Leading European Union companies feel excluded from decisions made in Brussels and are often frustrated about the way its laws are implemented by member states, according to a survey released by Clifford Chance, the law firm.

The research, which is based on interviews with more than 150 companies in eight EU countries, showed that many businesses consider EU laws are more effective than national legislation.

The European Commission announced plans late last year to repeal or amend more than 200 EU laws and almost 1,500 related legal instruments, as part of a three-year programme to simplify and improve legislation.

“We are seeing a clear trend of businesses feeling out of step with EU legislators as new regulations come out of Brussels,” Stuart Popham, senior partner at Clifford Chance, writes in the introduction to the report.

“Smaller firms in particular cannot afford to keep tabs on new developments, and larger businesses appear to engage too little and too late.”

The survey concludes that fewer than one in three of the companies think EU law-makers are listening to them, with 30 per cent saying they simply have no idea whether their views are being taken into account. Just over half of large companies think it is difficult or very difficult to give feedback on EU laws, rising to two-thirds among small and medium-sized enterprises.

The businesses complain most about the length and cost of the EU’s bureaucratic process, and about the inconsistent application of laws at member state level.

The survey is based on interviews with companies of varying sizes and from a range of sectors in the UK, France, Germany, Hungary, Poland, the Netherlands, Italy and Spain. Clifford Chance, which is based in London, advises companies on trends in EU law and liaises with legislators and regulators on behalf of its clients.

Almost half the businesses surveyed said EU rules were “much better” or “slightly better” than national laws, with only about a third arguing the opposite. More than 40 per cent of the companies thought the impact of EU lawmaking on their businesses would be “generally positive” over the next two years, against less than 20 per cent that thought it would be “generally negative”.

The report highlights shortcomings in the way companies deal with the EU, saying that neither they nor their trade bodies engage sufficiently with lawmakers. Only 25 per cent of businesses employ specialists to deal with EU affairs.

The Commission said in March that it planned to withdraw more than a third of 183 proposed new EU laws, in part because they were outdated or did not meet its ambitions to improve regulation.

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