The tired old Foreign Office and Lib Dem line is we have to go along with what the EU wants for the trade. It bedevils the debate again about whether we can negotiate a better relationship for ourselves, or whether the UK would be better off out. We constantly hear the refrain that we have to pay the subscription to be in the trade club, you have to take some rough with the smooth, we have 3.5 million jobs dependent on EU trade.
It means we have to repeat the counter sound bites time and again.
The EU sells a lot more to us than we sell to them. They would not wish to risk that.
Whatever we do on renegotiation and membership, Germany will want to sell us her BMWs and France her wine.
If the rest of the EU did get protectionist with us, we could take them to the WTO and demand international action. Or we could propose a supertax on imported wine and imported cars here in the UK in retaliation.
They say we need to be fully in the EU to influence the rules that affect our business. The question is how much influence can we have, when we seem unable to resist a torrent of new rules which we neither asked for nor need. It feels like we take the rough with the rough, and end up worse off.
The advocates of staying in on current terms have to answer this increasingly difficult question – isn’t the single market becoming a means of lumbering us with uncompetitive costs and rules which Chinese or US or other non EU companies do not face when selling into the EU market?
If the EU moves towards more political and economic integration for the core countries, the UK will have to demand a different arrangement for us to justify our consent to the new Treaty.
If Euroland instead tries a new Treaty for just 17, they will discover all sorts of legal complexities between the 17 and the 27. It will pose all soerts of problems over use of staff, facilities, and payment of bills. We will still need a different relationship, so we still need to sit down and negotiate one either way.
The UK needs to be making this clear, now Euro integration or break up is on the agenda.