31 January 2021
We can finally take advantage of our freedom outside the EU

It is a year to the day since the UK left the European Union, and one month since the new Trade and Cooperation Agreement took effect and the Transition Period ended, signalling the return of the UK to the world stage as an independent nation once again.

Despite what the naysayers have said, their worst predictions have not come to pass – goods continue to flow freely and our ports have not ground to a halt.

Importantly the deal the Prime Minister secured delivered on what many dismissed as impossible, that the UK and its institutions could once again be fully independent.

As the source of UK sovereignty is within our country and not outside, for the first time in over forty years we are truly able to make vital choices for the British people and ensure we act in their interests.

This newfound independence presents the country with myriad opportunities to reshape how we do things across the economy.

As the Government seeks to build back better and recover from the impacts of the pandemic, there has never been a more important time to consider the options available to us to stimulate business dynamism and innovation, ensure that our markets are open and competitive and that businesses can scale up unencumbered by any unnecessary administrative burdens.

So it is a privilege to have been asked by the Prime Minister to lead the new Taskforce for Innovation and Growth through Regulatory Reform.

The group has been convened to scope out and propose options for how the UK can take advantage of our newfound regulatory freedoms outside the EU.

Alongside my colleagues Theresa Villiers and George Freeman, we will consider options we think will drive innovation, reduce barriers to entry and growth, cut red tape for business, and support growth right across our economy.

We will engage with parliamentarians, business leaders and policymakers, and report back to the Prime Minister before the end of April with our findings.

We are not trying to find areas to deregulate for the sake of it.

Our approach will differ from previous forays in this area, not least because our departure from the EU has greatly widened the range of policy options available.

We will start by setting out a new approach to over complicated regulation emanating from the EU, a situation often exacerbated by the fact that the CJEU had become a supranational lawmaker.

We will also focus on 21st century industries where the UK can, with the right regime, have a cutting-edge advantage.

We are now free to find ways to reduce administrative barriers to scaling up productive businesses; and to tailor any necessary processes to the needs of UK start-ups and SMEs.

When we were tied into the EU, regulations were constricting our key industries.

Brussels is too often motivated by producer interests rather than championing the consumer. 

We have a real opportunity now to be nimble, and focus on SMEs instead of the EU’s one-size-fits-all approach which overwhelmingly favours big business.

Our taskforce will identify opportunities to drive innovation and accelerate the commercialisation and safe adoption of new technologies, cementing the UK’s position as a global science and technology superpower.

We can now firmly ground ourselves into a common law system where the assumption is to allow things rather than prohibit them.

The state should not be directing what businesses do – we should generally favour allowing things unless Parliament explicitly says no.

Such an approach is what will allow our nascent businesses – from AI to biotech – to thrive.

Brexit rests on fact that a modern economy needs to be relatively light on its feet and to ensure this, the UK has at last got the levers in our hands and be able to do what we need to. Sovereignty is not meaningless.

As a country we can now act further and set our rules in ways that suits us. And we are excited to be helping realise this ambition, and to see our businesses flourish unshackled from the EU.

Published in The Telegraph