David Cameron wins EU red tape 'victory'

The prime minister has managed to secure a deal to reduce red tape in the European Union. A lifeline to struggling small businesses?

by Michael Northcott
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013

Cameron is now no stranger to gruelling meetings in soup-bowl meeting rooms in Brussels, but rarely does he come away with anything that a sane person might describe as a ‘victory’. But last night, over a dinner in Brussels, he managed to convince EU leaders to make an earlier start to cutting red tape – namely by June this year.

The deal apparently includes provisions for abolishing some regulators altogether, but exactly which ones will not be known until further discussions take place in autumn this year. 

Leaders from the European Council summit released a joint statement on the matter, which said: ‘Further action is required to reduce the overall burden of regulation at EU and national levels, while always taking account of the need for proper protection of consumers and employees.’ Perfectly anodyne.

The specific areas that the EC has identified for ‘burdensome’ rules are data protection laws, ‘elf and safety, working time regulations and also formal procedures for public sector procurement.

Interesting that, at the same time as saying it will reduce the amount of unwanted stuff, the EU is planning to hire another 800 people to the European Central Bank to help fulfil its new duties of supervising all the 6,000 banks in the member states. But then, keeping tabs on banks is politically expedient at the moment…

The prospect of the EU actually managing to cut red tape may seem laughable, akin to turkeys voting for Christmas. But it is a nice, safe topic on which both the PM and EU can agree, and there hasn't been much agreement there recently. Whether it will actually amount to anything more than some decent-sounding rhetoric to bring back to the House of Commons remains to be seen.

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