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The UK Government has stated that membership of the European Union is in the national interest, but the Prime Minister David Cameron would like to reform the EU and renegotiate the UK’s relationship with it, before holding an in/out referendum in 2017 if a Conservative government is elected in May 2015. The UK’s new relationship with the EU would be put to the electorate, who would decide whether the UK should remain in the EU under new terms or be the first Member State to leave the EU.

David Cameron identified areas for reform in his ‘Bloomberg speech’ on 23 January 2013. His five principles for a European Union “fit for the 21st Century” were: competitiveness, flexibility, repatriating powers to Member States, democratic accountability and fairness. In March 2014 he set out proposals for reform:

• Powers flowing away from Brussels, not always to it;

• National parliaments able to work together to block unwanted EU legislation;

• Businesses liberated from red tape;

• UK police forces and justice systems able to protect British citizens, without interference from the European institutions;

• Free movement to take up work, not free benefits;

• Removing the concept of “ever closer union”.

This Note looks at what the Government is doing to tackle some of the perceived weaknesses of EU policy and procedures and looks at prospects for future reform.

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