Martin Horwood MP writes… Balance of competence reports shows EU membership is crucial for UK jobs

The Government today published the long awaited first six reports of the review of the balance of competences between EU and national levels, due to be finalised at the end of 2014. The review has been overseen by a Ministerial star chamber with Lord Wallace of Saltaire leading impressively for the Liberal Democrats in the complicated process.

Contrary to the perception in Eurosceptic ranks, this review is not and was never about creating a wish list of demands for unilateral repatriation of powers. Liberal Democrats have been unwavering in our arguments that the EU needs reform to make it more competitive and accountable. However, reform should be promoted for the whole of the EU, working with like-minded governments and parliamentarians from across Europe to achieve the necessary change. Unilateral repatriation is neither desirable nor achievable. Just imagine what we’d have to concede in return and the damage that could do to British interests.

The reports published today underline this loud and clear and sound the starting gun for a much better informed and enriched debate about the role of the EU in our public life: where the EU has been invaluable, where it can be improved and where competences could better be exercised at national level to address the policy challenges at hand.

The report is tactfully light on policy conclusions but it is clear that it has already strengthened the arguments in favour of remaining part of the EU. The Single Market Report reiterates the economic benefits and central importance of our trade with the EU for jobs; the International Development Report demonstrates the greater economies of scale and global reach of combined EU aid projects; the Foreign Policy Report highlights the considerable advantages for the UK in agreeing joint EU positions on issues ranging from sanctions in Burma and Iran to peacekeeping in Bosnia.

This week the Japanese Government publicised its submission to the review in which it warned that the 1,300 Japanese companies and the 130,000 British jobs they support rely on our continued membership of the EU. The subtext is clear – if Britain leaves the EU, this job creating investment will dry up with ominous consequences for Nissan workers in Sunderland, the Honda factory in Swindon and Toyota’s employees in Burnaston. What is at stake is jobs and the Liberal Democrats are the only party fighting loudly for a stronger economy by defending these jobs and working to create millions more through continued British membership of the EU.

There are 26 further reports in the pipeline covering all aspects of the EU’s role and I urge organisations both inside and outside the party to continue to feed in their expertise in order to make sure that the national debate on the EU is finally based on fact and not fiction.

To contribute to the balance of competence review, please find background briefings, timetables and information on how to submit evidence here –

* Martin Horwood was LibDem MP for Cheltenham 2005-15 and international affairs spokesperson for the parliamentary party. He is currently chairing the party’s national policy working group on Britain’s Place in the World but is writing in a personal capacity.

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  • Having William Wallace on hand to navigate the way through proceedings makes me feel a lot less distrustful of this exercise.

  • @Stephen W
    I am sure that for some years Lib Dem General Election Manifestos call for reforms of the EU. Sadly the low priority of the EU during elections has meant that only our support is reported and exploited by those who aim to create an offshore low wage economy.

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