Richard North, 22/09/2016  

EEF, the manufacturer's organisation is telling us that regulatory stability is the key to supporting a smooth exit from the EU. This also comes to us via Bloomberg which highlights the EEF's view that the UK should maintain EU regulations covering everything from working hours to chemicals until after the government sets out its plans for Brexit.

British manufacturers, it seems, are anxious to avoid a policy vacuum and wish to safeguard access to their biggest export market. In the short term, therefore, they prefer the UK to absorb much of the existing regulatory framework as possible.

In the long term, though, they are confident that Brexit will allow some freedom to review aspects of EU law which act as a drag on global competitiveness.

"We want government to provide regulatory and policy certainty in this important arena", says Claire Jakobsson, head of energy and environment policy at the group. "But in the longer term there is clearly an opportunity to pull back from EU regulation where it does not work for the UK".

At this stage, red tape might be a price worth paying for access, the EEF says, because the EU is the destination for 52 percent of the UK's manufactured exports by value.

Less than a quarter of companies surveyed by the EEF want the UK to abandon the EU's complex regulations on waste and chemicals, even though the group describes them as "burdensome".

Approximately twice as many advocated the status quo. Any move to replace these rules with tailored UK laws in the immediate future could be "costly and highly disruptive", the EEF says, because businesses have already sunk substantial costs into dealing with regulation.

I wish I could say I'm surprised by this. The report itself is equivocal about whether we stay in the Single Market, but it does at least underline one of the key points we've been making – that manufacturers prioritise stability over reducing the burden of regulation.

This we pointed out in March last year when we discussed the "Brussels effect". This makes a complete mockery of the deregulators. Sorting out the regulatory mess can wait. First comes ensuring regulatory certainty, including addressing the interwoven legal systems, and developing regulatory cooperation with the EU.

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