UK's position on the proposed EU Treaty
I am writing about last week's European Council meeting which has been widely reported in The Daily Star and other news media to clarify the United Kingdom's position.
David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, attended the European Council on 8/9 December, which covered economic policy, energy and enlargement. But all interest is focused on the UK's rejection of an agreement on how to address the debt crisis. The proposed agreement sought to change the European Union's treaty to enshrine stricter budget discipline and penalties for countries that failed to adhere to them. The thinking behind it is that only by reforming economies would be indebted members of the euro zone and the single currency emerge from the turmoil.
The UK's position is to leave the EU Treaty intact, maintaining rules on keeping markets open and free trade for the whole of Europe. Instead of amending the EU Treaty, the Prime Minister pushed for intergovernmental arrangements, outside the EU Treaties, among the 17 States in the Eurozone that would enable them to sort their problems themselves, including through much tighter fiscal discipline and closer fiscal coordination, installing safeguards and improving competitiveness.
What does this mean? The UK's position is for the EU as a whole, including but not just for the Eurozone countries. We continue to wish the Eurozone well in its efforts to achieve the stability and growth that Europe - Britain included - and the world needs. We are not against strong regulation; in fact, we are fundamentally changing our system of regulation for financial services. At the same time, we seek a level playing field for all businesses in all EU countries while enabling every EU member state to properly manage its economy. At the EU level, it is important to have rules to keep the single market fair and open, without special treatment for some and discrimination against others.
We ensure investors that Britain's interests in the European Union are not changed. We will continue to be a key member and a key driver of further deepening of the single market, although we're not in the Euro. The UK remains fully committed to the EU, at the heart of the single market, influential over its development, and committed to work for a more flexible and dynamic Europe.
The UK remains the number one gateway to Europe, giving easy access to the 27 member states of the European Union, the world's largest single market. The UK is the easiest place to set up and run a business in Europe (World Bank: “Doing Business 2011”). The UK has one of the lowest main corporate tax rates in the EU, generous tax allowances and competitive personal rates, the most extensive network of double taxation treaties in the world and low social welfare contributions. The UK is joint first with the USA in the world for Product Market Regulation (PMR). It has the least barriers to entrepreneurship in the world and has the third fewest barriers to trade and investment in the world. The UK's labour market is one of the world's most flexible and has a strong skills base.