The Damage Done By The British Government’s Policy of `Gold Plating' EU Legislation

by Vernon Coleman

The French and the Germans have always been keen on paperwork and on officialdom. Ever since forms and uniforms were invented, the French and the Germans have led the world in both. It is, therefore, hardly surprising that the EU (a creation of the new Franco-German alliance) should thrive on paperwork and officialdom.

We, in England, have never been quite so keen on bits of paper or on people in uniform. We like queuing (something that neither the Germans nor the French know how to do properly) but we regard administration as an unavoidable evil rather than a purpose in life.

But here’s the irony: the French and the Germans don't take the administrators seriously. They fill in forms by the dozen but no one takes any notice of them. Their streets are packed with officials in uniform but no one takes much notice of them. They have, for decades, worked hard at finding ways to circumvent rules and they take pride in being the best in the world at finding ways round or through regulations.

We, on the other hand, tend to take officials and paperwork very seriously. We treat both with a good deal more respect.

An English functionnaire will insist that the rules be followed to the letter. A French functionnaire will show you the loopholes. English citizens are brought up to play by the rules. French and German citizens are taught that the rules are merely a starting point for negotiations.

It is these fundamental variations in our history, and our outlook, which help explain why Britain was simply never suited for membership of the EU.

There is firm evidence now available that small businesses in Britain are suffering more from red tape and bureaucratic interference than their counterparts in the rest of Europe. Legislation produced by the European Union has been shown to be implemented more stringently than is necessary in the UK.

The Foreign Policy Centre (FPC) and the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) have shown that the `gold plating' of EU legislation have held back the growth of small businesses.

The FPC and FSB found that gold plating (defined as the practice of over-implementing a directive passed by the European Union) occurs in a variety of forms which invariably take up time and involve significant additional costs.

Sometimes the British Government has been far too enthusiastic about applying EU legislation (in an attempt to curry favour with the EU's leaders).

For example, way back in the autumn of 2007, the EU revealed that it had never wanted to stop Britain using imperial measurements such as pints, pounds, feet and miles and that it had been the British Government rather than the EU which had forced the pace of metrication and which had encouraged the conviction of small businessmen for selling, or offering for sale, produce in pounds rather than kilograms.

The British Government and various trading standards officials argued that the EU had ruled that it was against the law to use scales which didn't display metric measures.

But the European Commission's Vice President admitted that the EU had never intended to ban imperial measures.

And the European Commission's Enterprise and Industry Directorate-General went much further in defence of imperial measures. A spokesman writing on behalf of the European Commission's Vice President Verheugen stated that: `The Commission does not consider it necessary to change the current provisions on the use of pre-2000 weighing instruments in imperial-only units because the Directive does not prohibit the use of such instruments.'

The one remaining metric curiosity is that the law which will make it a criminal offence even to refer to imperial measures after 2009 has not been revoked.

This means, for example, that any book which mentions inches, feet, miles, ounces, pounds and other imperial measures will become illegal in 2009. It presumably also means that rather a lot of road signs, maps, diaries and conversion tables will become illegal. And it explains why many new road signs do not carry mileage distances. And it probably explains why petrol is now sold in litres rather than in gallons. Petrol companies were probably worried that their pumps might get arrested if they sold fuel in imperial units.

Sometimes civil servants in Whitehall extend the scope of the original EU directive by adding extra legislation which creates an extra and unnecessary burden for British industry. This was done with the money laundering directive from the EU and with the directive involving landfill regulations. It was also done with the 1991 European Union regulation 2092-91 which deals with organic food. In EU law organic food requires certain basic standards of animal husbandry. These are the standards which apply throughout most of the rest of the EU. In the UK, however, the Government has `gold plated' the regulations. And so, for example, meat in the UK is only `organic' if the animal from which the meat was taken was born into an organic system. For the rest of Europe the regulation, as provided by the EU, allows `organic' meat to be taken from intensively reared baby animals.

With other directives, British civil servants introduce extra targets (targets were enthusiastically introduced by Gordon Brown when he was Chancellor) and deadlines. Frequently, the new rules are confusing.

And, in many instances, the British Government has merely accepted and implemented new EU rules long before other countries. Although this may not seem to be particularly onerous, and perhaps not technically `gold plating', it is nevertheless enormously damaging.

So for example, when the EU decided that EU citizens from the new accession states which joined in 2004 would have full working rights in all EU countries only two countries in the EU accepted the legislation and implemented it in full. The Governments of the UK and the Republic of Ireland said that all citizens from all countries could come to their countries to seek work. Other EU countries (such as Germany, France and Italy) refused to implement the new legislation until 2011 when the EU's delay on full working rights are due to end. Even though they could have waited, or allowed immigration to accelerate slowly, the British Government chose to implement the new legislation immediately.

The immediate problem with this policy was that since other countries were not implementing the EU policy, immigration into Britain (with its free National Health Service and over-generous benefits policy) was disproportionately concentrated on the UK creating an unsustainable burden on the country's infrastructure and arousing anger and resentment among the native population.

The end result was, of course, always going to be a rise in the incidence of racism.

When you add this huge mistake to the Government's long history of encouraging multi-culturalism, the consequences become even more frightening.

In practice multi-culturalism produces ghettoes of immigrants who are discouraged from assimilation by the State financed provision of services designed to cater for the cultures they have, theoretically, left behind. (So, for example, by providing free translation services we are encouraging immigrants NOT to make an effort to learn to speak English.)

Here's another example of gold plating.

When some genetically modified food - such as maize - were cleared for sale in the EU, a number of political leaders of member states of the EU listened to their voters, ignored the eurocrats and banned GM foods. Austria, Hungary and France, for example, banned all genetically modified foods.

But despite the fact that repeated opinion polls showed that a vast majority of the population did not want to eat genetically modified food, the British Government decided to obey the EU and allow GM foods to be sold in Britain.

As a result of `gold plating', many British businesses have been deterred from expanding or taking on new staff. One half of small British firms say that excessive regulation is a barrier to growth.

Our membership of the EU entitles us to trade freely with other countries in the EU. But because the British Government applies EU regulations more stringently than other governments do, British businesses operate at a great disadvantage. As a result, we buy far more than we sell to EU countries and have, and have always had, a negative trade balance with the rest of the EU.

Thanks to the EU, and to the British Government's gold plating of EU laws, we are out of pocket by hundreds of billions of pounds and millions of British jobs have been lost.

Copyright Vernon Coleman 2nd July 2016