What does EU membership mean for the UK?

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

This is a defining moment for Europe, according to the UK’s Europe Minister, David Lidington. The UK’s Balance of Competences Review is not designed as a prelude to cherry-picking the Treaties, or to British exit from the EU, he argues, and asks for European input in the process.

David Lidington is Europe Minister for the United Kingdom.

We have a lively debate on Europe in the UK.  Last month, Prime Minister Cameron set out his vision for the UK’s role in Europe in his speech in London. He made clear that we are committed to the UK playing a strong role within a more effective European Union.  He was equally clear that Europe needs to change – not just for Britain, but for the sake of all its members.

Our future stability and prosperity will depend on it: the EU needs to become more competitive and flexible to keep up in the global race. The major trends we see in the world today – the rapid growth of emerging economies, the diffusion of power – are not new. Nor are the challenges they pose. But the Eurozone crisis has brought them – and Europe’s place in the world – into starker relief. This is, in short, a defining moment for Europe. Prime Minister’s Cameron’s speech is an important contribution to our collective response.

As we work with our partners across Europe to build this more competitive, more open, more flexible EU, we need to understand what EU membership actually means for us. 

Last summer, the UK Government launched the Balance of Competences Review to give us an informed and objective analysis of Britain’s relationship with the EU. This review is an important coalition commitment, with full support from both Conservative and Liberal Democrat members of our government.

The Government will produce 32 reports over the next two years, looking at everything the EU does and how it affects the UK, from the environment to education to EU enlargement.

To do this as objectively as possible, we are currently seeking evidence from the widest possible range of experts and interested groups in the UK.  We are also keen to hear from others across Europe.

To tackle a common misconception head on, the Balance of Competences Review is not designed as a prelude to cherry-picking the Treaties, or to British exit from the EU. In fact, the Review will not be making specific policy recommendations. Instead, it will provide a wealth of evidence and objective analysis to inform a constructive and serious debate in the UK. It will be up to each political party to draw lessons from the evidence in shaping its policies for the future.

This is the first time that any EU member state has undertaken such a comprehensive review of the impact of EU membership. We hope it will also contribute to the broader European conversation about the future of Europe. We are delighted that many of our European partners are taking a close interest in our review and that some are thinking of conducting similar exercises of their own.

Europe is a shared project, which benefits from our diverse contributions. Addressing the challenges Europe faces in the 21st century and coming up with solutions that work for all of us will call for the sharpest analysis and most rigorous thinking we can muster. This is just the beginning of the process.

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