The Impact of Membership of the European Union Essay
The Impact of Membership of the European Union
Edward Heath signed the Treaty of Rome in 1972 to officially join the EU, this decision has affected almost every aspect of the British political system. Laws enacted by the EU are directly applicable to the UK, the British Parliament can’t pass laws in areas where Community Law already exists and British courts must accept and enforce decisions made by the ECJ. One impact of membership of the EU is the proportion of our laws, rules and regulations that now come from the councils of the EU. The estimates of how much of our laws come from the EU vary wildly from under 10 per cent to more than 80 per cent and the EU Commission claims it has diminished in recent years now that the single market has become embedded. However 72 per cent of the cost of regulation over the last ten years is EU related. According to research by the TaxPayers’ Alliance, there are currently 16,980 EU acts in force and between 1998 and 2007 there was a net gain of 9,415 EU laws. In 2007, 3,010 EU laws became UK law, while only 993 EU regulations were repealed, a net gain of 2,017 extra laws.
Also, The TPA estimated that since 1997, Whitehall has added at least 7,700 pages of UK Statutory Instruments to enact directives passed by the EU. This means that the EU now has huge regulatory powers and in terms of relative impact its powers over regulation exceed that of the UK government. EU membership has had a significant impact upon the work of government. The prime minister is regularly involved in European Council or Summit meetings with other EU leaders. Members of cabinet take part in monthly Council of Ministers meetings. For example, Margaret Beckett, the minister that had responsibility for agricultural issues, via Defra, represented the UK on the Agricultural Council. The importance of the EU created a need to establish permanent UK representation in Brussels to assist with the monitoring and formulation of EU law. These civil servants work closely with their colleagues back in London to ensure the views of the UK Government are heard. Another impact is that British sovereignty has been eroded by the European Union.
The EU can overrule decisions made by the UK government and this is done by the European commission by using the ECJ to enforce its decisions. In 1987, the EU directive on acid pollution was enforced on the UK. This shows the extent to which the EU puts pressure on its member states as very few countries which would introduce such an act due to it being very expensive in terms of implementing it. This shows that the UK parliament has lost much of its sovereignty. Furthermore, a major impact of the EU has been on the Coalition government. The Conservatives are a eurosceptic party as they support EU membership but voted against the Lisbon Treaty and oppose membership of the euro. On the other hand, the Liberal Democrats support closer cooperation with the EU and, until the euro debt crisis, believed that it was in Britain’s long-term interest to join the euro. However the coalition have similar European policies to their predecessors e.g. they want reform of the EU budget. With Britain’s contribution at £9 billion per year, the government rejected a proposed 5.9% increase for the 2011 EU budget.
Cameron’s call for the EU budget to reflect spending cuts across Europe was supported by 11 other member states and a compromise of 2.9% increase was agreed. This shows that membership of the EU has massive financial implications on the UK government as they have to allocate billions of pounds on the EU alone when money could be better spent elsewhere. This has led to increased pressure from the media and from within the conservative party. In addition, there has been an impact on the backbenchers and there have been increased party divisions within the Conservatives. For example, 81 Conservative MPs defied a 3 line whip in October 2011 to vote for a referendum on Britain continuing membership of the EU. This was the largest backbench rebellion since the formation of the coalition and one of the largest rebellions of any party in the post war era. This shows that the EU has led to disharmony within the coalition which is not good for the electorate as it creates uncertainty.
In conclusion, there have been many problems caused by membership of the EU on the UK government such as the way EU laws are applied in the UK. There is a propensity here either to add to them or enforce them more strictly than is necessary. This is known as gold-plating and has added billions to business costs in recent years. Also, the pace at which new EU laws were introduced have also increased at a record speed, with a net gain of over 2,000 new laws in both 2006 and 2007, compared to an annual average net gain of only 942 new laws between 1998 and 2007. Almost half of the extra 9,415 EU laws created in the 10 years to the end of 2007 were introduced in 2006 and 2007. However this is the way the EU works and so the UK government have to accept the will of the majority for as long as they choose to be a member.