BNE welcomes the Anglo-Dutch initiative on liberalising the European market in services. This initiative was announced on Monday and is what the UK’s policy in the European Union should look like.
We need to show leadership in the European Union if we are ever going to achieve our objectives on issues such as the working time directive or making sure the EU’s budget is focused on European competitiveness, not subsidising agricultural production in Europe.
Such leadership has three crucial ingredients: coalition building, a savvy use of EU structures and a focus on the truly practical. This initiative contains all three. The Netherlands is a natural free-market minded partner. The mechanism is enhanced cooperation, which allows nine or more EU member states to cooperate more deeply on areas where others do not (in this case France, which has not been a leading voice for services liberalisation). Finally, the issue of liberalising services is of vital importance.
The services sector represents around 75% of EU GDP and 70% of total employment. Many barriers however still remain. UK economic growth in the fourth quarter of 2010, announced on Tuesday, showed an unexpected contraction of 0.5% (forecasts were of a rise of 0.4%.) UK business needs the government to do everything in its power to push for growth and job creation, and this is an area where the UK should lead from the front.