The date is set. On 23 June, the British public will vote on whether the UK should remain in the EU, or whether we should leave. The British Government is not neutral in this debate. Having secured an agreement to a special status for the UK, the Government has said clearly that it believes that the UK will be stronger, safer and better off in a reformed EU.
I’ve already read some suggestions that the UK’s renegotiation shows the weakness of the EU as an institution, and that the UK will in future be able to pick and choose the extent to which we will implement decisions from Brussels. Neither is true. So what has really happened? And what does all this mean for Bosnia and Herzegovina?
The UK’s renegotiation was organised around four priorities which reflect the greatest concerns of the British people: economic governance, competitiveness, sovereignty and welfare and freedom of movement. But we have always been clear that we wanted an outcome which was good for Britain and good for the EU. We believe that this is exactly what we have got.
- On economic governance, we have secured a legally-binding decision that Member States cannot be discriminated if they are outside the Eurozone. That’s important for businesses trading within the Single Market. And while we believe that greater political and economic integration makes sense for countries that use the Euro, it’s important that all Member States retain a say on matters that affect the Union as a whole. This sort of flexibility – a recognition that one size does not fit all – is essential to the EU as it grows and develops.
- On competitiveness, we have secured an ambitious reform agenda that will help to complete the Single Market in important areas like services, energy and digital, to pursue free trade agreements with the world’s most dynamic economies, and to ease the regulatory burden on businesses. We believe that this agreement will provide a basis for the EU, as the world’s biggest Single Market – representing 500 million people and a quarter of the world’s GDP – to continue to thrive and survive in an increasingly competitive global economy.
- On sovereignty, as well as carving the UK out of the commitment to ‘ever closer union’, we have secured greater powers for national parliaments, which will be able to combine to block unwanted EU legislative proposals. There will also be a new mechanism to ensure that decisions are taken at the national level where possible and at the EU level only where necessary, and that only the minimum action necessary is taken to achieve regulatory objectives. This isn’t about a national veto for the UK, but about reaffirming that democracy is strongest at home.
- And finally, on welfare and freedom of movement, we have secured recognition of the unique challenges facing the UK from the internal migration of huge numbers of EU workers, with new powers to limit the abuse of freedom of movement and to reduce the attractiveness of our benefits system to new arrivals.
While these safeguards are hugely important to the UK, the majority of these changes are not just for the UK’s benefit. Rather, they are a step towards fulfilling our vision of a European Union which leads the world in competitiveness, a magnet for start-ups, a beacon of jobs and growth. A European Union which is flexible enough to meet the needs of its diverse members – big or small, east or west, Euro or not. And a European Union which respects the sovereignty of national parliaments and, wherever possible, returns power to Member States.
This, we believe, is good news for the UK. It’s good news for other existing members of the European Union. And it’s good news for potential future members of the European Union, as they will be joining an international organisation which is more fit to meet the demands of the 21st century.
And this is not the end of the story. To keep pace with the global economy, we need to keep reforming. For as long as we stay in the European Union, Britain will be driving forward the single market, bearing down on regulation, championing the cause of free trade and helping to ensure that the Europe remains open to the world and robust in the face of threats and challenges.
The British Government believes that we will be stronger in a reformed Europe because we can play a role in one of the world’s largest and most influential organizations, helping to make the big decisions on trade and security that determine our future.
It believes we will be safer remaining in a reformed Europe because we can work with our European partners to fight cross-border crime and terrorism, giving us strength in numbers in an increasingly dangerous world.
And it believes we will be better off remaining in a reformed Europe because British businesses will have full access to the free trade single market of 500 million people, bringing jobs, investment and lower prices.
British Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina