelling of existing EU treaties”
  • CON EU (kind of): “the single market had brought about “burdensome” regulations…[The single market] has brought with it constraints on policymaking of varying kinds, and a regulatory framework, which some find difficult to work within or find burdensome, even if the obligations are not necessarily any greater than would have been imposed nationally” as reported by The Guardian
  • CON EU: “The report on health raised concerns about the impact of EU regulations – such as the WTD and data protection laws – on the NHS.  “There was a strong view that it is important to consult more with health departments and their stakeholders on these areas from the outset. A number of concerns were raised about the negative impact of the WTD on the NHS” Daily Express
  • PRO EU: Single market has helped British business find customers for goods and services enabling some to build global companies
  • CON EU: Single market might be used as cover for regulations unrelated to trade and market liberalisation
  • PRO EU: Cross-border regulations necessary to monitor the flow of livestock and food in the EU.
  • CON EU: “The risk of incursion of exotic diseases such as African horse sickness and rabies may increase with enlargement.”
  • PRO EU: “Government benefits from delivering aid through institutions such as the EU, which are able to distribute money while also promoting reform in developing countries”
  • CON EU: “There are inevitable costs in working through a multilateral organisation”
  • PRO EU: Most areas of tax policy are set by sovereign governments  –  role for EU to ensure no double taxation by member states
  • CON EU: Some tax policies could unfairly penalise Britain e.g. financial transactions tax
  • PRO EU: “Most of the evidence seen by officials, the report says, suggests it is strongly in the UK’s interest to work with its European partners on foreign policy. It points especially to the EU’s ability to negotiate trade agreements and economic partnerships”
  • CON EU: Complexity of leadership structures at an EU-level and lack of strategy and leadership can stifle attempts to form foreign policy.
  • PRO EU: EU gives access to foreign customers for drugs and services. NHS has benefited from influx of foreign workers, with one in 10 staff coming from abroad
  • CON EU: Effect of the working time directive on junior doctors. Regulation might harm “the ability to properly train the next generation of consultants”.

Here’s how William Hague‘s Foreign & Commonwealth Office conclude the stage 1 review:

“In conclusion, based on the evidence submitted, the current balance of competence between the EU and the UK was considered by stakeholders to be broadly appropriate and that these competences are properly applied but that competence should not be extended further

William Hague must be a little embarrassed given his vociferous anti-EU rhetoric over the years (remember we had 24 hours to save the £ – that was 12 years ago!).  Perhaps that’s why he waited to release the first part until parliament was on holiday and a royal baby would distract the nation’s attention.

You would think that this conclusion would prove sobering to some of the more rowdy of the Tory Eurosceptic ‘hooligans’ but as the Independent relates “The report led to a furious response from Tory Eurosceptic MPs. Peter Bone said it should prompt Conservatives to abandon the Coalition and seek to repatriate powers alone”

Meanwhile down at the Torygraph:

“This review solves nothing – and isn’t capable of doing so. While useful, this review will sway few hearts. Those who want to stay in will point to the advantages, and the difficulty of extricating ourselves. Those who want reform will be grateful for specific areas to prioritise. Those who want to leave will find evidence aplenty of how Britain’s sovereignty has been diluted and traduced. But in truth, a question this elemental was never going to be resolved by a few dusty dossiers”

Of course this story has plenty of road left to run but my message to Peter and Mrs Bone, their friends on the Tory benches and to UKIP, the party that Peter and friends wish that they could join, would best be related by paraphrasing General Sir Anthony Cecil Hogmanay Melchett VC DSO KCB:

If all else fails, a total Pig-Headed unwillingness to look facts in the face will see you through

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