London – Brexit offers an opportunity for chemicals makers to challenge Brussels politicians over their ‘fantasy-land’ approach to industrial policy and regulation, according to Heinz Haller, executive vice president Europe, Dow Chemical and chair of Cefic’s industrial policy programme council.
Addressing a 17 Nov Chemical Industries Association (CIA) conference on Brexit in London, Haller said the UK vote to leave the EU was just one example of a disconnect between governments and people around the Western world.
“After Brexit and now Trump, the frustration of our citizens must be obvious to all,” he said. “And if citizens feel that Brussels is a remote bubble, more concerned with its own politics than the outside world, most of us who so business with Brussels know that they are right.
“The European institutions and the member states are failing in their task of making Europe a more prosperous and competitive place to do business. This is a statement of fact and it is about time the politicians start to realise that.”
Haller went on to say that businesses, such as Dow's, feel under threat from “politicised decision-making with very little respect for scientific evidence or the realities for the global economy.”
The Dow executive blamed Brussels bureaucracy and over-regulation for the loss of Europe’s leadership in agriculture biotechnology to North America, adding that the region’s position in new inorganic-chemistry was now under threat.
“Sometimes it really feels like an Alice in Wonderland world,” commented Haller, pointing to a recent EC study showing that regulation was costing the European chemicals industry €10 billion a year – around 12% of the industry’s ‘value-add’.
“Competition for markets, technologies, talent and capital is not limited to the EU or the UK. Our competition is global and we need government policies, both before and after Brexit, that support rather than damage our global competitiveness,” he continued.
The industry’s baseline in the Brexit negotiations must be “no damage to manufacturing industry” advised the Dow VP, adding that everyone in Europe should want to see a vibrant and successful EU.
In the negotiations, Cefic’s key demands are for: continued tariff-free market in Europe including between the UK and EU; access to skilled people; secure and affordable energy supplies; strong R&D investment; and greater respect for science and the weight of scientific evidence in regulatory decision-making.
“It is clear we have a challenge in front of us but I prefer to look at it as an opportunity to make both the UK and EU a more prosperous and competitive place to do business,” Haller concluded at the CIA event. “Our industry is very ready to step up and do so, and the UK government, EU institutions and 27 member states also need to understand the necessity to step up to their responsibilities.”