New Research: EU regulation increasing at record rate

October 26, 2008 10:20 PM

Against the background of worsening economic conditions and businesses struggling to remain solvent, the TaxPayers' Alliance (TPA) today publishes a detailed study of the severe burden placed on business by EU regulations. The report reveals the true scale of EU regulations, and uncovers the fact that the pace of regulation is increasing at a record rate, with thousands of new regulations introduced each year. As well as over-regulation from Brussels, though, the report also studies the contribution made to the regulatory burden by "gold plating" in Whitehall, with civil servants and Ministers adding extra rules, greater complexity and unnecessary sanctions to regulations passed down from Brussels. With the UK's regulatory burden costing British business £150 billion a year, the report proposes three simple, practical ways to reduce the problem and therefore help British business to weather the economic storm. To read the full report, click here (PDF).


Key Findings


  • There are currently 16,980 EU acts in force. Between 1998 and 2007 there has been a net gain of 9,415 EU laws.   

  • In 2007, 3,010 EU laws became UK law, while only 993 EU regulations were repealed - a net gain of 2,017 extra laws. 

  • The rate of new EU laws has increased to a record speed, with a net gain of over 2,000 new laws in each of the last two years, compared to an annual average net gain of only 942 new laws between 1998 and 2007. Almost half of the extra 9,415 EU laws created in the last ten years have been introduced in 2006 and 2007. Despite EU rhetoric about reducing regulation, it is growing at a record rate.

  • Whitehall also adds to the burden: at least 770 pages of UK Statutory Instruments will be needed to enact the 76 Directives passed by the EU in 2007.  Assuming this as an average per year, then EU directives alone have necessitated over 7,700 pages of UK law since 1997.

  • Despite the enormous amount of EU legislation, UK gold-plating and poor enforcement practices exaggerate the burden of regulation.

Recommendations for change


  • The European Union (Transparency) Bill would force Ministers to declare to Parliament which new laws are derived from EU laws. This would increase awareness of the sheer scale of the EU's regulatory machine and make it impossible for the Government or Whitehall to smuggle through their own unpopular policies in the guise of EU requirements.

  • Regulatory sunset clauses would ensure that all regulation expires after a certain time period, unless Parliament voted to renew it. This would cut out regulatory dead wood and avoid unnecessary regulations lingering on after they have become useless or counter-productive.

  • More powerful Parliamentary scrutiny of EU legislation. British Parliamentary scrutiny of EU laws is extremely weak and ineffective, particularly when compared to the successful, stronger powers of other countries such as the Danish Parliament. The UK should adopt the Danish system of  a Parliamentary committee with the power to scrutinise every single EU law.

Download the report here (PDF).

Ben Farrugia, a Policy Analyst at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said:

“Regulations are an enormous burden to business, particularly in a time of financial hardship. The EU’s addiction to regulating and Whitehall’s compulsive gold-plating have added billions to business costs in recent years. Both the legislative process which has created this regulatory tangle and Britain’s relationship with the EU needs a serious rethink.”

Against the background of worsening economic conditions and businesses struggling to remain solvent, the TaxPayers' Alliance (TPA) today publishes a detailed study of the severe burden placed on business by EU regulations. The report reveals the true scale of EU regulations, and uncovers the fact that the pace of regulation is increasing at a record rate, with thousands of new regulations introduced each year. As well as over-regulation from Brussels, though, the report also studies the contribution made to the regulatory burden by "gold plating" in Whitehall, with civil servants and Ministers adding extra rules, greater complexity and unnecessary sanctions to regulations passed down from Brussels. With the UK's regulatory burden costing British business £150 billion a year, the report proposes three simple, practical ways to reduce the problem and therefore help British business to weather the economic storm. To read the full report, click here (PDF).


Key Findings


  • There are currently 16,980 EU acts in force. Between 1998 and 2007 there has been a net gain of 9,415 EU laws.   

  • In 2007, 3,010 EU laws became UK law, while only 993 EU regulations were repealed - a net gain of 2,017 extra laws. 

  • The rate of new EU laws has increased to a record speed, with a net gain of over 2,000 new laws in each of the last two years, compared to an annual average net gain of only 942 new laws between 1998 and 2007. Almost half of the extra 9,415 EU laws created in the last ten years have been introduced in 2006 and 2007. Despite EU rhetoric about reducing regulation, it is growing at a record rate.

  • Whitehall also adds to the burden: at least 770 pages of UK Statutory Instruments will be needed to enact the 76 Directives passed by the EU in 2007.  Assuming this as an average per year, then EU directives alone have necessitated over 7,700 pages of UK law since 1997.

  • Despite the enormous amount of EU legislation, UK gold-plating and poor enforcement practices exaggerate the burden of regulation.

Recommendations for change


  • The European Union (Transparency) Bill would force Ministers to declare to Parliament which new laws are derived from EU laws. This would increase awareness of the sheer scale of the EU's regulatory machine and make it impossible for the Government or Whitehall to smuggle through their own unpopular policies in the guise of EU requirements.

  • Regulatory sunset clauses would ensure that all regulation expires after a certain time period, unless Parliament voted to renew it. This would cut out regulatory dead wood and avoid unnecessary regulations lingering on after they have become useless or counter-productive.

  • More powerful Parliamentary scrutiny of EU legislation. British Parliamentary scrutiny of EU laws is extremely weak and ineffective, particularly when compared to the successful, stronger powers of other countries such as the Danish Parliament. The UK should adopt the Danish system of  a Parliamentary committee with the power to scrutinise every single EU law.

Download the report here (PDF).

Ben Farrugia, a Policy Analyst at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said:

“Regulations are an enormous burden to business, particularly in a time of financial hardship. The EU’s addiction to regulating and Whitehall’s compulsive gold-plating have added billions to business costs in recent years. Both the legislative process which has created this regulatory tangle and Britain’s relationship with the EU needs a serious rethink.”

Latest Blogs: