This article was originally published on The Commentator
Brexit presents a golden opportunity to free our small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from the suffocating grasp of EU red-tape. British entrepreneurial spirit is at an all-time high.
We have more start-ups than at any point in our history, the most enterprises in Europe, and 78 percent of young people are indicating a desire to start their own company.
However, our current membership of the Single Market — with its ludicrously intrusive regulations — does not help us to exploit this dynamism to drive the UK economy forward, but actively stifles it.
EU laws concocted by unelected bureaucrats and corporate lobbyists make setting up and running a small business almost impossible. Of course, a certain level of regulation is required to uphold minimum levels of environmental and social standards, but EU rules excessively exceed this threshold and place a strain on economic growth in the process.
Take for instance, the outrageously inflexible Working Time Directive. The rigid declaration that employees can only work a fixed number of hours per week might not be a problem for big businesses which can afford to hire staff to deal with massive increases in work load caused by excessive EU red tape and Directives. However, for SMEs with already miniscule profit margins, this Directive puts them between a rock and a hard place.
Either they comply with the Directive, and see an even tighter squeeze on their expenditure — praying it doesn’t cause bankruptcy — or suffer huge fines if they cannot afford to hire extra staff.
Even more damaging is The EU’s Renewable Energy Directive, a Directive so hostile towards SMEs it puts many out of business, costing the UK economy £4.7 billion a year in the process. It forces businesses to take on the vastly greater costs of using renewable energy, simply to meet the EU’s arbitrary ‘environmental’ targets.
Former Labour Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown must be held accountable for allowing these job-destroying Directives to be implemented in the UK. Rather than stand up for British enterprise, and economic prospects, Tony Blair meekly surrendered the British opt-out from the Working Time Directive when he signed the Social Chapter of the Lisbon Treaty.
Likewise, Brown pathetically stood by, with little resistance, as the EU went about introducing the Renewable Energy Directive, despite knowing full-well the impact it would have.
In their fevered desire to integrate the nations of Europe, Eurocrats place little importance on supporting the growth of member states’ economies. For them, the main objective is to push the diverse nations together into a single economic model. An over burdensome mountain of red tape is the means by which they achieve this.
The 21st Century is seeing the arrival of countless new industries. From artificial intelligence, to 3D printing, there are a whole host of opportunities emerging to be taken advantage of by UK entrepreneurs.
However, if we are forced to remain in the Single Market, those with aspirations of competing in a global market place would find themselves at a fundamental disadvantage to their rivals in countries such as India and America. As the former EU Commissioner for Industry, Erkki Liikanen, acknowledges; the excessive number of hurdles the EU puts in place means it takes 7 times longer to set up a company in the EU as it does in the US, and at three times the cost.
Red tape not only burdens company owners with endless hours of paperwork — time that could be spent developing their businesses — but also deters those with exciting new ideas from taking the first steps in setting up a new enterprise.
A report from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has acknowledged EU regulations cause “fewer inventions to be patented”. In other words, the British people are brimming with entrepreneurial creativity and ideas, but the hurdles to jump through to set up a new business required by the EU mean many never get off the ground.
This is why we must Get Britain Out of the EU as soon as possible.
The Great British Public are one of the best trained and educated in the world, overflowing with brilliant ideas. But currently such potential is hindered by laws made by unelected EU officials who cannot be removed by the UK electorate.
Robert Bates is a Research Executive at cross-party grassroots campaign Get Britain Out