The Digital Future of Europe

“We need to ensure European people, consumers, companies and industry can benefit from a truly functioning Digital Single Market. This is a top priority of this Commission.” Andrus Ansip, Vice-President of the European Commission, Digital Single Market.

The establishment of the Single Market has been one of the main achievements of the European Union, yet it has not kept pace with changing consumer behaviour and technological change. Therefore, we are trying to build a modern, digital economy by moving from 28 national digital markets into one. If fully realised, this Digital Single Market could contribute €415 billion to the European economy, boosting jobs, investment and innovation. The UK has Europe’s largest digital sector which is worth £113 billion to the UK economy, supporting more than 1.3 million UK jobs. The Digital Single Market, then, is of enormous significance to the UK.


The European Commission has proposed an ambitious Digital Single Market (DSM) strategy, that aims to increase access for consumers and businesses to digital goods and services across Europe, create the right conditions for digital networks and innovative services to flourish, and maximise the growth potential of the digital economy.

UK Conservative MEPs set up a Digital Single Market Working Group in the European Parliament to steer the Commission’s strategy. They have met with senior representatives of the UK Government, including the Secretary of State for Culture and the Minister for Intellectual Property, the European Commission, leading companies, such as Google, Uber and AirBnb, and respected academics.

So what has happened since the strategy was adopted?

In December 2015, the Commission adopted three legislative proposals on consumer rights. The first will ensure that consumers will have a clear set of rights when they buy digital content, including games, music and videos from across the EU. The second will facilitate further opportunities for e-commerce, potentially enabling over half of European companies to start or increase their online sales to other EU countries. Finally, the third proposal looks to ensure that people from the UK will be able to continue to access the online services that they have subscribed to at home, such as Netflix or Amazon Prime, when they are on holiday or travelling in Europe. By opening up markets within the EU we are creating greater competition and giving consumers better choice with lower prices.

The European Parliament, in its report of January 2016, emphasised the need for rules of legal guarantees, defective content and possible unfair contract terms specific to digital content and e-commerce. It also argued that there should be no reason to distinguish consumer rights based on whether content was bought online or offline, to increase consumer protection and trust.

What about VAT on digital?

In 2016 we can expect agreement on the above three files, as well as much-needed VAT simplification. Since January 2015, VAT on digital content is levied where the customer is based, rather than where the supplier is located. This has caused serious problems in the UK and Conservative MEPs have been leading calls to fix the so called ‘VATMOSS’ issue by securing an exemption for small and micro businesses underneath the national threshold.

Where next?

Our competitors in America and Asia are leading the digital world, and even our successful European technology firms are relocating to Silicon Valley. Without action the UK and EU will lose its competitive edge. The technology industry wants DSM proposals that make it easier for EU companies and consumers to go digital in this fast-paced sector. Conservative MEPs will be working for rules that stimulate growth, innovation and competitiveness in the UK and in the EU.

The EU’s Digital Single Market strategy should create an environment that will be friendly to consumers and businesses in the digital world, by unlocking the benefits of digital advances, removing barriers to trade to stimulate e-commerce, empowering consumers, and supporting businesses, creators and investors.

Conservative MEP welcomes EU support to bring some of Britain’s fastest broadband speeds to the South East

It has been announced that at least 40,000 properties across rural parts of the UK are set to receive some of the fastest broadband speeds in Britain.

The ultrafast broadband provider Gigaclear, will receive an investment of €25m (£18m), from the European Investment Bank (EIB), to help make the rollout of ultrafast broadband to rural communities possible.

At the end of 2015, Gigaclear had installed fibre to more than 15,000 properties across Kent, Oxfordshire, Northamptonshire, Cambridgeshire, Leicestershire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Rutland, Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Essex, with a further 10,000 already in construction.

Gigaclear provides ultrafast broadband, providing internet speeds 50 times faster than the average UK speed, and began a trial of Britain’s fastest internet package with up to 5Gbps broadband speeds last year.

Speaking after the announcement, Conservative MEP for South East England, Richard Ashworth commented:

“This is an overwhelmingly positive investment by the EIB into the economy of South East England.

“This is a good example of how the EU is able to support the UK government in its plans to deliver superfast broadband to 95% of the UK by 2017.

