The British Review of the Balance of Competences

The UK government has published its second series of the reports on the Review of the balance of competences, which focuses on free movement of goods; asylum and non-EU migration; trade and investment; environment and climate change; transport; research and development; tourism, culture and sport; and civil judicial cooperation.

The Review of the balance of competences is an audit of what the EU does and how it affects the UK. The first set of reports, published in July 2013, was focused on the single market, taxation, animal welfare and  food safety, health, development and cooperation policy, and  foreign affairs, and was largely interpreted to be supportive of the current balance of powers.

The UK government started the review in July 2012, in order to examine the balance of powers of Britains EU membership. Following the British initiative,  the Dutch government presented  a ‘subsidiarity review’ in June 2013, highlighting a number of areas which should remain in the competence of Member States.

The British exercise already triggered a significant academic and think tank interest. In the framework of the joint CEPS-EPIN project ‘The British Question and the Search for a Fresh Narrative’,  launched last year, Michael Emerson and Steven Blockmans  published their first analysis and assessment of the first six reviews concluding that these are ‘objective and impressively researched’ thus supporting the overall assessment of the competence balance as ‘about right’.

The review has often been connected in the media with the in/out referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU, promised for 2017 by PM David Cameron in the event of a electoral victory of his party. We will be referencing some key documents in that debate in a later post.

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