Re-launching the Single Market - European Union Committee Contents


116.  The publication of the Monti Report and the creation of a Single Market Act are evidence that the Commission is taking steps to re-launch the Single Market. Previous chapters have discussed specific ways in which the functioning of the Single Market could be improved. This chapter discusses more general measures which Member States and the EU Institutions could take to promote the Single Market.

The role of Member States

117.  Louis Grech argued that governments tended to claim credit for policies which were progressing well, but that when something was wrong the same governments blamed the Single Market.[158] Malcolm Harbour told us that, in regard to the perception that companies were coming from other Member States to take jobs from local workers, governments "have [not] been very good at explaining why that is happening and how important it is."[159] The BCC echoed this, telling us that governments "have got to stop using the EU as a scapegoat, and they've got to stand up for the decisions they take."[160]

118.  Professor Monti suggested that the UK was affected by market or integration fatigue much less than most other Member States. However, he pointed to former Prime Minister Gordon Brown's call for "British jobs for British workers" in 2007, and the later protests against foreign labour, for instance at the Lindsey Oil Refinery in Lincolnshire in 2009, as "unexpectedly strong having come within the context of the UK ... this is something that would have been definitely unexpected from the UK before the [financial] crisis."[161]

119.  Professor Monti has also argued that, due to the UK's strong record of arguing for, and implementing, Single Market measures, the UK should be strongly involved with any re-launched commitment to achieving the Single Market. He suggested the UK should seek to pursue the argument in line with sympathetic Member States, and singled out Germany and Poland as likely allies.[162]

120.  The Government were non-committal. They stated that "the UK should lead by example—by cutting red tape, opening up new market opportunities and facilitating innovation" but also that it "should not be for the Government alone to try to generate the necessary momentum" in order to complete the Single Market.[163]

121.  We note that work appears to be taking place in this regard. On 18 March 2011, the Prime Minister, along with his counterparts from the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Estonia, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, issued a letter, Getting Europe Growing, to Presidents Barroso and Van Rompuy, in which they describe the Single Market as the "core foundation of the world's largest economy", and call for the proper implantation of the Services Directive and the building of a "truly digital Single Market". That letter is reproduced in full at Appendix 5.

122.  We believe that the UK should return to the position of strongly championing the Single Market and that the Government should actively promote the Single Market Act within the relevant Council configurations.

Spreading the word

123.  The BCC suggested that many UK businesses were still unaware of the opportunities available in the Single Market and argued that the solution was a targeted information campaign explaining the benefits of the Single Market to businesses across the EU,[164] which they explained had not occurred since 1992. It told us that there was a high degree of ignorance among the BCC's members about the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN), which provides basic information on markets and legislation that applies in other EU Member States. This was "something [the BCC] have got to put right; that's also something that the Commission has got to put right, and the Government has to take ownership of the EEN as well, since it actually puts money into it." It also suggested that all the agencies operating in this area—Business Link, UKTI, EEN—should be brought together in the UK either physically or online and that the UK Point of Single Contact was a good platform on which to build.[165]

124.  Malcolm Harbour considered that the Single Market would work better if the quality of information available to consumers was improved, and he suggested the establishment of quality marks for service provision.[166] He also argued that Member States and the European Commission should help businesses to understand the level of information already there and how they could take advantage of it.[167] The Minister agreed: "we need to make sure that people know where to go to get that help, and particularly that it is geared and tailored to SMEs."[168]

125.  We believe that the Government should actively promote the benefits of the Single Market to UK business, especially to SMEs. This should involve a joined-up approach involving all relevant Government agencies and trade associations.

126.  Information should be made available, in a straightforward format, to businesses and consumers on how best to take advantage of the Single Market. In this context, we again welcome the establishment of Points of Single Contact under the Services Directive, and conclude that such sources of business information should be more effectively promoted to make it easier for businesses considering trading across borders.

158   Q 32 Back

159   Q 32 Back

160   Q 109 Back

161   Q 16 Back

162   Q 17 Back

163   EUSM 7 Back

164   EUSM 9.This is also one of their "Eight Ways to Make the Single Market Work". Back

165   Q 126. Business Link is the Government's website for businesses, which gathers together the different government information sources, including descriptions of the relevant regulations, as well as practical advice on various aspects of doing business, such as marketing; UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) reports to both BIS and the FCO, and aims to help UK companies seeking to invest abroad, as well as encouraging inward investment from foreign companies; The Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) is an EU organisation which brings together business support organisations from 47 countries in order to help small businesses take advantage of the EU Single Market. Back

166   Q 47 Back

167   Q 27 Back

168   Q 196 Back

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