* Cutting red tape part of campaign to keep UK in the EU
* EU pilloried for rules from hairdressing to bottled water
By Robin Emmott
BRUSSELS, Oct 25 British Prime Minister David
Cameron pressed European leaders on Friday to scrap red tape
that London says is strangling small companies, but won from
them only a vague commitment to lighten regulation.
Armed with a 60-page report and accompanied by prominent
business leaders, Cameron set out to tackle the grievances of
British Eurosceptics who complain the bloc's rules are petty,
pernicious and overbearing.
"I've brought some of the best business brains in Britain
here to Brussels to talk about the regulation we can cut,"
Cameron said as he arrived at the second day of the EU summit.
In the marble summit building in Brussels, Cameron sought
support from German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other EU
leaders during a meeting that included the head of the European
Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso.
The chief executive of Marks & Spencer, one of
Britain's best-known shopping chains, was also present.
Cutting regulation is at the heart of Cameron's campaign to
convince British voters that remaining in the 28-nation bloc of
500 million people is in Britain's interest before a promised
referendum on its continued membership.
Cameron has promised a referendum if he is re-elected in
2015, but Britain's allies such as free-trade advocates Germany
and the Netherlands are loathe to see London leave.
In their final summit statement, EU leaders will promise to
support the Commission in its efforts to scale back unnecessary
laws under a programme dubbed "REFIT" in Brussels.
Leaders will welcome "the steps taken by the member states
and the EU aimed at better identification of excessively
burdensome regulation," the summit statement will say, according
to a draft copy seen by Reuters.
"Substantial efforts are required in this respect, both at
EU and national levels," it will say.
The global financial crisis and the euro zone's debt
troubles have badly damaged trust in the European Union while
mistrust of EU lawmaking has grown as the European Commission,
the EU executive, takes on more power to coordinate a club that
has expanded across Eastern Europe over the past decade.
Critics have pilloried the Commission for rules such as one
preventing drinkmakers from claiming that water can treat
dehydration. Brussels has had to drop plans to force restaurants
to serve olive oil in sealed bottles instead of dipping bowls.
Cameron's report on red tape, compiled by business leaders
and chaired by Business Minister Michael Fallon, said there were
too many "pointless, burdensome and costly regulations".
It makes more than 30 recommendations, in areas from
environmental safeguards to paid maternity leave. For instance,
dropping an EU rule that requires firms to keep health and
safety records could save 2.7 billion euros ($3.67 billion), it
The Commission said this month it will review EU laws and be
careful when writing new ones, marking a change of tone at the
body that proposes laws for the bloc's members.
Barroso has said the Commission has cut the cost of
administrative burdens by 32.3 billion euros over the last five
years and scrapped 5,590 legal acts.
But with the Commission responsible for regulating across
all areas of European industry and in the process of overhauling
the continent's financial architecture, there is little prospect
of a huge reduction in the number of EU laws.