Friday, September 24, 2004

Is this what they call a post-modernist irony?

“Do you realize,” – said to me my contact in the Forum of Private Business, - “that there are eight different regulations on labelling going through the process in the EU at the moment? And that is not counting the various regulations about GMOs.”

I had not added them all up but I was aware of the regulations to do with food nutrient labelling, additive labelling, supplements labelling, vitamins and minerals labelling, novel food labelling, sports food labelling, baby food labelling – there must be some I have left out.

They are coming through thick and fast and all as EU Regulations. These are directly applicable. The farce of pretending to take swathes of legislation through Parliament will not even take place. As usual, the businesses that are going to be affected did not realize this was going to happen until too late. The Food Standards Agency’s constant refrain that it is on the website means little to people who run a small business with perhaps one or two other people. They have no time to search the FSA website, which is not the most logical or easy to navigate.

To some extent the gap is filled by the Forum of Private Business (FPB) but even they can do little when the Regulations are hammered out in Brussels with 25 member states chipping in and the various officials over-ruling all business representations.

The result of all these regulations and constraints will be that a number of small businesses will have to fold. We are talking about the most dynamic and entrepreneurial part of the economy.

Those who will struggle on will find that their ability to expand, change or innovate will be severely hampered. Every new idea will now have to be presented to the European Food Safety Authority in Brussels, checked, double checked and triple checked with the presumption against anything new. Remember how all vitamins and minerals or their combination, that had not been around for a certain number of years, were banned, even though there had been not a single incident of a patient suffering? This is an unholy alliance of big business and the regulator.

The immediate effect for the European Union, is a gradual stifling of all innovation and a loss of the most dynamic businessmen and entrepreneurs. Where do they go? USA if they can, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, wherever they feel their work will be appreciated and they will not be destroyed by so-called legislators who think entrepreneurship is something that can be defined and measured against definite benchmarks.

The supreme irony is that the EU is destroying something in which it could and ought to compete with the United States: business innovation. While it tries to stand up to America in foreign, defence and security matters, which is absurd, harmful and, in so far as it leads the EU to support bloodthirsty dictators and, even, terrorists, morally shameful, it also undermines its ability to compete in a healthy way and, perhaps, to win. And so the United States surges ahead, while we put together another structure and negotiate with another tin-pot dictator in the name of integration and anti-American parity.

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