William Hague launches full 'audit' of EU law and the UK

William Hague at the 2011 Conservative party conference Mr Hague is under pressure from his party to repatriate powers from the EU

Related Stories

The government is launching a "comprehensive audit" of European Union powers and their impact on the UK.

In a Commons statement, Foreign Secretary William Hague outlined plans to scrutinise every aspect of EU law.

The audit is a "necessary and positive part of reforming Europe", he said, and is due to conclude in 2014.

Labour said that an urgent strategy was needed sooner than 2014 to inform the UK's response to greater political integration in the EU.

Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander also sought to highlight divisions in the coalition over the subject, pointing out that former Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy was the only backbencher from his party to have listened to the statement in person.

Mr Alexander said Labour had "no objection to a proper, thorough and factual analysis of what the EU does and how it affects us in the UK".

But Mr Hague's statement had seemed "contextless and rather ahistorical", he said.

'Less meddling'

Start Quote

We must take the opportunities for Britain to shape its relationship with Europe in ways that advance our national interest in free trade, open markets and co-operation”

End Quote William Hague Foreign Secretary

Since detailed proposals for greater economic union would be up for discussion at an EU summit due in December 2012, the audit would be too late to "inform the government's negotiating position" with EU leaders on the subject.

"The truth is that Britain urgently needs an effective Europe strategy, and an audit, while worthwhile, is not a substitute for a strategy," he said.

But Mr Hague said the audit would constitute "the most thorough and detailed analysis possible on the extent of EU powers", and would provide valuable evidence for policy-makers in the future.

"Government departments will be tasked with consulting and inviting evidence from everyone with a knowledge of, and interest in, the exercise of the EU's competences," he explained, "including, of course, committees of Parliament and the devolved administrations, but also businesses, civil society, other interested parties and individuals with expertise in and experience of each area.

"We will be equally interested to hear from car manufacturers about EU product standards as from NGOs about environmental policies, or security experts about combating organised crime."

Mr Hague denied that it was a consultation about disengaging or withdrawing from the EU.

"We must take the opportunities for Britain to shape its relationship with Europe in ways that advance our national interest in free trade, open markets and co-operation," he told MPs.

"That should involve less cost, less bureaucracy and less meddling in the issues that belong to nation states."

In response, Charles Kennedy said the review would help inform people about the coalition's "positive agenda for Europe" by providing a "constructive and serious British-led contribution to the wider European debate about how to modernise, reform and improve the EU".

He warned those calling for extensive repatriation of powers not to "hold the EU to ransom".


But Conservative MP and chairman of the Commons European scrutiny committee Bill Cash urged the foreign secretary to ensure that the audit focused on "the necessity for a referendum as soon as it can possibly take place".

Start Quote

For more than 30 years, our political class has done its best not to talk about our membership of the EU”

End Quote Lord Pearson of Rannoch Ukip peer

Tory MPs John Baron and James Clappison added their support for a referendum, and their Conservative colleague Philip Hollobone demanded that the audit consider whether the UK was better off in or out of the EU altogether.

"It will be a wide-ranging review," Mr Hague said, but he added: "It is not a review about a referendum."

The coalition agreement included a pledge to hold such a review, focusing on EU rules on working hours.

"We will examine the balance of the EU's existing competences and will, in particular, work to limit the application of the Working Time Directive in the United Kingdom," the agreement said.

Conservatives have long pressed for Britain to be exempted from the European Working Time Directive and other laws they see as harming Britain's economic competitiveness.

But Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg reportedly wants the review to be undertaken in a low-key manner to avoid souring relations with other EU member states.

Costs and benefits

The foreign secretary told the BBC in October that "excessive regulation" and "unnecessary interference into daily life" from EU institutions had contributed to a British sense of disillusionment over Europe.

But although he was in favour of repatriating powers from the European Union, he conceded that there was "no immediate prospect" of rebalancing power between the UK and the EU, he told the Andrew Marr Show.

Earlier this month, he returned to the programme to explain that the government wanted the opportunity to negotiate a "better relationship" between the UK and Brussels, which would include the return of some powers, before asking the British people to vote on the changes.

There would be a "very powerful" case for an EU referendum if member states agree a closer union, he added.

The audit is to be co-ordinated by the Foreign Office and the Cabinet Office and will invite written evidence from British businesses and EU institutions.

Ukip peer Lord Pearson of Rannoch has long campaigned for an inquiry into the "economic costs and benefits arising from our membership of the EU".

"For more than 30 years, our political class has done its best not to talk about our membership of the EU," he told the House of Lords in November.

But the audit is reportedly not going to include a cost-benefit analysis, owing to the difficulty of quantifying such aspects of EU membership as foreign affairs influence.


More on This Story

Related Stories


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 190.

    Perhaps we should have an enquirery into why the UK has to work more hours than most of Europe and still be less productive, this is Mr Hague pandering to Employer's. Perhaps Employer's should consider investment instead of taking money out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 189.

