Brexit red tape bonfire to scrap driving licence cards and share certificates

·3-min read

Physical driving licences face the axe and farmers may be allowed to spray pesticides from drones as part of a package of post-Brexit regulatory reforms.

A string of policies ranging from reintroducing pounds and ounces in the shops to scrapping paper share certificates were unveiled by Lord Frost as he pledged that UK would seize the opportunities of leaving the European Union.

He told the House of Lords that Brexit had created a unique chance to review Britain’s laws, adding: “This is just the beginning of our ambitious plans.”

The proposals are largely derived from the findings of the Taskforce on Innovation, Growth and Regulatory Reform, led by Tory MP Sir Iain Duncan Smith, which identified several areas where the UK could cut red tape.

They also include targeting controversial Brussels regulations intended to increase competition at monopolistic European ports, and cracking down on poorly enforced rules on aviation refunds.

Lord Frost separately announced the creation of a new standing commission that will take ideas on how regulations could be improved.

He said the commission will only be allowed to make recommendations that reduce or eliminate rules.

Lord Frost said: “I hope in this way we will tap into the collective wisdom of the British people and begin to remove the dominance of the arbitrary rule, of unknown origin, over people’s day to day lives."

A document released alongside the speech offered further details.

It said the Government would aim to introduce “digital driving licences, test certificates and MoT testing”, six years after scrapping the paper part of driving licences, in order to create a “more convenient, modernised system” – albeit one that will rob many people of the most commonly used form of identification card.

Edmund King, president of the AA, said: “Digital versions of driving licences, driving test certificates and MOT certificates seems like a sensible step in the 21st Century.

"However, we envisage that many, particularly, older drivers will still want to stick to paper or card driving licences as they don’t all have mobile phones.”

Lord Frost
Lord Frost

The UK will create its own medical device regulation in a bid to improve standards following a string of scandals, working in parallel to Brussel’ efforts to update its own rules.

The new process is intended to make the approvals process for products ranging from Covid tests to hip replacements stricter. but more streamlined. Software and AI used for medicine will also be brought under the regulation.

The document also included a commitment to repeal the EU Port Services Regulation, which aims to tackle a lack of competition in some major ports on the Continent by forcing them to produce more paperwork in the interests of transparency. Britain is served by a comparatively large number of small, privately owned ports meaning there are fewer monopoly concerns.

Mark Simmonds, head of policy at the British Ports Association, said the industry backed the Government's plan to scrap the regulation, adding: “We are keen to see the back of it as soon as possible.”

The government also pledged to press on with moves to scrap the paper share certificates still held by a minority of investors in an era of electronic trading.

Issuing new paper share certificates was already set to be banned from 2023, with the certificates to be scrapped altogether from 2025.

Peter Swabey of the Chartered Governance Institute said: “The challenge is how to ensure that people have the same rights they had as a certificated shareholder. If you hold shares through an intermediary, it is usually the intermediary that has shareholder rights.”

Several of the proposals were not new but reflected projects already underway. They include legislating to introduce electronic documents for business-to-business trade, already subject to a Law Commission consultation, and increasing the use of digital customs certificates.

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