By Ray Fleming

THE British Parliament may have broken up for the holidays but the business of government goes on. This week the Treasury is expected to publish the first phase of the government's review of the balance of European Union “competences” which, in plain English, means what would be gained and what lost by UK withdrawal from the EU. In a leading article the Sunday Times drew attention to the need for a greater effort from government to provide objective information about the consequences of change in the UK relationship with the EU. Interestingly, the newspaper recalled the approach which the Labour government took to providing information about Britain's possible membership of the eurozone, which it described as a “comprehensive official assessment of the advantages and disadvantages of joining the single currency” as the kind of thing needed on the much broader EU membership issue.

Whether a government riddled with disagreement about its EU future can provide the kind of objective information the public needs is doubtful. Last week the Treasury's Liberal Democrat chief secretary Danny Alexander called EU membership “one of the central pillars of British prosperity and security”. It is doubtful whether his boss, George Osborne would put his name to words of that kind. In any case as 2015 and 2017 draw closer there is a need for such phrases to be analysed and tested in hard facts and figures.

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