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Lawyers In For Britain: The UK and the EU: Benefits, misconceptions and alternatives banner

There is potential for significant future gains by deepening the single market in existing and new areas. Britain is at the forefront of re-energising the EU single market benefits in areas such as energy, telecoms, airspace and the digital environment created by internet and e-commerce. Making the single market work better in these areas is expected to be a significant boost to UK prosperity.

The UK has had significant influence over the development of current single market legislation particularly in areas such as telecoms, energy[1] and financial services.[2] Continuing to influence and shape the world’s largest economy – to the benefit of UK consumers and businesses – is a strong reason for the UK to remain fully engaged economically and politically in single market developments.[3]

  • Pursuing the goal of a European ‘Digital Single Market’, the Commission has proposed legislative changes to the existing telecoms regulatory framework including:[4]
  • new criteria for regulating telecoms markets so that national regulators would have to consider competitive issues arising from ‘over the top’ players (i.e. companies that enable people to make voice calls and send messages over the internet); and
  • a harmonised set of rules on net neutrality in order to prohibit discriminatory blocking and throttling of network traffic. Currently, there is a mixed approach to domestic net neutrality regulation in the EU, ranging from strict rules (e.g. the Netherlands), to compromise solutions (e.g. France), to no regulation on net neutrality at all (e.g. Germany). The UK regulator, Ofcom, pursues a self-regulatory approach and recognises that innovative internet-based services may require priority network access.
  • The EU Commission recently released the “Investment Plan for Europe”, a package of measures to unlock public and private investments of at least € 315 billion (£254 billion)[5] over the next three years (2015-2017) with a strong focus on digital infrastructures, notably broadband.[6]
  • In the digital space, pan-EU licences can be bought by services marketing online music, such as Spotify, Google Music or iTunes and the EU is giving consideration to promoting further initiatives to foster cross-border licensing of online content.[7]
  • There is an EU proposal that where a consumer has paid for online content he or she should be able to access that content when travelling abroad.[8] This will enable UK travellers within the EU to enjoy the Premier League, Netflix or other audio, video, e-books and games content that they have paid for in the UK.
  • Plans for the “Single European Sky”[9] (SES) will – when fully implemented[10] – further increase aviation capacity, thereby reducing flight times, and reduce the costs of air traffic management.[11]

 

  1. For example, in his submissions for the Review of the Balance of Competences – Energy Report, Jonathan Gaventa on behalf of E3G, states: “The reality is that the UK has not been a victim of European energy policies; it has created them. British voices are ubiquitous in Brussels meetings and negotiations. The core basis of European energy law – the three energy liberalisation packages – directly copied the model of UK power sector liberalisation from the 1990s”/“The EU 2020 climate and energy package – which sets renewable, greenhouse gas and efficiency targets for Europe – was initiated in a UK-run European summit at Hampton Court. Its key proponent was not a faceless Eurocrat but Tony Blair” – HM Government, Review of the Balance of Competences between the United Kingdom and the European Union – Energy Report, Appendix: Evidence, page 124 – https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/332818/Balance_of_competence_Energy_report_Appendix_EVIDENCE.pdf.
  2. Bank of England, EU membership and the Bank of England, October 2015 – http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/publications/Documents/speeches/2015/euboe211015.pdf.
    1. As another example Renewable Energy Systems (one of the world’s leading renewable energy developers working across the globe) submits that by “the EU taking a strong lead at international climate negotiations by setting strong renewable energy, greenhouse gas emissions and energy efficiency targets [this] would send the right signals to other nations and increase the likelihood of a science-based agreement” – HM Government, Review of the Balance of Competences between the United Kingdom and the European Union – Energy Report, Summer 2014, paragraph 2.5.22 – https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/332794/2902398_BoC_Energy_acc.pdf.
  3. The European Commission adopted the Digital Single Market strategy on 6 May 2016 as one of its political priorities. It has been adopted with a view to creating a market in which the free movement of persons, services and capital is ensured and where individuals and businesses can access online activities under conditions of fair competition, and a high level of consumer and personal data protection. See the Commission’s Digital Single Market website for details – http://ec.europa.eu/priorities/digital-single-market/.
  4. This figure is based on an average €/£ exchange rate of 0.80612, based on European Central Bank data for 2014.
  5. http://ec.europa.eu/priorities/jobs-growth-and-investment/investment-plan_en.
  6. Digital Agenda for Europe, Simplifying pan-European licensing for online works – https://ec.europa.eu/digital-agenda/en/pillar-i-digital-single-market/action-1-simplifying-pan-european-licensing-online-works.
  7. Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on ensuring the cross-border portability of online content services in the internal market, COM (2015) 627 final, 9 December 2015 – https://ec.europa.eu/transparency/regdoc/rep/1/2015/EN/1-2015-627-EN-F1-1.PDF.
  8. For a summary of the framework for the creation of the Single European Sky, see http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/HTML/?uri=URISERV:l24020&rid=1. The two packages of SES legislation so far in force aim to reduce the fragmentation of European airspace and increase capacity by introducing additional rules on safety, airspace management, cost transparency and interoperability –http://ec.europa.eu/transport/modes/air/single_european_sky/doc/reports/com(2015)663.pdf, page 2.
  9. For example, see http://ec.europa.eu/transport/modes/air/single_european_sky/doc/reports/com(2015)663.pdf, at section 2.3, page 4, which identifies the need to make best use of the “functional airspace blocks” which SES creates, and which have not yet been optimised. The importance of proper and complete implementation of the SES project to achieve its objectives are discussed in European Commission, Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions: An Aviation Strategy for Europe, SWD(2015) 261 final, 7 December 2015, pages 6-7 – http://europeanmemoranda.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/files/2015/12/14992-15.pdf.
  10. For example, see HM Government, Review of the Balance of Competences between the United Kingdom and the European Union – Transport, February 2014, page 33 – https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/278966/boc-transport.pdf.