Downing Street will, according to the Financial Times, release official reports on Thursday concluding that the balance of powers between Westminster and Brussels in key policy areas is broadly correct.
The assiduously hidden balance of competencies exercise has therefore blown up in David Cameron’s face. Designed to keep the Eurosceptics quiet, the review of the EU’s competences, which the Foreign Secretary launched in July 2012, tells a very different story from what the sceptics and possibly the Prime Minister himself wanted to hear.
An audit of what the EU does and how it affects the UK, the review’s official blurb states, “It is important that Britain has a clear sense of how our national interests interact with the EU’s roles, particularly at a time of great change for the EU.” It goes on to say that government departments will consult Parliament and its committees, business, the devolved administrations, and civil society to look in depth at how the EU’s competences (the power to act in particular areas conferred on it by the EU Treaties) work in practice. Moreover, our European partners and the EU institutions will also contribute evidence to the review, and it will examine issues that are of interest across the EU, seeking to improve understanding and engagement.
No-one can say that the review wasn’t thorough. Parliament and its committees, the devolved administrations, business and civil society plus Britain’s European partners add up to a very wide range of opinion. And they conclude that Britain’s relationship with the European Union is just about right. In fact, these studies include a strong endorsement of the commercial advantages of Britain’s EU membership.
Tellingly, Number 10 has ordered low-key release for these reports. There is only one reason for such behaviour, namely that Downing Street fears that the findings of the balance of competencies exercise do not support the case for a radical renegotiation of EU powers. In other words, David Cameron’s gamble that this review would calm the Eurosceptics has utterly failed.
There is something very unseemly about a Prime Minister who will undertake official studies and use taxpayers’ money for Party advantage. It’s not the kind of conduct we expect from our government, and it’s even worse when the instigator wants to conceal the findings of the review he initiated because it came up with the wrong result.
Thankfully for democracy in Great Britain, the Financial Times reported on the studies, allowing people to know what has been going on. Congratulations to that excellent newspaper. What would we do without the FT?