For example, I doubt we'd get stronger data protection laws without the EU.
Maybe. Then again, we've actually had pretty good data protection for at least 15 years now and while relatively impotent in enforcement terms the Information Commissioner system does at least seem to provide vocal advocates for why these things matter who are independent enough to criticise government policy when it's justified. We have plenty of civil liberties problems in the UK today, but at least in spirit, this is one area where I think we're not doing too badly (until everyone and his brother's national government flagrantly ignores the law, at any rate).
Isn't the working time directive a good thing, and our opt-out a bad thing?
I'm in two minds on that one. In general, I think it's valuable for government to distinguish between employment-type relationships and more flexible ones, which doesn't always happen very well at the moment, and to enforce some common basic standards for the protection of employees, such as preventing abusive working conditions and expectations of long hours without fair compensation.
On the other hand, I'm wary of allowing this to stray too far into areas where people genuinely want to be working more than 48 hours per week. For example, I started a business on the side while doing other roughly full-time work. I was always careful not to over-exert and compromise the work I did on either side, but sometimes I worked way more than 48 hours in a week. No-one lost out, and in the end I'm the beneficiary of that extra work because the new business is mine. Who are the government to tell me I may not do this, if it's my own choice and everybody wins?
The one that always gets me is junior doctors, who routinely seem to work extreme hours, raising concerns about both their own health and potentially putting patients' care at risk. This seems absurd to me, yet almost everyone I know who actually works as a doctor, regardless of their current level of seniority, seems to think it's necessary so the juniors can develop the required skills before becoming more senior/responsible, and that the practice of doctors of different levels of seniority working together mitigates the risk. I'm not sure that, not being a medical expert myself, I have any right to go telling a whole industry of doctors how they should do their jobs.
This is the fault of the British media -- in other EU countries the press report on what MEPs are doing.
It's not so much the MEPs I'm worried about, but all the other unelected positions that control a huge amount of the real power even post-Lisbon. I don't for an instant think that our appointed Commissioners are actually accountable to the people back home just because they were chosen by a Prime Minister who in turn was only indirectly elected as a result of leading the largest party in a government that is itself elected by a system with heavy built-in biases that is trying to serve several very different purposes at the same time. You can see the real picture here by looking at how many of those Commissioners have historically been people who basically lost all political credibility at home and lost their elected position as a result and who were then given a cushy EU job by their pal the President/Prime Minister to make them feel better.