The Government have already made progress on securing reforms to the EU, by ending Britain’s obligation to bail out eurozone members, by ensuring that the smallest businesses are exempted from EU regulations, by securing protections on banking union and by achieving a shift in fisheries policy towards local and regional management.
But did President Van Rompuy not have a good point last week when he said that, rather than prioritising treaty change, the Government should be leading the charge for growth in Europe? With our economy having grown by a dismal 0.2% last year, should the Minister not take that advice rather than trying to weaken the rights of work for millions of employees across Britain?
It is this Government’s commitment to growth, jobs and prosperity in Europe that lay behind the achievement of the EU’s free trade agreements with the Republic of Korea and with Singapore, attained during the lifetime of this coalition Government, and it is the firm alliance between our Prime Minister and the German Chancellor that is driving forward, with the Commission, moves in Europe towards an historic transatlantic trade deal. I wish that the Opposition were sometimes a little less grudging.
I sincerely hope that the hon. Lady is not seeking, by means of that question, to suggest that she supports an end to our opt-out from the 48-hour working week under the working time directive. I hope that she is not being complacent about the European Court of Justice judgments that have caused such difficulties for the national health service and for the social care sector, problems that are not unique to the United Kingdom and concerns about which are shared by many other member states.