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Priti does down British small business influence

by Jack Schickler | 28.04.2016

Eurosceptic minister Priti Patel carps about the EU’s “vast reams of rules and regulations that stymie small businesses”. She says it is the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and multinationals, not smaller businesses, which have the lobbying clout in Europe. She says the UK is constantly outvoted and that we have no say over red tape.

Patel is wrong on all points and guilty of doing Britain down.

UK has influence and small business voice is heard

Since 1999, we have voted in favour of EU measures in the Council 2,474 times and against them just 57 times. In the other law-making body, the European Parliament, UK members are second only to the Germans in securing the most influential positions, such as drafting reports on new EU laws.

The UK’s Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) employs 2.2 full-time equivalent staff to lobby in Brussels and is a member of the European Small Business Alliance, which employs 6.5. That is indeed fewer than the 11.2 EU staff of the CBI, which represents both small and large firms. But the FSB’s voice is heard.

Only last week, the federation gave evidence to the European Parliament on the proposed US-EU trade deal. “The interests of small firms have become increasingly recognised in Brussels, not least through the influence of British politicians and business organisations,” Sarah Ludford, a former member of the European Parliament who now sits in the House of Lords, told InFacts. The European Commission has now committed to lighter regimes or exemptions for the smallest businesses and to dedicated provisions in all trade negotiations. The FSB has pointed to successes in carving out smaller companies from rules on electrical waste and accounting.

Patel says the prime minister fought to weed out unnecessary rules in his renegotiation, but the EU “said no”. In fact, the EU is committed to “cutting red tape for entrepreneurship”, in particular for smaller companies, and will set corresponding targets.

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Patel says Britain’s “voice is simply not heard, not listened to” in Europe. Yet she cannot be unaware of the UK’s clout. One UK minister, referring to an EU employment plan, recently noted that the government had “worked closely with MEPs to influence the proposal and successfully protected and advanced our interests”. In case you can’t read the signature, it’s that of Priti Patel.

Patel abhors a vacuum

Patel cites rules on vacuum cleaner power, made under the EU’s ecodesign directive, as one example of red tape. When the directive was put to the vote in 2009just 3 out of the UK’s 78 MEPs voted against.

The FSB says it supports the aims of these rules, but has complained of frequent revisions with short lead-in times. The ecodesign directive is forecast to save the equivalent of the annual primary consumption of Italy by 2020. Since the new rules took effect, giving a spur to innovation, “vacuum energy use dropped but dust pick-up hasn’t”, according to UK consumer magazine Which. The Commission says any new product regulations will be introduced only when there is “significant potential for economic gains both for producers and consumers”.

EU rules can unduly burden small businesses. But so can UK ones. We often unnecessarily gold plate EU law, as Patel herself appears to acknowledge. The niggles of EU regulations – and there are many – must be balanced against the benefit of trading with a large single market under one set of rules. Under Patel’s proposal, we would have scarcely any say in how those rules are set. While the FSB is formally neutral in the referendum debate, more of its members support staying in than leaving.

The reference to the UK MEP voting record on the ecodesign directive was added shortly after publication, and was subsequently corrected. Some UK MEPs did not vote either way on the ecodesign directive; and, prior to the 2009 European Parliament election, the UK had 78 MEPs.

Edited by Alan Wheatley

3 Responses to “Priti does down British small business influence”

  • Copied and pasted from another post from myself (sorry I am pasting this every where but the contents are too important to be overlooked, mostly in regards of the words sopken by professor Minford):

    Please read and spread (from UK reuters article regarding the launch of the so called pro brexit “report”: Prof Minford words today at the launch ot the pro-brexit report: “Farmers, as well as car manufacturers, would suffer from lower exports to the EU, Minford said. But the economy as a whole would benefit from being able to SCRAP EU REGULATIONS ON WORKER’S RIGHTS and climate change, and focus on services where it had a competitive advantage” (emphasis on the worker’s rights issue made by myself, but still prof Minford’s words). So you will have it. These will be the people looking after normal UK people? “focus on services” – i.e: financial, insurance aspects – where it will be then left the average UK citizen? Answer: JOBLESS and with prospect of any UK Govt aid.

    Another HUGE FLAW in the quitters economic argument is: WTO rules are restrictive: if you trade with one country with x tariff or 0 tariff then you are obliged to trade with the rest of the world on the same x tariff or 0 tariff, whereas the partner country/bloc can either choose the tariff or will be obliged by WTO rules to abide by the tariffs this partner country/bloc places on different ones. This means: if UK trades WTO with EU at x tariff or 0 tariff, then UK has to do the same (obliged by WTO rules) to do the same with everyone else. However EU can trade with UK on Y tariff if it chooses or if obliged at the same Y tariff EU applies to other WTO trading countries. UK will never be able under WTO rules to apply X tariff to EU and Z tariff to China or US or whatever else. NO!! It has to apply the same X tariff to either EU AND the rest of the world (under WTO rules) whereas other countries are not obliged to place the same X tariff on UK or they simply cannot (same WTO restriction also on them).

  • IS EU ECONOMY REALLY CRUMBLING? Answer to be read here: official statistics about 2015 economics of the EU (source completely unrelated to any EU referendum debate) the EU economy as a whole grew more than the UK one. The intra EU country as well as the extra EU exports grew significantly (source: “International trade in goods – Statistics Explained – Europa.eu” dated 7 April 2016). All details are in the report as from the source posted (not intended for the EU referendum but as a summary of EU trade). Therefore the EU is far from crumbling economically. The problem is to ask why UK exports are falling to other EU countries. Most likely (my suspicion) is that this is in relation to fall in output (productivity) of UK goods. In brief: other EU countries cannot import what is not there and does not exist because it has not been produced (UK problem, not EU one)

  • Join “we are Europe” facebook page promoting what is good or and from Europe, cred by tech people with the support of actors and artists. For a passionate positive argument in favour of urope and the EU. EU is not only economics for UK but more, much more in positive terms.