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21 May 2015

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

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Open Europe catalogues the body of 30 potential reform proposals that the UK might wish to seek in the forthcoming EU negotiations. The EU Reform Index seeks to outline where there is confluence of interests around which an EU reform package can be established.

Open Europe's EU Reform Index features the 30 reform proposals that the UK may seek to renegotiate with the EU ahead of the In/Out Referendum by the end of 2017. The EU Reform Index is not a wish list – but it seeks to highlight where there is a divergence of interests between achievability in Europe and UK priorities around which a reform package can be formed. The analysis considers five criteria for judging each potential EU reform.

  1. Achievability in Europe
  2. Whether Treaty change is required
  3. UK public priority
  4. UK business priority
  5. MPs priority

Highest scoring reforms

Reforms which score the highest on the Open Europe index and where these different interests are most aligned include:

Services liberalisation – There remain many barriers to firms trading services across the EU’s single market despite the growing importance of the services sector to the EU economy. Necessary and backed in much of Europe, with wide support in the UK business community. Potential for ‘enhanced cooperation’ widens options.

Package on EU migrants’ access to welfare – This could include restricting EU migrants’ access to in-work benefits, restrictions on jobseekers’ rights to remain in UK after six months and a ban on child benefit claims for non-resident children. All have strong support among UK public and MPs, and many countries in Europe are open to the proposals. Treaty change not necessarily required, but limited technical change could be possible.

Non-euro safeguards – Support across the board in the UK, and growing backing in other non-Euro states such as Sweden. Increasing acceptance in Eurozone that this will be needed. Limited treaty change may be required depending on format. Numerous options ranging from hard veto power to political agreement on respecting non-Euro members to protect integrity of single market.

Red card for groups of national parliaments – High priority for Conservative government, with significant public backing. Some other member states also in favour, fewer actively opposed.

Other examples of reforms that scored highly – Include repatriating EU regional funding from richer member states and a package of measures designed to put a brake on the number of new EU regulations. Both have broad UK appeal and a decent potential base of support in Europe. 

EU Reform Index – Methodology

The list is comprised of all the reform ideas which Open Europe believes are likely to be under discussion as Cameron puts together his comprehensive programme for EU reform. Open Europe has assigned a tally to each proposal in an attempt to outline how UK priorities for reform could align with their achievability in EU negotiations. The rankings are based on Open Europe’s discussions with and interviews of various government officials, parliamentarians and ministers from around Europe over the past few years. This is not a scientific but an explanatory exercise.

Each reform/policy is ranked based on five criteria:

  1. Achievability in Europe – how likely other EU members are to support (or at least not oppose) the measure.
  2.  Is treaty change required? – Will changes to the EU treaty (big or small) be needed.
  3. Priority for the UK public – how important is each measure to the UK public in terms of EU reform and renegotiation.
  4. Priority for UK business – how important is each measure to UK businesses in terms of EU reform and renegotiation.
  5. Priority for MPs – how important is each measure to the UK MPs in terms of EU reform and renegotiation.

Full EU Reform Index (with charts)

© Open Europe

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