Christopher Howarth is a senior Political Analyst at the think tank Open Europe. Prior to Open Europe he worked as a Conservative Foreign Affairs Adviser and senior researcher to a Shadow Europe Minister. Follow Open Europe on Twitter.
We joined what became the EU for trade. If the EU stopped being beneficial for UK trade, the reasons to remain inside would evaporate. The EU involves itself in many things where its added value is marginal or often negative. However, the one area where the EU can be beneficial is in economic liberalisation and job creation. Given the tendency of the EU to agglomerate power, its limited success in forcing economic liberalisation onto the EU’s services industries, an area fragmented by nationally imposed barriers to entry, is a startling sign of its current priorities.
The Coalition is right to prioritise economic reform as the EU’s most urgent task. The UK’s first priority in this regard should push for a new round of services liberalisation. Our research published today demonstrates that if the EU fully implemented the original Services Directive by pursuing a new “country of origin” principle, it would produce a permanent increase to EU wide GDP of up to 2.3% of GDP. That would give the EU economy a welcome boost and show that the EU is focused on the priorities that matter.