Tuesday, December 22, 2009

And this is why we get nowhere

It is one of the truisms of any kind of political life that one's supposed friends and allies are far more vexatious than one's enemies. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the whole debate about the EU and Britain's role in it and in the world.

Open Europe, for instance, remains a source of much frustration. Well-funded, more than adequately staffed, it produces good factual reports about the way the EU affects the life of this country. Having done so, it draws the most ridiculously silly conclusions and prevent the discussion from moving on. In fact, it seems to be determined to keep the whole EU debate at a level of water-treading.

It has just produced a list of Top 100 EU regulations to cost UK economy £184 billion by 2020 and has had this list noted in a number of publications such as the Sunday Times and the News of the World. (It is based on more extensive research published in February.)

Using the government's own estimates the research concluded that the Working Time Regulations, the Climate Change Act (which they think goes too far though "fighting climate change is vital"), Energy Performance Certificates for Buildings and Temporary Agency Workers Directives are, in that order, the top most expensive pieces of EU legislation as implemented in this country.

I have no intention of arguing with that and, in any case, the particular order is unimportant, though it is always useful to have figures to play around with.

Open Europe has even grasped that there is no point in trying to tackle over-regulation in the UK without tackling it in the EU.
Open Europe’s Research Director Mats Persson said:

“Despite some attempts at reform, the cost of EU regulation continues to rise year on year. Some of these regulations might be helpful but far too often the cost of EU rules outweigh the benefits. The UK is facing a massive public deficit, so the Government should be doing everything it can to save money. Targeting even just a few of the most costly EU regulations could save taxpayers and business billions every year.”

“There is almost no point in trying to cut regulation without concentrating on EU rules, since 72% of the total cost of UK regulation now originates in Brussels. The next UK Government must take a new, radical approach to cutting red tape, and this means getting smarter and tougher when negotiating in Europe.”
Well, that's been a hugely successful approach up till now. Exactly, how is one member state out of 27 going to get smarter and tougher across a whole range of regulations? Still, one can imagine David Cameron coming up with that in those much-vaunted debates between leaders: "and we shall be much smarter and tougher in our negotiations in ....errrm ... well, whichever forum it happens to be".

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