Despite the coalition’s commitment to cutting red tape, since May 2010 there have been 13m extra words of EU-imposed regulations and directives that affect British businesses – which would take over 90 solid working days to read at a typical pace.
Rule changes range from explicit price controls to environmental measures and data protection laws.
“The EU has an addiction to red tape that desperately needs to be tackled,” said Matthew Elliott of Business for Britain, the group that uncovered the figures and wants a renegotiated deal with Europe.
“No-one would argue that a single market needs some regulation to function properly, but the volume and frequency of new directives being generated is a serious restraint to British businesses.”
John Biggin, who runs the successful lorry dealership TruckEast, said he is having to pay tens of thousands of pounds to comply with new EU regulations on truck modifications that replace existing UK rules.
“This nonsense has resulted in many small businesses folding,” he warned.
In a separate development, a government-commissioned panel of top business leaders such as Marks & Spencer boss Marc Bolland will this week recommend 30 specific EU regulations that should be amended or scrapped to boost British business. The six-person panel also includes ex-Diageo chief exec Paul Walsh and Ian Cheshire, the head of Kingfisher. They are calling for changes to regimes such as the EU’s onerous health and safety laws.
Meanwhile, a trade body for UK manufacturers has today come out strongly in favour of remaining in the EU – but urged the government to seek a “coherent and systematic reduction of red tape” to boost business.
Industry association EEF said 85 per cent of its members want to remain in the bloc, while warning that piecemeal opt-outs on individual regulations could actually result in a worse environment for business.