This article was originally published on The Commentator
David Cameron has done his level best to keep his pro-Remain case focused on the economy, though this exposes a fatal weakness in his pro-EU case. Almost all of his economic talk is about the largest companies and corporations. The media message is about how JP Morgan will cut jobs following Brexit, or how large investors will be discouraged from Britain. These are the richest in our society and the very wealthiest in the economy and who make up less than 0.1% of British companies. Small and medium-sized enterprises generate half of private sector income in Britain, and employ 60% of the workforce. Despite this, for some reason David Cameron has seen fit to shun them in favour of large businesses which benefit hugely from the European Union.
Small businesses suffer most from European Union rules. Less than 5% of businesses in Britain export to the EU, yet they are all forced to abide by EU regulation. Many of these regulations are absurd. On average, a small business will spend 28 hours a week ensuring they comply with EU rules. This is almost an entire working week for an employee on a standard 35-hour contract. For a large company or corporation, a single employee’s working week is of little importance. To a small company which may only have 4 or 5 employees, it can mean the difference between a healthy profit and a devastating loss. The EU’s regulations are designed to benefit big business. It is no surprise this happens, as over a €1billion are spent by the top 100 companies annually.EU regulations are deliberately strangling small businesses in the quest to make regulations suit all companies.
The lobbyists act on behalf of companies and organisations to try and convince regulators and politicians to implement or change laws to the benefit of those they are representing, and across all the countries they want to trade in. There is always suspicion around these activities, as there are fears of corrupt politicians selling legislation to the highest bidder. In Britain we enforce strict rules on our elected and unelected officials, making them keep records of meetings and declaring conflicts of interest when necessary. In the EU, very little of this is done. MEPs do not have to declare meetings and there is very little regulation preventing what many would describe as bribery. When there was an actual bribery scandal in 2011, where an MEP accepted an offer of €100,000 in return for favourable votes on laws, there was actually no law he had broken to force him to resign! Furthermore, his political party backed him staying as a MEP in addition to the other 3 MEPS caught in the same scandal whose parties did force them to resign. This was a disgusting misuse of power. Most of the abuse is nowhere near this blatant or extreme, but there is regular and frequent lobbying which would not be allowed under British standards of conduct.
The companies who benefit the most are the ones which can afford to indulge the whims of the MEPs and unelected bureaucrats. Inevitably these are the largest and richest companies who end up with laws and regulations spun in their favour. This is nothing more than the buying of the political process by the richest in our society. This makes an already undemocratic institution the plaything of the banks which caused the financial crisis in the first place – such as Goldman Sachs and HSBC who have two of the largest lobbying contingents in the EU. It’s little wonder they are both backing and funding the Remain campaign. All the money spent on lobbying will have certainly bought them favourable laws, which they never could have achieved democratically and which ensure their smaller competitors struggle under the weight of regulation.
The excessive regulations for small businesses can be crippling. If they fall foul of any regulations they have fines levied on them which are often so punishing, they put them out of business. It’s almost always completely unnecessary, as these businesses rarely do any trade with the EU – which forces a one-size-fits-all situation on all its rules and regulations! The majority of small companies do all their trade within ten miles of where they are based. So why is there a need for them to harmonise regulations with countries like say, Croatia? A country they will almost certainly not trade with. This is job-killing legislation from the EU. It stifles the ability for small businesses to even exist. It’s not only bad for business owners, but for all those they employ. The EU, through over-legislating and over-burdening these companies, puts jobs at risk. It only takes a small mistake to bankrupt a company through legal fees and fines, leaving its workforce out of work. It’s totally unacceptable for the EU to claim they are a defender of jobs and workers’ rights, when it’s so destructive for employment prospects.
The defence from the BSE campaign is always a listing of various workers’ rights the EU supposedly protects. Equal pay is an area where the EU regularly claims credit, despite the first Equal Pay Act in Britain being implemented in 1970 – three years before we joined what is now the EU. Who implemented this law? Barbara Castle – someone who was fiercely committed to opposing Britain’s membership of the European Economic Community – the organisation which grew into the EU without us having any say on this. Maternity legislation in the UK goes far beyond what the EU requires, giving a full year of maternity leave with 39 weeks of this being paid leave. The EU only requires this to be 14 weeks. The UK also implemented maternity leave and pay a full 4 years earlier than the EU. We implemented the reforms earlier and we go further in ensuring and protecting these rights than the EU ever has. Britain also went further and faster on issues of race discrimination, paid holidays and dismissal rights. It is the UK Parliament which protects and enhances the rights of workers and not the EU – we cannot allow this fact to be forgotten.
The EU is terrible for small and medium-sized businesses. It is an out-of-date political bloc which seems determined to regulate industry in favour of large companies which can afford to abide by its excessive regulation. It squeezes out the smaller companies; all while making false claims about how well it has done for employees in the workplace. The only way we can have a fair playing field between companies and to ensure job security for our workforce is to Get Britain Out.