As a precursor to the election, this briefing explains the EU today, and the Labour government's performance over the past decade, in figures. It also explains what the Conservatives are proposing.
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|27 EU Member States:
1957 -France, Luxembourg, Belgium, West Germany, the Netherlands, Italy
1973 - Britain, Ireland, Denmark
1986 - Spain, Portugal
1995 -Austria, Sweden, Finland
2004 -Poland, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Malta, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary
2007 -Romania, Bulgaria
3 Candidate countries:
Turkey, Croatia and FYR Macedonia
|Britons' opinion of the EU [*]:
- 51% feel the UK has little or very little influence on the way EU laws are made.
- 83% UK citizens say they know little or nothing about the EU (2009).
- 37% feel the economic benefits of EU membership outweighed the costs.
- 41% believe decisions in the EU Parliament (EP) are primarily taken on the basis of EU states' national interests.
An explanation of EU Structure and a Glossary are in the Notes to Editors section below.
- 2010 EU Budget: €141.5bn (1.2% of member states' Gross National Income [GNI])
- 2009: €136.8bn; 1970: €4bn 
- 2007-13: €864.3bn 
- 2010-11 UK payments to the EU: €7.2bn (£6.4bn ) - almost 60% higher than 2009-10 
- £257 for every UK household, or 3p on standard rate of income tax 
- UK rebate 2010-11: £3.3bn 
- 2007-13 UK gave up €10.5bn (£9.3bn) rebate to push for EU budget reform ; 1999-05 the rebate had ranged between €4.4bn - €5.7bn 
- 2010 EU spending:
- Management of natural resources: €59.5bn
- Common Agricultural Policy (CAP): €43.8bn (31% EU budget; +6.4% on 2009)
- Rural development: €14.4bn (+2.6% on 2009)
- Milk producers emergency aid: €300m 
- Common Fisheries Policy (CFP): €921m (+2.6% on 2009; Total 2007-13: €3.85bn)
- Sustainable growth: €64.3bn
- Competitiveness (research): €14.9bn
- Cohesion (regional aid): €49.4 (+2% on 2009)
- Economic recovery: €2.4bn (Total 2009-2010: €5bn )
- Combating climate change: €307m (-3.2% on 2009)
- Energy and transport: €2bn (-10.2% on 2009)
- European Social Fund: €10.8bn
- Justice and security: €1bn (+16.2% on 2009 - the biggest increase)
- Common Foreign and Security Policy: €281m (+15.9% on 2009)
- External Borders Fund: €208m
- Integration of Third Country Nationals: €111m
- European Police Office (Europol): €80m
- External Aid: €8.1bn
- Developing countries: €2.5bn (+3.9 % on 2009)
- Pre-accession assistance (IPA): €1.6bn (+4.5% on 2009)
- Humanitarian Aid: €800m (+3% on 2009)
- Administration: €7.9bn (+3.87% on 2009) (EU Commission admin: €3.6bn)
The UK Labour Party is broadly 'Pro-EU' and wants the UK to have more influence in the EU rather than "opting out". However Labour has a mixed record on engaging with the EU and negotiating advantages for the UK: having proclaimed a commitment to join the Euro (the EU's single currency), Labour has dragged its feet; Tony Blair gave up 20% of the UK rebate in exchange for "fundamental reform of the CAP" in 2005, but reform was limited.
- CAP and CFP - reform to enable sustainable, environmentally-friendly farming and fishing
- Economy - work for a level-playing-field in Europe:
- Support a coordinated EU response to the economic downturn
- Create a democratic European Central Bank (ECB)
- Energy - negotiate EU-wide energy policy
- Reduce imports dependency - use efficient/renewable energy e.g. biofuels
- Environment - strengthen minimum EU standards 
- Meet the EU target to reduce CO2 emissions by 20% by 2020
- Promote recycling and sustainability and create new "green jobs"
- EU Enlargement - in favour of Turkey and Croatia joining the EU.
- Health: support EU-wide food labelling, common standards in health and safety
- Euro membership - repeatedly delayed decision on the UK joining the euro:
- Gordon Brown's '5 Economics tests' (1997) concluded joining the euro "is not in the UK's economic interest". A review in 2003 drew the same conclusion.
- External relations - 'soft' power (economic sanctions, trade agreements, diplomacy)
- Create trade agreements with ACP countries (Africa, Caribbean and Pacific)
- Lisbon Treaty - 2005 Labour Party manifesto promised a referendum on the EU Constitution, but Labour claimed its replacement (the Lisbon Treaty) was "fundamentally different" and refused to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.
- Social Policy - support the development of an EU-wide social policy:
- Social Chapter - signed by Tony Blair in 1998 
- Workers' rights: working time laws; equal rights for part time workers
The UK Conservative Party is broadly 'EU-sceptic' and opposes EU Federalism, but does not advocate withdrawal from the EU. The Tories propose a UK Sovereignty Bill to confirm the authority of UK Parliament and courts. They campaign to end the EU's 'waste, excessive bureaucracy and lack of transparency'. In 2009, Conservative MEPs left the European People's Party (biggest EP grouping) to 'create real opposition', but critics say their new group ( European Conservatives and Reformists ) has limited power and includes extreme European parties.