The government has launched a consultation on proposals to implement the EU Services Directive, which makes it easier for a wide range of service providers to do business across borders.
The government claims the UK, with its strong services sector, will be one of the largest beneficiaries, with benefits of up to £6bn a year and thousands of new jobs for the economy.
The European Parliament approved the directive in November 2006, but only after MEPs removed the controversial “country of origin” principle, which would have allowed businesses to operate in another member state under the rules of their home country.
Parliamentary under-secretary of state for trade Gareth Thomas said: “Small and medium-sized firms, which are often hardest hit by the cost and time involved in trying to enter new markets, will benefit the most. Consumers will also benefit from a greater choice of services, increased quality and lower prices.
“The directive achieves these goals without affecting essential protections in areas such as health and safety, and employment.”
A number of industries are excluded from the directive because they are covered by European law. These include financial services, temporary work agencies and healthcare services.
The consultation document includes proposals on:
- Increasing co-operation between regulatory and supervisory bodies in the UK and European member states
- Improving the quality of services and the rights of customers
- Establishing an online portal that will provide information for service providers who want to set up in the UK
The Services Directive consultation will close on 11 February 2008.