U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron said he made progress in his bid to persuade the European Union to cut regulation and ease the administrative burden on businesses.
Britain’s appeal to cut red tape won support from trading nations such as Germany and the Netherlands and may bolster his case to keep the U.K. in the 28-nation bloc. Cameron is attempting to renegotiate the relationship with the EU before a referendum in 2017 on whether to stay in the union.
“You can see a sea change, really, of the thinking here,” Cameron told reporters at the end of a two-day summit of EU leaders. “That is a success story, not just for Britain but a success story for Europe, and I will keep pushing.”
Cameron made 30 proposals where he said mandates should either be scaled back or should go no further, in areas including data protection, workers’ rights, food labeling and environmental reporting. He said there was evidence that the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm responsible for proposing legislation, was listening.
It follows a U.K. government-commissioned report last week put together by six business leaders including Marks & Spencer Group Plc Chief Executive Officer Marc Bolland that included recommendations with the potential to “save EU businesses billions of euros,” according to a letter sent to leaders and signed by 80 businesses across Europe.
Bolland and entrepreneur Dale Murray joined Cameron and European Commission President Jose Barroso at a meeting today with the leaders of Germany, Netherlands, Estonia, Italy, Poland, Sweden and Finland.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told reporters after the summit he saw “very useful points on how to promote businesses.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she welcomed the commission’s own drive to cut red tape. “You wouldn’t have dared to dream of that just a few years ago,” she said.
French President Francois Hollande was not so enthusiastic.
He told reporters at the conclusion of the main summit that while France favored “simplification” of regulations, “the goals of protecting consumers, workers and the environment have to be guaranteed.”
Barroso said the EU has repealed 5,590 legal acts since 2005 and made 32.3 billion euros ($44.6 billion) in administrative savings between 2007 and 2012.
In a joint statement at the end of their summit leaders said they welcomed the commission’s pledge to take “ambitious further steps to make the EU regulatory framework lighter.”