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15 October 2013

GOV.UK: Cut EU red tape - Report from the Business Taskforce

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Cameron has welcomed radical business-led proposals to cut back EU regulation and to unleash the potential of the EU single market, helping European businesses to thrive in the global race. (Includes links to list of regulations to be improved/scrapped + report on Parliamentary scrutiny of the EU.)

30 recommendations, drawn up by a taskforce comprising six heavy-hitters from the UK business community appointed by the Prime Minister, were presented to Cabinet this morning. They have consulted over 100 business voices across Europe and drawn on over 250 ideas for EU reforms.

The taskforce’s report, ‘Cut EU red tape’, sets out how the EU could promote enterprise and boost growth by sweeping away poorly understood and burdensome rules and preventing similarly pointless legislation in the future.

Welcoming the report, Prime Minister David Cameron said:

It’s vital that business can take full advantage of the EU’s single market. But all too often EU rules are a handicap for firms, hampering their efforts to succeed in the global race. Business people, particularly owners of small firms, are forced to spend too much time complying with pointless, burdensome and costly regulations and that means less time developing a new product, winning contracts or hiring young recruits. I’m determined to change that and to get the EU working for business, not against it.

That’s why I got this Taskforce together, so we could establish from business what they really need. This report makes clear that there are lots of simple and practical ways to cut EU red tape and save businesses across Europe tens of billions of euros.

We must now persuade our European partners and the European Commission to listen to business and to move faster to reform the way Europe regulates. At next week’s European Council, I’ll be calling for a clear commitment to sweep away unnecessary bureaucratic barriers and to unleash private sector growth - helping to secure the economic recovery for all.

The group focused on barriers to growth in five areas of business activity - from starting out, to exporting, to expanding, to developing new products, to overall competitiveness.

Proposals to cut EU red tape include:

  • scrapping EU-wide requirements for small businesses in low-risk sectors to keep written health and safety risk assessments;
  • reforming employment law where it prevents firms from creating jobs, and abandoning plans to introduce complex new rules on employee consultation and subcontracting;
  • exempting micro-enterprises from all new employment law proposals where possible;
  • abandoning plans to force small businesses such as one-man gardening firms and carpenters to pay fees to register to collect and transport waste, even when the materials involved are harmless and the quantities small;
  • taking urgent action to simplify costly and complex chemicals regulation, which threatens the competiveness of hundreds of small firms;
  • boosting e-commerce, including by simplifying labelling requirements and improving standards for cross-border parcel delivery.

Further proposals for EU measures to support growth include:

  • rapid agreement of faster approval processes for the pharmaceuticals industry through the new clinical trials regulation;
  • fast-tracking measures to set a maximum cap on the fees that could be applied to card, internet and mobile payments, thus reducing costs for retailers and SMEs and through them for consumers, providing a clear, comprehensive framework to cover card, internet and mobile payments.

The report also proposes a new set of ‘Compete’ principles to ensure that all new EU legislation is rigorously assessed to ensure that it is pro-growth. This would include not accepting any new regulation unless cuts in costs to business of equivalent or greater value can be implemented, as pioneered by the UK government’s ‘One-in, One-out’ and ‘One-in, Two-out’ rules.

The work of the taskforce will inform the government’s work to reform the EU to make it more competitive. It will also help shape longer-term thinking about the impact of EU regulation on growth in the UK.

Full press release with comments from Business Taskforce

Cut EU red tape: report from the Business Taskforce

Red Tape Challenge: list of regulations to be improved or scrapped, published 29.10.13

According to a press release on 18 October, both Prime Minister Rutte and Prime Minister Letta welcomed the Prime Minister’s initiative in this area, noting that the Taskforce had put forward interesting proposals and that leaders should discuss the issue in Brussels next week. The PM's office expects the Prime Minister to speak to other European leaders in the coming days.

Press release

In a new pamphlet from the Hansard Society published on 9th October – Measured or Makeshift – Parliamentary scrutiny of the European Union – politicians, commentators and academics demonstrate a growing concern that many EU initiatives are not subject to sufficiently robust parliamentary scrutiny at Westminster and question whether there is a democratic deficit at the heart of our relationship with the European Union.

The report comprises a series of essays from leading experts, exploring how the system could be improved to address the democratic deficit and ensure that Parliament is more effective and influential in its scrutiny of European issues.

Challenging questions about the purpose of European scrutiny are raised:

  • Do parliamentarians want to be better informed, actually shape decisions or make the government change its mind?
  • Should intervention take place at an earlier, more strategic stage than at present?
  • Should parliamentarians seek to influence the development of policy and provide an early warning system for government as well as holding it to account at a later stage?
  • How do other parliaments scrutinise European issues and are there lessons for the UK?

There is a common desire throughout the essays to mainstream European issues across Parliament with a range of suggestions including:

  • Changes to departmental question time sessions
  • Greater involvement by departmental select committees
  • Giving MPs more decisive influence through votes that bind government action
  • Greater direct engagement between MPs and MEPs and with broader EU institutions as a whole.

Dr Ruth Fox, Director of the Hansard Society and a contributor to the report commented: "A common thread running through the pamphlet is that the House of Lords scrutiny model is better than that in the House of Commons. Too few MPs have a real understanding of how the EU works and many more of them need to engage more actively with the detail.  Our membership of the EU affects almost every aspect of national life but too many MPs deal in broad populist headlines rather than engaging actively with the details of policy and legislation emerging from Brussels. The ideas for reform outlined in the pamphlet are neither pro-European or anti-European – providing effective scrutiny of policy and laws is important whatever side of the debate you stand."

Press release © Hansard Society

See also: British Influence/de Sousa: Cut EU red tape – but mind the single market, 31.10.13

© Crown Copyright

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