Interviews

07.04.16

What would Brexit mean for UK public agencies?

Source: PSE - April/ May 16

Anand Menon, professor of European Politics and Foreign Affairs at King’s College London, looks at the potential impact of Brexit on public agencies in the UK.

Everyone wants to know what Brexit might mean for them, and answers are in short supply. In part, this is because this has not been a Referendum campaign notable for its emphasis on fact. Both sides are trading on fear rather than information. Partly too it is because, quite simply, no one knows. Would a Brexit be orderly or disorderly? Would it be fast or slow? Would it be amicable or ill tempered? Look into your crystal ball and take a guess. 

So, how to attempt a sensible answer to the question of what Brexit might mean for public agencies in the UK? An intuitively plausible starting point is the question of what membership has meant for them. 

In many sectors – electricity, gas, telecommunications, water, banking and financial services – the UK has created independent regulatory agencies to take decisions about market access, pricing and so on at arms’ length from government. There is also a major cross-sectoral authority in competition policy – the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

At the EU-level, these organisations form part of networks, such as the European Competition Network. And in some cases agencies – such as ACER (energy), BEREC (telecoms), and ESMA, EIOPA, EIOPA, EBA (all banking and financial services) – bring together the agencies of the member states as well as EU-level bodies and the European Commission. 

Much regulatory expertise now resides at the EU level, and in particular in the many informal networks that bring together regulators from the member states. These co-ordinate policy development and ensure consistent implementation. Although the status, powers and responsibilities of these networks vary, they enable information about practical problems, know-how, and technical and legal expertise to be shared between national agencies, while encouraging best practice to be spread.  

Clearly, there is significant variation in the extent of Europeanisation across fields of policy: how you administer unemployment benefit is up to you (and so Job Centres are unlikely to be hit). How you regulate your energy markets, on the other hand, is an issue intimately affected by EU competition rules. 

A vote to leave 

So what happens if we leave? Assume first that the UK left completely, and ended up in a ‘normal’ WTO-style relationship with its erstwhile EU partners. In this case, we would lose privileged access to the single market, and be shut out of these regulatory networks. Brexit would deprive the UK of the benefits of knowledge sharing between regulatory agencies. 

It would also, therefore, deprive the UK of a channel of influence. It’s worth noting that historically we have been quite good at wielding influence. Parts of the regime for bank supervision were written wholesale by people from the Prudential Regulation Authority – and this despite our not being members of the banking union. 

What, however, if the UK were to leave and negotiated some kind of special relationship with the EU – possibly, though not necessarily, modelled on those that link Norway and Switzerland to the Union? In this eventuality, the implications would be different. The UK would be forced to implement regulations and directives coming from Brussels as now, but would have had no direct influence over their drafting. Consequently, regulators would have no ability to stamp a British preference on European outputs. 

Finally, the EU has been very active in beefing up the transparency of member states’ public agencies – helping make them more accountable to the public and their political principals. This wouldn’t be wholly undermined by Brexit, since our own FoI laws would maintain that pressure for openness and good behaviour. On the other hand, our public agencies would likely still be subject to the EU’s data retention and protection policies, since (given the focus on data privacy at present) the UK couldn’t really deliberately weaken such standards. 

Of course it may be that a British government manages to secure a kind of relationship with the EU that no one has hitherto enjoyed. It is conceivable this may allow some market access whilst allowing the UK to ignore some EU regulations. The fact is, it is impossible to know for sure. What seems clear, however, is that, whichever one is alighted on, it will have implications for the workings of our public agencies.

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email opinion@publicsectorexecutive.com

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

related

public sector executive tv

more videos >

latest public sector news

Counties urge government to step in amid rocketing house prices

16/02/2018Counties urge government to step in amid rocketing house prices

House prices in county areas have risen by three times the rate of those in London over the last year, prompting the County Councils Network (CCN... more >
LGO disappointed with council’s response to family ‘injustice’

16/02/2018LGO disappointed with council’s response to family ‘injustice’

The Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) has today hit out at the Council of the Isles of Scilly for its belated response to a report highlighting in... more >
Councils want power to push developers on 420,000 unbuilt homes

16/02/2018Councils want power to push developers on 420,000 unbuilt homes

Councils have warned that more than 420,000 homes in England are still waiting to be built despite planning permission already being granted. ... more >
149x260 PSE Subscribe button

the raven's daily blog

Whole of government must act together to fulfil the ambition of the Industrial Strategy

11/12/2017Whole of government must act together to fulfil the ambition of the Industrial Strategy

Jen Rae, head of innovation policy at Nesta, says the aims in the government’s new Industrial Strategy are ambitious, but will require a shift in policymaking in order to be realised in full. Last Monday saw the long-awaited launch of the UK’s new Industrial Strategy, the government’s plan for prosperity and growth in a ... more >
read more blog posts from 'the raven' >

comment

The power of apprenticeships

14/02/2018The power of apprenticeships

David Willett, corporate director at The Open University, describes how the apprenticeship levy can help public sector organisations unlock leade... more >
Building connected communities

22/12/2017Building connected communities

Andrew Walker, policy researcher at the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU), argues councils must be supported to develop good connectivity ... more >
The police say they are under pressure. Are they right?

22/12/2017The police say they are under pressure. Are they right?

Rick Muir, director of the Police Foundation, considers whether budget constraints and growing demand are actually having a major impact on the w... more >
The future of communal heating in Cheshire

22/12/2017The future of communal heating in Cheshire

PSE’s Josh Mines speaks to Dan Griffiths, projects and programmes manager at Cheshire East Council’s Skills & Growth Company, abo... more >

last word

The importance of openness after Grenfell

The importance of openness after Grenfell

Following the recent Grenfell Tower tragedy, Lord Porter, chairman of the LGA, argues that if the public are going to have faith in the safety testing process then everything must be out in the o... more > more last word articles >

editor's comment

25/10/2017Take a moment to celebrate

Devolution, restructuring and widespread service reform: from a journalist’s perspective, it’s never been a more exciting time to report on the public sector. That’s why I could not be more thrilled to be taking over the reins at PSE at this key juncture. There could not be a feature that more perfectly encapsulates this... read more >

public sector focus

How can cost-conscious organisations benefit from an imaginative provider?

22/01/2018How can cost-conscious organisations benefit from an imaginative provider?

Advertisement feature Rafael Cortes, hea... more >
Driving inclusive growth in the West Midlands

14/12/2017Driving inclusive growth in the West Midlands

PSE’s Josh Mines reports from the Socia... more >