It’s the debate which everyone is talking about as it could change the face of the UK as we know it and impose radical changes – whichever way the vote swings. So it goes without saying that there’s a lot to consider. This article is based on the impact on the Telecoms market and the changes that it could mean to you and to Selective Networks.
The impact of coming out of the EU – if it happens, on the UK and other countries will depend to on the withdrawal arrangements and conditions agreed between the UK and the EU. So it’s fair to say that at this time, we don’t know what coming our (or staying in) will necessarily look like.
The delivery of telecom services in the EU is based on a set of EU Directives. These Directives comprise of regulatory framework for electronic communications and cover a number of issues in the industry. In the UK, this has mainly been managed through the Communications Act (2003) with considerations around other policies. However, on Brexit, the UK could be free to dictate their own laws in relation to the telecoms industry. The current framework is in place to try to harmonise rules across the EU, aiding competitiveness and protecting consumer rights. For example, the framework includes to fairness in the industry, radio spectrum management, number portability and data privacy. The European Commission has also more recently issued a Directive on access to passive network infrastructure, including masts, ducts towers and poles. These rules also cover data roaming regulations.
A consequence which will concern a number of consumers and businesses is the impact of roaming costs in the EU. We could see the UK no longer benefitting from low charges to roam in the EU – but it could also mean that we’re no longer subjected to roaming tariffs at the wholesale level. This could prove to be a costly move for UK industry in the event of unfavourable tourist/traveller flows between the UK and the rest of the EU. There has been speculation that the UK might, post-Brexit, introduce UK legislation with the purpose of ensuring as far as possible a parallel roaming regime in the UK to that applying in EU Member States under the Roaming Regulation.
A further area where there could be some divergence between the UK and the EU is spectrum management and assignment. Following Brexit, the UK would no longer be subject to Commission decisions and initiatives on the harmonisation of spectrum allocations and use across the EU. It will, however, continue to cooperate with other Member States on some of these issues through membership of other organisations, including the European Conference of Telecommunications and Postal Administrations or CEPT.
Digital Agenda for Europe
The ambitious targets of the Digital Agenda for Europe, or any other Commission policy for that matter, would no longer apply to the UK. It is unclear whether the UK would continue to apply these targets in a post-Brexit scenario, though it might, for example, give preference to the same or better broadband speed targets for ubiquitous broadband access. We would like to believe that the UK would continue to think forward and look to improve the digital services – regardless of the EU referendum.
UK established companies currently benefit from rights to free movement with the EU including the freedom to provide services and freedom of establishment. This means that any entity incorporated in the UK has the right to provide telecommunications services in any other Member State, assuming that it complies with the national law requirements that apply to domestic companies in that Member State. Brexit would remove this right in respect of UK established companies.
Any regulatory departure between the UK and the EU following Brexit would also have a direct impact on telecommunications service providers in the UK.. The UK may be likely to take a more liberal approach towards these services than the Commission or certain other national regulatory authorities. The UK may also be likely to favour a more pro-investment policy on regulation than certain other Member States.
EU companies operating in the UK
The same logic applies for companies established in any Member State other than the UK. Such companies would, in the event of a Brexit, no longer have the virtually automatic right under EU law to provide electronic communications services in the UK.
Non-EU companies operating in the UK
Brexit is also likely to have an important impact on companies from outside of the EU that are considering doing business in the UK. It’s been known that some companies sometimes choose the UK as a stepping stone into the greater EU-wide market. There are a number of important reasons for this, including language, relative ease of doing business in the UK and the significant size of the UK domestic market. Some businesses may not find it as easy to set up business, or have any reasons to come to the UK. Therefore this could directly impact the economy in the UK.
Before making any decision to vote to stay in the EU or leave, make sure that you read your own facts, do the research and make an informed decision.