If bureaucracy were an Olympic game, my country – together with a few others – would most likely be one of the contenders for gold medal. Swedish bureaucrats and politicians of most stripes have worked hard towards this goal with a combination of creativity and an iron will to tell people how to live their lives. Construction regulations stipulate that rooms need to have doors, until recently dancing in restaurants required a permit, and building a house involves years of red-tape management. Dangerous phenomena such as alcohol, tobacco and gambling, how parents should divide their parental leave or how many restrooms are needed to serve coffee and cake are tightly regulated.
As a Swede I am proud of the prospects for victory and I am happy that the newly presented Nanny State Index, produced by the London-based think-tank IEA, Stockholm-based Timbro and others, confirmed my suspicions. Not grudging about the neighbours’ achievements, I am happy for Finland’s victory. But I equally appreciated Sweden’s second spot as well as the bronze medal of the UK, again circumstantiating my hunch. Both of our countries are well above the EU average and we cannot blame Brussels for our own bureaucracy.
In financial regulations Sweden and the UK gold plate more than others. This is perhaps comprehensible, given the relative size of our respective financial markets. But still, the red tape does not come from Brussels but from Westminster and the Swedish Parliament. Regarding bureaucracy we don’t lack sovereignty and can´t always blame others.
The importance of replacing 28 national regulations, hindering business and entrepreneurs, by one single body of rules cannot be overstated for our two export-dependent economies. European rules have forced us to deregulate and privatise a number of industries, from airlines and transportation to telecom.
By definition, one set of regulations is less cumbersome than 28 (or really 31, including Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein). Of course, this does not mean that EU legislation is as lean as it should be – a test, by the way, that also most national laws fail to pass. This is why I want my British friends to be in, so we can do something about the common challenge we share, instead of preparing our respective national teams in separate training camps.
Given our geographic locations, we will remain dependent on the European economy, whether we like it or not. All other things being equal, having one complicated rule is better than having 28 more, mostly, or less, sometimes, complicated rules.
Furthermore, we need you Brits in Europe, to make us strong enough to face Putin and ISIS, as a partner to US, in the fight against climate change and to make European markets as open as possible.