Open Europe Blog

Will Cameron’s new body cut through EU red tape?

David Cameron has just announced that he’ll set up a new “task force” consisting of some of the UK’s best business leaders. Their task is to identify EU rules and regulations that are currently holding back business and growth, which should therefore be scrapped.

We’re told it’s a government initiative rather than a Tory initiative, and it’ll be led by Business Minister Michael Fallon MP.

Apparently, the idea is to complement the balance of competences review – looking at individual rules from a business perspective rather than overarching EU powers.
Now, this will no doubt be met with cynicism. Politicians often blow smoke about cutting bureaucracy and promise to set light to “bonfires of red tape” but somehow the flames never materialise. Meanwhile, such ‘taskforces’ have a mixed record in terms of results to say the least. Will this time be the same?
In truth, it depends. If it’s an initiative meant to merely distract or fill a rhetorical vacuum, then No 10 will no doubt be called out – and the whole thing will backfire. But if it’s genuinely set up to get down to the real, practical EU rules holding back business – and more importantly is followed up by a very strong push in Europe, rather than attempts at getting quick headlines – then this is a most-welcome initiative. This will also depend on the actual people on the task force, and whether they’re closet status quo enthusiasts or genuine reformers. We’re told the following will be on the panel – we’ve included a summary on anything that’ve said on Europe:

Ian Cheshire, CEO, Kingfisher
Writing in the FT, a few days ago Ian Cheshire argued that “As an international retailer, Kingfisher wants Britain to remain in the EU – but a reformed EU… We enjoy the certainty of a single rule book across the EU but not at the cost of an ever increasing regulatory burden, which must be resisted”.

Paul Walsh, former CEO, Diageo Plc 
Speaking to the BBC’s Today programme, Paul Walsh has said “I support the fact that our prime minister said we should stay in Europe. We are a trading company. We must stay in Europe, we must position Europe for the future, which is more competitive, less regulation.”

The others have not said anything in detail about the EU per se but also have considerable business experience in cross-border trade.
Marc Bolland, Chief Executive M&S
Has driven the opening of stores in Paris and other EU capitals, likely making him familiar with the constraints of expanding British business in Europe.
Dale Murray, Angel Investor 2011
Launched Vodafone New Zealand in 1992. Co-founded Omega Logic in 1999. Lots of experience as an entrepreneur and as a business investor. Experience in telecoms which is becoming a hot topic in terms of single market integration and trade.
Louise Makin, CEO, BTG
BTG has offices in Germany and previously President of Strategy and Business Development Europe at Baxters so she has solid background in conducting business across the EU.
Glenn Cooper, Managing Director, ATG Access
ATG Access is the worlds largest manufacturer of security bollards and vehicle barrier systems, currently exporting to over 42 countries.
So the jury is still out. But with the group set to provide its first concrete recommendations as soon as September we’ll soon see, and given the huge importance of scrapping and improving EU rules and regulations we’ll give No 10 the benefit of the doubt on this one.
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