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Government review of EU powers

15th August, 2013

The UK Government has been carrying out a review of the balance of ‘competencies’ or powers between the EU and its Member States. The ‘competent’ authority is the one – EU or Member State – which has the power to legislate on a particular issue.  For details, see the consultation page on the Government’s website.

The review comes at a time of high profile concerns within certain political parties about the UK’s membership of and relationship with the EU. It has involved a series of consultations on many different subject areas one of which is “environment and climate change”, and AEF has submitted a response.

Generally, we consider EU competency to be useful for setting minimum standards when Member States are reluctant to take action, and for creating a level playing field such that states need have less concern about competitive disadvantage when introducing environmental measures. Alongside this, however, we argue for flexibility in cases where more ambitious action by states is required.

In relation to air pollution and climate change, we would be concerned that any transfer of powers from EU to UK could be used as a means to weaken environmental protection, with adverse consequences for the lives, health and quality of life for British citizens. EU legislation has been less effective, though, in tackling noise, and we are currently urging the UK Airports Commission to consider recommending more stringent noise measures for aviation than would be demanded by the EU.

In some cases, EU competency is actually preventing the UK from taking effective action, the UK’s inability to introduce auctioning for scarce slots at congested airports being one example.

See AEF’s full response to the consultation.