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European lows - how did it ever come to this?

The long-winded European elections are a reminder of how this country’s businesses are hindered by stuffy legislation, says Tim Whitehouse, director of the Weatherite Group

As the results from the local government elections in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland emerge, it has been an important chance for manufacturers across the UK to vote against the institution that seeks to paralyse them, namely the European Union.

Over the years we have seen an incredible amount of legislation from Brussels to which we are forced to adhere. Nobody ever asked the British people if we wanted it and no government has ever offered us a referendum on the matter.

The legislation is largely onerous and always unhelpful to our business and I believe creates huge inefficiencies – public enemy number one to any successful business.

We have to employ people to trawl through this minefield of nonsense to ensure that we do not fall foul of new directives and law. This team then has to analyse and change how we do things in order to comply to something which is usually petty and trivial.

Admittedly, many of the UK Statutory Instruments do not affect our business; but, our team has to sift through everything to see what does and doesn’t affect us.

In this country we need help not hindrance to help us compete against emerging countries such as China and India, who certainly do not have to contend with these issues to such extents.

To compare us to India and China is a little extreme as their lack of adherence to health and safety legislation is absurd. However, my point is that we have gone too far in one direction and businesses are hamstrung as a consequence. It’s not just laws on health and safety, it is employment and environmental ones too, and the list goes on - I really don’t know how small businesses survive in today’s climate with this barrage of legislation.

Even in many leading European countries such as Germany and Italy, governments there give huge subsidies to manufacturers as they are the bedrock of the economy. Manufacturing once had such a place in our economy and was an integral part of our lives. Our government does very little to help and too much to hinder and views it as the poorer relation to institutions in other sectors such as finance. It has rescued Northern Rock, HBOS, and others; but, would it rescue a large manufacturer which found itself in similar dire straits? I don’t believe so.

This may sound like a rant from someone whose business is struggling. But, far from it. We have just completed our best two years of trading, although things have slowed down in recent weeks. Our success is based on the quality of our people and being able to make a product so large that it is difficult for foreign competitors to compete against us in terms of delivery times and price.

Despite our company’s success, I do feel obliged to stick up for manufacturers that our government has allowed to be shafted by the EU over the years.