The Welsh Government has long been clear in its view that strong regulation plays a positive role in society; helping protect the public, create competitive markets, and provide certainty for businesses. 

This position has remained consistent in the wake of the 2016 EU referendum, with Welsh ministers clearly stating their intention to keep domestic standards high, regardless of the terms of the UK’s exit.

And this rhetoric has been translated into policy: while in many areas the powers for standards-setting lie with the UK government, in those that don’t, Welsh standards often exceed those set in Westminster.

However, deregulatory concerns in Wales remain. While the current Welsh Government is on the right track, more could be done to drive high standards across a number of policy areas, as we find in our recent report: “Safeguarding standards: why Wales should lead the way”. 

And as the UK embarks on trade negotiations with countries around the world, there is a risk of a race to the bottom on standards in non-devolved policy areas. What’s more, Westminster-based proponents of deregulation continue to argue that regulation stifles economic growth and restricts individual liberty. 

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This is part of a narrative that says that the vote to leave to the EU represented a rejection of regulation.  But with a little digging, it's clear that this lazy analysis simply doesn’t hold true.

New polling - carried out for Unchecked UK by YouGov - provides specific insight into what level of public protection Welsh voters are likely to find acceptable.  We asked voters across ages, regions, social grades and political persuasions to share their views on the importance, or otherwise, of regulations and standards across a number of different areas; including environmental protection, employee laws, food safety and standards, and enforcement of tax laws.

The poll finds that Welsh voters are strongly supportive of regulations across public life, with little enthusiasm for a weakening of regulatory standards post-Brexit, and this holds true across the political spectrum, as well as on both sides of the Brexit debate.

The results of the poll show that the desire for strong protections and standards runs deep. We find that Welsh voters support keeping or strengthening EU-derived rules, such as food safety standards, protections for habitats and wildlife, workplace health and safety protections, and regulations on the production and use of chemicals.

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When it comes to workplace protections, the views of deregulatory proponents are out of step with the views of Welsh voters. The Welsh public think that employment regulations are necessary to “ensure Welsh businesses operate fairly”, “to protect people”, and to “ensure a level playing field for Welsh businesses.” Three quarters of voters would like to see workplace health and safety regulations maintained or strengthened.

Support for regulations is high among Leave voters, as well as Remain voters. 78% of Leave voters, for example, think that the UK government should strengthen or keep health and safety regulations, and 86% think that protections for wildlife and habitats should be strengthened or maintained. Across all areas, no more than 9% think EU-derived protections should be weakened or removed.

There is also little appetite for less regulation of businesses.  Indeed, we found support for tougher rules on businesses in a number of areas, including stronger enforcement of tax rules, with over three-quarters of Welsh voters supporting this. Welsh voters also strongly think that businesses who are applying for Welsh Government business support or procurement contracts should be made to adhere to fair work practices.

With Senedd elections rapidly approaching, it's clear from our research that strengthening public protections is a potential vote winner. Certainly, the deregulatory aspirations of the UK Conservative government are not shared by the Welsh public.

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That’s why, ahead of the elections, we are calling on all candidates and political parties to do both the right, and the popular, thing, and to commit not only to maintaining and strengthening public standards, but to advocate for strong protections as an integral part of Wales’ future as a prosperous, thriving and fair economy and society.  We encourage MSs and candidates to sign our pledge to show your commitment to strengthening standards across public life.

Emma Rose is director and co-founder of Unchecked UK, which promotes the case for regulation in society. Read Unchecked's polling to find out more.