Brexiteers carp at European Union red tape, but how much of it would they tear up?
"Despite what Brexiteers promise, it is not clear that a vote to leave would mean a bonfire of EU regulations. Were Britain to seek close links to the single market from outside, like Norway and Switzerland, it would have to observe most EU rules without having a say in them (Norway applies 93 of the 100 most expensive EU regulations). Even if it left the single market and traded from outside, exporters to the EU would have to comply with most EU regulations—and that includes small firms that supply big exporters. If EU-US talks on a transatlantic free-trade deal succeed, most of the world is likely to have to adopt their joint standards.
In short, even if Britain left the EU, it would not find it easy to scrap many of its regulations. Open Europe puts the maximum feasible saving at around £12.8 billion. And Raoul Ruparel, its director, concedes it would be politically challenging to realise that much. Most of the gains would come from ending EU climate-change, financial-services and employment rules. Yet Britain has long supported the first two; and it seems fanciful to expect workers and unions to accept a dilution of employment rights that business is not even calling for.
One more point is lost in this debate: that the EU is proposing far fewer rules now. The European Commission’s better regulation agenda limits new regulations and even withdraws existing ones. Most EU members want less red tape. It is ironic that Britain should consider Brexit just when the EU has come round to a more competitive, less intrusive approach."