Five questions answered on David Cameron’s pledge to reduce red tape for small businesses

Which rules and regulations does Cameron intend to amend or scrap?

At a conference in March the Prime Minister will pledge to scrap or amend thousands of rules affecting small businesses. We answer five questions on the proposed changes.

Which rules and regulations does Cameron intend to amend or scrap?

At the Federation of Small Businesses’ (FSB) annual conference in March Cameron will pledge to make changes to more the 3000 rules, according to the BBC. These include 640 pages of cattle movement guidance, 286 pages of hedgerow regulations and 380 pages of waste management rules. House builders are set to see 100 standards applied to new homes reduced to less than 10.

How much is this estimated to save businesses?

He will tell the conference that the changes will save £850m a year. The house building reforms will save businesses £60m a year, according to the government.

Overall the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra) will slash 80,000 pages of environmental guidance by March 2015 accumulating in a saving for businesses of £100m per year, according to the government.

What other benefits does the government plan to pass onto small businesses?

A package of business rate relief of £1.1bn, £100m of broadband vouchers to help businesses get online, and up to £2,000 each in growth funding for 20,000 small businesses.

What has the FSB said about these changes?

Mike Cherry, the FSB's policy chairman, speaking to the BBC said:

The government must focus on how they can support these businesses in job creation and growth while the UK's large businesses need to play their part, too, in supporting ambitious small businesses, for example, through paying their smaller suppliers promptly.

He added that the UK could learn from the US’s Small Business Administration (SBA), which he says has a large budget and long-term strategy.

The UK government should look at whether an institution built along the principles of the US SBA is needed - bringing together business support, export guidance, public procurement, and other small business functions into one place, providing a powerful small business voice within government.

What have others said?

Karen Mills, former head of the SBA and a former member of President Barack Obama's cabinet, who is also set to address the conference, told the BBC: "As governments look to the future, their plans have to be centred on growth, and the primary currency should be well-paying jobs."

She added: "When small business has a seat at the table, we can more effectively focus on entrepreneurship and innovation, which are critical components to a strong economic game plan in today's world."

Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna has pledged that Labour will also create a similar body to the SBA to support small firms in their dealings with government departments.

David Cameron on a visit to a ventilation firm. Photograph: Getty Images.

Heidi Vella is a features writer for Nridigital.com

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Brexiteers want national sovereignty and tighter borders – but they can't have both

The role of the European Court of Justice is a major sticking point in talks.

Why doesn't Theresa May's counter-offer on the rights of European citizens living and working in Britain pass muster among the EU27? It all comes down to one of the biggest sticking points in the Brexit talks: the role of the European Court of Justice.

The European Commission, under direction from the leaders of member states, wants the rights of the three million living here and of the British diaspora in the EU guaranteed by the European Court. Why? Because that way, the status of EU citizens here or that of British nationals in the EU aren't subject to the whims of a simple majority vote in the legislature.

This is where Liam Fox, as crassly he might have put it, has a point about the difference between the UK and the EU27, being that the UK does not "need to bury" its 20th century history. We're one of the few countries in the EU where political elites get away with saying, "Well, what's the worst that could happen?" when it comes to checks on legislative power. For the leaders of member states, a guarantee not backed up by the European Court of Justice is no guarantee at all.

That comes down to the biggest sticking point of the Brexit talks: rules. In terms of the deal that most British voters, Leave or Remain, want – a non-disruptive exit that allows the British government to set immigration policy – UK politicians can get that, provided they concede on money and rules, ie we continue to follow the directions of the European Court while having no power to set them. Britain could even seek its own trade deals and have that arrangement.

But the problem is that deal runs up against the motivations of the Brexit elite, who are in the main unfussed about migration but are concerned about sovereignty – and remaining subject to the rule of the ECJ without being able to set its parameters is, it goes without saying, a significant loss of sovereignty. 

Can a fudge be found? That the Article 50 process goes so heavily in favour of the EU27 and against the leaving member means that the appetite on the EuCo side for a fudge is limited. 

But there is hope, as David Davis has conceded that there will have to be an international guarantor, as of course there will have to be. If you trade across borders, you need a cross-border referee. If a plane goes up in one country and lands in another, then it is, by necessity, regulated across borders. (That arrangement has also been mooted by Sigmar Gabriel, foreign minister in Angela Merkel's government. But that Gabriel's centre-left party looks likely to be expelled from coalition after the next election means that his support isn't as valuable as many Brexiteers seem to think.)

On the Conservative side, a new EU-UK international body would satisfy the words of May's ECJ red line. On the EU27 side, that the body would, inevitably, take its lead from the treaties of the EU sans Britain and the ECJ would mean that in spirit, Britain would be subject to the ECJ by another name.

But it comes back to the Brexit dilemma. You can satisfy the voters' demand for non-disruptive control of British borders. You can satisfy political demand for sovereignty. But you can't have both. May – and whoever replaces her – will face the same question: who do you disappoint?

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

0800 7318496