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David Cameron gets Barroso backing to limit EU red tape

image captionThe UK and Germany have led calls for greater deregulation to increase competitiveness

David Cameron has won the backing of EU chief Jose Manuel Barroso for his push to limit the number of new regulations coming out of Brussels.

The two chaired a meeting of EU leaders on the issue at Friday's summit.

The prime minister has said firms are being "throttled" by red tape and for every regulation and directive introduced another should be removed.

Mr Barroso said more needed to be done to ensure "lighter, simpler, cheaper, common-sense regulation".

The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, has said it has already cut 5,590 regulations since 2005.

Mr Cameron is committed to renegotiating the UK's relationship with the EU if the Conservative Party wins the next election, ahead of an "in-out" referendum on whether the country should remain a member.

'Strong commitment'

In the meantime, he is promising to work to reduce the bureaucracy facing companies.

Conservative sources say he wants to see 1,500 regulations reviewed.

Eighty business leaders, including the chairmen of BT and Asda, have signed a letter calling for a "strong commitment" by the government towards this and several have accompanied Mr Cameron to Brussels to make the case.

The prime minister has made the issue the central objective of the two-day European Council meeting.

He held one-to-one meetings with the leaders of Germany and the Netherlands, who share similar views on deregulation, and co-chaired a meeting with the leaders of Poland, Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Italy and Estonia, who are also sympathetic.

"The Commission has done an excellent job in lifting the burden of bureaucracy. Now I want to get business engaged," he said, adding that a faster pace of deregulation was essential to getting firms to "compete and succeed".

Mr Barroso, the Commission's president, said he appreciated that businesses needed a single set of rules, rather than 28 different bodies of national regulation, for the single market to work and for the important digital economy to continue to grow.

Acknowledging that "useless laws weaken necessary laws", he said there were other areas where it was necessary to cut bureaucracy without reducing standards of consumer protection, health and safety and environmental concerns.

"That is why we have to slash red tape," he said.

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