A RELAXATION of cross-border laws, aimed at creating a free market for the services sector, should not result in an influx of European bakers setting up shop in the UK, experts suggest.

The new European Services Directive is set to remove the legal and administrative bar-riers that can prevent businesses from offering their services in another country. However, the National Association of Master Bakers (NA) said it did not believe this would attract large numbers of foreign firms. “It won’t change anything for the bakery sector,” said chief executive David Smith. “We have a number of European companies here already, such as the French Paul chain and Poilâne Parisian bakery in London.”

He added that the NA does not expect a rush of UK bakers going abroad either: “The businesses that want to operate in Europe have already gone there – such as Greggs which

has opened stores in Belgium,” he said.

Companies often have problems providing services in other countries, either due to long and complicated procedures to obtain licences and permits, a lack of information on legal requirements, the need to establish a permanent base in a country or because of discrimination on nationality grounds.

However, while countries argued over whether a company offering its services in another country should operate according to the rules and regulations of its home country, the European Parliament has decided that service providers would instead be governed by the rules and regulations of the country in which the service is being provided.

The Federation of Small Businesses said this created a more diluted law but a spokesman added: “National governments can use clever ways of coming up with innocuous legislation that can stop foreign competition and, although this directive is a good thing, it could have gone a lot further.”

The draft directive covers a vast range of businesses, such as hotels and restaurants, car hire, construction, advertising services and estate agencies. It will go back to Parliament for a second reading before the end of the year, although it will still take two or more years for member states to transpose it into national law.