The first six reports of a UK government audit of EU membership show 'strong and clear evidence' of the EU's importance to jobs in Britain, says Lib Dem MEP Phil Bennion.

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Phil Bennion speaking at a meeting in Brussels on the Balance of Competences Review for Transport, hosted by Mark Watts (centre), co-ordinator of UK Transport in Europe.

The 'Balance of Competences' review, ordered by David Cameron, is designed to be a detailed factual audit of what the EU does and how it affects Britain, with separate reports on 32 different areas of government activity.

The first six reports were published on Monday, focusing on the single market, taxation, health, animal welfare, development aid and foreign policy.

Phil Bennion, MEP for the West Midlands Region and Lib Dem Employment and Transport Spokesman in the European Parliament, has been invited to contribute to the Transport report.

He commented:

"This review will help focus the growing debate on our EU membership, setting out the facts of what the EU is and is not doing and how those decisions affect us in Britain.

"The first reports have strong evidence that Britain's membership of the EU single market, the biggest market in the world, is absolutely vital for jobs and growth.

"This comes just after the Japanese government warned that Japanese investment, which supports 130,000 British jobs, depends on Britain's role in the EU. Many of these jobs are in subsidiary technology companies based in the West Midlands region, especially in places like Telford, Birmingham and Warwickshire.

"The same message has come from Barack Obama recently. The evidence is clear that EU membership is key to trade with Europe and the rest of the world. If we leave, foreign owned companies will also leave, taking their jobs and investment with them.

"As a Liberal Democrat I am fighting for British jobs, ensuring that the UK remains at the heart of Europe and continues to attract vital foreign investment.

"The EU is not perfect but it is necessary. It gives us massive advantages as active members. The best way to reform and improve it is by building alliances with our European partners, not shouting from the sidelines or even worse, walking away."

"The balance of competences review is a good idea as it will help us to reform the EU and improve the way it works, always a Lib Dem priority. It should not become a crude search for a shopping list of powers to be 'repatriated' in order to silence UKIP – but I am confident it won't be.

"In some areas, we do want the EU to step back and simplify procedures and let member states or local government make more decisions. Tax and healthcare for instance should clearly remain a national competence. The Lib Dems have helped to simplify rules for small business accounting, for instance – a cut in 'red tape'.

"In other areas, there is pragmatic evidence that we should agree more decisions at a common European level. The environment is one example as pollution and global warming is an international problem. Another is transport, where railways are still working with 28 different national standards, which makes our trains much more expensive to build and run than they should be.

"I recently met the Balance of Competences review team in Brussels as part of evidence gathering for the transport report, at a meeting hosted by UK Transport In Europe. We had a thought provoking and frank discussion on the EU's transport remit and record, and I look forward to their report being published later in the process."


Notes: The balance of competences review, launched in July 2012, aims to provide a comprehensive audit of what the EU does and how it affects the UK. The civil service review aims to provide objective, factual information, drawing on evidence from a wide variety of contributors both at home and abroad, and will help political parties to form their future policies on Europe.

The first six reports focus on the single market, taxation, health, animal welfare development aid, and foreign policy. A further 26 reports are now due to published by the end of 2014.

You can find more information about the review here.

The Japanese government's contribution to the review can be found  here.

Phil Bennion, as a member of the Transport Committee, is working closely with Commission officials and rail, road and air industry representatives to argue for a more effective and streamlined EU role in transport policy, simplifying rules and promoting investment in the greener and more efficient transport networks.