EU has failed on reform but benefits Britain, says Hain

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Indy Politics

Peter Hain, the minister for Europe, will admit today that the European Union is "not perfect" and deserves only "four marks out of 10" for its failed attempt to reform the Common Agricultural Policy.

Mr Hain will tell Europe 21, a think-tank, in London, that the EU scores an overall eight out of 10, but will urge Brussels to do more to speak to Europe's citizens in plain language rather than "Eurospeak".

Mr Hain will give the EU six out of 10 for foreign policy; seven out of 10 on world trade, crime and structural funds for poor areas; and eight out of 10 for the single market and the environment.

He will give the EU's institutions seven out of 10, defending the much-criticised Brussels bureaucracy against the charge that it is "a dark Continental plot to dictate to Britain and drive us relentlessly to a federal superstate".

"The Commission makes proposals for new laws, it doesn't make the laws. And it monitors existing law to ensure the member states all play by the rule," the Europe minister will say. "If you want a level playing field, you have to have a heavy roller."

He will add that the Commission has fewer employees than Birmingham City Council, and that it would be "pretty hard to run a super-state with those numbers".

He will stress that the Commission does not take the big decisions, saying that they are made by ministers from national governments.

Mr Hain will decline to give the Government marks out of 10 but will insist its EU strategy is working.

The ministerwill also tell the think-tank: "We need to do more to explain the EU in terms the British people can understand. And we need to do more to convince many of them that the EU matters, and that it works for us."

The speech is part of a Government drive to win public support for the EU to prepare the ground for a referendum on the single currency.

Mr Hain will say: "Let's have a debate. But let's have one based on the facts. Let's conduct it in clear language. And let's centre it on the interests of Britain and the British people. Because when we do that, the case for a strong Britain in a strong Europe gets an unequivocal 10 out of 10."