After months of campaigning, debates and opinion polls the people have spoken and decided that Britain should leave the European Union. Once the dust has settled on the result the long and arduous task of the Government negotiating an exit will begin.
One of the key questions coming out of this result is: will the UK retain access to the Single Market, through membership of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA)? This is what Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland have done but it remains to be seen whether the UK will decide to pursue this option as it will require us to contribute to the EU budget, accept the free movement of EU citizens and to implement European legislation relating to the Single Market. The obligations are very similar to those required of full EU members, but without representation on any of the decision making bodies. It is also doubtful whether the EU will agree to UK membership of EFTA.
If we retain membership of EFTA, or equivalent access to the Single Market then UK companies should be able to bid for and win work on pretty much the same basis as we have enjoyed in the past. As a member of the EU, the UK was a party to the World Trade Organisation’s, Government Procurement Agreement which allows suppliers in the US, Canada, Japan, etc., to bid on an equal basis for European public contracts and vice-versa. Unfortunately as the UK’s membership was on the basis of being a member of the EU that will lapse and we’ll have to negotiate our own agreement.
It is very disappointing that Britain has opted to leave the European Union today. The EU procurement regulations that have been developed with significant input from the UK over the last 40 years, have done much to improve the quality and value for money of public procurement. In particular, the regulations have dramatically improved access for small and medium sized companies to business opportunities in the UK and the rest of Europe.
For example, the Government took its lead from the EU last year by introducing new rules to stop public sector buyers from excluding small suppliers. Thankfully it’s now required that larger contracts are broken down into smaller lots, making it easier for small businesses to compete. This undoubtedly leads to more competitive budgets and improved savings for the buyer.
As experts in public procurement services, Millstream will be keeping a close eye on any development in legislation that will affect the sector, either positively or negatively. We’re committed to being a part of any discussions around proposed changes to ensure that we’re able to provide the best procurement solutions for our customers.