Claims by the government that half of new regulations introduced in Britain emanate from the EU are nonsense. The real source of the tangle of red tape is Westminster, a new report has revealed.
A report by the European Movement has found that a mere 10 per cent of new regulations over the past five years have come from Brussels, contradicting the government's attempts to shift the blame for Britain's burgeoning mountain of red tape.
"It is frequently claimed that the EU is responsible for half the regulation introduced in the UK," said David Stephen, director of the think-tank. "Both the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer have claimed as much. Yet there is no evidence for this assertion,"
"The real story is Britain over-elaborating, or 'gold-plating', EU directives."
In October the government's own Better Regulation Task Force (BRTF) said that over-zealous interpretation of regulations is "a hidden menace" that is costing British businesses more than £100bn a year.
The European Movement report agreed, showing that civil servants in the UK provided an average of 2.6 implementing documents for each directive, compared with 1.0 in Germany and 0.9 in Portugal.
The BRTF estimated that the cost of regulation amounted to ten per cent on the UK's GDP and estimated that £25bn a year was spent simply enforcing rules. Across Europe as a whole, it is estimated to cost Ä1.3trillion (£700billion), or 12pc of Europe's GDP.
Last month, Prime Minister Tony Blair admitted that the civil service suffered from "cultural problems" around regulation. "For decades civil servants and politicians have prided themselves in dotting every i and crossing every t when legislating administrative rules," he told a CBI conference.
Since the Prime Minister's speech, the BRTF's proposal for a 'one-in, one-out' approach to regulation has been gaining increasing currency in Westminster.
But as David Stephen pointed out, the real challenge lies not in Brussels, but closer to home. Regulations were often repealed by the EU, he said, with 833 removed in 2002 alone.
"We should focus not on a phantom regulator in Brussels, but on how the British government uses the legislative powers delegated to it," he added.