It may not be George Orwell’s “1984” just yet, but Britain already ranks in the top 3 in the EU for government interference, according to a report on Thursday.
The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) has released its “Nanny State Index,” which ranks EU countries based on “excessive” government regulation and “sin taxes.”
Finland and Sweden came first and second respectively, while the UK came third.
Ireland and Hungary completed the top five.
The most “free” countries in the EU include Germany, Netherlands, and the Czech Republic.
Among the main reasons for the UK’s high placing are:
- The highest taxes on wine and cigarettes in the EU.
- The second-highest beer duty after Finland.
- The most “draconian” smoking ban in the EU.
The UK ranks the worst for tobacco, fourth-worst for alcohol, and seventh-worst for food and soft drinks in the index.
Tobacco duty in the UK is currently 16.5% of the retail price plus an added £3.93 ($5.65) for a packet of 20 cigarettes. Wine duty is £2.78 per litre.
The one bright spot was the country’s lax laws on e-cigarettes, for which it scored a perfect zero.
The report takes issue with “paternalistic laws,” which are often said to be justified on health grounds, when analysis of the figures found “no link” between regulation and life expectancy.
“Countries with heavy regulation of alcohol do not have lower rates of drinking, and countries with heavy regulation of tobacco do not have lower rates of smoking,” it added.
Christopher Snowdon, Head of Lifestyle Economics at the IEA, said the results should worry Brits — and those who wanted less government interference should look elsewhere:
“Britain is the third-worst country in the EU for lifestyle freedoms. Only Finland and Sweden are worse places to be a drinker and nowhere is worse to be a smoker. The UK’s only saving grace is its liberal approach to e-cigarettes but all in all the results make depressing reading for those of us who want the government to keep out of our private lives. Unless you are a teetotal, non-smoking vegetarian, my advice is to go to Germany or the Czech Republic this summer.”
The report comes just two weeks after UK Chancellor George Osborne announced a new sugar tax on soft drinks.