Businesses are happy with Brussels red tape, says CBI

A bonfire of Brussels “red tape” after Brexit would damage industry and make Britain globally less competitive, business leaders warn today.

The CBI said that an in-depth study of 23 sectors showed that 18 favoured complete alignment with European rules and regulations after Britain leaves the bloc. It added that while some opt-outs in other areas such as agriculture, shipping and tourism could reduce burdens on the economy, these benefits were “vastly outweighed” by the costs of deviating from rules necessary to ensure smooth access to the EU.

The CBI’s research was requested by ministers to help officials shape the government’s negotiating priorities.

The report is likely to be controversial because Brexiteers accuse the CBI of prioritising the interests of large companies who benefit from regulations making it harder for smaller competitors. The CBI denies this.

Its report found businesses generally perceived EU regulation to be beneficial. It also found that even in those sectors of the economy that favoured some divergence this was only if it could be done without damaging access to European markets. For example the £9 billion waste and environmental service sector favoured dropping EU rules where recycling targets are set.

Writing for The Times Red Box today Carolyn Fairbairn, the CBI’s director-general, warned that the future of regulation was “the most crucial question currently facing” negotiators.

“Firms voice concerns about court action, business models becoming illegal overnight, customer contracts in confusion and a sudden drop off in access to our closest market,” she said.

The Leave Means Leave group, however, accused the CBI of supporting the “vested interests of global multinationals at the expense” of companies that do not export to the EU.

The British Chambers of Commerce has also called for a formal dialogue with businesses over future trade deals.

April 11th, 2018: The Times