How EU regulations control our lives: 24 hours of red tape

Telegraph Reporters
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How EU regulations control our lives: 24 hours of red tape in the life of a small business owner.

The top 100 most expensive EU regulations cost the UK economy £27.4 billion a year, according to research conducted by Open Europe in 2013.

The think tank's director, said: “Complying with regulation places a greater burden on small businesses because they do not tend to have the in-house expertise to deal with complex bureaucracy, which larger businesses do.

"When reviewing the body of EU rules post-Brexit, the Government should consider greater use of exemptions for small business and ensure that all regulation that applies to them is risk-based and evidence-based.”

The Telegraph has looked at just how much EU red tape the average small business owner comes across in one day. From the products in your home to how long it takes to create a new job, here are the obstacles a small business owner face in their average day.

1. Waking up to a dimmer room because of energy saving light bulbs 

In 2009 the European Commission announced plans to phase out traditional incandescent lightbulbs amid concerns that 95 per cent of the energy that goes into them gets turned into heat rather than light. However their replacements, LED and fluorescent bulbs, while far more energy-efficient, have proved unpopular because they give off a cold, unnatural light compared to their predecessors.

2. Having breakfast: only perfectly formed bananas 

Credit: Bloomberg 

The European Commission's regulation 2257/94 states that bananas in general should as a minimum be “free from malformation or abnormal curvature of the fingers”. 

3. Maximum working day for employees, irrespective of your business' needs and demands

The EU's working time directive, which has been phased into British law since 1998, is a source of acute frustration for surgeons and medical staff too. Many believe it deprives them of the chance to perform enough procedures to become fully competent because of the strictures it imposes on shift patterns.

The directive guarantees employment terms such as a maximum 48-hour week and four weeks of paid holiday per year, as well as rules on hours of rest for shift workers.

While individual workers can ask to be exempted from the directive, NHS trusts are obliged to draw up rotas that meet the rules. This often means that doctors who are on call, but who sleep undisturbed through their shift, are nevertheless sent home “to rest” when they could take part in training.

4. When trying to create a new job to fill a crucial gap in your company, data protection rules come a cropper for SMEs 

The EU extracts £300 million from UK businesses alone to implement a desperately-needed new data protection rules.

5. Trying to get your company's innovative new product on the market to keep your company adapting for the future 

While it takes a matter of days for new products licensed and onto the market in the US, it takes weeks or months in Europe. New EU regulations have accompanied a 25% drop in biomedical research, and complex and diverse rules on sales, promotions, labelling and web content hamper e-commerce. 

6. You need to heat your office as well as account for the electricity and transport costs of your business...

But the EU renewable energy directive requires the UK to generate 15 per cent of our energy from renewable sources by 2020. 

The Government subsidies to meet this target will cost every household £110 a year by 2020, according to National Audit Office estimates.

7. Environmental impact assessments

The Department for Business has described the EU's requirements for businesses to assess environmental impacts as "onerous".

8. Great crested Newts near your workplace? That'll be £10k 

Great Crested Newts Credit: Brian Smith 

Despite being fairly common in England, the EU Has listed it as a protected species in every member state which means if even a small number are found the newts have to be fenced, trapped and relocated in the spring, which can cost £10,000 even for a small project. 

George Osborne, the former Chancellor, said in 2011 the directive placed “ridiculous costs on British businesses”.

 9. Your company has a noisy office. Health and safety? It's all got to be on paper

This is one area where EU regulation has proven particularly burdensome for SMEs. The EU's health and safety at work Framework Directive requires all businesses to keep written health and safety risk assessments – irrespective of companies’ size or whether they carry out low-risk activities. There are also a number of specific health and safety requirements for different scenarios, for instance work at heights or noise at work.

A report by the Government’s Business Taskforce on cutting EU red tape found that removing the requirement to write down health and safety risk assessments could save businesses across the EU around 2.7 billion euros.

10. You go home and do a spot of cleaning, but it's not what it used to be... 

Credit: David Parry 

EU rules mean vacuums now have a maximum wattage. 

In September 2014 the European Commission introduced new energy efficiency rules which banned many of the best vacuum cleaners on sale.

Companies were prohibited from manufacturing or importing any vacuums with motors above 1,600 watts. Of seven “best buy” ratings awarded by Which? since January 2013, five of them have motors of more than 1,600 watts.

From September this year the limit will be reduced to just 900 watts. The commission said the rules would help cut energy usage and lower people’s bills.

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