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Monday, 6 November, 2000, 13:41 GMT
Call to free up single market
CBI logo
by BBC News Online's Alex Hunt at the CBI conference

The chairman of KitKat maker Nestlé says the high value of the pound against the euro, together with the BSE crisis, has provided a double blow to UK business.

Peter Blackburn, who is also president of the UK Food and Drink Federation, said the value of goods exported to countries in the European single market fell from £9.9bn in 1997 to £8.8bn last year.

The main problem was the strength of the pound against the euro, he said.

But trust in the UK food industry had fallen in general as a result of the BSE crisis.

Mr Blackburn said that further reform of the Common Agricultural Policy was needed - pointing out that his firm's chocolate ingredients cost more in Europe than they would on the world market.

Qualified yes

He also attacked the bureaucracy and slow decision making within the European Commission, and the knock-on effect of the UK having a strict regulatory culture.

"The recent EU proposal on abattoirs ran to 12 pages in Brussels, was seven pages when the French had dealt with it, but over 90 pages when it had been through Whitehall."

But Mr Blackburn said his answer to the question of whether the single market was delivering was a qualified yes.

Sir Anthony Bamford, chairman and managing director of JC Bamford Excavators, was more critical of the single market's operation.

His examples were paying tax twice in two countries for oil for his tractors, and the fact that there were no consistent speed limits across borders.

"I'm not questioning the need for strong regulations. But what we have is too much regulation. And the effect of that has been to defend and entrench inefficiency... at the expense of open markets and honest competition," he said.

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