POLITICS
23/07/2013 10:15 BST | Updated 22/09/2013 10:12 BST

Nigel Farage Dismisses David Cameron's 'Cynical' EU Membership Review

PA
Nigel Farage has attacked Cameron's 'cynical' EU review

Nigel Farage has dismissed David Cameron's review of Britain's membership of European Union as "a futile and cynical PR exercise" after it largely supported the current relationship.

On Monday afternoon the Foreign Office published the first six of its reports on the UK's relations with Europe as ministers sought to lay the ground for the prime minister's promised re-negotiation of the terms of Britain's EU membership.

William Hague said the reports - covering the single market, health, development co-operation and humanitarian aid, foreign policy, animal health and welfare and food safety, and taxation - were an essential contribution to the debate on Britain's EU future.

"At a time when the EU is facing considerable challenges and discussion on the EU in Britain is intensifying, it is vitally important that the debate in the UK is as well-informed as possible," he said.

"These reports make a valuable contribution, not only to the debate in this country but also to the debate taking place in other European nations about the future of the EU."

The reports, drawn up by officials, do not make recommendations but attempt to summarise how the EU both helps and hinders the UK.

The report on foreign affairs raises concerns about the performance of EU institutions such as the diplomatic service - the external action service headed by Baroness Ashton.

"If the internal conditions of EU external action deteriorate, how will that affect our choices of how to deliver international impact in the British interest?" the report asks.

"If the institution's performance does not improve, or if there is an undesirable shift in control away from the member states, such as a greater role for the European Parliament, how will we alter our approach, what will the constraints be, and how will we use or develop our other partnerships and alliances as alternative vehicles?"

The report on health raised concerns about the impact of EU regulations - such as the working time directive (WTD) and data protection laws - on the NHS.

"There was a strong view that it is important to consult more with health departments and their stakeholders on these areas from the outset. A number of concerns were raised about the negative impact of the WTD on the NHS," it said.

Despite some concerns raised in the reports, officials acknowledged that all had found the current balance of competences between the EU and member states was broadly appropriate.

Farage said the reports were "a futile and cynical PR exercise by the coalition because it is clear that David Cameron does not really mean it".

"Problem number one is that the Conservative Party does not really want to repatriate important powers to the UK. Cameron has said he will vote to stay in the EU come what may," he said. "Problem number two is that their interlocutors in Brussels are unwilling to transfer powers as well."

All EU member states were contacted by the Government and were told they were "welcome to contribute" but only Italy and Bulgaria made formal submissions, one official said.

Overall, more than 500 submissions were made to government during the consultation stage of the reports, which took up to eight months to draw up.

Fiona Hall, leader of the Liberal Democrats in the European Parliament, said the review should inject "a welcome dose of realism" into the debate on Britain 's EU membership.

"Most importantly, it underlines that being an influential member of the EU single market is vital for jobs and growth in the UK ," she said.

"Liberal Democrats have always been passionate about improving the EU. However, we have made it clear that the balance of competences review should not be used to make a shopping list of powers to be repatriated back to the UK .

"The best way to deliver reform is by building alliances with our European partners, not alienating them by demanding unilateral carve-outs."