16 October 2009 | Allie Anderson
UK service providers will be able to access business opportunities in Europe more easily when new rules come into force later this year.
The European Commission's Services Directive aims to remove some of the red tape and break down barriers that make it difficult for service suppliers, particularly SMEs, to tap into new markets.
Plans to introduce the directive in the UK were put before Parliament this week and all EU member states must implement the regulations by 28 December.
Business minister Ian Lucas said: "Services account for about 70 per cent of GDP but only 20 per cent of cross-border trade in the EU. But the market for services in Europe is opening up. It's important that UK firms, including SMEs, are ready to grasp the opportunities this presents for new jobs and growth."
Industries set to benefit include construction, business consultancy, leisure and hospitality, and accountancy.
As part of the directive, EU member states will have to establish web portals providing vendors with information on the legal requirements needed to work in or trade with their country. This will also enable suppliers to apply online for necessary licences or permits.
Tina Sommer, European and international affairs chairman for the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), welcomed the rules. She said: "Not only will it make it easier for small businesses that provide services to trade across the EU, it will also simplify the red tape they face.
"As the economy begins to recover, it is important that all small firms can easily access information as they begin to explore new markets, and single point of contact web portals will make it simpler for them to do that."