Open Europe argues that if the Prime Minister’s negotiations are to be judged a success the forthcoming In/Out referendum should not simply be a vote to approve or reject a list of concessions to the UK but rather a mandate for a path to rolling reform.

Following its EU Reform Index, Open Europe’s blueprint for reform identifies a series of 11 reforms under three headings – Flexibility and the rights of non-Eurozone states; Competitiveness; and Democratic accountability – which would contribute to the overarching objective of setting a new direction for the EU. It is unlikely that every object can be achieved before the referendum but, in order to avoid a close result that would estrange half the British electorate, fundamental reform will be needed, establishing a path to a multi-form EU.

To read Open Europe’s full Blueprint for EU reform and renegotiation, click here.

Open Europe’s Chairman Lord (Rodney) Leach  said:

“David Cameron has a unique opportunity to set the EU and Britain’s relationship with it on a different course. The UK needs to set out an alternative vision to ‘ever closer union’ and establish the Single Market as the foundation of the EU.”

“Reform should not be a one off event before the referendum but an on-going process. Cameron may not achieve everything before 2017 but he needs to secure a decisive shift to a new structure for the EU which halts the UK being unwillingly dragged into any further integration.”

Open Europe’s vision for a new EU is built around a number of key points:

a) Flexibility and the rights of non-euro states – the Single Market rather than ‘ever closer union’ should be the foundation of the EU. Treaties and institutions should reflect the multi-form reality of the EU (different destinations at different speeds). Countries should be free to integrate further if they wish, but it should not impact those that do not join.

b) A more competitive Europe – boosting trade should be a primary aim of the EU (both internally and externally). A true single market in areas such as services, capital, digital and energy to achieve the original vision of the four freedoms. Not one-size-fits-all that smothers national differences but greater competition that rewards best practice.

c) Democratic accountability – National democracies and national parliaments remain the root of democracy across the EU and a key part of the answer to the ‘democratic deficit’. Much of the mission creep and focus on unnecessary issues has been driven by EU institutions – giving national parliaments a check will help to prevent this in future.

What needs to change for this to become reality?

1. Qualify ‘ever closer union’ – The June 2014 Council conclusions established that not all EU states are heading to same destination at same speed. This should be reflected in the EU treaties. Closer political and economic union should be a choice within the Eurozone, but not an implied obligation for other member states.

2. Commit to a ‘multi-currency  union’ – Affirming the EU as a multi-currency union would establish that the Eurozone is not the vanguard of the EU but a voluntary constellation within the Single Market.

3. Safeguards for non-Eurozone member states – To further entrench the multi-currency nature of the EU and its focus on the Single Market, non-Eurozone states should have a mechanism to ensure they are not negatively impacted by Eurozone integration/decisions.

4. Single market is the basis of the EU – Integration outside the Single Market, which should be tightly defined as the four freedoms (goods, services, capital and people) plus common rules on competition policy and state aid, should be voluntary.

5. Liberalisation of EU services, energy and digital markets – Launch a renewed push to liberalise the EU’s services sector. Ensure strict implementation of the Services Directive. Push ahead with breaking down barriers in energy and digital markets.

6. Ambitious timetable for free trade agreements (FTAs) – particularly with large Emerging Market economies and the US. If a comprehensive deal cannot be done, partial or sector focused FTAs should be considered. ‘Living’ FTAs which can be expanded over time should also be considered.

7. Less and better regulation – open a process to review old regulations, create a new independent process for impact assessment, include clauses to limit legislation which hangs around.

8. EU budget reform – The EU budget is not fit for purpose. Regional subsidies should only go to those states that really need it, while money should be shifted away from agriculture towards research and innovation. The mid-term budget review in 2016 should not be wasted.

9. Red card for national parliaments – national parliaments or a group of them should have the ability to block unwanted EU legislation.

10. Respect national choices on welfare systems – Restricting access to national welfare systems to those who have been lawfully resident for a period of some years establishes the principle that individuals’ rights to welfare are dependent on a contribution to their host country.

11. Return control of justice and home affairs to members – The option should be open for countries to return to intergovernmental cooperation in areas such as justice and home affairs, outside the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

Further reading: 

Open Europe’s Reform Index: Evaluating 30 potential proposals for EU renegotiation

What if…? The consequences, challenges and opportunities facing Britain outside the EU

Save EU free movement: Make it fair to keep it free