Saturday

24th Oct 2020

Opinion

Brexit can spur EU fight on bureaucracy

  • If Britain wants to become a business paradise, the EU should not hinder it - we should lead the way (Photo: Mick Baker)

The British will be hard competitors for the European Union in the battle for jobs and investments.

During her time as prime minister, Theresa May launched "Singapore-on-Thames" as her ambition for the British business climate.

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It would be an understatement to say that many things have happened in UK politics since, but Boris Johnson's ambition remains the very same: that Britain should be the best place in Europe for business.

Unless the UK receives favourable conditions in the negotiations with the EU, they will do their best to take market shares from the EU.

The Conservative government has therefore signalled proposals for lower taxes, reduced regulatory burdens and more favourable conditions for foreign investments. What the UK loses through Brexit, they are determined to regain through a vital business policy.

This orientation is met by worry and hostility by many EU leaders and politicians in Brussels. That the UK would be able to compete through fewer costly regulations and less burdensome bureaucracy would not be fair, these politicians argue. The direct reaction of the EU is horror at the prospective loss of today's level playing field.

My reaction is the total opposite. Britain's cocky and ambitious goals for its business climate is one of the best things that can happen to Europe right now.

For far too long, issues of business climate and the conditions for European entrepreneurs have been missing on the agenda in Brussels.

This lack of political interest brought substantial negative consequences. The EU is underperforming gravely compared to other major economies in the world. Its politics have been too self-contented and lazy, and the fighting spirit needed to become successful has been lacking.

I sincerely hope that Brexit will make European politicians step up and want to be winners in global competition.

Don't get me wrong. Brexit has always been, and still is, a bad idea for both the UK and the EU. However, there are always two sides to the same coin. Brexit could set off positive spirals.

If we are to believe Johnson and his Conservative government, Britain will get into high gear to improve its business climate. That should spur the EU to do the same.

Facing this situation, the alternatives at hand for the EU would be either to try holding back the UK or to accept the challenge and put in place a powerful reform package for a better business climate. From my point of view, it is obvious that we must do the latter. Here are my proposals:

Cut bureaucracy

The majority of the new regulatory burden that has hit enterprises over the last years originates in Brussels. The EU must introduce an ambitious goal for reducing the costs of administrative burdens for enterprises. A 30-percent reduction would be a good start, as my political group (European People's Party) has announced. Many current regulations must be updated, changed or completely abolished.

Deepen the single market

The greatest strength of the EU is its size. With almost half-a-billion consumers, there is every possibility to create massive growth potential within the Union. To do so, we must fight all tendencies of protectionism and harmonise legislation where it can generate added value at European level.

Focus on growth

The EU is falling behind other major economies when it comes to infrastructure and the digital economy. The EU budget must be reorganised to focus much more explicitly on measures that create long-term growth: science, infrastructure and digitalisation. The burden of taxation, especially for SMEs and individual entrepreneurs, must be decreased substantially.

Tear down trade barriers

The EU needs to invest more energy in creating new opportunities for trade. Our continent is entirely dependent on its exporting enterprises and the EU is our best platform for improving the trade climate. The EU must act to ensure that more SMEs are able to utilise and benefit economically from trade agreements with other countries, and facilitate foreign investments in the European market.

The EU should welcome the UK's high ambitions for its business climate, and accept their challenge. They are, and will continue to be, an enormously important trading partner for us, and the worst we could do would be to try to isolate them.

If the UK does well, the conditions will be better for the EU too. If they can strengthen their business climate, so can we. If Britain wants to become a business paradise, the EU should not hinder it - we should lead the way.

Author bio

Jörgen Warborn is a Swedish MEP with the European People's Party, and member of the European Parliament's international trade committee.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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