Whitehall backing for EU ties is setback for Eurosceptics


Political Editor

Eurosceptics suffered a setback on Thursday as the latest government review of the European Union’s impact on the UK failed to bolster the case for withdrawal.

When the Foreign Office launched its “balance of competences” review, Eurosceptic Conservatives and businessmen hoped it would provide a “shopping list” of powers that should be returned from Brussels to Westminster. They wanted this to form the basis for David Cameron’s demands in the renegotiation of Britain’s membership terms before the in/out referendum he has promised for 2017.

But 14 areas have now been reviewed without recommending that a single EU function be transferred to the UK. Eight reports published on Thursday highlighted the benefits of EU membership in areas such as cheap air fares, football transfers, the funding of films, and improving environmental standards.

But they admitted there were “trade-offs” such as the Common Agricultural Policy; highlighted concerns over the cost of “green” EU measures on British businesses, and found agreement that the UK was right to maintain control of its own borders.

Pro-Europeans welcomed the verdict. Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat Business Secretary, told The Independent: “It is very clear on the balance of evidence that the single market is good for Britain and one of the elements of that is the free movement of labour. It is one of the achievements of Margaret Thatcher to have negotiated that and other freedoms. It is disappointing that some of her political descendants have backtracked on that.”

Alisdair McIntosh, the director of the pro-Europe think-tank Business for New Europe, said: “The reports are a timely reminder of the real facts: that British businesses overwhelmingly believe that they benefit from the single market.

“The debate about Britain’s future relationship with the EU needs to be based on the evidence of those who deal with the rules and sell to Europe on a daily basis, rather than the views of those with a particular axe to grind.”

But Matthew Elliott, the chief executive of the Eurosceptic group Business for Britain, said: “The review is looking increasingly like a bureaucratic whitewash. The voices of people with legitimate concerns about the EU have been marginalised in favour of the testimonies of groups that take a similar line to civil servants in Whitehall. The simple truth is that business people in the UK are crying out for a much better deal from the EU.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
Living for the moment: Julianne Moore playing Alzheimer’s sufferer Alice
Jay Z
businessJay-Z's bid for Spotify rival could be blocked
The spider makes its break for freedom
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle v United player ratings
Arts and Entertainment
2015 General Election

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Concierge and Porter

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a customer focused, pro...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer / Front-End Designer - City of London

£27000 - £33000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End Devel...

Recruitment Genius: 1st Line Customer Support Technician

£15000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Waterlooville based softwa...

Ashdown Group: C# Developer - (C#, VB.Net, SQL, Git, TDD)

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Developer (C#, VB & ASP.Net, SQL Server, TSQL) - Pe...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot