Wednesday, 13 April 2016
That government booklet - and why it's bullshit #2
The EU is by far the largest trading partner. We are going to see a lot of debate around that assertion. Some will say it is, some will say it isn't, others will say it is but will not stay that way forever. So who is right? The answer to that question is "who cares?".
It would not matter if our trade with Europe was declining. If it were only a quarter of our trade, it would be significant enough not to neglect it. Therefore the debate about how much trade we do with Europe is irrelevant. It will always be a crucial part of our trade in goods and services. It is absolutely important that this trade is safeguarded.
The real question is whether that trade is affected by leaving the EU. You will notice that the government booklet says "The EU's Single Market has over 500 million customers".
But let's back up for a moment and ask what a single market is. Some believe it to be a free trade area where there are no taxes on goods crossing borders (tariffs). It is more than that. It is an area where there are common rules and administration systems to enhance the convenience of moving goods around. These would be those "EU regulations" we hear so much of.
By having the same rules throughout and no border tariffs everybody is working in the same way and selling goods to one another is easier and cheaper. That's a good thing. It would be hard to disagree with the government on this. But dishonesty of the government here is pretending that leaving the EU also means leaving the single market. It doesn't. We can leave the EU and keep the single market by keeping many of the rules the same.
So long as we agree to maintain certain rules and standards, there is no reason why trade should be affected. Because the government quite clearly takes the single market advantages very seriously, this is the agreement they would see on leaving the EU. Because leaving the EU as well as the single market would cause a great deal of disruption and cost, the EU would more than likely agree to it. Doing it any other way has serious costs for both sides and nobody is in a hurry to shoot themselves in the foot.
So that then begs the question as to what the difference is between the EU and the single market? Quite a lot. The Single Market is no longer under total control of the EU. Take for example the food industry. Many of the rules, marketing standards and safety procedures are made by a global regulator. Anyone who complies with these rules in the food sector and has a zero tariff agreement with the EU is in effect part of a global single market in food. Membership of it is entirely voluntary.
Being in the EU though, means that we have no choice in the rules we adopt and we can only block the rules if all the MEPs in the European Parliament agree with us. And since we are in a small minority, we have no democratic means of stopping laws we don't want. Just because there are votes doesn't make it a democracy. If an island of nearly 65 million people can be told what to do and how to do it then it's not really a democracy in the true sense of the word: people power.
And that really gives us a clue of what the EU is and what it's about. The EU is not a trade bloc. It's a government. One that has final say over much of what we do and even though the Prime Minister says he has reformed the EU, he really hasn't. He's lying. The EU still has supreme authority over what rules we take.
If we left the EU we would have the right to say no to the EU and we would have our own vote and our own opt-outs in those global regulators. When politicians who want to keep us in the EU say we need to be at the top table, they are mistaken in thinking the EU is the top table. It isn't. There are multiple top tables above the EU deciding everything from food standards, ship safety regulations, disability rights, gender equality laws, vehicle safety and the viscosity of washing up liquid. You name it!
Sometimes when rules are imposed on British industry it forces us to change things that don't need to be changed. Sometimes we end up replacing our own laws with weaker ones - or just bad law that doesn't make sense. One size doesn't fit all.
This is not to say that leaving the EU means we will never take rules from abroad. We will just have a direct line to the top tables without relying on the EU middleman. By being free of the EU government we can work with other partners to expand and grow membership of various international bodies so we can have a global single market that isn't exclusively controlled by the EU. That means in the future it will be free to trade anywhere in the world rather than just Europe.
By leaving the EU we get more of a say in the rules and we improve the democratic process by which we adopt them. Remaining part of the single market means that nothing much changes for exporters but it means for the first time in forty years we will be free to talk directly to other countries. As EU members we must wait for the EU to talk to our allies on our behalf and only if it agrees with us.
The truth is, we don't need a middleman between us and the top tables. It's more efficient if we deal directly and don't have to secure the agreement of 27 other member states in order to get a trade deal. That means we will get the benefits of new trade deals a lot faster and that may well mean more jobs and more investment.
The EU hasn't been entirely bad for Britain, but it is an idea that began in the first half of the last century. We've moved on and so has the world. The internet has changed everything and we are still stuck in the EU upholding an ideology that was never really the right move for Britain - and is increasingly irrelevant to global trade. Throughout this debate politicians will tell us that we cannot have our cake and eat it. Well, we can, and plenty of countries do.
Nobody is talking about ending cooperation with the EU. There is no real reason to believe that trade is threatened by the leaving the EU. Leaving just means we will have more say and more control. They say three million jobs depend on the EU - but that simply isn't true. Those jobs depend on trade - and leaving the EU is about improving our trade links with the rest of the world.
The government wants you to believe that leaving the EU means ending our membership of the single market. This is wholly dishonest. The Prime Minister wants us to stay in the EU purely for ideological reasons and will tell any lie to make sure we stay in. In this, he is abusing his power by using public funds and the offices of government to promote his political preference.
The question is not whether we want to leave the single market,. The real question is whether we want to be governed by a supreme government for Europe with its own trade and foreign policy that can (and does) overrule our own.
At one time before the internet there may have been some advantage in that, but as we have seen in recent years, far too much power is moving away from the people and into the hands of an unelected Euro elite who make sweeping decisions for half a billion people. Even if they were elected that could not possibly be a democracy. And that is why we should leave.