Stephen Booth is Research Director for Open Europe.
We are told that work has begun in Whitehall on how the UK might return powers from Brussels to Westminster, but the question is how can this be achieved and what, exactly, should the Government be looking to repatriate?
In the first of a series of reports looking at the major EU policy areas, Open Europe has this week published its first attempt to offer some answers to these increasingly important questions. ‘Repatriating EU social policy: the best choice for jobs and growth?’ (pdf) examines the nature of EU social and employment law and the costs and benefits of deciding these regulations at the EU-level.
Using Government impact assessments, we estimate that EU social law currently costs UK business and the public sector £8.6bn a year. But more importantly, cutting the cost of these regulations by 50% could result in a boost in economic output equivalent to the creation of 140,000 new jobs in Britain. Under a scenario where the benefits of deregulation would be split between higher employment and increased productivity, which is more likely, a 50% cut could generate the equivalent of 60,000 new jobs in the UK in addition to adding £4.3bn to economic output. Savings could be achieved without significantly compromising on workers’ protection: for example, by exempting low-risk working environments from aspects of health and safety legislation or overturning EU court rulings on the Working Time Directive (pdf), which have made hospital rota systems unworkable.