The European Commission (EC) has put forward steps to make the EU single market work better for consumers and businesses. Meanwhile, a new study shows that the EU’s 2006 Services Directive slashing cross-border red tape is on course to increase UK gross domestic product (GDP) by 1% over 10 years. More ambitious implementation EU-wide could boost UK GDP by 3% and cut administrative costs for EU businesses by about £32bn (€40bn).
The Directive covers services sectors which amount to 45% of EU GDP and where UK companies are strong performers. The UK has been a strong supporter of both the single market and the Services Directive since their inception.
In this package, the EC promises tougher and quicker enforcement of key single market rules at EU level and calls for the same at national level.
It also calls on Member States to provide better information and services – especially IT tools to simplify administration – for businesses wanting to operate across borders. For its part, the EC pledges to work to boost such provision at EU level and link it better to national networks.
Member States are urged to make cross-border problem-solving and redress systems for consumers and businesses more efficient and more accessible.
There is a particular focus on services. The EC releases a study showing that the Services Directive has led to the scrapping of hundreds of obstructive rules across the EU, which were holding back small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in areas like construction, tourism and retail. As a result, Europe is on course over 10 years for a lasting boost of 0.8% of EU GDP, with the UK benefitting to the tune of 1% of GDP.
Getting rid of other unnecessary restrictions and providing extra help to businesses, particularly SMEs, could increase that to 2.6%. The UK is one of the Member States that would gain most, with a potential GDP boost of 3% if implementation was radically stepped up across Europe.
To help take full advantage of the potential of services to provide more growth and jobs in Europe, the EC demands that Member States remove remaining rules discriminating against service providers from other EU countries and improve the speed and efficiency of recognising professional qualifications from other Member States.
To make life easier for consumers in tough economic times, the EC urges service providers that still do so to stop discriminating against customers from other EU countries, for example by charging them higher prices to buy goods or services – such as car hire – online. The EC emphasises that such discrimination may, depending on the circumstances, be illegal and that it will work with national authorities to step up enforcement where necessary.
The EC commits to working more closely with Member States to help them complete and improve the writing of the Services Directive into national law.
The EC will also work with Member States to spread best practice in the operation of the national one-stop shops set up under the Services Directive and designed to allow entrepreneurs who want to provide services across borders to complete all formalities online. The UK is among the eight countries singled out as having the best performing one-stop shops.
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