While Johnson has said he wants to cut £1bn of old EU red tape, the target is dwarfed by the pile of regulation the country added in recent years. Jones’ case is one such example.
Victoria Hewson at the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) says accepting CE-marked products would show Britain is serious about supporting businesses and customers: “The UK has an opportunity to lead the world with a radical trade policy of recognising regulations, without requiring reciprocity, starting with the EU.”
A BEIS spokesman said: “Having our own regulatory regime gives us the opportunity to make our product regulations work in the best interests of UK consumers and businesses.”
Labelling is just one item on a mountain of regulation – and quantifying that proves difficult.
The cost it creates for the UK economy could be as much as £220bn, according to 2020 research by the IEA. Its estimate is extrapolated from an official gauge from 2005 that puts the burden at around 10pc to 12pc of GDP and does not account for the benefits of rules, indicating how difficult it is to measure accurately.
There are clearly opportunities to get chopping. Last year, the Prime Minister appointed former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith to chair the Taskforce on Innovation, Growth and Regulatory Reform in drawing up a plan to trim regulations. Think tanks have produced reams of rules which could usefully be cut.
The City could be freed from overly stringent MiFID II rules that hurt analyst research; Solvency II laws that hold back investment by forcing insurers to hold huge sums of money on balance sheets; and ineffective banker bonus caps.
In tech, the long reach of GDPR data rules could be pruned. Pharma regulations can be scaled back as the UK strives to become a global life sciences hub. More climate friendly and nutritious food could be grown by relaxing EU constraints on gene editing and boosting innovation, by revamping the Novel Foods Act to help start-ups, such as those for meatless products.
Yet despite the opportunity and intermittent enthusiasm, those backing reforms say progress has been exasperatingly slow.
“The Government has done absolutely sweet FA since we delivered the report to them [in June 2021],” says Sir Iain, lamenting that Lord Frost was given too little authority to make progress when in Government.
“They should have been getting on with it, and they still have not done a single element of deregulation since I produced the report.”
His attempt is by no means the first.
Tony Blair introduced a Better Regulation Task Force in 1997, the Small Business Service in 2000 and the Better Regulation Commission in 2006, which declared it was “time to turn the tide” on red tape.