Ripping up EU red tape gives UK companies more chance of winning £300bn projects

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Smaller firms will be free to go up against giant conglomerates for projects worth £300billion a year.

In a post-Brexit shake-up, Boris Johnson is ripping up strict regulations dating back to our membership of the EU, giving firms a better chance of winning multi-million pound contracts to build hospitals, schools and roads. Officials say the current system, imposed by Brussels and rolled over into UK law after our withdrawal from the bloc, is too bureaucratic.

They want a new streamlined procurement system across Whitehall departments that boosts home-grown firms and prioritises creating jobs, rather than only benefiting multinational corporations.

Steve Barclay, the Cabinet Office Minister who is leading the shake-up, said: “Leaving the EU gives us the perfect chance to make our own rules for how the Government’s purchasing power can be used to promote strong ­values. While doing so we’re increasing transparency and ­ensuring that procurement remains fair and open.

“These simpler and more flexible rules will also make it easier for small businesses to win work – placing levelling up at its heart.”

Mr Barclay’s plan is part of Mr Johnson’s “levelling up” drive, which aims to spread wealth and prosperity more evenly across the country by prioritising investment and growth in previously neglected regions.

He will publish the proposed new rules today in the Government’s response to a consultation process launched after a “green paper” policy document released earlier this year.

Brexit Minister Lord Frost said: “These reforms are just one of the many areas where we are taking advantage of our exit from the EU’s rules to design a procurement system that is better tailored to the UK and our economic needs.

“They will open up new ­opportunities for our small ­businesses to win public contracts, boost efficiency and competition, and deliver better results for UK taxpayers.”

The move follows the collapse of the outsourcing giant Carillion in 2018.

More than 3,000 jobs were lost and 450 public sector projects including hospitals, schools and prisons were plunged into crisis.

Under the shake-up, ministers responsible for Government ­procurement decisions will be able to give more weight to bids that create jobs for communities, ­prioritise the economic recovery from the pandemic and support the transition to “net zero” carbon emissions.

Community leaders are expected to get a greater say over investments that could boost the local private sector.

Ministers will also be able to block companies from winning public contracts if they have a track record of poor delivery, fraud or corruption.

Small and medium-sized firms, which currently account for around a third of public ­expenditure, will be given an ­easier process for bidding and winning Government contracts.

In a break with the previous rules, ministers will be permitted to take the potential for creating new businesses and jobs in the UK into account in contract decisions.

Hundreds of complicated and bureaucratic regulations inherited from Brussels are due to be torn up in the overhaul.

Suppliers will have a single online registration point to submit bids for contracts to increase the efficiency and overall simplicity of the system.

Ministers believe the current rules discourage smaller firms from applying because of the bureaucracy and complexity of the process.

Mike Cherry, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “The Government has made this promise before, and it’s important this time it means it.

“As many public sector contracts as possible should be broken down into smaller parts, to avoid contracts being so big that only a few corporate giants are able to bid for them.

“We saw the risk of putting all the procurement eggs in one basket with the collapse of Carillion a few years ago.

“By making more contracts open to smaller firms, there will be greater competition, and a greater range of options on the table.”



Taking back control was one of the main reasons the people of Britain voted to leave the European Union. We got Brexit done so that we could run our country in our interests and set the rules that we live under.

Outside the EU’s cumbersome vaccine procurement scheme, we were able to roll out one of the fastest Covid vaccine programmes in the world, allowing us to live with the virus without significant restrictions on our freedoms.

And now we’re turning to public procurement. We are replacing the needlessly complicated rules which dictate how we spend our own public money – £300billion on vital projects every year – with new rules that will be good for small businesses and good for taxpayers, helping unite and level up the country.

Under the EU rules, highly experienced officials are denied the chance to negotiate freely during the development of contracts for projects like new schools and hospitals. This inflexibility means all too often contracts are won by bigger firms with poor records for delivery.

Now, beyond the reach of Brussels, we are putting the British public at the heart of everything we do.

That means scrapping the red tape snarling up procurement rules, which discouraged many small businesses from even bidding. It also means toughening up our approach on excluding suppliers that leave a trail of abysmal delivery and waste.

As for the officials who award public contracts, they will be encouraged to look beyond the big businesses which pledge to deliver the work at the lowest price.

They can take into account the bigger picture: how the project will create jobs for local people; support communities to build back better from the pandemic and help award more contracts to companies that support our military veterans.

With more transparency, people will be able to see exactly where their hard-earned cash is going – even in an emergency as grave as the peak of the pandemic.

This is a key Brexit opportunity. Better value for money will feed through to local communities, which will feel the benefits first and faster.

  • Steve Barclay is the Cabinet Office Minister

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