14th Nov 2019

UK to come with pro-business agenda for presidency

Britain is set to push a largely pro-business agenda tackling major proposals that have been sitting in the EU legislative pipeline when it takes over the presidency of the bloc next month.

A briefing note sent to political group leaders in the European Parliament ahead of their meeting with ministers from the British government on Friday (10 June) outlines the strong priority given to cutting red tape and making life easier for businesses.

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The UK presidency is set to focus on three major areas of legislation including the chemicals regulation, the services directive and the "post financial services action plan agenda".

Controversial legislation

The chemicals regulation, which will impose high standards of chemical regulation for health and industry reasons, has been among the most controversial pieces of legislation in EU history pitting environment campaigners, who say it does not go far enough, against industry, which says it is too burdensome.

The briefing note says the presidency will "ensure that the benefits of the regulation to health and the environment are properly balanced with competitiveness considerations".

London also plans to "pursue the remaining dossiers" with the Financial Services Action Plan - a wide-ranging plan to open the market in financial services, review and assess EU legislation and take forward negotiations on the services directive.

EU's future economic direction

The directive on opening the services market sparked a profound debate about the future economic direction of Europe - one that resonated through the run-up to the French vote on the constitution and partially contributed to its rejection.

French voters tended to fear what they see as an Anglo-Saxon free-market driven-Europe which would result in loss of social protection and jobs.

After the vote, French president Jacques Chirac was quick to point out that the French social model was not the Anglo-Saxon model.

This debate is set to continue as analysts wonder whether all pro-business or free-market legislation will be put on hold as the EU looks set to enter a period of navel-gazing sparked by both the French and the Dutch referendums.

However, Mr Blair seemed to take a conciliatory line on the issue in a recent interview with the Financial Times.

He accepted that the French and German social models could not be dismantled and instead suggested a new "European social model" - a model that "allows you to have a competitive economy and a just and fair society".

Mr Blair is struggling to contain the view that all that Britain wants out of the Union is a free-trade area.

However, others are convinced that London will take advantage of President Chirac's weakened position after the referendum.

"I think one of the effects of the French ‘No’ will be a more liberal Europe because I think France was weakened in its position", said liberal leader in the European Parliament, Graham Watson earlier this week.

"Tony Blair will take advantage of this", he added.

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