‘Meddlesome’ EU should focus on competing with US, says UK minister

London will work with Dublin on justice opt-outs

British  minister for Europe, David Lidington said a referendum on the EU was vital “to settle this issue for a generation”. Photograph:  Flying Colours/Getty Images

British minister for Europe, David Lidington said a referendum on the EU was vital “to settle this issue for a generation”. Photograph: Flying Colours/Getty Images

 

The EU should stop being so “meddlesome” in national affairs and raise its game to compete economically with the US, the UK minister for Europe has said during a visit to Dublin.

A referendum on the EU was vital “to settle this issue for a generation”, David Lidington said in response to criticism from the Oireachtas European Affairs Committee over Britain’s possible exit from the union.

He acknowledged concerns in Ireland over Britain’s decision to withdraw from some justice rules it had already signed up to because of the impact this could have on Northern Ireland. But the UK would “continue to work closely with Ireland on this matter”, he said.

British prime minister David Cameron had already rejected the Swiss and Norwegian models for the UK. Britain instead wanted membership of a reformed EU, he said.

National parliaments needed to take back some of decision-making from the EU, he added. He criticised attempts by the European Commission to put a limit on the number of hours worked by doctors in British hospitals. “We would like to see the commission being less meddlesome,” said Mr Lidington.

Europe needed to become more competitive to challenge the US economically and to ensure the next generation had the same standard of living as the current generation.