Cookies on Pinsent Masons website

This website uses cookies to allow us to see how the site is used. The cookies cannot identify you. If you continue to use this site we will assume that you are happy with this

If you want to use the sites without cookies or would like to know more, you can do that here.

New Single Market Act will break down unnecessary barriers to trade, says UK

The European Commission has published 12 proposals that it said would further integrate national economies into a single EU market. This will help to integrate vital infrastructure and make it easier for businesses to operate across borders, the Commission said.04 Oct 2012

The Commission has called the proposals 'Single Market Act II', following a 'Single Market Act' that it published in April 2011.

The Single Market Act II sets out "12 key actions" for "rapid adoption" by member states centred on integrated networks, cross-border mobility of citizens and businesses, the digital economy and cohesion and consumer benefits. It has been published in the run-up to 'Single Market Week', a programme of events marking 20 years of an integrated European trading bloc.

The UK's Business Secretary, Vince Cable, welcomed the proposals which he said reflected "lobbying by the UK and other like-minded member states" to ensure unnecessary burdens on companies and barriers to trade were removed.

"The single market is good for British businesses and the UK has always been a champion of the single market – it makes trade easier, gets us access to markets and is a significant market in itself for British companies," he said. "Single Market Act II will help improve the way the market functions, and bring it up to date. The UK has been closely involved in making sure that the Act brings forward the improvements needed, opening up new markets without placing additional burdens on European companies."

The European Commission will host an online debate on the proposals on 10 October, before Single Market Week itself. It plans to put forward legislative proposals contained in the Act by spring next year, with a view to adoption by the European Parliament and Council by spring 2014. All other proposals will be put forward by the end of 2013, it said.

The proposals follow the Commission's first Single Market Act, published in April last year. Many of its provisions will not be in force until the end of this year; however, the Commission said in an online FAQ that the new actions were necessary as "the effects of the crisis are still hitting Europe hard".

"Growth needs to be revived, unemployment is persistently high, in particular among young people, and a part of the European population is living in poverty," the document said. "The Single Market can do more to bring about new growth and jobs, to strengthen citizens' and businesses' confidence and to deliver concrete day-to-day-benefits to them."

The EU's single market is the common area between its 27 member states where goods, services, capital and persons can freely circulate. It also ensures that European citizens can live, work, study and do business where they want freely across the EU.

The first part of the Act focuses on further integration of Europe's transport and energy networks, described as the "backbone" of the single market. Amongst other measures the Act will open up domestic rail services to competitors from elsewhere in Europe, remove administrative and customs formalities for EU goods transported between EU seaports and accelerate the implementation of the 'Single European Sky', which the Commission claims will save around €5bn a year in costs relating to current fragmentation. It also proposes "actions to make the application of existing EU energy legislation effective" through its Third Energy Package, potentially opening up international suppliers to consumers.

Measures are also included to address the "practical and legal barriers" that exist to the free movement of citizens, business activities and investment funding through the EU. The European Job Mobility Portal, EURES, will be developed into a "fully-fledged cross-border job placement and recruitment tool" while changes will be made to make long-term investment funds for private companies and long term projects more mobile. The Act will also modernise insolvency proceedings, particularly in cross-border cases, with an emphasis on offering "second chances to failing entrepreneurs".

A 'digital single market' will, the Commission said, be completed by 2015. To facilitate this, the Single Market Act II aims to make payment services easier to use and make electronic invoicing standard in publicly procured projects. It also aims to cut the "civil engineering costs" of high speed broadband, improve the enforcement of product safety rules and take action to ensure widespread access to bank accounts with transparent fees and easier switching.

Michel Barnier, European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services, described the Act as "a call to us, policy-makers, to get down to business, focus minds and deliver".

"The single market can do more for European citizens and businesses," he said. "I am convinced that the twelve key actions that we are presenting today will receive the degree of political ownership that they deserve. This is our chance to use our golden asset, the single market, to see our social market economy be competitive and thrive again."