Owen Paterson made an interesting speech yesterday. He was right to say the UK has no wish to pursue the political union being created on the continent, and right to say our future must lie outside the federalising treaties, as many of us have been arguing for years.
His best section drew attention to the way there are now important global or international standard making boards and councils which the UK used to be part of, where now we are represented by the EU. As he says, these bodies often influence and decide the direction of legislation and regulation for whole industries and areas of life. It would be better if the UK outside the current EU could regain direct influence by having seats at the tables of these bodies.
Given the influence of these international bodies over the EU, let alone over individual member states, he is right to say the UK needs to change the bodies it sits on to have stronger influence. Which leads one to ask about the single market. As many of its standards are derived from global bodies above it, surely it is more important for the UK to sit directly on the superior global bodies?
The detail of how Mr Paterson wants to get to the UK being in the single market but out of the political project is less important than this central perception. I would add that we want free trade and sensible trading arrangements, but it is better to help shape the forces which shape the single market by being on the global boards that control business and industry through their moves to global standards and regulations. Mr Paterson cannot, of course help get us to this outcome until we have a majority UK government that wants to renegotiate and offer a referendum.