New Energy Minister Michael Fallon delivered a speech to Open Europe, a think tank that seeks political and economic reform in the EU, on the same day as announcing a new plan to challenge the gold-plating of EU legislation in the UK.
At the event Fallon spoke of the Government's ongoing work to deliver smart regulation in Europe. Something that was highlighted by the Coalition in its plan for growth in 2011.
Setting out its value as an approach, Fallon highlighted the need for certain pieces of EU legislation to be delivered effectively and with the right regulation to enable stronger trade between EU member states and from Europe's trade agreements with the rest of the world. Alongside the EU Services Directive and a fully functioning single digital market, he also included the Internal Energy Market as critical.
It is the Government's aim to reduce regulatory burden and cut red tape as OECD figures have shown that around half of regulation cost originates from the EU. This is not all bad regulation and the costs aren't always a direct result of the EU legislation, more how they are transposed into UK law. Fallon argued that we should benchmark ourselves against our competitors who operate under low tax and low regulatory burden:
"Not about reducing regulation just for the sake of it such as the regulation that removes barriers to market but regulation must be targeted, effective and measured - essentially, smart regulation".
As part of this work, Fallon said, the UK has brokered a 10-point plan to reduce the impact of regulation and improve it. This includes a regulatory fitness programme called REFIT, common commencement dates across the EU member states and also the evaluation of existing legislation before new regulations are considered.
SMEs are expected to be a key beneficiary of better regulation and the UK has apparently campaigned for specific exemptions for those businesses. Unsurprisingly high on their list of regulatory burdens was employment law such as health and safety at work and the working time directive, VAT regulation as well as data protection and waste rules.
The way EU legislation is transposed in the UK is also under question with the more onerous and burdensome versions known as gold-plating being under the spotlight. This was the topic of announcement made by Fallon yesterday to highlight new rules on gold-plating being introduced by Government. These set out an express requirement that Government Departments will not go beyond the minimum requirements.
In addition to this, Fallon stressed that while progress was being made, more needed to be done and specifically mentioned ensuring the exemptions for SMEs were maintained as well as the publication of an annual statement of the impact of EU legislation.
Common commencement dates across EU member states and the offsetting of new regulations by a reduction of a burden of a similar size. Fallon pointed out that, “even the French were looking to implement a one-in-one-out policy”.
ENA asked Fallon to pay particular attention to the unintended consequences and the implications of EU legislation that would have a particularly negative impact on UK networks, something he said in his new role, spanning both Departments he would be in a greater position to do.