    181. Jag Sandhu - the article above says "....and will, in particular, work to limit the application of the Working Time Directive in the United Kingdom". The point the more intelligent posters have made it that it doesn't really apply in the UK, so is irrelevant. This issue is that the Govt is clueless, and should actually be concentrating on those that have no job. Hope that helps

  • rate this

    Comment number 188.

    Here's an idea:
    You canvass support based on a manifesto to gain entry to westminister with the backing of the electorate.
    The winning party should be given 1 year to put all of its promises into legislation.
    Should the party concerned or coalition fail to enact thier promises regardless of the comprimise required in coalition then a new election is called immediately in the second year?

  • rate this

    Comment number 187.

    178 At least they will be OUR idiots, not people who can't speal English.

    what? oh, so it's ok to be utterly expoloited, dictated to, ripped off by, lied to, treated like dirt by and generally used as money fodder by upper crust, posh tories because they speak English?

    Absolutely not. How utterly moronic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 186.

    I attended a seminar two months ago where a very senior manager from a UK fabrication company stated “We have all but abandoned the UK as 95% of our business is done via Hamburg. It’s so much easier to do business in Germany as you are dealing with only 1 regulatory body and most decisions are made locally.”

    Just which EU regulations are getting in the way?

  • rate this

    Comment number 185.

    @181 Jag Sandhu

    "Can we focus a bit more what the article is also about? Review of the EU law and it's implications on UK.".

    The UK signed up to these Laws. This is nothing more than the Conservative party wishing to renegotiate terms. One should be asking:

    "Where is the democratic mandate for the Conservative party to be attempting to withdraw from its legally binding obligations?".

  • rate this

    Comment number 184.

    ''[Hague] told the BBC "excessive regulation" & "unnecessary interference into daily life" from EU institutions had contributed to a British sense of disillusionment over Europe.''

    Although its probably more to do with the fact that we've never been asked if we wanted to be governed by the EU.

  • rate this

    Comment number 183.

    176. "The basic reason Northern Europe is ok is they followed Germany and didn't deregulate."

    ... although the were quite happy to export to southern Europe on unsustainable debts, and then tell them it's all their fault when the bubble burst.

    All EU countries were complicit in reckless global finance before 2008. It doesn't impress me the some now pretend they were against it all along

  • rate this

    Comment number 182.

    147.HooHum, and to others on both sides of the EU debate.

    Lets face it, when it comes to a democratic mandate, the EU is pretty much on a par with the House of Lords.

    One minor fact you may have missed is that the HoL do not pass laws, only scrutinise laws. The EU passes dictates for fun.

  • rate this

    Comment number 181.

    I don't see why all the hate mail about working hours.. I've been working for 30 years and have always put in the extra.. My view is that if I don't like it somewhere.. I move on. Can we focus a bit more what the article is also about? Review of the EU law and it's implications on UK.

    This audit is a good thing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 180.

    I've read some of the comments here, and I'm now somewhat purplexed: the story says that the review is into ALL EU regulations etc., not just those on the working time directive.

    How can it be a bad thing to find out what impact EU regulations have on our daily lives, and ascertain whether that impact is good or bad?

  • rate this

    Comment number 179.

    I'd just have one EU directive: don't kill, rape, steal from or hurt people, and try to treat people equally and fairly.

    Okay, now leave me alone to live my life with as little government (Westminster or EU) interference as possible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 178.

    124.Otto Sump
    "Hey, all you Nigel Farage loving chuckleheads! Still want to opt out of the EU and leave yourselves at the mercy of this lot?"

    The logic of your post is so wooly that it is distracting me from following the wooly remarks of Hague the Vague

    But in broad terms "YES"

    At least they will be OUR idiots, not people who can't speal English.

  • rate this

    Comment number 177.

    Now I admit I am a simple soul and dont have the foresight required by our political masters, but shouldnt this have been done before we signed up to the damned things?

    The thing is pzero, we have never actually signed up to the EU. We had a referendum many years ago to join the Common Market, but that was it and succesive govts since then have just gone along with the status quo.

  • Comment number 176.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    Former failed tory leader William Hague admitted today that the govt economic policy is a complete failure and as a result he would like the country to return to a chinese style sweat shop where his tory pals all of them bankers to a word can exploit the rest of us workers by removing what little protection we have left. His time would be better spent shining his bonce.

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    " Clearly some of the more barking legislation needs to be repealed"
    Proven examples please.
    The 'straight banana' directive(amongst others) has long since been shown to be a tabloid construct.

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    @151 'Britainsnotpleased'
    It's clear you under-estimate the intelligence of the British public - the only caveat is that the British voter is increasingly failing to use the vote that others died for - men and women.

    Too many of us take that hard-earned freedom for granted today, at our peril.

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    The problem is not too much workers' protection, but too many unintelligible and complicated rules that lead to the rule of lawyers rather than the rule of law. It's the cost of compliance for SMEs that's the issue, not the rights themselves. We need clear and easy to comply rules.

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.


    If you are going to label the UK populace 'moronic' it probably isn't the best idea to start your post with 'lol'. I am undecided as to whether to bow to your obviously superior intellect or just say pack your bags and move if it so insufferable living amongst us peasents.


Page 9 of 18


More Politics stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.