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Schadenfreude – the UK’s ‘new settlement’ with the EU, same as the old settlement

The general tone of the conclusions drawn from the balance of competences review received from interested parties – including the farmers – are that the ‘balance’ is about right and that Britain gains from participating in the actions of the EU. Our secret columnist in Brussels Schadenfreude wonders just what is going on

Schadenfreude has a confession. He got it all wrong and made a link between Britain’s quest for a ‘new settlement’ with the European Union and the British government’s ‘review of the balance of competences’ between the EU and the United Kingdom authorities. Schadenfreude unreflectingly thought that the review would provide the substance for the new settlement.

If this was the plan, it is going wrong. In the reports so far published the authors say they do not predict or prejudge whatever the British government might be planning. The review is close to half way through the subjects on which evidence was sought from interested parties. One subject is delayed sine die. No prize for guessing which. It is the Home Office’s report on EU freedom of movement.

None of the reports so far released gives pointers to what needs to be changed in the here and now, although some look ominously at what might be on the horizon. The general tone of the conclusions drawn from the comments received from interested parties – including the farmers – are that the ‘balance’ is about right and that Britain gains from participating in the actions of the EU.

For example, the report on trade and investment concludes that acting as the union in relations with third countries is right for the UK. Why should the Union be acting on lawnmower noise? Because Britain wants to sell lawnmowers to EU members. “Much EU legislation, and the flexibility introduced within that legislation therefore tend to support the UK’s objectives of facilitating free trade,” it is stated.

On protection of the environment, the present balance is found to be fair. If anything the EU might be given more power, although it ought to keep off measures that are purely internal to a member state – but water purity is transnational. On culture, tourism and sport enough is about enough. European soccer has already been transformed for the better or for more money at least.

As regards the British jobsworths ‘gold-plating’ EU regulations and making life difficult for UK businesses, few complaints were registered and nothing is said about dropping the gold plate. Perhaps the first batch of reports is on the easy subjects and the matters needing solutions in the ‘new settlement’ will emerge later. But so far, there is nothing much harmful to UK interests it seems.

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