British government will audit EU powers

British foreign secretaryWilliam Hague announced today a rather unusual new government investigation: one designed to assess all the ways in which the European Union has power over the United Kingdom: Every Government department will be ordered to establish which areas of everyday life are affected by EU regulations. The plan is to compile a complete ...

By , a professor at Indiana University’s Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies.
JOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Images
JOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Images
JOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Images

British foreign secretaryWilliam Hague announced today a rather unusual new government investigation: one designed to assess all the ways in which the European Union has power over the United Kingdom:

Every Government department will be ordered to establish which areas of everyday life are affected by EU regulations. The plan is to compile a complete audit of how Europe impinges on individuals, businesses and government.

The Foreign Office stressed that the audit was not about trying to identify which powers the Government might try and repatriate or scrap.

British foreign secretaryWilliam Hague announced today a rather unusual new government investigation: one designed to assess all the ways in which the European Union has power over the United Kingdom:

Every Government department will be ordered to establish which areas of everyday life are affected by EU regulations. The plan is to compile a complete audit of how Europe impinges on individuals, businesses and government.

The Foreign Office stressed that the audit was not about trying to identify which powers the Government might try and repatriate or scrap.

However, many Conservative MPs hope the study will lay the groundwork for a future Tory-only government to renegotiate a new membership deal with the EU.

The move appears calibrated to appease Eurosceptic elements in the Conservative party without opening the door to the referendum on British participation in the EU that some have advocated. Hague’s statement announcing the audit hit key eurosceptic notes while abjuring any intention of breaking with the EU:

It is not a consultation about disengaging or withdrawing from the EU. The coalition government’s policy on Europe has not changed. We remain committed to our membership of the EU and to a strong and stable Europe.

I also believe the European Union’s future lies in continued variable geometry, in different layers of integration. Britain will choose not to take part in some layers, such as Schengen or the Euro, but will continue to play a leading part in completing the Single Market, championing free trade and enlargement, foreign policy and new areas like the Unitary Patent that benefits British business.

In the future it is my view, as it is the prime minister’s, that we must take the opportunities for Britain to shape its relationship with Europe in ways that advance our national interest in free trade, open markets and co-operation. That should involve less cost, less bureaucracy, and less meddling in the issues that belong to nation states.

For their part, Labour representatives did not object to the audit but described it as "contextless and rather ahistorical."

David Bosco is a professor at Indiana University’s Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies. He is the author of The Poseidon Project: The Struggle to Govern the World’s Oceans. Twitter: @multilateralist

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