Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

Why regulating and legislating at an EU level is almost always a good thing

Just to be provocative, like (I obviously don’t entirely believe this headline – I’m a big fan of the subsidiarity principle, after all, and am an advocate of greater localism in politics – but still)… This taken from a reply to a comment on my last post.

First point, worth repeating constantly:

“The EU” doesn’t tell ANY member state what to do. Because “the EU” IS those member states.

If “the EU” introduces new legislation, and the UK has to adopt that legislation, this is ONLY because the UK has already agreed that this legislation is a good idea.

On every substantive issue – even after Lisbon – member states retain vetoes. All major decisions are confirmed either in the European Council or the Council of the European Union – which are made up by the heads and ministers of the governments of the member states.

So instead of “the EU tells”, a more honest phrase would be “the governments of the EU member states agree”.

And then, on to why EU-level legislation and regulation is a good thing.

EU legislation and regulations do affect a sizable chunk of everyday life. And a good thing too – for wherever you have one bit of EU legislation or one EU regulation, that means that you are saving millions of pounds/euros/dollars across the continent – which no matter how much you think the UK economy is reliant on the EU can only be a good thing, because all savings mean the European economy will be healthier.

Why does EU legislation = savings? Because for ANY regulation or legislation to come into force at EU level necessarily implies that ALL 27 member states have agreed that this legislation/regulation is necessary.

It’s not an immense leap of logic to therefore suggest that all 27 member states may well have introduced such legislation/regulations at a national level. And this would cost money in each member state, as each government works out what it wants to do entirely independently, each civil service checks the practicalities and costs entirley independently, and each country implements the legislation/regulation entirely independently. And this would necessarily lead to subtle variations between the legislation/regulations member state to member state.

By doing it at an EU level, the member states can pool their resources to cut down on research costs prior to passing the legislation/regulation, and also ensure harmonisation – increasing ease of trade between member states (as manufacturers don’t have to produce 27 subtly different versions of the same product to comply with 27 different national rulebooks).

All of this leads to savings – both in terms of bureaucratic costs at a national level, and in terms of economic efficiency.

So EU legislation/regulation is, as a general rule, a good thing.

There are of course examples of bad EU legislation and bad EU regulations, but as member states are generally given a good deal of flexibility on the implementation – while still having to stick to the general principle that they’ve all agreed at EU level – there are normally ways to get around it. This flexibility also allows member states to adapt EU rules to fit their own local needs, while still maintaining pan-EU harmony and the consequent efficiency savings – that’s the whole point.