Brexit gives us back our freedom. A huge chunk of our laws have been handed down to us since 1973 in the form of directives, regulations and national law based on EU law. Soon, we will have the opportunity to make radical and much overdue reforms to our economy and way of life in the UK when we leave on 29th March. This is what ‘taking back control’ looks like. So, here are my top five EU laws and regulations that we should scrap on Brexit Day +1:
Ask anyone who is involved in running an organisation in the UK – a parish council, charity, football club or a business – and the letters ‘GDPR’ will cause them to wince. The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation came into effect last year and sets out how organisations need to store data, as well as what kind of data can be sold or transferred to third parties. Unlike the UK’s own Data Protection Act 1998, GDPR has caused mass confusion and spawned a whole industry of advisors, lawyers and IT specialists to implement it. The average small or medium sized business spent £8,000 to become compliant. Larger firms have spent £300-£450 per employee. The UK needs a much slimmed-down version of these rules on how to protect individuals’ data, at much lower cost to the organisations that have to implement them.
Working Time Directive
Under EU law, it is illegal to make an employee work for an average of more than 48 hours a week. In 1992, John Major opted out from this directive, but the Labour Government opted back in six years later. It is estimated to cost the UK economy more than £4 billion per year in lost working hours, as well as compliance. Whilst most doctors opt out of it, NHS trusts are obliged to draw up rotas that comply with the rules. The Royal College of Surgeons estimates that compliance with the Working Time Directive costs each doctor approximately 3,000 hours of training time in the eight to 15 years it takes to qualify as a consultant surgeon, meaning doctors miss out on a huge amount of hands-on experience during their training.
Renewable Energy Directive 2009
Thought to be the single most expensive piece of EU regulation, the directive requires the UK to generate 15% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. The UK must also cut its carbon emissions by 80% on 1990 levels by 2050. Efforts to meet these targets have seen the UK government introduce programmes to build inefficient and ugly wind farms across our countryside and launch costly subsidies to install solar panels on homes, so that we can produce some of the most expensive energy in the world. Instead, the UK should expand permission for hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) of shale gas post-Brexit, whose introduction in the US saw the price of natural gas halved. We should also build further nuclear power stations (whose energy is not considered “renewable”), as technologies to recycle nuclear waste advance. Both options could see household energy bills in the UK slashed, which would have the greatest positive benefit on the poorest households, for whom utility bills make up a significant proportion of outgoings.
VAT on energy bills
VAT was charged at 0% on household energy up until 1993. After that, EU rules have meant that VAT rates can’t be lowered below 5%. Post-Brexit, VAT should again be scrapped on energy bills. That 5% equates to £57 off the average £1,138 annual household energy bill.
Bat & newt conservation
The EU’s Habitats Directive has created enormous headaches for housing developers and infrastructure builders alike, requiring onerous studies, causing long delays and requiring expensive mitigation projects whenever bats or newts are found in the vicinity of a project. Whilst we all want to see these species protected, we can implement a much less onerous and common sense system. The UK has an urgent housing shortage and the general public will have little sympathy with major projects being held up because of newts.
Lewis Feilder is on the Conservative Party’s Parliamentary Candidates’ list and works as a management consultant in London. Follow him on twitter: @LewisFeilder