Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

PM seeks backing in red tape battle

Prime Minister David Cameron is seeking a big cut in EU red tape.

David Cameron today spoke by phone with fellow European leaders to try to build support behind his drive for a cull of EU red tape.

The Prime Minister aims to use a summit of the European Council in Brussels this week to argue the case for sweeping away bureaucratic rules which he believes threaten economic growth.

He today spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande to set out the findings of a business task force which last week warned the UK Cabinet that "problematic, poorly-understood and burdensome European rules" are slowing production, job creation, sales and innovation and left Europe trailing international trading rivals.

The calls followed phone discussions over the weekend with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and on Friday with Italian PM Enrico Letta and Dutch PM Mark Rutte.

Mr Cameron's official spokesman told reporters: "The Prime Minister was able to set out his desire to see progress on this at the European Council this week.

"All of them welcomed the Prime Minister's initiative in this area and agreed that leaders should be discussing this in Brussels this week."

The PM's initiative came as a report warned that the 100 most expensive EU regulations are costing the UK economy a total of £27.4 billion a year, with 24 of them imposing financial burdens greater than the stated benefits from implementing them.

Thinktank Open Europe said that the most costly Brussels rules were the CRD IV package of capital rules for banks, which could be expected to cost £4.5 billion a year, the Working Time Directive (£4.1bn a year), t he EU Climate and Energy Package (£3.4bn), the Temporary Agency Workers Directive (£2bn) and the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (£1.5bn).

Leaders of the 28 EU states will discuss action to cut back red tape on the first evening of the two-day summit on Thursday.

The spokesman added: "One of the reasons why this is such an active issue in Brussels is because Britain has been pressing so hard on this agenda.

"Action around competitiveness and flexibility is urgently needed, so we want to work with other countries to drive through this agenda urgently."

The business task force, which included Marks & Spencer chief executive Marc Bolland and Kingfisher boss Ian Cheshire, proposed a "common sense filter" to ensure new regulation was pro-growth and could be balanced by cutting red tape elsewhere.

It called for small businesses in low-risk sectors to be exempted from keeping written health and safety assessments and one-man gardening and carpentry outfits from having to register to transport waste.

And it warned that p lans for extended EU-wide maternity leave rights would cost UK businesses £2.5 billion and should be halted.

Open Europe Analyst Vincenzo Scarpetta said: "According to the UK Government's own figures, we know that nearly a quarter of the EU's most costly regulations impose a net cost on the UK economy. At a time when businesses across Europe are desperately struggling for growth, it is hard to understand how policymakers can knowingly impose costs on the economy that outweigh the stated benefits of regulation."

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