First and foremost, happy New Year. I hope 2013 is a great year for all of you.
Late 2012 marked the mid-point of the UK Coalition governmentís five year term and this week the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister published the Governmentís own mid-term review.
Given the interest in Sweden on the UKís approach to the EU, I thought I would summarise here some of the key points on Europe:
-†† †The Government is committed to membership of the European Union. The future of our economy is deeply connected to the stability and prosperity of the EU.
-†† †It is therefore in our interests that the immediate crisis in the Eurozone should be resolved as speedily and effectively as possible.
-†† †In the long run, European Union prosperity depends on free and open markets. We are committed to working for the completion of the single market.
-†† †At the same time, we will oppose any new burdensome and costly regulatory proposals which threaten our competitiveness, and, alongside like-minded allies, insist on discipline in European Union spending.
The review sets out some of the Governmentís key priorities for the year ahead, including:
- We will insist on a tough, fiscally responsible outcome of the negotiations on the next EU seven-year budget framework, continue to make the case for Common Agricultural Policy reform and prevent any changes to the British rebate.
- We will continue vigorously to defend Britainís interests in the negotiations on a banking union and protect the competitiveness of the City of London and UK financial services. The safeguards that we have achieved in the initial banking union negotiations set a crucial precedent, and will protect countries such as the UK which are not part of the single supervisory mechanism.
- We will continue to lead the EU growth agenda Ė with the aim of removing unnecessary regulations particularly for small and innovative companies, deepening and widening the single market and liberalising trade, notably by negotiating a free trade deal with the US.
Those three areas – ensuring a realistic budget for the EU, ensuring that the rights of all member states are respected, in particular with regard to the Single Market, as the Eurozone integrates, and a focus on growth and trade -† are all areas where the UK and Sweden will, I am sure, continue to work closely together in 2013 and beyond.