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Factsheet 3 - Britain can continue to be influential in the EU

Factsheet 3: Britain is and will continue to be influential in the EU if it plays its cards right

  • 72% of CBI member businesses believe that the UK currently has influence on EU policies that affect their businesses, and 74% that it will have influence in the future.
  • The UK has helped shape the EU: from the creation of the single market to EU enlargement, the UK has been a driver of key structural reforms in addition to being highly influential on day-to-day issues.

The UK has significant formal voting rights

  • The UK has the same largest share of weighted votes in the European Council as Germany, France and Italy (8%).
  • The UK has around 10% of European Parliament seats, the third-largest share.
  • Decisions on taxation, social security or social protection, the accession of new States to the European Union, foreign and common defence policy and operational police cooperation require unanimity to pass – the UK has a veto.
  • The UK is a key member of other international bodies, including the G20, the OECD and the WTO which help shape the EU’s positions.

The UK is effective at building alliances:

  • A survey of more than 600 member state representatives in 2010 found that, despite being outside the Eurozone, the UK was the best country at building alliances with other member states in 2003 and 2009 and came second in 2006, indicating that other member states are keen to engage and cooperate with Britain.
  • In response to suggested amendments to the 1992 Directive on pregnant workers, the UK was able to block damaging proposals during the negotiation phase by building an alliance with Germany and other member states.
  • A proposed regulation to restrict third-country access to the EU’s public procurement market was reshaped through coalition building with other member states including Germany, the Nordics and the Netherlands.
  • Unfavourable changes to the existing 2003 IORP Directive were dropped after the UK built a broad alliance with other member states including Germany, the Netherlands and Ireland.
  • The UK successfully pushed for the agreement in 2012 to reduce the EU budget.

The UK technical expertise helps shape the detail of EU proposals

  • The UK’s “Small Firms Impact Test (SFIT)” was cited as an example of best practice that influenced the Commission’s decision that all Regulatory Impact Assessments should include a specific evaluation of the impact on SMEs of the proposal.
  • The UK’s strong code of best practice worked up between industry and the regulator (OFCOM) on a voluntary basis has helped push the Commission towards pursuing a similar approach on the issue of “net neutrality” in the EU.
  • The evaluation of the Commission’s Impact Assessments labelled the British system for assessing the impact of a proposal as a benchmark for progress in the Commission’s own processes.
  • But the UK must play its cards right to ensure it maximises its influence over outcomes that affect business
  • The UK must ensure that it has a comprehensive strategy for the new EU Parliament and Commission from 2014.
  • The UK is now significantly under-represented in terms of staffing levels in the Commission and Parliament. The number of UK nationals in the Commission staff has fallen by a quarter in seven years, standing at a total of 4.6% of Commission staff, compared to the UK’s 12.5% share of the EU’s population.

And the UK needs to address the reputational hit that the financial crisis

  • While the UK has historically used its expertise and credibility, both as policymaker within institutions and as external contributor to the policy process, as an important tool to influence the direction of policy on Financial Services, this has been negatively impacted by the financial crisis.

The UK government must continue to proactively build alliances to achieve its aims across the EU institutions and in other member states

  • UK influence will matter more than ever in the coming period, as the further integration of the Eurozone potentially changes the nature of the EU. The UK must navigate a course that ensures it shapes the EU to preserve the advantages of membership felt by British business.