Last week, the Foreign Secretary launched the Government’s review into the European Union’s ‘Balance of Competences’, fulfilling a commitment in the Coalition Agreement.
Our relationship with the EU is something that many people feel very strongly about. A few are enthusiastic supporters of the current arrangements. Some want to see us leave altogether. But most of us want to be part of a common market and see the case for co-operating on issues of common concern, but think too many decisions are now being taken at an EU level.
As I blogged recently, the Prime Minister himself takes this view and has accepted that, given that many people in this country have never had a chance to have a say on our relationship with Europe and that even those who have could reasonably argue that the institution has changed a lot since then, there is a strong case for a referendum on any revised relationship he might be able to negotiate.
But before we start any such negotiation, we need to be clear exactly what changes we want to see. That is the aim of this review. It will look at the EU’s powers, how they are used and what this means for Britain and our national interest, at which issues need to be dealt with at national, EU or global level.
Government departments will start consulting in the autumn and this will be a thorough, not a cosmetic, exercise so it is likely to continue until 2014. I’ll be following it with great interest. Its establishment is a clear sign that the Prime Minister is committed to making progress on this issue.