Tuesday 14 March 2023

EU red tape?


When major projects go wrong, there’s rarely a single, simple cause. That is obviously true in the case of HS2. Certainly it’s been hit by inflation (although the mathematical competence of anyone who argues that spreading the expenditure out over a longer period addresses that is open to serious challenge). The way that the UK has approached such projects is another, and mirrors one of the problems which has bedevilled the electrification of the GWR main line: disbanding the team after one project and starting from scratch a few years later on the next loses expertise and experience. Treating such projects as part of a rolling programme where the team moves from one project to the next, as other European countries have done, is a much more efficient and effective way of building and retaining experience and knowledge. An approach to getting approval which relies on individual business cases for each part of the project rather than taking a wider view (which is how we lost the electrification beyond Cardiff) is another peculiarity of Treasury thinking which makes major projects hard to build. And all that is without the complicated procedure for obtaining the various required consents, largely – to hear the Brexiteers talk – imposed by the EU when the UK was a member.

The visible result of this is a slow and disjointed approach to developing mass high-speed transport in the UK, whilst France, Spain and others have been building complete and coherent networks. One of the consequences is that France is able to talk about banning short haul domestic flights whilst the UK is busily promoting an increase in internal air services by adjusting the taxation regime. Whatever the reasons, it’s clear that construction and infrastructure projects in France can be progressed more quickly and effectively than they can in the UK.

I can’t help but wonder whether that was a factor in the announcement at the end of last week that the UK will pay France to build a detention centre for migrants. Under the new Migration Bill, the UK is going to need a great deal of additional capacity to hold detainees, a policy made especially difficult when Tory MPs (and even government ministers) oppose any and every such centre in their own constituencies. Given the inability of the UK government to build anything very much, it will be cheaper and quicker to pay France to build camps instead (although, unless they’re turning a tidy profit from doing so, the attraction to the French government is rather less clear). Obviously, France is not bound by the same EU red-tape and bureaucracy which is, apparently, doing so much to hold the UK back.

1 comment:

dafis said...

Maybe the French have realised that a good proportion of those detained in those "new" camps can prove to be of real utility to the French economy in that they are skilled or semi skilled. That only leaves criminals and others with suspect motives to be redirected to "other places" - francophone West Africa might be favoured although Rwanda has some of that heritage too. You never know, if UK gov started doing its sums properly and planned ahead they might get round to sorting out our native housing issues and create space for imported talent. Wishful thinking maybe but who knows?