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UK economy 'no more free in 2014'

28/01/14

Despite tax cuts for businesses and reductions in government spending, the UK's economy is no more free than it was at the start of 2013, according to the latest report by the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal.

The organisation defines economic freedom as "the fundamental right of every human to control his or her own labour and property", positing that this is a crucial factor in driving up prosperity and wealth - at least for business leaders.

However, the UK continues to lag behind European counterparts such as Ireland and Switzerland, the study found.

"The ideals of economic freedom are strongly associated with healthier societies, cleaner environments, greater per capita wealth, human development, democracy, and poverty elimination," claimed the report.

Overall, the UK scored 74.9 out of 100, a meagre increase of 0.1 per cent compared to its score 12 months ago. It remains ranked at fifth among its European counterparts, meaning the government is unlikely to be overly concerned at this lack of improvement.

Heritage claims that the country's openness to international investment and powerful property rights are factors in keeping it in such a relatively high position, despite having a less liberal economic policy than the likes of Denmark.

Europe exceeds the world average in eight out of ten categories, with margins of 14 or more points in property rights, freedom from corruption, investment freedom, business freedom and financial freedom.

But the picture is not so rosy when we look at the 20 years in which the survey has been running - the UK has seen its ranking gradually eroded, partly because of increased taxation from successive governments.

Hong Kong and Singapore are the freest countries named in the survey, which goes some way to explaining their ongoing attractiveness to international businesses and investors keen to gain a foothold in new markets.

Switzerland - widely considered an international financial services hub - came in at third.

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