More EU Lore?


A 2009 post ‘UK laws and the EU – A myth?’ included claims made that EU Directives and EU Regulations were now responsible for a large percentage of UK law. Daniel Hannan’s 84%, UKIP’s 75% and David Cameron’s 50%, have now become lore, despite the truth being that ‘no one really knows’. Nevertheless, they must have some influence on UK trade and commerce.

A recent press release by the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC) stated that only 12% of firms want to leave the EU altogether. While remaining a part of the EU, 47% wanted to negotiate a looser relationship and 26% want to maintain the status quo. The rules and regulations imposed by Brussels resulted in 35% responding that they outweighed the benefits of a the Single Market.

A 2009 BCC report examined how the British and EU Regulatory Systems worked in theory and practice, finding considerable variations between EU member states, with openness and transparency concealed and confused by unconnected committees. EU and UK officials and Ministers were, in practice, barely obstructed by challenges.

The BCC stated that EU legislation was only responsible for about £1.9m net costs to business (0.1%). Virtually all regulatory activity could be attributed to Whitehall gold-plating UK regulations and hampering business competitiveness. Simply keeping track of changes and potential changes at both EU and UK levels had become a major burden in itself, with little return for the effort involved.

The BCC reports echo those views of the Institute of Directors (IoD). An IoD letter to the Better Regulation Executive in 2006, Implementation of EU legislation, made the point that: While gold-plating of EU Directives and Regulations was a concern, members key concern related to the way in which UK government agencies enforced rules in comparison with the approach taken by some of their counterparts in other Member States“.

The IoD Policy Paper In their own words cited excessive or clumsily applied regulation, deterring British companies from expanding, investing, and creating more jobs. A competitive Britain required government ‘red-tape’ to be curtailed, with more regulators applying the ‘risk-based approach’ advocated in the Hampton Report. The IoD recognised that a standard EU approach may not be appropriate, but the UK must ensure that British businesses are not rendered uncompetitive by regulatory procedures at UK level.

A recent House of Commons Library research paper ‘How much legislations comes from Europe’ states that while EU Directives must be transposed directly into UK law, EU Regulations can bypass the national parliamentary process through quasi-legislative measures, administrative rules, regulations or procedures etc. Measurements excluding EU regulations may lead to an under-estimation of the proportion of EU-based national laws, while including all EU regulations may lead to an over-estimation. Numerically, the answer lies somewhere in between the two measurements, which could result in any percentage being an approximation somewhere between 15% and 50%.

An Open Europe document Out of Control (2009) reports that UK ministers sometimes sign off on EU proposals despite the Impact Assessment (pdf) showing the costs outweighing the benefits. Policymakers must accept the radical idea that the law should only be used to regulate our endeavours where there is an overwhelming case for state intervention.

Gold-plating is a term used when national bodies exceed the terms of EU Directives and EU Regulations. Especially their transposition to UK law and their implementation through UK law.

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