How does the EU affect public services?

13 Apr 16

Ahead of June’s referendum on the UK’s future in the European Union, CIPFA is holding a series of events looking at the impact in areas such as education, health, and security

The government’s recent announcement that it will deliver leaflets to every single home in the UK laying out the ‘facts’ behind why they think we should stay in the EU generated a fairly predictable media storm. Much was made of the cost of the exercise, estimated to be more than £9m of taxpayer’s money, with Mayor of London Boris Johnson, a campaigner for Vote Leave, saying he was ‘staggered’ by the government’s plans and that the leaflet will ‘skew the debate’ and use ‘tired old arguments’.

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As a former finance director general with first-hand experience of the strain sustained pressure on public finances is having on the delivery of services, I can sympathise with those who ask whether this represents good use of public money.  At the same time however, I can also see how important it is for the government to respond to growing calls for more information to help the public make an informed choice on 23 June.

There remains a sense that the public aren’t fully engaging with the debate and are unclear on just exactly how and where the EU impacts on their lives. In one sense this shouldn’t come as a surprise given that the workings of the EU are multi-layered and complicated and its relationship with the UK complex.

At the same time, although the EU referendum debate appears to be in full swing, it feels like to date the discussion has rarely gone beyond a relatively narrow, yet important, focus on business impacts and immigration numbers. In reality the UK's relationship with the EU runs far deeper and has an impact on many, many more aspects of our daily lives. For example, EU legislation, regulations and protocols have a far-reaching impact on public services, but to date there has been little information on the interaction between the EU and the UK in this vitally important area.

In a series of panel events to be held over the next two months CIPFA is looking to broaden the debate into the areas that affect our everyday lives such as education, health and security. Our expert panels of speakers will include: Lord Andrew Lansley, former health secretary, Keir Starmer QC MP, former head of the Crown Prosecution Service and Mike Galsworthy, founder of Scientists for the EU.

At each event speakers will be discussing the big EU questions affecting each of these vital areas of public service.

At the event focusing on health, the panel will examine the extent to which free movement of people within the EU influences the NHS and social care workforces whilst exploring whether collaboration between member states actually has a noticeable effect on the NHS.

At the higher education event, the panel will discuss how EU funding may stimulate joint research and whether or not EU regulations support or impede educational progress. The event will also explore how the EU affects both the quality of educational opportunities and the diversity of the UK skills base.

Finally, the debate on the EU’s relationship with the UK’s security and law enforcement sectors has already gained some traction.  Some of the most significant talking points have focused on whether open borders and freedom of movement exposes the UK to danger and whether policies such as the Schengen Information System (SIS) expose or protect the UK. In addition to these key questions our expert panel will also examine broader questions about the impact of EU membership on our everyday security and safety.

In summary, CIPFA’s panel events seek to explore the key concerns, everyday impact and wider issues EU membership has on three key aspects of the public sector. They will try to build a clearer picture of how the EU affects our lives at both micro and macro levels and put more information into the public domain about what could be the most significant decision the UK has taken in a generation.

For more information and to register for the events, please visit:

  • Ahead of June’s referendum on the UK’s future in the European Union, CIPFA is holding a series of events looking at the impact on areas such as education, health, and security
    Michael Hearty

    Michael Hearty is a CIPFA council member and a former director general, finance and corporate services, in the Welsh Government. He is the chair of CIPFA’s EU Referendum working group.

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