Amid renewed calls for a referendum on staying n the European Union, Foreign Secretary William Hague is hoping to launch a review, or “EU law audit” later this year of how legislation from Brussels affects UK businesses.
Speaking at the weekend, Mr Hague said he wanted to study “the balance of the EU’s existing competences” and would like “a better relationship with Europe,” saying that there were “advantages” for Britain and UK jobs in staying within the European single market.
However, he also talked about the “disadvantages, such as too much interference, too much bureaucracy and too many decisions made at European level”, adding that the time to make changes will be “when we know where we’re going with the Eurozone crisis and we can make the relationship better”.
But in order to get on with the study, Mr Hague needs Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg to sign off on the scope and timing of the exercise and Mr Clegg has made it clear that he is vehemently against distancing the UK from the bloc, calling such a move “economic suicide”.
Conservative MP Andrea Leadsom said that the UK needed a “shopping list” of powers it wants returning from Brussels and it is likely that employment law would be prominent on such a list, particularly the working time directive, rules on redundancy and agency workers rights.
Graham Mather, president of the London-based European Policy Forum, welcomed the idea of an audit, saying: “I think that it will reveal in Britain that we are happy with many EU laws and regulations which, of course, we negotiated.”
However he added that many of the laws were made during different times, saying: “A lot of those were really designed for a different economy in which growth was assumed to be happening.”