Tuesday, 20 September 2016
Yes, we need to "take back control"
Vote Leave was a pretty pisspoor campaign. Their slogan was "Vote Leave - take back control". They neglected to specify how we would take back control or why it was especially important that we do. The people most involved would struggle to know less about trade or regulation. The debate was centred around some pretty obsolete interpretation of how law gets made.
What The Leave Alliance has identified though, is not just the irrelevance of the EU to most regulation, but the obsolescence of it. Between International Organisations, International Private Regulators and standards bodies, technocracy has gone global in an unprecedented way and it is absolutely unstoppable.
The EU parliament cannot and does not modify them and increasingly the rules we follow end up being those produced by international bodies without much in the way of public scrutiny. Moreover I am not aware of any MEP with the necessary faculties to do any such thing.
As much as we have the EU dictating through directives and we have a system of statutory instruments meaning the EU is not the only source of foreign lawmaking. Effectively we have an open door for technical rulemaking and because we are members of the EU we have no independent vote, no right of opt out and no means of veto.
Tory leavers tell us that we should leave the EU so that we can "make our own laws". They've missed the point. Things work better if we have regulatory harmonisation and some technical standards require a degree of debate discussion and scientific research. There is no point replicating that at a local level and there is every point in collaborating at the regional and global level. It saves time and it saves money and reduces bureaucracy. Whether we like it or not, technocratic governance is here to stay.
What matters is that the people have some means of influencing these rules or refusing them. In the EU that mechanism is notionally the EU parliament but when most technical rules are agreed at the global level the EU parliament cannot amend such rules. At best they can delay them. If, however, we have defensive interests where we require an opt out, we are outnumbered in the EU significantly. We can register a reservation at the global level but the EU can unilaterally revoke it.
This is what makes Brexit more urgent. It mattered a lot less in those times where technocracy was mainly a preoccupation of the EU single market but as we see a global single market in regulations emerging it matters more than ever to have an effective goalkeeper and we need too close that open door so we can ensure that our business interests are not harmed and that jobs are protected. As a rule protectionism is bad but at other times, technical regulation can eliminate national traditions and kill off jobs for no commercial or cultural advantage.
Given that the world of quasi regulation and global standards has surpassed the EU and has grown beyond its control, we now need to develop domestic early warning institutions and we need a means of influencing the rules we follow. That is no longer the EU. We can go via the EU but only if the EU sympathises with our objections. Moreover we may wish to initiate global regulations in which case we have no right of initiative as EU members. Presently we must seek EU approval. This is wholly insufficient.
Continued EU membership robs us of vital safeguards against untempered globalisation and it removes our freedom to innovate. The Eurocentric view is that the uniformity of the single market must be preserved at all costs but that means our interest in expanding services is inhibited by French and German manufacturing defensive interests.
By restoring some control we can defend against the most egregious intrusions against democracy and we can have a more direct voice in how the rules are made. That is why staying in the EEA is sufficient for Brexit. There is no point leaving the single market if global rules are the same as EU rules. An EEA Brexit is more than enough to end EU supranational political integration while giving us the one thing we need the most. Independent control of our trade policy - which in turn gives us the power to control the laws that end up on our statute book.
We are now heading toward a world where the majority of technical rules and standards will be made by the universe of lawmaking bodies around the globe and increasingly the EU becomes a facilitator of hyper globalisation while removing any democratic constraints. This cannot be tolerated.
The inward looking notion of making all our own rules is an obsolete one and the idea we can or would wish to be significantly divergent is a flawed one. So too is the idea that we would necessarily close ourselves off from the EU by way of vetoing rules. More often than not we would vote with the EU - but the point of Brexit is so that we have a choice of which allies we pick according to our own strengths.
If we want to break out of stagnation then we must think about trade in entirely different ways and regulatory harmonisation is an incredibly powerful tool. Multiple small increments can deliver more value than EU promises of jam tomorrow. That though, means working collaboratively on all of the global bodies and working skillfully to bring about trade facilitation measures.
In that we must modernise out thinking about trade. Trade is no longer about taking foreign dignitaries out on the Royal Yacht and feeding them fine malts and brown envelopes. Trade is now a deeply technical process where what you bring to the table matters far more than market size or geographic proximity. The game has changed.
As much as Brexit means taking back control over those domestic areas we have neglected for so long like agriculture and fisheries - abandoning them to destructive EU one size fits all policies, we are taking back control of the regulatory agenda, not just from the EU but from the many corporate influences who dominate the international regulatory bodies. We are taking back control of our law making instruments - not to "make our own laws" - but to ensure British interests are defended and to ensure the people have the ultimate veto in the laws that we live by.
Just about everything you can now think of is regulated by global bodies from UNECE, ISO, Codex, FAO and the WHO. There are hundred of such bodies governing everything from the food we eat to the cars we drive, to the plumbing of the internet and planning of cities. There is every reason to promote global cooperation and harmonisation - but there are no excuses for shirking the responsibility to scrutinise and defend. The EU is no longer an appropriate vessel - if indeed it ever was, and if having a say in the rules was a good reason for joining the EEC then it is every reason to leave the EU.
If parliaments serve any purpose in this brave new world of self-regulating multinational corporations then it is to ensure that the people's interests are taken into account and that we have a goalkeeper to ensure our high standards are respected, upheld and promoted. That is why Brexit will give parliament a fresh mission and a new purpose when it wakes up from its EU induced coma. That is the control we need - and that is why Brexit must happen. We must not be passive victims of forces we have no defence against.