Treaty-change matters for business and Britain

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

European businesses – and British businesses in particular – have a strong interest in the successful adoption of the Reform Treaty, write Hugo Brady and Charles Grant in a May 2007 paper for the Centre for European Reform (CER).

British businesses have a clear interest in efficient EU institutions, they add, despite the fact that most business leaders have taken very little interest in the issue of Treaty change. However, the authors concede that this lack of interest is partly justified, as the new Treaty will not change much in the way that the EU regulates and sets its rules for business. 

Brady and Grant claim that businesses should feel broadly satisfied with how the EU is developing – with a single market of 500 million people deepening in areas such as energy, capital markets and postal services. Moreover, positions of importance in the EU – such as Commission president and commissioners for the single market, competition and trade – are held by “economic liberals”, while Sarkozy of France and Merkel of Germany have “sympathy for economic liberalism”. 

The CER paper outlines several possible implications for businesses of the new Treaty, should the version finally adopted include provisions that previously contained in the discarded Constitutional Treaty: 

• It could strengthen the Euro Group, the committee of eurozone finance ministers that now meets only informally; 

• it could improve the way that the EU budget is negotiated and spent, by tightening discipline via setting annual caps on the spending of each EU institution, and granting Parliament “modest” powers to influence spending on the Common Agricultural Policy; 

• it could extend the exclusive competence of the Union’s common commercial policy in international trade negotiations. Currently, it covers trade in goods, and would be extended to include trade in services, the commercial aspects of intellectual property, and foreign direct investment – enabling the Commission to negotiate for the EU on those subjects, and; 

• the double-majority voting system would increase Britain’s voting power in the Council by around 45%. 

Brady and Grant conclude by claiming that Britain would benefit if these provisions were added to the Reform Treaty. 

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