The government has warmly welcomed the political agreement reached by EU ministers yesterday on the controversial Services Directive.
The directive aims to create a single European market in services, much as already exists for goods.
Yesterday’s compromise deal follows months of controversy over the planned reforms, with an earlier draft held partly responsible for the decision by French and Dutch voters to reject the EU constitution in referendums held last year.
Under the original version of the directive, companies providing services throughout the EU would have been allowed to operate under the rules of their home country, prompting fears that firms from new-member states would undercut their rivals in richer EU nations.
The government estimates the directive to be worth approximately £5bn a year to the UK economy – boosting sectors such as construction, retailing, estate agents, architects, plumbers and leisure services.
Trade and industry minister Lord Sainsbury said: “This is excellent news for UK businesses and consumers and will provide many job opportunities for skilled British workers.”
The directive will now go back to the European Parliament for a second reading, possibly before the end of the year.