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Government should draw on support from across the political spectrum in making the case for EU membership, says Lords report


The Government should set out a positive, inclusive vision of the European Union, to support its recommendation that the UK should remain in the EU, according to a Lords report out today.

The House of Lords EU Committee invites the Government to articulate the positive benefits of EU Membership, clearly presented to the public, rather than playing on the fear of the alternative.

It welcomes the Government's new emphasis on the UK's geopolitical role as part of the EU, and on shared internal security, but suggests that the Government should affirm the shared identity and heritage of the peoples of Europe.

The report, entitled The EU referendum and EU reform, examines the Government's objectives on EU reform, and how they evolved in the run up to the negotiations in Brussels in February, the negotiating process, and the most effective way of presenting its vision to the country.

It concludes that the deal reached in Brussels was a "significant achievement", which justifies the Government in arguing that the UK has passed the point of integrating any further with the EU. But it questions whether the Brussels deal, given its complexity, will be a vote swinger.

Commenting on the report the Chair of the EU Committee, Lord Boswell, said:

"Our role as a Committee is not to take a view on whether or not the UK should remain in the EU. That choice is for the people. But we do scrutinise the Government, and it is our job to challenge the Government over the way in which it is presenting its case for remaining in the EU."

"So we have explored the Government's objectives for reforming the EU, the long-term vision that underlies those reforms, and the way in which it is trying to carry the people of the UK along with it."

"The Committee concludes that the Government will need allies from across the political parties. That means it will need to communicate a positive vision of what the EU can be in order to convince people to vote yes. Playing on voters' fears may not be enough."

"There is a real opportunity now, in the wake of the deal struck in Brussels, that the UK can show leadership in helping to make the EU a more flexible, dynamic and competitive place. And in light of last week's attacks in Brussels, the UK can play a crucial role in helping the EU combat the threat of terrorism, and in strengthening internal security."

"But first the Government will try to convince the people, and to do that it needs to aim higher and wider than the terms of the deal, appealing to the values that we share with our compatriots in the EU. It needs to try to capture the spirit that we saw in Wembley last year, when England football fans sang the Marseillaise after the attacks in Paris." 

Key recommendations in the report:

  • To make the Government's case effectively, David Cameron should emphasise the positive aspects of staying in the EU;
  • The Government should recognise the diversity of domestic public opinion, across and within the regions and nations of the UK, and should make its case for remaining in the EU in an inclusive and comprehensive manner

Other findings of the report

On the Government objectives:

  • The report argues that flexibility, enabling the EU to accommodate the different interests and directions of travel of Members States, is key to the way forward.
  • It welcomes the Government's emphasis on competitiveness, which it says could have far-reaching benefits for the entire EU.
  • The Government's renewed emphasis on security is welcomed by the report as an important factor in helping the EU collectively address the growing terrorist threat to all Member States.
  • The Committee expresses concern that the Government has not fully addressed the economic and social consequences of its proposals to reduce migration from within the EU.

On the negotiating process:

  • The Committee found that the UK Government didn't consult stakeholders sufficiently in the run up to the negotiations in Brussels. It could have done more to engage with the devolved Parliaments and Assemblies.
  • Other Member States in the EU showed huge willingness to enter into the negotiation in a constructive spirit, and the report finds that there is a real desire to keep the UK as part of the EU.

For embargoed copies of the report please contact the House of Lords Press Office on 020 7219 8550 or email lordspressoffice@parliament.uk

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