As Britain breaks free from EU red tape, here are 10 areas that should be first for the chop
The European Union is terrified that Britain will exit without any strings attached which would prevent us becoming a dynamic, entrepreneurial and outward looking, free market economy – a complete contrast to the over-regulated and protectionist bloc.
The value of deregulation alone for Britain is considerable. Better still it is entirely within the gift of our government, unilaterally and without reference to the EU, and can begin to be implemented the day after Brexit – provided we do not negotiate it away, which is of course exactly what the EU wish us to do.
So what are the red tape cutting ingredients of the Brexit cake? Well, they are manifest, as the benefits of regulatory easing most often lie in the elimination of the accumulation of small burdens that add up to big numbers across the economy. How big depends on how determined we are and what ingredients we include.
The Treasury’s report 2005 on the cost of EU law, the British Chambers of Commerce “Red Tape Tracker” of 2010 and the Open Europe Report of 2015 all came to approximately the same quantum of cost. They pointed to a ten percent reduction in regulation being worth 0.7 and 1.2 per cent of GDP, with the Economists for Free Trade Report of 2017 identifying a 2 per cent of GDP benefit from a twenty percent reduction.
None of these included the deregulation of tariffs, alone a very big number indeed. Let us take some of these reasons to be cheerful and beat down these regulations with our newly discovered Brexit stick! The following ten rules, among hundreds of others, should go.
1. External tariffs
The deregulation of EU-imposed external tariffs, either unilaterally or through trade deals around the world, would be a massive boost to growth. Worth up to 4 per cent of GDP, this could increase UK growth by a third, each year, for six years after Brexit.
The removal of tariffs of around 20 per cent on clothing and footwear and other consumer goods, coupled with reductions in the cost of food of up to 40 per cent and beyond, would see a major reduction in the cost of living for working families and help keep down inflation. It would also make UK industry more competitive by reducing the cost of components and raw materials.
A further incidental benefit would be that emerging markets in Africa and South Asia would be able to sell their wares rather than being locked out and impoverished by EU protectionism.
2. Lower class Veg
The iconic EU class system for fruit and vegetables (I suspect invented by vegetables!), whereby we end up with supermarkets being frightened to offer “inferior” ” bendy” cucumbers and so forth, and thus causing farmers to waste vast quantities of food, should be among the first to go.
Similar rules force fishermen to throw back already dead fish of the wrong size into the sea. Let us enjoy our food as God intended it.
3. Common sense chairs
The EU Ergonomics Directive forces businesses up and down the country to carry out and record the height and angle of desks, chairs, computer screens, etc at huge cumulative cost. This should go.
4. Bad smells
The EU requirements on fragrance and flavour producers to require suppliers, of already safety tested minor ingredients, to provide huge dossiers, which not only add cost and make the UK uncompetitive in world markets, but also cause suppliers to refuse supply.
5. Work/life balance
The highly costly EU Agency Workers Directive, which forced employers to stop using flexible and experienced workers, produced a perverse incentive for them to instead opt the notorious zero hour contracts.
It prevented people choosing a lifestyle of flexible or seasonal work which suited them and in the process made British business less competitive.
6. Ladder to success
The Working at Heights requirements prevented small jobs at ladder height being done without scaffolding, simultaneously making domestic house repair uneconomic and leading to a deterioration of the housing stock while putting many small builders out of business.
7. Destroying overtime
The EU Working Time Directive has not only done its best to undermine the bedrock of the NHS but also the haulage industry, to mention but two examples. Reducing junior doctor training and competence, it also allowed EU haulage companies, who ignore the rules, to outcompete home-grown businesses.
Worst of all, it has prevented people earning a good living by restricting overtime across many industries.
8. Medical negligence
The EU restrictions on the application of medical research and cutting edge treatments has literally killed people who might otherwise have had a chance of survival, through the use of novel techniques, where otherwise there was no hope.
9. Written risk assessments
The EU requirements for written risk assessments in relation to small businesses with over five employees is hugely burdensome and unnecessary bureaucracy, adding unnecessary cost and acting as a break on job creation.
10. Precautionary principle
The EU approach to research and the application of new things is massively anti-science and technology. It causes Europe to lag behind global competitors, drives R&D off shore, leads to a brain drain and produces real adverse effects for society.
One example is the denial of the development of new crop technologies which would bring down the cost of living for working families and improve competitiveness while being able to feed a growing world population.
Another is the EU attitude to fracking, a massive potential benefit to the UK economy. The greatest defenders of EU policy, like Germany, are massively hypocritical, cutting their own nuclear programme and instead burning lignite, the dirtiest and most polluting of fuels, while promoting diesel as a “saving the planet” solution, knowing that diesel has very serious health risks.
Over-regulation makes criminals of us all. The regulators are criminally irresponsible for pouring out ever more rules that produce perverse outcomes, a cost to society that could be spent elsewhere, whether on social care or business tax cuts, and which diminish our economy through us becoming uncompetitive.
It makes criminals of ordinary citizens as they fail to follow the avalanche of unfathomable rules and undermines both the rule of law and democracy.
The root problem for Britain is a philosophical one. English law allows citizens to do anything unless it is prohibited; it is essentially libertarian. Continental “Napoleonic” law, on which the EU is based, prevents citizens from doing anything unless it is permitted. It is essentially dictatorial.
Thus the EU must pour out law after law to cover every aspect of our lives, and the EU has ivory tower departments to do nothing else but this. If you think Brussels is bad, visit the Health and Safety Directorates in Luxembourg and Bilbao!
And yet a casual visit to Brussels, watching workmen cutting paving stones without eye or ear protection and clambering over buildings without kicker boards, will tell you everything you need to know. That many countries in the EU ignore the dictatorship of the EU law and compete unfairly with Britain, for whom a bedrock advantage is the adherence to the rule of law; witness the key reasons for foreign investment into the UK.
Deregulation and the rule of law are different sides of the same coin, a silver “threepenny bit” in the Brexit cake. Let us not give away one crumb in the negotiations. We should have our cake and we should eat it.
John Longworth was Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, a Former Health and Safety Commissioner and is Co Chairman of Leave means Leave
13th July, 2017: Telegraph