Plotting the course for EU reform

The first few reports from the Government’s “balance of competences” review – designed to analyse the current impact the UK’s membership of the EU has on the country – were released on Monday, covering six policy areas. While the reports don’t offer any recommendations themselves, they will be poured over by both sides for evidence that the UK is better of in – or out – of the EU.

For David Cameron, however, the task is more difficult. The PM desperately wants to have ammunition to take to the EU when he tries to renegotiate the current balance of powers. But at the same time he understands that these renegotiations will be difficult, and that he’s highly unlikely to get everything he wants. So if this review throws up too many things, it will only serve to support the arguments of those who want to leave the PM.

This perhaps helps explain why the PM delayed the publication of these reports until after the summer recess began. Some of the conclusions were – inevitably – criticised by Eurosceptic Conservative backbenchers, who see the review as biased by Whitehall officials who they believe to be thoroughly pro-European. What’s clear is that as the rest of these reports are published over the next year or so they will continue to test Cameron’s ability to walk the political tightrope between the status quo and Brexit.

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