The Times: Let’s burn the EU red tape and embrace a new era of prosperity

For decades before the referendum business groups such as the CBI, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), the FSB and others pursued avidly moves to cut, improve or avoid regulation.

Successive governments have responded to this with varying degrees of success (mainly failure). I was a member of Margaret Thatcher’s deregulation task force but even her government found deregulation difficult largely as a consequence of the quiet resistance of Whitehall, the fact that much of the problem was created in Brussels and the EU was beyond reach and that the leader of the assault on regulation was Michael Heseltine, who as far as I could see had no real intention of deregulating anything. Plus ça change, as they say in Belgium.

The Cameron government’s attempt of “one in one out” and then “one in two out”was noble but had little impact because the big regulator, the EU, was off limits and that is half of the statute book at least.

By 2010, before I became director-general, the BCC estimated that the cumulative cost to British business and the economy of EU regulation was in excess of £80 billion. The BCC stopped producing their EU red tape tracker that year because they felt that no one was listening and yet it remained the number one concern of businesses up and down the country, especially among medium and small businesses and for entrepreneurs.

Now at last Brexit provides an opportunity to do something about it and in so doing provide a huge boost of up to 2 per cent of GDP, according to Economists for Free Trade, by reducing red tape by just a third. So why suddenly is there a deafening silence from the business groups who should be clamouring for deregulation?

To read John Longworth’s piece for The Times in full, click here.

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