Gold Plated EU Regulations


‘UK laws and the EU – A myth?’ dealt with claims that EU Directives and EU Regulations were now responsible for a large percentage of UK law. Claims that have now become UK lore. Regardless of this, they must have some influence on UK trade and commerce.

Gold-plating is a term used in European Union law to describe the incorrect transposition of a European directive.

Following a survey by the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC) a press release stated that:

  • 12% of firms want to leave the EU altogether.
  • 47% wanted to negotiate a looser relationship with the EU.
  • 26% want to maintain the status quo with the EU.
  • 35% said the disadvantages around the rules and regulations imposed by Brussels now outweigh the benefits of being part of the Single Market.
  • 52% believe that the ongoing uncertainty in the Eurozone will have a significant impact on their business in 2013.

The  2009 BCC seventh annual impact Assessment report Worlds Apart: The EU and British Regulatory Systems, concluded with: Parliament is responsible for UK lawmaking yet this responsibility is usurped by Government Departments helping to create laws without a parliamentary mandate to do so. 

[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.]

Virtually all regulatory activity could be attributed to Whitehall gold-plating UK regulations hampering business competitiveness. The BCC Q2 2013 Business EU Barometer provides a business view of EU regulatory requirements, which gives renegotiating ‘terms affecting commerce’ greater weight than an EU ‘in/out’ referendum.

The Institute of Directors (IoD) in their letter Implementation of EU legislation (2006), also recognised the impact of gold-plating EU Directives and Regulations. Like the BCC, the I0D expressed their members concern on the way UK government agencies enforced rules, as compared to the approach taken by some of their counterparts in other Member States.

The IoD Policy Paper In their own words (2008) cited excessive or clumsily applied regulation, deterring British companies from expanding, investing, and creating more jobs. The IoD advocated applying the ‘risk-based approach’ recommended in the Hampton Report (2005). The true extent of ‘gold-plating’ of EU law is detailed in a new IoD report The Midas Touch (2013). The report calls on the Government to: fulfil its pledge to carry out a comprehensive review of all EU laws to identify ‘gold-plating’ and then either justify it, simplify it, or remove it.

An Open Europe’s comprehensive 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. One of the simplest reforms the UK Government could pursue is to publish proper‘audit trails’ for each new legislative proposal .

“There is a view that the more regulations you have, the more rules you have, the more Europe you have, I don’t share that view.”
Gunther Verheugen, Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry (2004-2010)

Governments issue documents like the  Statutory Code of Practice for Regulators (2007), which may intend to reduce the legislative burden, but in effect are simply another abrogation of the government’s corporate responsibility.

In an attempt to resolve some of the difficulties highlighted above, the government has initiated a review of the EU’s competences, which includes an audit of the single market and how it affects the UK. Given the range and scope of all of the competencies being addressed, the review is unlikely to be finalised before the next general election, offering no expedient resolution to the UK’s gold plating fiasco.

As the IoD point out: The Prime Minister would greatly strengthen his arguments for further regulatory dispensations if the UK Government could first demonstrate it had stripped out all unnecessary gold-plating and made full use of all existing derogations and exemptions.

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