Over the last few years, UK businesses have experienced huge changes to the country’s economic environment; from the UK’s exit from the European Union, to the emergence of new technologies, the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, and the transition to Net Zero. These developments, alongside a uniquely challenging economic climate, continue to bring new opportunities and challenges for the UK business community.
As plans are made to re-establish economic stability, to deal with rising inflation, and to address the cost-of-living crisis, the question remains of how great a part regulation, or deregulation, should play in tackling these issues.
For many years we have seen a prevalence of arguments that regulation holds back investment, stifles productivity, job-creation and innovation, suppresses the market entry of SMEs and, ultimately, deters growth. These views have formed the basis for deregulation drives by successive UK governments; they have underpinned an ongoing commitment to the deregulation project, not least via plans to revise EU-derived laws through the Retained EU law (Revocation and Reform) Bill (REUL).
However, many in the UK private sector have a very different story to tell about regulation. Indeed, contrary to the commonly held view that regulation is manifestly bad for modern economies, bad for growth, and bad for businesses, the essays in this collection explore how sensible, well-designed regulations can (and do) deliver real benefits to the UK economy, as well as bringing about the broader social and environmental outcomes that British people demand.
These businesses express little support for deregulation. Contributors point out that, at a time when businesses are facing many other challenges from the current economic climate, this is far from a business priority. Indeed, many hold that divergence from EU regulations would be costly and complex for businesses. Others flag that moving away from aligned standards and regulations will restrict market access and damage the confidence of businesses to invest and grow.
These views are mirrored in a poll carried out by YouGov for Unchecked UK, RSPB, the Wildlife Trusts, Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) and Women’s Institutes (WI). It found that fewer than a fifth of UK businesses see excessive government regulation as the most important domestic issue facing them. What’s more, the survey finds that two thirds of businesses think the Retained EU Law Bill will cause more uncertainty for UK businesses and limit economic growth.
Further, our collection of essays by business leaders and organisations, Playing by the Rules, is consistent in making the case that regulations can boost growth and innovation, drive productivity, and improve outcomes for consumers and workers. If stimulating growth is the goal, then crude deregulation is not the answer. It is time to move towards a more balanced, sophisticated debate around the value of sensible regulations – one which recognises the crucial role they have played in creating the society we know today, and the opportunity they offer for British businesses in the future.
Emma Rose, co-Director, Unchecked UK