You know you’ve been in politics too long when you’re onto your tenth ‘Red Tape Challenge’. I remember Neil Hamilton as Deregulation Minister in the Major Government in ’92 promising to slash the jungle of red tape. Every time I cheered. Every time the flood of Regulations and Directives kept pouring out of the Whitehall and Brussels machine.
But hardened Red Tape Analysts of all stripes will notice something a bit different about yesterday’s news of the Prime Minister’s commitment to implement the deregulatory proposals of the Business Task Force. He has explicitly linked it to the historic Renegotiation and Referendum strategy launched in his Bloomberg speech. So this time we’ll actually have a chance not just to stem the flood of regs, but to turn off the stopcock.
And this time it really matters. There are huge global opportunities the UK risks missing if we allow ourselves to be beholden to the EU model. In my field of the Life Sciences, for example, (the appliance of science to solve global grand challenges in food, medicine and energy) there are enormous markets for UK science and innovation opening up around the world.
But the EU’s increasingly anti-science greenery is stifling investment and risks putting Britain into a new Dark Age, whilst the rest of the world roars ahead. Its opposition to GM, regenerative medicine, and raft of damaging Directives and Regulations on clinical trials, patient data and specialist medicines are all combining to risk making the EU a backwater for global investment. That’s why I recently launched and am chairing an Inquiry by the Fresh Start Group to examine in detail the EU’s influence over the UK’s Life Sciences sector to highlight how they are holding us back.
Rising global demand for innovations in food, medicine and energy creates an opportunity for us to unlock a whole new cycle of growth. The UK boasts some of the leading agricultural, biomedical and cleantech research institutions in the world. The current crisis of expanding populations and diminishing resources is a massive opportunity for us to export our expertise in agriculture and food research to the rapidly emerging nations that need it. But we cannot do so when hampered by an anti-science EU that makes Europe and the UK an increasingly unattractive place to do the scientific research the world wants and needs.
We need to be able to seize the opportunity of exploding world demand for the science and innovation the UK leads in. We cannot and must not let the EU hold us back. If we can’t stem the flood of new red tape, then this time we have a chance to renegotiate the basis of our membership. Let’s seize it.
George Freeman is the MP for Mid-Norfolk and a former Government Adviser on Life Sciences. The Fresh Start report on how the EU impacts UK Life Sciences is due to be published soon.