What does Brexit tell us about the regulatory state?

December 13, 2018

One underexplored aspect of the global economy in recent decades has been an explosion in the creation, issuing and enforcement of regulations. 

But is this emerging regulatory state necessary in the modern age, both to protect consumers and adapt to the changing needs of contemporary trade - or is this weight of regulation excessive and harmful to competition? Some even argue that such rules - often issued by unelected officials and removed from the electorate - represent a threat to democracy itself?

Britain’s withdrawal from the EU has revived interest in these issues, since the UK may soon be extricating itself from a weight of historic regulatory rules dating back to the Maastricht Treaty. Yet increasing regulation is actually part of a global trend, with the US, China, and to a lesser extent, Japan also defining the trade landscape through their different regimes. Today, the IEA's Head of Education Dr Steve Davies makes the case that the regulatory state, and its push for harmonisation, is damaging competition. Back in 1970s Europe, he argues, you could determine good regulations from the bad by monitoring each country’s individual rules and regulations and learning from best practice. 

On our podcast today, Steve and the IEA’s Associate Director Kate Andrews discuss these topics and more. If you like what you hear, be sure to subscribe to our podcast channel, IEA Conversations. 

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