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The Diplomatic Dispatch

The British Ambassador to Sweden blogs on The Local

The UK in the EU: 40 years on; assessing impact

Britain joined the EU (or the EEC as it then was) on 1 January 1972.

To say the least the EU (and the UK) has changed a lot since then. For most of that period there’s been a lively debate on what the impact of EU membership is on the UK.

Our government is clear that EU membership is in the UK’s national interest. It is central to how we create jobs, expand trade and protect our interests around the world.

But Europe is changing. We don’t know what the EU will end up looking like at the end of this crisis.

This year the Government decided to launch a detailed review to examine what impact the EU has on the UK in more detail than ever before.

The review will look at the scope of the EU’s competences (the power to act in particular areas conferred by the EU Treaties) as they affect the UK, how they are used, and what that means for Britain and our national interests. The review will examine about 30 areas of EU competence between now and the end of 2014.  It will be divided into four ‘semesters’, each containing a number of individual reports.  Reports will be published at the end of that semester.

The first semester will run from autumn 2012 to summer 2013. In the first semester Departments will produce reports on: taxation; animal health and welfare and food safety; health; development; and foreign policy. The first semester will also include an overview on the single market. The reports will be analytical in nature. They will draw on relevant evidence received in response to a ‘call for evidence’ which Departments will issue to prepare each report shortly after the start of each semester.  Departments will seek evidence from a wide range of interested parties including Parliament, business, civil society, the public, the Devolved Administrations, foreign governments and EU Institutions.

The review is intended to provide evidence to inform the debate in the UK, not least in the run-up to the next election, rather to lead immediately to any specific policy recommendations. This is by far the most serious and extensive analysis of what the EU means for the UK – or probably for any Member State – ever undertaken.

We hope it will also be of interest to other countries, including Sweden, given the big issues Europe needs to face about remaining competitive and effective in a rapidly changing continent and world.

The FCO website will contain up-to-date information on the progress of the review, including which reports are currently in train and details of how to contribute evidence. Please do take a look!

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