Red Tape Initiative

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The Red Tape Initiative was established in December 2016 by Oliver Letwin to identify and cut EU regulations – 'red tape' – that it sees as 'impeding business' as part of the Brexit process.

It describes itself as a 'non-partisan project, bringing together remainers and leavers in all three major UK-wide political parties to forge a consensus on the regulatory changes that could benefit both businesses and their employees in a post-Brexit Britain.'[1]


Beginning in April 2017, the initiative plans to launch around 10 sector-based inquiries. These inquiries will 'seek views on what EU constraints could be jettisoned in the interests of boosting productivity'.[2]

The first sectors to be looked at are, or are likely to be:[3]

  • housebuilding, beginning in June 2017 with an 'industry-sector panel with input from various groups including the TUC, CBI and the Home Builders Federation. It is expected to conclude early in 2018.
  • infrastructure construction
  • training and apprenticeships.

Relationship with Brexit

Letwin says the project will play role between the Great Repeal Bill (that will “repatriate” EU law to this country), and the negotiations required to create new trading terms with the remaining 27 member states. According to Letwin, it is interested in identifying “quick win” burden removals that affect the UK, but are unlikely to be affected by trade negotiations.

“The aim is to get things prepared, perhaps in time for the commencement of the Brexit negotiations, and the introduction of the Great Reform Bill,” Letwin said. “This will be about things that could be changed quite quickly after that."[4]

Business secretary Greg Clark had written to the initiative, offering the cooperation of staff at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Lobbying connections

  • Policy Exchange; as George Monbiot pointed out in the Guardian in July 2017, the Red Tape Initiative has numerous links with the Policy Exchange think tank, or 'neoliberal lobby group funded by dark money' as Monbiot puts it.
    • Charles Moore, RTI advisory board member; former chair of Policy Exchange. Moore was also best man at Oliver Letwin’s wedding.
    • Archie Norman, RTI advisory board member; founder of Policy Exchange. Norman was once Conservative MP for Tunbridge Wells and was succeeded in that seat by Greg Clark, the minister who now provides government support for the Red Tape Initiative.
    • Michael Gove, ex-RTI advisory board member (until he was made Environment Secretary in June 2017); appointed by Archie Norman as the first chairman of Policy Exchange (replaced by Moore).
    • Policy Exchange also supplied two of Letwin’s staff in the Conservative policy unit that he used to run.[5]

In May 2017 RTI commissioned lobbying firm Hanbury Strategy to conduct 'in house research' and create a 'series of reports' that will be 'presented to the RTI in order to better inform its own campaign and supplement their own research efforts'.[6]

According to the Advisory Committee on Business Appointment, which 'approved' the commission, 'throughout the research project, Hanbury will not be working with other organisations and any work done with other organisations by the RTI, will be independent of Hanbury.

Two of Hanbury's employees work for the RTI.


Women are noticably under-represented in the initiative. None of its staff are women; only one of its four board members is a woman; two of its ten advisory board members are women; and there are no women on its legal panel (8 members).



Advisory Panel

Legal panel


  1. About, Red Tape Iniative website, accessed June 2017
  2. Letwin reveals details of Brexit-focused initiative to cut red tape, Civil Service World, 24 April 2017
  3. Letwin reveals details of Brexit-focused initiative to cut red tape, Civil Service World, 24 April 2017
  4. Letwin reveals details of Brexit-focused initiative to cut red tape, Civil Service World, 24 April 2017
  5. George Monbiot, The Grenfell inquiry will be a stitch-up. Here’s why, Guardian, 5 July 2017
  6. May's ex-press aide joins Hanbury Strategy as agency bags Brexit briefs, PR Week, 14 June 2017
  7. Nick Tyrone, Linkedin Profile, accessed June 2017