Book Review: "The Brussels Effect"

On a regular basis Acquis reviews books. Books that we believe stand out in the crowd and are of great relevance and should be read. Either because of the importance of the subject matter, or just because they are great books to read and enjoy.

Edition 1 – April 2020

“The Brussels Effect” – how the European Union rules the world – by Anu Bradford. Oxford University Press, 2020.

This is a “must read” for anyone with an interest in the European Union and global business. Professor Anu Bradford wrote an important book. In times where criticism (often unfounded and of populist origin) of the European Union (EU) seems to be the norm, “The Brussels Effect” actually demonstrates the relevance, prominence and value of the EU as policy and regulatory centre of gravity at regional and global level.

The European Union develops policy and enacts legislation and regulation for many (if not all) sectors and industries. This legislation forms the basis of the EU’s Internal Market. EU policy and regulation are often “best-in-class”, setting high standards in e.g. the domains of environment, health & safety, consumer protection, fair competition as well as data protection and privacy. Now and in the near future essential policy and legislative proposals will be formulated in the field of “digital” economy and artificial intelligence.

The quality of EU legislation and high standards is a phenomenon and an example for many other countries outside the EU. But the main reason why industries and service sectors alike around the globe adapt to EU standards, is that by doing so access to the European market is ensured. No compliance – no EU market access. This will also be a reality for the UK and its companies post-Brexit. Either companies comply with the EU norms and standards, or they will fail to benefit from doing business with the second-largest consumer market and leading trading block in the world.

This also explains why many companies, industry associations and federations, diplomatic missions of third-countries (outside the EU), and other stakeholders invest already quite some time in managing their relationships with the EU Institutions in Brussels, engaging in the EU consultative legislative process. There is clearly more that can be achieved.

As Paul Polman – former CEO of Unilever and co-founder of “Imagine” - said about the book: “In The Brussels Effect, Anu Bradford offers a perceptive analysis of the influence the EU can and must have well beyond its borders. With global governance being challenged, The Brussels Effect is filling a desperately needed void. It gives us yet another reason why we cannot afford to have the European ambitions fail”.

Professor Bradford concludes in the final sentence of the book: “The Brussels Effect is therefore not only pervasive today, but there is a convincing argument that it will persist, extending the EU’s regulatory hegemony into the foreseeable future”.

At Acquis – we agree with that.