At a meeting in Brussels, EU heads of government agreed a target to reduce administrative burdens by 25% by 2012, in 13 policy areas, including company law, health and safety and employment, which have been identified as imposing the largest administrative burdens on business.
The commission estimates that this initiative could benefit European businesses by £100bn.
Hilary Armstrong, minister for the Cabinet Office, hailed the move as a crucial step towards improving the competitiveness of European business.
“Red tape is both costly and irritating for business, particularly SMEs. In a globalised economy, we have to get rid of unnecessary bureaucracy if we are to compete successfully.”
John Cridland, deputy director-general of the CBI, said: “With so much of the regulatory burden facing UK businesses stemming from Brussels, this commitment is very welcome.
“The UK’s target to reduce red tape by 25% has already started to focus civil servants’ minds on the need to lighten the regulatory load, and to shift ingrained attitudes towards risk and regulation.”
The measurement work is due to run until the end of 2008, and the commission is expected to make firm proposals to reduce administrative burdens at the meeting of the European Council in March 2009.