The first EU-wide regulation of the crowdfunding sector has today cleared an important legislative hurdle.
The European Parliament's Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee approved a report by Conservative MEP Ashley Fox and agreed to send it straight into talks with the European Commission and Council. It is now hoped the legislation can be passed before the European elections in May 2019.
The proposals would introduce common regulations and standards that crowdfunding service providers (CSPs) can opt into. Currently separate national rules limit cross-border activity.
Mr Fox said: "Today's agreement is a key stage in tapping crowdfunding's potential to become an important source of funding for small businesses and micro-enterprises across the EU.
"The legislation creates a European passport for CSPs, providing protection for both investors and those seeking to raise finance."
Different levels of regulation would apply to platforms depending on the complexity of their operations. Member state authorities would oversee the new pan-EU system alongside their own national rules.
Mr Fox said: "The committee has reached a sensible compromise on supervision of the new system, acknowledging the role of the European Securities and Markets Authority as a mediator while recognising that national competent authorities are best placed to supervise and authorise CSPs.
However, he was disappointed that MEPs decided against making the passport available to platforms dealing in initial coin offerings (ICOs) – a type of crowdfunding which often involves cryptocurrencies.
"This market is currently unregulated and open to abuse and the committee has missed the opportunity to take an initial step towards imposing standards and protections for an industry that is an excellent funding stream for tech start-ups," Mr Fox said.
"Neverthless, I am happy that my report has sparked action in this area and that MEPs have today agreed to ask the Commission to come forward with new legislative proposals on the regulation of ICOs."
The crowdfunding regulation is the first to emerge from the European Commission's Action Plan, aimed at harnessing technological innovation in financial services.
Conservative MEPs welcome today's decision by Pakistan's Supreme Court to overturn the death sentence of Asia Bibi who was convicted of blasphemy in 2010.
Asia Bibi was accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad in an argument after her co-workers refused to share a cup of water with her because she was a Christian. She was later arrested for blasphemy and sentenced to death. After today's ruling the Supreme Court said: "she was free to go, if not wanted in connection with any other case".
Conservative Human Rights Spokesman, Charles Tannock MEP, said: "The world has stood with Asia Bibi and I am pleased that after years of increasing pressure from the international community she will now be freed. Today's judgement brings Asia Bibi and her family's long wait for justice to an end and I hope that they now receive the protection they need.
"I am proud of the work Conservative MEPs have done in campaigning for Asia Bibi's release. However, this is not the end of the story. Many others across the globe are persecuted for their faith. The international community needs to uphold and protect freedom of religion."
Conservative MEP Sajjad Karim, a long-standing campaigner for Asia Bibi's case to be concluded, said: "I am pleased to see that this case has now reached a conclusion after a long eight years of court battles. It is now imperative that Asia Bibi and her family are placed in an environment where they are safe and securely protected forthwith.
"I strongly encourage the UK to show support in this most deserving case and offer to provide an opportunity for Asia and her family to settle in the UK.”
The brazeness of the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is without precedent must prompt an international investigation, Conservative Foreign Affairs Spokesman Charles Tannock MEP said today.
Speaking as Conservative MEPs backed a European Parliament resolution condemning Mr Khashoggi's murder at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and the subsequent cover up, Mr Tannock called for the primacy of fundamental human rights to be reasserted.
He said: "We in the West had welcomed some of the recent reforms led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in a state more often known for its internal social repression. However, we have also witnessed a young leader consolidating his power at home and intervening aggressively abroad.
"Clearly there are more details to emerge about this crime and an international investigation into the case, as called for by the UK, France and Germany, is needed. We are still awaiting answers and must send a strong collective message to Riyadh.
"I am pleased that the Parliament has taken a strong stance today to protect human rights and express its unflinching support for freedom of expression and a free press."
The Parliament's resolution condemns "in the strongest possible terms" the torture and killing of Mr Khashoggi and calls for "an independent and impartial investigation" into the circumstances of his death.
The EU was accused of undermining national sovereignty today after MEPs backed a plan that will increase road charges for haulage companies and motorists.
The proposals will force the UK and 8 other countries to switch to a distance-based tolling system for heavy goods vehicles. The International Road Transport Union, which represents haulage companies, warns that such a move will increase the cost and complexity of the UK's tolling system. Currently, the UK uses a time-based system which charges truck drivers for the amount of days they spend on the roads.
MEPs also supported extending the EU rules to include cars, vans, buses and coaches which the International Automobile Federation warned would "lead to higher costs for motorists without any tangible environmental or mobility benefits".
The European Commission believes these EU-wide rules will solve the controversial German tolling system which breaks the bloc's rules by discriminating against foreign drivers.
Conservative Transport Spokesman Jacqueline Foster MEP said: "This EU power grab is an unnecessary response to a German-made problem. Instead of undermining national sovereignty by telling Member States how to operate their tolling systems, the EU should take Germany to the European Court of Justice for breaking the bloc's rules.
"It's simply wrong for the EU to go beyond its brief and meddle with road charges when it will increase costs for motorists and haulage companies. It's up to national governments and local authorities to set the rules governing tolling systems and congestion charges."
The proposals also infringe on States' tax sovereignty by dictating how revenues from these charges should be spent.
Mrs Foster added: "Not only is the EU planning to trample over national sovereignty by meddling with road charges, it has the nerve to tell us how to spend our money."
The European Parliament approved new measures today to significantly reduce single-use plastics in a new plan which compliments the UK's own efforts to tackle plastic waste.
The measures aim to turn the tide on the 10 most found single-used plastics washed up on beaches or still in the sea, as well as lost and abandoned fishing gear. Together these measures account for 70% of all marine litter.
Under the rules, some single-use plastic products will be banned where cost-effective alternatives are available. This follows the UK government's announcement that it has launched a consultation on proposals to ban the distribution and sale of plastic straws, drink stirrers and cotton buds. For products without readily available alternatives, the focus is on boosting plastic recycling rates, and ensuring better waste management and disposal.
Conservative Environment Spokesman John Procter MEP said: "Today's vote is a step forward in the global fight against plastic pollution which harms marine life and damages our seas.
"The UK has been leading the way in the fight against plastic waste, by introducing a successful 5p charge on plastic bags, the world's first ban on products containing microbeads, and is now currently consulting on proposals to ban the sale of plastic straws, drink stirrers and cotton buds.
"I welcome the EU's decision to significantly reduce single-use plastics in a plan which compliments the UK's efforts to protect our rivers and seas. This is a global problem, and I am pleased the UK and EU are setting the example to save our oceans.
'In supporting this legislation we have to be aware of key concerns from industry. I believe in working with business to bring about change. We must be careful not to legislate UK manufacturers out of business."
The plan also includes measures that were championed by Conservative MEP John Flack to protect our seas from ghost fishing.
Mr Flack said: "I am thankful that MEPs have adopted proposals that I championed to tackle the hidden problem of ghost fishing. Abandoned fishing nets are polluting our seas, wasting fishing stocks and indiscriminately killing whales, sea lions and even dolphins. These new measures will help prevent this needless destruction."
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