Nick Tyrone Nick Tyrone

Why attempts to cut red tape almost always fail

(Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

Rishi Sunak has been appointed to chair a new committee that will be tasked with cutting red tape, particularly anything that originated from a European Union directive. Part of me thinks Boris has tasked Sunak with this as a means of taking some shine off of his Chancellor’s star — this latest venture to cut down on red tape is bound to fail as badly as the many other attempts that have been made over the years to drastically change the regulatory environment in this country. A lot of the thinking around regulatory reform in the UK is deeply wrongheaded, not from a left-wing or Remainer standpoint but from the perspective of anyone who really wants to make doing business in the UK easier and better.

I speak from some position of knowledge, having myself been the director general of an organisation that explicitly searched for examples of EU red tape, something called the Red Tape Initiative. We spoke to over 300 businesses over a two-year period between 2017 and 2019, asking them for any regulations they felt were too restrictive or just plain bad that they either knew originated from the European Union or thought might be EU related.

What we got from big business were small things, not worth huge amounts of money either way. With small businesses, we heard something different. They were almost always frightened of the regulatory environment changing in any way at all since they felt that the government was very likely going make things worse for them as opposed to better, no matter what the rhetoric.

What I mostly found out was this obsession with the idea that there is this mountain of red tape that is holding the country back and that if we just got rid of it we’d be billions of pounds better off is nothing more than a myth.

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Nick Tyrone
Written by
Nick Tyrone
Nick Tyrone is a former director of CentreForum, described as 'the closest thing the Liberal Democrats have had to a think tank'. He is author of several books including 'Politics is Murder'

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