By Ray Fleming

IN this space yesterday I said that this week Britain's Treasury would be issuing the first of the commissioned reports on the “balance of competences” between the UK and EU. These are intended as important inputs to the formulation of government plans for the repatriation of powers from Brussels to London. The first six reports appeared yesterday, but from the Foreign Office rather than the Treasury.

On the single market, taxation, health and food safety, health, international development and foreign policy the broad conclusion of the reports is that “nothing fundamental needs changing” although attention is drawn to areas in which improvements could be made.

It is hardly surprising that the release of the first six of thirty-six reports was delayed until Parliament had started its summer holidays. There would have been an uprising if the Commons had still been sitting. Even so, a group of EU-sceptic MPs immediately asked, “Why were reports commissioned when their conclusions appear to contradict the prime minister's EU policies?” The answer, of course, is that they are objective reports by the civil service rather than political statements from Conservative Central Office.
The Foreign Secretary, William Hague said this: “At a time when the European Union is facing challenges and discussions in Britain are intensifying, it is vitally important that the debate in the UK is as well-informed as possible.” Hear, hear!


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