POLITICO Brussels Influence: Brexit’s legal eagle — Maltese motivation — Georgieva’s cabinet moves
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LIFE OUTSIDE THE SINGLE MARKET: U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May recently gave her clearest indication yet that Britain would be exiting the single market. What would this actually mean for the U.K.-based companies who trade across the EU? Despite what most British politicians suggest, it’s more than just having to pay import tariffs. Brussels Influence sat down with Andrew Renshaw, a partner at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, to get the legal perspective on what leaving the single market could mean for business.
— All for one, one for all: Right now, if an EU government discriminates against a British company, that company can sue the government in the local courts. The Commission itself can often end up lobbying governments on behalf of companies who believe a country is unfairly discriminating against them. However these options would no longer be there post-Brexit. “It’s very difficult outside the EU to have a common legal system where legal rights can be enforced directly by … companies,” Renshaw said.
— Seeing double: To maintain access to the single market, the U.K. would have to have laws that are deemed equivalent to the EU’s. “On Day One, there should be equivalence,” Renshaw said. But this would likely change over time, resulting in the U.K.’s rules no longer being “mirrored up to the EU’s system and vice versa.” Sorting this out would fall to panels of lawyers and regulators hammering out agreements behind closed doors, a possible model being the Joint EU-U.S. Financial Regulatory Forum, set up to discuss post-crisis financial regulation.
— When red tape isn’t a bad thing: For companies with big markets in the EU, the benefits of eliminating European red tape simply don’t stack up. “Suppose, post-Brexit, the U.K. decides to abolish a standard which was equivalent to the EU standard,” Renshaw said. This would mean that a British manufacturer wouldn’t be able to sell the product into the EU, he said. Companies “are hardly going to want to set up two separate production lines.”
CARCINOGENS REGULATION UNITES BUSINESS WORLD: Trade associations representing most of the European economy don’t often find themselves signing a joint letter to MEPs. However, concerns that parliamentarians want to make a health and safety law intended to protect workers from cancer-causing materials even tougher have led to just that. “We have strong concerns that proposing lower limit values for a number of substances and considerably extending the scope of the directive will only lead to drawn-out and difficult discussions with the Council and Commission,” said the chiefs of nine trade associations ranging from BusinessEurope to Cembureau. “This will not be good for worker protection, nor for the credibility of the EU and its decision-making process.”
O’REILLY KEEPS DIGGING ON SPECIAL ADVISERS: Emily O’Reilly, the European ombudsman, wrote to the European Commission asking additional questions about how the institution vets credentials and conflicts of interests of so-called special advisers.
— As a refresher, O’Reilly launched an inquiry in May into the Commission’s appointment processes for special advisers — most of whom are unpaid former EU officials or national politicians. Last year, Influence reported how NGOs had complained to O’Reilly about the appointment of German politician Edmund Stoiber as Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker‘s special adviser for better regulation due to his membership on several company boards. The Commission has until March to respond to the EU watchdog, although O’Reilly has already said the institution “showed that significant progress has been made” in how special advisers are appointed.
THE PEOPLE WHO HOLD THE PEN IN THE MALTESE PRESIDENCY: A glance at Malta’s presidency program shows a crowded six months ahead. The leadership wants to finish discussions on a series of sensitive legislative files, ranging from the Capital Markets Union to posting of workers. Most of the key discussions take place at technical and ambassadorial level, so there are few surprises by the time ministers descend on Brussels for Council meetings. The presidency’s “Who’s Who” details the people who will hold the pen in the dozens of technical meetings taking place every day during the presidency. (Find their email addresses in this document.) It also shows where the presidency expects the heaviest workloads to be.
— There are 22 people working on trade, economics and financial affairs, 19 on justice and home affairs; 12 on tourism, consumer affairs and competition; 12 on transport, telecoms, energy; 11 on agriculture and fish; nine on environment and climate change; and six on employment, social policy, health and consumer affairs.
GEORGIEVA’S CABINET: As the likely new commissioner for budget and human resources, Günther Oettinger will transfer his private office from the digital economy portfolio to his new job. Influence took a look at where his predecessor Kristalina Georgieva‘s staffers went after the Bulgarian diplomat left to become the CEO of the World Bank. Elisabeth Werner is now a head of union for policy coordination in the transport department, Daniel Gorev is now in the directorate-general for development and cooperation working on general coordination and inter-institutional relations and Denis Chaibi is now at the EEAS, working with the managing director for human resources. Angelina Gros-Tchorbadjiyska is now in the directorate-general for home affairs, working for the task force on the security union, and Sophie Alexandrova joined the department for enlargement and neighborhood policy, working in the unit in charge of Turkey.
— Fraud and OLAF geeks will be pleased to hear that at his exchange of views with MEPs on Monday evening, Oettinger also promised to have in his cabinet a full-time dedicated staffer on fraud.