We owe it to democracy to vote today

Allister Heath
TODAY is Election Day &ndash; even though the astonishing circus of resignations, backstabbings and the near collapse of the Labour government have completely overshadowed the parties&rsquo; manifestoes for the European parliament. Many readers will doubtless be planning to abstain in disgust at the evident moral and financial corruption of our ruling classes, a belief that &ldquo;they are all as bad as one another&rdquo; and the likelihood that the present government will soon self-destruct anyway. Yet I would urge wannabe abstainers to think again.<br /><br />The European Union (EU) has a huge impact on the UK economy; we shouldn&rsquo;t ignore the one opportunity we have to express our views on the matter. Even Gordon Brown admits that EU regulation is now omnipresent. In 2006, he said that &ldquo;about half of all new regulations that impact upon businesses in the UK originate in the EU&rdquo;. Others have been less conservative: Roman Herzog, former President of Germany, wrote two years ago that 84 per cent of German legislation now originates in Brussels. Ultimately, however, it is not the raw number of regulations coming from the EU that matters &ndash; it is their cost. The best study on this comes from Open Europe, the think-tank, in an analysis derived from UK government regulatory impact assessments. <br /><br />Of the cumulative cost of regulations introduced over the past decade, &pound;106.6bn, or 71.9 per cent, had its origin in the EU, the report found. In 2008 alone, EU legislation dating from 1998 cost the UK economy &pound;18.5bn &ndash; up from &pound;12.2bn in 2005. EU regulations account for 98.8 per cent of the cost of regulations coming from the FSA, 96.5 per cent of those coming from the Ministry of Justice, 94.2 per cent of regulations from Defra, and 94.3 per cent from the Health and Safety Executive. Over the past 10 years, 72.7 per cent of the average annual cost of the regulation imposed by the Department for Business, Enterprise &amp; Regulatory Reform stemmed from Brussels.<br /><br />We report in today&rsquo;s paper that many hedge fund managers are warning they will quit London if a ridiculous new EU directive is implemented. What goes on in Brussels, Strasbourg and Luxembourg matters hugely, in many cases far more than the proceedings in the Westminster parliament; given how little power our MPs still retain, it is no wonder that they seem to spend their time filling in expenses forms rather than trying to tackle the economic and social crisis blighting the UK.<br /><br />City A.M., unlike other newspapers, will not purport to tell readers who to vote for or which party to support. We are proud of our independence. But unlike some publications, we take elections, politics and the public sphere very seriously and so my message to you is simple: please vote today. Whatever your views, whether you believe the EU should do more or less, or whether you love or hate this government, it is vital for the future of our tarnished democracy that as many people as possible exercise their democratic rights today. In doing so you will send a strong signal to Britain&rsquo;s political parties about what you think of their performance, their policies, and the expenses scandal &ndash; as well as indicating your view of European integration. Today is an important day; we owe it to democracy to make the trip to the nearest voting booth.<br /><br />allister.heath@cityam.com