LONDON: A business lobby group in Britain called for a radical overhaul of the European Union on Monday, saying enhanced regulatory powers the bloc has had since 2009 have cost British firms 12 billion pounds ($20 billion).
Business for Britain, which says it gives a voice to the “large, but often silent, majority among Britain’s business community who want to see EU reform” wants Prime Minister David Cameron to reduce what it says is costly EU red tape.
If re-elected next year, the Conservative Cameron has pledged to try to renegotiate Britain’s EU ties before offering Britons an in-out EU referendum by the end of 2017.
Business for Britain said the Lisbon treaty, which entered into force in 2009, granting the EU the right to legislate in new areas, had resulted in regulation that had cost UK businesses 12.2 billion pounds net since December 2009 and was now costing them 6.1 billion pounds annually.
It estimated the net final cost to UK business at 96.5 billion pounds.
It cited as examples a law which required car makers to comply with new EU standards for emissions, laws requiring firms to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a law harmonizing the components that go into cars, and a regulation that standardized battery production in Britain.
“The Lisbon Treaty was hugely unpopular at the time, and we can now see that it has increased the cost of doing business in Britain,” Matthew Elliott, the group’s chief executive, said in a statement.
“Our research makes a compelling case for the government to use the forthcoming renegotiation to reverse some of the most expensive provisions of the Lisbon Treaty.”
However, British Influence (BI), a group that campaigns for Britain to remain within a reformed EU, said London would have chosen to make many of the more costly reforms itself anyway.
It published research which it said showed that UK national income dependent on exports to the EU each year had almost doubled since 1997 to reach 207 billion pounds ($345.42 billion), representing 15 percent of gross domestic product.
“Almost 85 percent of the 12 billion potential costs identified by Business for Britain would come from efforts to reduce CO2 emissions,” Peter Wilding, BI’s director, said in a statement.
“The UK has often set stricter targets for itself than the EU so we may well have these types of rules regardless of the EU. We must keep our eye on the bigger prize that is the 207 billion a year of trade with have with EU states.”