House of Lords report finds allegations of EU interference unfounded

The European Union Committee of the House of Lords has accused the government of attempting to “bury” the results of a report on the UK’s relationship with the EU after it found no evidence of excessive interference from Brussels.

The government commissioned an extensive civil service investigation into how the EU affects British life in 32 areas, from health and education to the economy. The review was completed at the end of last year.

Speaking to the Observer this weekend, the chairman of the committee, Lord Boswell said none of the 32 chapters “demonstrated that too much power resided in Brussels.”

The committee also criticised the government for failing to provide an overall analysis of the findings of the review, which was published as 32 individual reports.

“As a result, this major project, despite the good quality of its outputs, has yet to deliver an outcome, in the form of measurable benefits. It has so far made no impact on the public debate on the UK-EU relationship,” the committee said.

The report also questions government calculations over the cost of the report. The government said that the cost of the report was no more than £1.78 million. The committee said this claim was “not credible” and estimated a cost between £4.5-5 million as more realistic.

“There is no point spending up to 5 million pounds of public money on an excellent review, and then burying it. People need to know the facts about the UK-EU relationship,” said Boswell.

Peter Wilding, of the pro-EU campaign group British Influence, also criticised the lack of visibility for the report. “There has been to date no publicity exercise promoting a public debate about the findings. It’s as if it hadn’t happened. Businesses, amongst many other organisations, spent time and money on contributing to the review only to find that all their work and £5 million of taxpayer’s money were effectively binned.”

Speaking to the committee last month, the UK Minister for Europe, David Lidington confirmed the government had spent no money publicising the report, except for the cost of printing.

Campaigning begins

Monday (30 March) marked the official start of the general election campaign with the dissolution of parliament.

David Cameron said that voters faced a “stark choice” between the parties, not least on the issue of an EU referendum.

>>Read: Countdown to the UK election: a vote on Europe?

With the Tories promising a referendum before the end of 2017, Labour’s Ed Miliband warned on Monday that such a policy would lead to two years of “chaos” and “uncertainty” and would be bad for jobs, business and prosperity.

Speaking to the BBC this morning Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg refused to rule out supporting an EU referendum, despite the pro-European stance of his party.

New MPs

A new poll conducted of prospective MPs found 69% strongly agree that it is in the UK’s interests to remain in the EU.

Research company De Havilland questioned 275 candidates standing in seats around the country on various issues, including the EU.

Only 30% of Conservative candidates disagreed, or strongly disagreed with the statement, “It is in the interests of the United Kingdom to remain a member of the European Union.”

Taken across the political spectrum, only 17% said that they disagreed.

The UK 'Review of the balance of competences' examined the country’s relationship with the EU following consultation with businesses, think tanks, academics and other bodies.

The review was launched in 2012 and was expected to form the basis of any future renegotiation of the UK’s membership to the EU.

David Cameron has promised such a renegotiation ahead of a referendum on EU membership if he wins May’s general election.

>> Read: Voting on Brexit: The EU issues shaping the UK election

The first set of reports were published in 2013, covering the single market, foreign policy and taxation, among other subjects.

But in a setback for Eurosceptics, most observers gave a positive impression of the impact the EU single market has on the UK.

Beefed up powers for the European Commission and direct EU regulatory control over single market issues were recommended as key ways of maintaining a strong single market, the report found.

>> Read: UK report calls for more Europe for single market

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