"A bonfire of the diktats splutters into life as Brussels lights the first match" writes Anthony Browne, Brussels correspondent of The Times.
"Today, in an attempt to staunch the tide of red tape, Patricia Hewitt, secretary of state for trade and industry, and her EU counterparts will agree to simplify and abolish items of legislation, rather than multiplying and complicating them," he informs us.
Sounds good? Read on.
The EU, according to The Times has produced 101,811 regulations since Britain joined in 1973. And guess how many regulations they are putting in this "bonfire"? Perhaps a thousand; two thousand, maybe. Possibly even three of four thousand? Er… no exactly. P. Hewitt and her pals are have picked a mere 15 directives for the treatment - from an original list of 300.
And are these going to be abolished? Er… no, not exactly. Five directives relating to medical devices will be consolidated into two. The contents won’t be reduced, mind you, but they will be printed in three less directives. That’s progress for you.
Then, we are told, smaller companies will be exempted from certain accounting rules – rules most of them ignored anyway. And, for the next trick: "overlapping regulations for disposing of waste oils will be scrapped."
Never mind, at least rules that EU officials admit "serve no obvious purpose" on hazardous waste will be abolished. Whoopeee!!! They’re going to get rid of the "fridge mountain" directive!!!
Silly billy! Rules for transporting empty adhesive containers will be simplified because the EU has realised that they are not as dangerous as full containers. And that’s it. That's it?
OK. So the fridges stay. As a consolation prize, reporting requirements on the health and safety of workers will be reduced from annual to every six years; companies will no longer be required to report the goods in which they trade in weight and volume - just one measurement will do; and directives applying to food and drink labelling will be "streamlined" - not abolished, mind you, just "streamlined".
They really, really do have to be taking the p***!