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The Benefits and Achievements of EU Single Market


The Single Market has been the source of sizable benefits for the EU economy as a whole. Over the period 1992-2006, of the part of the gains of the Single Market that can be measured, it has been estimated that:

  • EU Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2006 was 2.2% higher than it would have been without the Single Market – an average increase in benefits to consumers of €518 per person.
  • An additional 2.75 million jobs across Europe.

Other gains have been realised through the establishment of the Single Market. Increased levels of competition have benefitted both businesses and consumers alike; increased levels of innovation have led to higher productivity, lower costs and prices and a greater choice for consumers with a wider diversity of higher quality products now available. These benefits cannot be quantitatively assessed but are likely to represent the biggest part of the gains arising from the Single Market.

It is not just at the national level though where evidence can be seen of the Single Market making a real difference. Businesses, consumers and employees alike have all benefited from the creation of the Single Market.

Businesses

The Single Market has a population of almost 500 million, allowing larger businesses to benefit from economies of scale. Easier cross-border trade within the EU means that small- and medium-sized enterprises now have access to new export markets, which previously were not an option because of the cost and hassle that was involved with border bureaucracy.

One of the main aims of the Single Market has been to create an environment in which businesses can flourish. It has become easier to start or buy a business with the average cost for setting up a new company in the former EU-15 has fallen from €813 in 2002 to €554 in 2007, and the time needed to cope with the administrative procedures to register a company was reduced from 24 days in 2002 to about 12 days in 2007.

Among the numerous examples of cooperation leading to a reduction of costs for businesses is the setting up of both the Community Trade Mark and the Community Design. These have enabled UK companies to protect their trade marks and designs throughout the EU by making a single application for EU-wide registration. This cuts down bureaucracy - avoiding the need for trade marks or designs to be examined in 25 different jurisdictions each with its own rules. In 2007, UK firms made 9,228 such trade mark applications. Registration of designs at the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market was introduced on 1 April 2003 and by the end of the 2007 UK firms had also applied to register around 22,000 designs.

Consumers

The free movement of goods and services means that consumers now have a much wider choice of high quality products to choose from. Three out of four European citizens think that the possibility to market products from other Member States under the same conditions as domestic products has had a positive impact while 73% consider that the single market has contributed positively to the range of products and services on offer. The opening up of national markets has resulted in lower prices for goods and services in many cases. Telephone prices charged by the former monopolies for national and international calls have been reduced my more than 40% on average between 2000 and 2006.

Consumers now enjoy far greater protection thanks to the Single Market. As a result of membership, British consumers are guaranteed rights similar to their UK statutory rights when buying products elsewhere in the EU, including products bought from other EU countries over the internet. Greater consumer confidence throughout the EU has, in turn, helped build market confidence, providing a positive environment in which business can flourish. Over half of citizens consider that internal market rules have increased consumer protection within the EU.

Consumers are also better informed about the products they buy and those products are safer, for instance. The CE marking guarantees that products meet certain minimum standards, regardless of where they were produced. In addition, Single Market laws require that degradable products, such as food and medicines are labelled with “best before” dates and that they carry a list of ingredients, colourings and additives.

The EU is also actively engaged in ensuring that the opportunities of the internal market are not undermined by rogue traders operating across borders. Enforcement agencies have agreed to act – where ever possible - in the name of all EU consumers, not just those in their own Member State, and European Consumer Centres, based in Citizen's Advice Bureaux, can offer everyone advice about shopping in Europe and give access to alternative dispute resolution schemes, such as ombudsmen and arbitration, in other EU countries, if things go wrong.

There are many examples where the European Commission has worked to eliminate anti-competitive practices, an area where the UK on its own would not have been able to make the same impact. One such example was when in February 2008 the European Commission fined Microsoft €899 million for failing to comply with sanctions imposed on it for anti-competitive behaviour. An investigation in 2004 had concluded that Microsoft was guilty of freezing out its rivals in products like media players while at the same time linking its internet browser to its Windows operating system.

Employees

The Single Market means that individuals have a right to live, work or study in another EU country. According to the European Commission, more than 15 million EU citizens have moved to other EU countries to work or to enjoy their retirement, benefiting from the transferability of social benefit, while 1.5 million young people have completed part of their studies in another Member State with the help of the Erasmus programme. The possibility to study abroad is considered positive by 84% of EU citizens.

Employees’ rights have been greatly strengthened because of EU regulations.

  • Workers (apart from those in a small number of specific industries) cannot be asked to work more than 48 hours per week, unless they wish to. They are entitled to a rest break of at least 11 hours each day and a further break if the working day is longer than six hours. In addition, they are entitled to one day off per week and annual paid holiday of at least four weeks each year.
  • Part-time workers and those on fixed term contracts are entitled to the same benefits pro-rata as those on permanent contracts including the same rates of pay, the same access to sickness benefit and the same access to company pension schemes, unless differences in treatment are objectively justified.
  • Employees with parental responsibilities have a right to a minimum thirteen weeks leave to enable them to take care of a child up to the age of five years, or eighteen weeks leave in cases of a disabled child under the age of 18.

This convergence of rules in the EU provides fair conditions of competition for all across Europe.

Contact

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email: enquiries@bis.gsi.gov.uk