Many people who are prepared to consider changing our relationship with the EU still say that remaining a member of the Single Market is essential to our economic future. But why, exactly? Do they actually understand what it is? Let’s have a closer look.
As I see it there are three principle characteristics to the Single Market as follows:
1). The harmonisation of commercial standards and procedures. Yes – all jolly good stuff. But it’s been done now and is water under the bridge. Nobody is suggesting we revert to the old arrangements, so it’s not an issue. In any case we can always voluntarily choose to adopt new standards at any time if we so wish.
2). The removal of tariffs and other barriers to trade. Again all very useful, but done now and nobody is suggesting they be resurrected in the event of Brexit except as a mirror image on our side of what is now there [Also see PPS below]. It is certainly not in Brussels’ interests to do so as we import more from the continent than we export. Roger Helmer also has some interesting perspectives on this here. In any case if we had to go back after Brexit to trading under WTO rules both imports and exports would reduce so the deficit as a whole would reduce, which would help conserve employment within the UK! A blessing in disguise? Certainly we can handle it either way, so it’s not an issue.
3). The creation of free movement of people between member states and of capital within the eurozone. This is the crux of the matter and has created massive instability within both the eurozone and the EU as a whole. It has been like removing the bulkheads from within an ocean-going oil tanker. As soon as the first big wave comes along all the oil slops down one end and the tanker up-ends and sinks.
Ask any economist or businessman what they consider to be the single most important precondition for steady long-term economic growth, and almost certainly they will say ‘stability’, or something similar. So why do they contradict themselves when it comes to membership of the Single Market? Roger Helmer may again have the answer here, where he observes how Brussels will stop listening to any large organisation that does not toe its party line. The access that their size and wealth affords these organisations to lobby the EU creates a lumpy playing field to the detriment of all who have to compete with them. It is SME’s that create most jobs.
It is also noticeable how many will jump to unfounded conclusions. For example Labour claim that all EU laws now on our statute books, including employment protection legislation, will automatically be erased. It won’t. Academic institutions, who ought to to know better, assume that all international cooperation will come to a standstill. Nobody is suggesting that temporary residence will be a problem, and as for citizenship the aim is simply balance.
I would say ‘balance and stability’ in all things. Balance in our fiscal accounts, our external trade, in monetary policy, regional policy, the balance between employment and inflation, between left and right (equality vs free enterprise and aspiration) and of course balanced migration. Indeed that is how I would describe UKIP’s position on the political spectrum as a Centre party.
PS. 03 Feb 2016. Article by Roger Bootle in the Telegraph entitled “We should not be swayed by sound-bites and slogans about Europe.”
PPS. 16 Nov 2016. Unbalanced free trade is also a danger. See my later post “Do I believe in Free Trade?”