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Monday, January 07, 2013

The case for bringing back some powers from Brussels... by Nick Clegg

As we noted in our guest piece over on Lib Dem Voice last week, if the Coalition needs inspiration for what to put in its "half-time" report or ideas for what reforms to target in Europe, a good place to start would be  revisiting Nick Clegg's chapter in the Orange Book. As an MEP in 2004, he put forward some sensible and innovative ideas for EU reform, including the repatriation of certain powers.

For example:

General approach to EU powers:
“A liberal approach to the allocation of responsibilities to the EU should be founded on a rigorous application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality… the EU must only act if there is a clear cross-border issue at stake, or when collective EU action brings collective benefits to all member states that they would not be able to secure on their own… This would help correct the lopsided nature of the EU and so make it more logical and comprehensible to British voters.” 
On Agricultural policy and farm subsidies:
“It would be more logical for the EU to wield strong powers in the manner in which agricultural products are traded across Europe, especially to guarantee high quality and animal welfare standards, whilst leaving much of the system of production support to national governments themselves, subject to EU rules on subsidies and fair competition.” 
On regional policy and the structural funds:
“There is a danger that the system of EU regional subsidies has reached a point of such excessive complexity that the value added of collective EU funds is being undermined. The founding logic of the so-called EU structural funds remains compelling – that the richer parts of the EU should help provide resources to those parts in dire straits, especially in helping to cover high infrastructure investment costs. Yet, in practice, regional funds are still being channelled to all member states, even Britain, France and Germany who are the main contributors in the first place. Logically, those governments should take full responsibility for the channelling of funds to their own regions, rather than rely on the recycling of funds via the EU… That, in turn, would allow the EU structural funds to concentrate wholly on those countries where the economic need for financial assistance is overwhelming.” 
On EU involvement in social and employment law:
“While it is, of course, entirely understandable to support EU measures because of their beneficial effects – working time and parental leave legislation spring to mind – doing so in order to supplant the normal domestic policy making process risks undermining the basic tenets of democratic accountability. If the EU were to be used systematically as a means to bypass domestic political debate, voters will be even more perplexed about who is responsible for what… It disrupts the key relationship between voters and those elected to public office if domestic issues with no obvious EU dimension are arbitrarily shuffled off to Brussels for resolution. For these reasons, there is a compelling case to curtail the EU in its responsibility in the social policy sphere.” 
On the EU budget:
"The multitude of small and dispersed EU budget lines, in everything from youth programmes and tourism, should substantially be reduced. It is highly doubtful whether their marginal benefits justify the scarce personnel resources in the European Commission allocated to them".
It's hard to disagree, and indeed we have echoed many of these points our reports over the last 18 months, for example on employment law, structural funds, CAP, the EU budget and EU 'localism'.

Time to get to work? 


Rik said...

You got the adress etc of the German sisterorganisation at the bottom of each page.

Open Europe blog team said...

Thanks Rik - good spot. Mix-up of templates. We'll correct.

Idris Francis said...

Sensible ideas from Nick Clegg? Having heckled him several times when he was an MEP - including handing him at a debate a copy of the EU banana regulations he denied existed - and never dreamed that anyone would take him seriously, this I had to read!

Yes - sensible, in the sense of desirable and logical.

But sensible in the sense of achievable? Of course not - and given Clegg's raving Europhilia then and now (he still thinks we might join the euro one day!) I do not believe for one moment he ever thought them achievable. Instead he was issuing chaff - as our bombers used to do over Berlin, chaff to confuse the enemy

Better Off Out

PS Can anyone think of any MP ever who has had such a bad press, for such a long time? The Curse of Clegg indeed. How low we have fallen.

christina speight said...


They're desperate - The Open Europe News Digest today beats all previous nonsenses! They've really hit the dust with a propaganda blast to ensure that Britain remains shackled to a corrupt dying EU until it drags us down with it.

First they trot out the Norwegian Foreign Minister who has tried vainly for years to get his own country as another sattelite of Brussels and linked that absurd man to your own completely over-the-top Mats Persson who is sounding more and more like a PR man for the EU Commission every day. "OPEN Europe" is a false trade description. It should be called "Desperate Europe" if you have to fall back on Clegg who now represents - er - nobody

Denis Cooper said...

"Time to get to work?"

Of course not, we have to wait for Merkel to propose more EU treaty changes that she wants to "create an opportunity" for Cameron to propose EU treaty changes that he wants.

He's not allowed to pipe up of his own accord any time he fancies, he's only allowed to speak when spoken to by the Empress.

Mind you, even when that happens as a mere and rather whimpish British Prime Minister Cameron might come over all tongue-tied and forget to say that he'd like some EU treaty changes as well, if it please your Imperial Majesty, as it did with the EU treaty change she demanded and got through European Council Decision 2011/199/EU of March 25th 2011.