EU powers over environment should be looked at, says Cameron

23rd January 2013

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The prime minister has cited environmental legislation as an example of where the UK should consider repatriating power from Europe

In his long-awaited speech on the UK’s future in the European Union, David Cameron argued that it was a “fallacy” that the single market required complete harmonisation, and used the environment as an example of where the balance of EU-led rules and national legislation should be examined.

“Power must be able to flow back to member states, not just away from them,” the prime minister said. “Countries are different. They make different choices. We cannot harmonise everything.”

The prime minister used the example of the EU mandating limits on doctors’ working hours, arguing that such rules were not necessary for membership to the bloc.

“In the same way, we need to examine whether the balance is right in so many areas where the EU has legislated including on the environment, social affairs and crime. Nothing should be off the table,” he continued.

Confirming that a referendum will be held on staying in the EU if the conservative party wins the next election, Cameron argued that the future success of the bloc depended on a more flexible approach, allowing member states the scope to do things differently, while cooperating in other areas, including protecting energy supplies and tackling climate change.

He said that such an approach would free those nations that wanted to “go further, faster, to do so, without being held back by the others”.

Cameron’s focus on environmental legislation followed just weeks after Eric Pickles, communities and local government secretary, complained of EU regulatory creep on planning issues.

In a parliamentary statement, Pickles warned that the commission’s proposed new directive on environmental impact assessment (EIA) would result in a significant increase in regulation, additional costs and delays, and undermine permitted development rights.

Pickles claimed that EU policymakers lacked competence on planning issues and confirmed that the department for communities and local government will consult on the thresholds for EIA developments in a bid to “remove unnecessary provisions from our regulations”.

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