I have just read your letter to ITRE Chairman Jerzy Buzek MEP on the subject of the EU’s industrial competitiveness, and I am sorry to say that it left me profoundly depressed – though not quite so depressed as I daresay the Chief Executives of companies across my East Midlands region would feel, had they been obliged to read your pages of bureaucratic verbiage with little substantive content.
It seems to me that there are two major issues. You mention both, at various points, but you present no significant ideas for serious change.
The first is energy. As former Industry Commissioner Antonio Tajani put it, “We are creating an Industrial Massacre in Europe (with energy prices)”. Plants are closing, jobs are lost, investment is being forced out of Europe in a range of energy-intensive businesses, including steel, aluminium, glass, cement, chemicals and petroleum refining. The extent of plant closures and job losses is alarming, and the effect on imports and balance of payments is dire.
This is happening because of our obsessive commitment to unreliable and intermittent renewable technologies, and our failure to rely on proven low-cost technologies like gas. I see nothing in your letter that addresses this issue.
Then there is the issue of deregulation. Our economy and our industries are grossly overregulated. There are various estimates of the costs of excessive regulation but one estimate, not untypical, from a former Industry Commissioner put the figure at around 5.5% of GDP. This is unacceptable. Pious aspirations for “better regulation” will not do the job. We need a major campaign of de-regulation – removing unnecessary and failing regulation, analysing costs and benefits, retiring regulations that are failing to deliver and reducing the scope of those which impact too widely.
Thirdly, we need a sense of urgency. This, again, was something that I felt was missing from the boiler-plate text of your letter, which appeared to have been cut-and-pasted from a thousand similar documents.
Commissioner, in this early stage of your appointment, you have a real opportunity to transform the competitiveness of European industry – not by new or “better” regulation, but by cutting both energy prices and the regulatory burden. As a prominent American commentator put it, “We don’t need to teach the grass to grow – we just have to get the rocks off the lawn”.
ROGER HELMER MEP