Saturday, May 10, 2014

It is nonsense to suggest, as the Welsh Conservatives have done, that Liberal Democrats are against reform in Europe.

Liberal Democrats are unambiguously the party of IN. But we know that the EU is perfect, which is why we are committed to remaining part of the EU and reforming it.

Our top 10 priorities for reform are:

1. Creating jobs – Britain pioneered the single market. We should now lead in opening up Europe’s online industries, energy market and services like accountancy, law and architecture where the UK has a competitive edge, creating opportunities for UK firms to expand trade and create jobs.

2. Reforming trade with the world – we will seek to accelerate trade negotiations with the USA, which could be worth up to £10 billion extra to the UK economy each year, and the EU-Japan trade agreement, which could increase UK GDP by £5 billion a year, creating thousands of jobs.

3. Reforming the EU budget – following the UK’s success in cutting £30bn from the EU budget, Liberal Democrats will continue to campaign to reform the budget by reallocating wasteful spending towards job-creating policies such as cross-border energy and transport infrastructure, the digital economy, and research and development.

4. Cutting waste – Liberal Democrats will continue to campaign to bring an end to the waste and travel between the European Parliament cities of Brussels, Luxembourg and Strasbourg. This will save £150m and almost 20,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually.

5. Cutting red tape – we will support the ‘Think Small First’ principle to reduce unnecessary European Union regulatory costs, which particularly hit smaller businesses. We will demand effective impact assessments before new proposals come forward and exempt smaller businesses from legislation where appropriate.

6. Devolving powers – Liberal Democrats support the principle that decision-making should be “European where necessary, national where possible”. National parliaments should play a greater role in scrutinising EU rules, and where proposals are unacceptable, parliaments should work together to send proposals back to the drawing board.

7. Defending the UK’s interests – the Eurozone countries are an increasingly powerful bloc. The next time there is Treaty Change, we will insist on new legal safeguards guaranteeing that whenever a change impacts on the Single Market, Euro-ins and Euro-outs have an equal say.

8. Fighting 21st century crime - Liberal Democrats would build up the EU’s capacity to tackle cybercrime, and do more with our neighbours to tackle cross-border crimes like VAT fraud, money laundering and the hoarding of criminal assets. And we will push for reforms to the European Arrest Warrant to ensure that civil liberties are protected.

9. Strengthening our defences – more efficient defence co-operation is vital if European powers are to retain significant military capabilities in the face of continuing austerity and uncertain regional security. The European Defence Agency, working together with NATO, should continue to help member states to pool and share military capabilities. There can be no ‘European army’, and UK Parliament must always have the final say on the use of force.

10. Tackling climate change – Liberal Democrats want to introduce ambitious reforms to combat climate change by agreeing an EU-wide 40% reduction target for greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 (50% if there is a global deal) and revamping the Emissions Trading Scheme to introduce a working carbon market, giving investors the certainty they need.

This approach was emphasised in a speech which Nick Clegg gave at a Reuters function yesterday.

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