“Improved connectivity is revolutionising all areas of our daily lives, we are becoming ever more reliant on the internet, whether for work or leisure, so it is vital that all corners of the UK receive a good connection”

Jonathan Taylor, European Investment Bank Vice President explained:

“Improving internet access in rural areas is crucial for economic activity, healthcare, education and access to key services. Over the last 5 years the European Investment Bank has provided nearly EUR 12 billion to improve broadband and telecommunications across Europe. We are pleased to support Gigaclear’s activities in our first targeted support for rural communications in the UK“.

Matthew Hare, chief executive of Gigaclear, explained:

“We have estimated that 1.5 million properties in the UK could benefit from our services and we want to reach those people as quickly as possible, but we’re a capital intensive business. So this loan is a landmark moment for us and an important next step in our expansion strategy.”


Notes to editors:

  • Gigaclear was founded in 2010, and  At the end of 2015 Gigaclear owned and operated 56 rural fibre networks and has 35 under construction across Kent, Oxfordshire, Northamptonshire, Cambridgeshire, Leicestershire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Rutland, Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Essex
  • The European Investment Bank (EIB) is the long-term lending institution of the European Union owned by its Member States. It makes long-term finance available for sound investment projects in order to contribute towards EU policy objectives.
  • “InnovFin – EU Finance for Innovators” is a joint initiative launched by the European Investment Bank Group (EIB and EIF) in cooperation with the European Commission under Horizon 2020. The loan to Gigaclear is the maximum available to companies under the ‘InnovFin – EU Finance for Innovators’ MidCap Growth Finance scheme and is the largest amount the EIB has awarded to any UK business under the InnovFin initiative.

European Commission proposal to upgrade the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS)

The following letter was sent to local media on Thursday 21 January 2016

Sir, Your readers might be interested to know that a European Commission proposal to upgrade the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS), to allow for the exchange of criminal records of non-EU citizens in the EU has my support.

Checking the criminal records of people entering the EU marks an important step in delivering more confidence in migration, and I have long called for this to happen.

The upgrading of the existing system will improve cooperation between national authorities and help in the fight against terrorism and other forms of serious cross-border crime.

This initiative will ensure that ECRIS, which is already widely used for exchange of criminal records of EU citizens, will be used to its full potential by allowing judges to check criminal records and fingerprints across the EU in one request, rather than 27.

Conservatives in the European Parliament have been calling for ECRIS to be extended to non-EU nationals for some time. If Schengen and EU free movement are to survive it is essential to have clear and effective actions to maintain the safety of the public, and the upgrade of ECRIS provides a step in the right direction.

The recent atrocities in Paris highlighted the urgent need for a more robust and effective system of judicial cooperation within the EU. The upgrade of the ECRIS system will mean judges, prosecutors and the police will be better equipped for cross-border cooperation.

Effective exchange of criminal record data for both EU and non-EU citizens alike will help tackle terrorism and other cross-border crime and bring criminals to justice.

Conservative MEP backs report to help grow the service industry in South East England


Conservative MEP for South East England Richard Ashworth has backed a report from the International Trade Committee establishing the European Parliament’s position on the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA).
The report calls for an ambitious agreement which could form the basis for further progress at the multilateral level for trade in services, and help bring jobs and growth to the South East.


TiSA is a trade agreement currently being negotiated by 23 members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), including the EU. Together, the participating countries account for 70% of world trade in services.


TiSA aims at opening up markets and improving rules in areas such as licensing, financial services, telecoms, e-commerce, maritime transport, and professionals moving abroad to provide services.


After the vote today Mr Ashworth commented:


“The EU is the world’s largest exporter of services with tens of millions of jobs throughout Europe in the services sector, with over 80% of jobs in the UK dependant on this sector it is vitally important that it is supported.


“Making it easier for UK firms to export services to other countries will help secure growth and jobs here in the South East. And making it possible for firms from outside Europe to offer their services in the EU will increase choice and lower prices for businesses and consumers alike.


“I have calling for the European Commission to advance the single market for the service industry, and welcome this report as a step forward for the UK economy to grow and become more competitive.


“Public services are of great value and importance in the South East, and I am pleased to have supported specific safeguards to ensure they are properly protected, and nothing will prevent the UK government running public services in the way they see fit”