Brexit freedoms used to slash burdensome red tape on British businesses


The Conservative Government is raising the bar for any new business regulations, in the latest step to help British businesses flourish. 

A new White Paper uses newfound Brexit freedoms to set out ten common-sense principles that whip the regulators into shape and help businesses grow. 

The principles will introduce a new rule that means new regulations can only be introduced when it is “absolutely necessary.”

This means your local business won’t face an unexpected and unnecessary regulation making it easier for bars and pubs to serve you a drink on a terrace for example. It will also give local cafés the freedom to self-certify in certain cases, to prevent them being harassed by inspections and mandatory training courses, and puts a burden of growth on the regulators by making them explain how they are helping businesses grow. 

This marks the latest step in Government efforts to make regulations more effective and less burdensome for businesses – known as the Smarter Regulation Programme. 

The Programme – which was launched just last year – has already introduced reforms saving 50 million hours of admin work per year for businesses, saving them an estimated £1 billion, which has been pumped back into the economy. 

This runs alongside common-sense measures that will help to make al fresco drinking a permanent feature of the British high street – helping boost pubs across the country and allow punters to enjoy a pint in the sunshine. The Department will also lay out plans to redefine what a ‘medium business’ is so fewer firms have to produce lengthy ‘strategic reports’ – saving around 43,000 firms up to £150 million a year. 

Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch said:  

“This government is seizing the benefits of Brexit by reducing burdens on business, pushing down the cost of living, and driving growth in every corner of the economy.

“The Smarter Regulation Programme I launched last year is ensuring that our regulations work for the job-creators and wealth-makers of the economy. 

“The reforms we outline today will give entrepreneurial businesses more opportunity to innovate, experiment, and capitalise on the UK’s global leadership in key sectors.”

Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade – Kemi Badenoch MP. Picture by Simon Dawson / No 10 Downing Street

Minister for Smarter Regulation Lord Johnson said:  

“Supporting businesses can only work if we provide them with the environment to thrive and grow.   

“This Smarter Regulation package is about providing a world class service for businesses, consumers and society as a whole so we can create an economy that fosters innovation and investment and encourages growth.” 

“The UK is a great place to invest and a fantastic springboard to start and grow a successful business” – Lord Johnson. Photo credit: UK Gov – Creative Commons License

Key features of the White Paper include:  

  • Ten new common-sense ‘guiding principles’ that Government expects all regulators to apply in their day-to-day decision making.  
  • This includes giving businesses, like your local corner shop or cafés, freedom to ‘self-certify’ in low-risk cases and not subjected to needless inspections or mandatory training courses before they can serve their customers. 
  • A ‘register of regulators’ which will be a “one-stop-shop” of all regulatory information, helping businesses find what regulations need to be followed more easily, as opposed to being pulled from one website or phone line to another. 
  • A new ‘Growth Duty Performance Framework’ which will make regulators more transparent about how they are helping businesses go for growth at every opportunity.   
  • A ‘Share Once Support Register’ which will mean vulnerable customers only need to register with energy, telecoms and water companies once, ensuring their access to utilities is protected.    

These new measures will continue to deliver on the government’s commitment to grow the economy and ensure that the UK has one of the most innovative and agile regulatory regimes in the world.  

This is about establishing a high bar for regulation and imposing costs on businesses but is fully consistent with acting where that bar is met and where we need to protect consumers, businesses and the environment – for example the government’s steps to increase regulatory scrutiny in the water sector. 

Tina McKenzie, Policy Chair, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said:

“Small firms suffer more from badly-designed and overly-burdensome regulation than larger companies, so measures to rethink the regulatory landscape, with the aim of removing unnecessary and often self-contradictory regulatory requirements, are welcome. Today’s announcements fit well with FSB’s regulatory proposals that we have discussed with DBT and No.10, to streamline requirements, unlock untapped economic growth, and help make sure regulators focus on the needs of small businesses.

“We’re especially pleased that the Government has adopted the principle of regulating as a last resort, instead of as an instinctive first response. Ensuring that the views of small firms are listened to throughout these consultation processes will be key, and will lead to a more agile framework, with requirements that are clear and proportionate to the size and complexity of a business.”

Chris Hulatt, Founder, Octopus Group added:

“The UK’s leading role in so many innovative industries ─ from life sciences to financial technology ─ is underpinned by the supportive environment our entrepreneurs operate in. An effective and proportionate regulatory regime is key to creating the ideal conditions for our most innovative companies to scale and grow, and to help investors like ourselves to back them with the finance they need.”

The government is seeking views on a number of common-sense changes that will deliver simpler, clearer regulations. These include: 

  • A consultation which builds on COVID easements to make it easier for pubs and bars to provide drinks on their pavements. This will support alfresco hospitality, including an option for providing take-away and delivery sales by default  
  • A consultation on raising the reporting threshold for medium-sized companies from 250 to up to 500 employees and exempting medium-sized companies from producing a strategic report.  These changes could save medium-sized companies around £150m per year if implemented.  
  • Proposals to deregulate the Commercial Agents Regulations, freeing businesses to negotiate contracts with one another without reference to outdated regulations that create legal ambiguity and confusion . 
  • Reforms to employment regulations including proposals to abolish the legal Framework for European Works Councils and reforms to the complex TUPE regulations, which protect employees’  rights when the business or undertaking for which they work transfers to a new employer.  This will save businesses time and money, while continuing to protect workers’ rights.  
  • A consultation response on proposals to modernise rules on gaming machines. These reforms could remove overly restrictive rules in a boost for bingo halls, casinos and seaside arcades.  
  • New proposals on an alternative model for UK REACH, reducing the need for access to EU hazard data, improving data on ‘use and exposure’ and improving regulator powers, while ensuring high levels of protection of human health and the environment are maintained.  
  • International vehicle standards which will set out the Government’s strategy for opening our markets to new vehicles, such as autonomous vehicles, to drive change and support innovation.

Full Written Ministerial Statement – Smarter Regulation Programme Update


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