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Thirty EU rules should be changed or scrapped, say UK businesses

  • EU regulation is crippling small businesses, UK business leaders say (Photo: Flickr.com)

Thirty pieces of EU legislation should be changed or scrapped, according to a report on business regulation commissioned by the UK government.

The 'Cut EU red tape' report to be published on Tuesday (15 October), focuses on EU legislation related to environmental standards and social protection.

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It also calls for draft rules that would increase maternity rights to be scrapped, and for governments to be given more flexibility in their application of EU laws on agency workers, acquired rights and health and safety.

Meanwhile, the UK should keep its opt-out from the controversial working time directive, which seeks to regulate maximum working hours a week.

The paper, which was drawn up by six UK business leaders appointed by prime minister David Cameron in June, is based on evidence from around 90 UK businesses and organisations as well as 20 from the rest of Europe.

Although the report has not been subject to government approval, it will sit alongside the so-called 'balance of competences' review of EU legislation currently being carried out by the UK government.

Cameron has promised to renegotiate the UK's EU membership terms if his Conservative party wins re-election in 2015, followed by a referendum in 2017.

A number of the report's recommendations are likely to be British demands in any renegotiation talks.

It adds that the EU executive should only table new legislation that meets "the Compete principles", aimed at increasing competitiveness and reducing regulation for businesses. Earlier this month the European Commission presented plans to simplify regulation for businesses as part of its 'Refit' initiative.

Marc Bolland, chief executive of retail giant Marks & Spencer, and one of the report's draftsmen, said that it was aimed at reducing red tape faced by small businesses.

"We looked across the life-span of a business and at the regulatory barriers faced by small businesses and entrepreneurs, whether it is hiring people, developing cross-border trade, and then expanding," he told this website.

He added: "it's not our role to be political but to present the regulatory framework that faces businesses."

"The report is not our judgement as such but a reflection of over 100 business voices," Bolland said.

The report was welcomed by Peter Wilding, director of campaign group British Influence.

"The government should take this report forward now to champion a better regulation agenda by building alliances for reforms at EU level," he said.

However, Patrick Itschert, deputy secretary general of ETUC, which represents trade unions across the EU, cautioned against further cuts to workplace rights.

"The solution for the UK is not more flexibility and longer hours, but quite the reverse," he said, adding that European countries with high levels of social protection were also the most productive.

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