message to the EU: cut red tape
Simon Gallagher, EU & Economic Counsellor, British Embassy Berlin.
Firms in Germany do business in the European Union every second of the day. It’s vital that the EU works in the interests of businesses large and small by making this trade as easy and cost-free as possible.
But too many costly and time-consuming rules and regulations – in areas ranging from employee rights to health and safety to complex data protection rules – threaten to undermine the recovery that’s taking hold here at home and across the continent. For small businesses in particular, more time filling in forms means less time developing a new product, sealing a new contact or hiring the next young recruit.
Earlier this year David Cameron asked six representatives of British businesses large and small from around the UK - to identify the EU regulations that present the biggest barriers to growth, and are most urgently in need of reform.
On 15 October they presented the Prime Minister with an action plan setting out thirty ways in which cutting EU bureaucracy could help UK and European firms innovate, employ more staff and boost sales abroad.
The Health and Safety culture still damages enterprise, and needs an injection of common sense. Freeing small businesses in low-risk industries from the burden of carrying out and keeping risk assessments would benefit 220,000 companies in the UK and save EU firms €2.7 billion.
Bureaucratic plans to force small businesses such as one-man gardening firms and carpenters to register as ‘waste carriers’, and laws that oblige small firms in low-risk industries to keep written health and safety risk assessments, need to go too.
VAT is one of the most onerous areas of regulation for SMEs. The UK has a relatively simple system, but firms that trade across borders face costly and confusing arrangements, with no consistency across Europe. The Commission should provide simpler and more accessible information about the VAT declaration process, and VAT refund processes should be speeded up.
These are just a few of our proposals, all of which will be presented to the European Commission with the full backing of the Prime Minister. If the politicians in Europe have the courage to take action, billions of pounds could be saved, while thousands of new firms and new jobs could be created. This would be a boost for the EU, a boost for the UK economy and a boost for Germany.