Alison Harcourt at APSA conference

Alison Harcourt is presenting at APSA on the panel 'Europe in a post-Brexit world' in San Francisco on 31 August 2017.

The paper is titled "The implications of Brexit on the UK: the case of the EU Digital Single Market" and was made possible  by an ESRC Senior Fellowship grant from the UK in a Changing Europe programme.

Abstract below:

The Digital Single Market (DSM) is the largest component of the Single Market programme. It is comprised of a considerable number of Directives, Regulations and other instruments aimed at facilitating cross border digital services. It enables services such as on-line banking, on-line shopping sites, on-line games and cross-border services such as satellite and online television channels, like the BBC and Sky, and movie providers, like Netflix, to operate across European borders without restrictions. The framework has also been active in breaking up monopolies in telecommunications and mobile phone provision. 

If the UK leaves the DSM under Brexit, British based companies would not be able to operate in Europe without re-locating their headquarters to an EU member state because the country of origin principle which is embedded into Directives such as E-Commerce, AVMSD and SatCab, and stipulates that businesses base their headquarters and the majority of staff be located in an EU Member State amongst other requirements. For example, without single market membership, UK operators could not participate the single market for broadcasting. If the UK were to join the DSM, these companies could still operate in Europe from the UK under an EEA or bilateral agreement. However, the UK would lose voting rights for DSM legislation within the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament. This could have consequences for the UK where it does not agree with EU Member States particularly given that there are currently 19 DSM legislation acts under review. 

The UK has acted entrepreneurially in pushing for a deregulatory framework by exploiting temporal events which determined the direction of EU policy formation. The paper will document the conditions under which the UK was able to press for a liberal agenda in the Digital Single Market. Historically, the communications sector began heavily as restricted but experienced substantial liberalisation over the last three decades as a result of EU legislation. Successive technological advance in digital markets led to multiple cross-border issues creating a situation of ambiguity within which many different policy proposals were suggested. The paper will apply the multiple streams (MS) approach (Kingdon, 1995, 2011; Zahariadis 2007; Ackrill, Kay and Zahariadis, 2013) to explain how a UK liberal agenda prevailed. Windows of opportunity were created by focussing events which enabled entrepreneurship by the UK. 

The paper sheds light into the role of institutions and importance of timing of decisions and entrepreneurship in opening policy windows. It also innovates by outlining the important role of the state. The UK, acting as a policy entrepreneur, was able to exploit these events and couple the policy and politics streams with the problems stream. Hence causal mechanisms were temporal against a background of the Single Market which provided the political opportunity structure for policy-making. The EU institutions, particularly the European Commission and Court of Justice, acted as a fixed external constraint on policy actors. The UK government was particularly proactive in its approach. The Digital Single Market has been selected as it demonstrates pronounced differences in opinion between UK stakeholders and those of other Member States. In many cases, the UK’s pro-market approach succeeded from an initial marginalised position countering more protectionist proposals from other key Member States. The effect of the UK leaving the EU and / or the DSM will be examined in the paper in respect of the effect on the trajectory of future EU policy and the effect on the UK’s market and national policy framework.

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