Cut red tape so firms can use AI, urges task force leader

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Sir Iain Duncan Smith, the former Tory leader, is leading efforts to find the best ways the UK can take advantage of its newfound regulatory freedoms. – Paul Grover/The Telegraph

Boris Johnson should rip up European Union rules to allow British companies to take more advantage of new technologies such as artificial intelligence, a taskforce chief overseeing plans to rip up Brexit red tape says today.

Sir Iain Duncan Smith, the former Tory leader, is leading efforts to find the best ways the UK can take advantage of its newfound regulatory freedoms.

The new Taskforce for Innovation and Growth through Regulatory Reform will identify and develop proposals across a range of areas that will drive innovation and competitiveness for UK companies.

Number 10 said it would seek to reduce barriers to start-ups and scale-ups, cut red tape for business, make the most of cutting-edge technologies, and support growth and dynamism right across the UK economy.

Mr Johnson has asked for the taskforce – set up to mark the year anniversary of the UK leaving the European Union on Jan 31 2020 – to report its findings within months.

He has already asked Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, to chair a separate Better Regulation Committee in Downing Street which will focus on cutting EU red tape for businesses.

Mr Johnson said: “The destiny of this great nation now resides firmly in our hands. I take on this duty with a sense of purpose and with the interests of the British public at the heart of everything this Government does.

“That’s why we will look to take advantage of our newfound freedoms over our laws and regulations to create the best environment for business to flourish, whilst always maintaining our high standards. We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to refresh our approach

“I’ve asked fellow MPs to embark on this mission to identify opportunities and think more inventively about how we boost growth, innovation and competition in the UK.”

Writing for the Telegraph, Sir Iain said: “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.”

He added: “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 [Artificial Intelligence] to biotech – to thrive.”

Other members of the taskforce include Theresa Villiers, the former Cabinet minister, and George Freeman, the former Government minister.

Ms Villiers said: “This is a real opportunity to reform regulations so the UK is more competitive. We have the highest standards and we can deliver them in a way that is smarter, more efficient and more modern.

“This is taking advantage of the benefits of Brexit and will be an important way to secure our economic recovery after the coronavirus pandemic.”

Mr Freeman added: “As the UK success with the Oxford vaccine has shown, there are real benefits to the UK being free to be more innovative in life science research, regulation and procurement.

“We have an opportunity to do the same across a range of new high-growth sectors: nutraceuticals, zero-pesticide crops, bio-energy and digital economy – to unlock a global UK innovation economy to turbo post-Covid recovery.”

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