A Tory Cabinet minister has hit out at “mad” Brussels red tape, warning that it will end up costing British jobs.
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling accused EU policy-makers of being oblivious to the scale of the economic challenge from China and other global rivals.
“It's become obvious that many senior people in Brussels are simply not living in the real world,” Mr Grayling said in an interview with The Sunday Telegraph. “They are caught up in a dogma that says the solution to every problem is more European regulation.”
The critical comments are the latest by a senior Conservative Eurosceptic, after Cabinet colleagues Michael Gove and Philip Hammond both indicated that they would currently vote to leave the EU in a referendum.
Those interventions provoked irritation in Downing Street - but Mr Grayling is unlikely to face a rebuke as he focused his fire on unelected commissioners.
The minister was discussing the long-running row over moves by Brussels to reform data protection laws.
Critics of the plans, including Britain, the Netherlands and Belgium, warn small and medium-sized businesses suffer through having to monitor, track and manage the data they hold.
A government impact assessment of the proposals reportedly suggested businesses in the UK would face extra costs of around £360 million a year.
Mr Grayling said: “This is a prime example of European legislation which will evidently have an impact on the competitiveness of Europe and will impact on employment in Europe at a time when we have really very serious levels of unemployment in the EU.
“They all too often seem completely oblivious to the potential consequences of what they are doing. Britain and Europe are in a global race. We face intense competition from around the world. UK and EU business are fighting through difficult times to be able to keep up employment levels and win business around the world.
“If the EU keeps on trying to produce more and more complex laws that put more and more costs on to business, it's just going to cost jobs, and that would be mad.
“The people bringing forward proposals at the moment seem to have little idea of the reality of the political and democratic challenges.”
Mr Grayling said the commission's bid to force the UK to give EU migrants more rights to benefits - which the Government has promised to fight - was another “prime example” of how Brussels is “more and more divorced from the political challenges member states face”.
Amid a rising threat from the UK Independence Party (Ukip), Mr Grayling invoked Europe as a reason to vote Conservative.
“We can't let Ed Miliband and Ed Balls, the political heirs of Gordon Brown, the man who signed the disastrous Lisbon Treaty, back into Downing Street,” he said.
“They would pursue the same strategy of supporting more and more 'Europeanisation' of our laws.”
Some Tories are said to be planning a series of international “summits” attended by politicians, business leaders and lawyers from across the EU to discuss how it could be reformed and powers repatriated.