The EU and democracy

Living with the EU is like having a constant cyber attack on our law codes, rules and regulations. The system is never stable, with the EU constantly seeking to extend their grip, change their laws, and increase their jurisdiction. They do all this in the name of European integration. They often try to tell the UK that it is mainly needed for the integrity of the single market. This is simply untrue.

To have a successful trade you usually have a system where the customer specifies what he wants, and the supplier explains what he has on offer. If they coincide at a good price there will be a transaction. Sometimes the customer side influences what the producer makes, because of course the producers want to sell more and need to listen to what the customers want. Sometimes the producers influence what the customer wants, because the producer defines a need or offers a solution which the customer finds attractive.

If you want to have a common market between two or more countries you can do so by having the simple rule which has been applied to the EEC/EU. That states that if something is of merchandisable quality in country A, it can be offered for sale in country B, as all countries in the zone accept the standards in each other’s jurisdictions. It does not mean customers will also accept the quality or style of any given product across national borders, but makes it easier for producers to offer their goods and see what happens.

The EU has moved on from this idea to seek to legislate for a wide variety of common standards and specifications for goods and services. They have got a long way towards there being an EU recipe or approved way of designing and making many things. This cramps innovation, may bring EU producers out of line with demands elsewhere in the world, and requires a large national bureaucracy in each member state to enforce the common rules.

The argument over leaving is usually couched in narrow terms in relation to trade and the common market by its supporters. They are old fashioned and out of date in this respect. The EU has long since moved on from being a common or single market, to being much more. They say the UK would still have to conform with EU rules and requirements when selling to the EU from outside. It is of course true that the UK has to conform with US rules and specifications when selling to US customers. Where we would gain from being outside the EU is we would not longer have to apply all those same rules and regulations to our dominant domestic trade in the UK, nor to goods and services supplied to the rest of the world outside the EU.

The defenders of the EU still say we would lose influence over the EU rules and standards for that minority of our output which would be exported to the EU. Even that is only partially true. Some of the EU’s rules comes from global agreements, where the UK would gain a seat at the world table and therefore continue to influence by that means what the EU was going to do. It also misses the point that where the EU is legislating beyond global minima the UK currently has little ability to stop them where we disagree. The UK government has lost a string of court cases over financial and banking regulation in recent months illustrating our inability to steer even in an area where we have the largest economic presence in the EU.


  1. Lifelogic
    November 14, 2015

    Indeed and much of the new regulation is clearly motivated mainly by sectional interests and “lobbying” as it benefits these sectional interest at the expense of everyone else. As indeed is much law in the UK too like the absurd HIP packs the labour pushed.

    There is no area of life that the EU would not try to regulate and control if it can. Almost anything can be contrived to come under health and safely or European Integration. Vast sums can be made by regulations forcing a change in the design of some devices, equipment, energy production. An inside track on the direction of new regulation can be invaluable to large businesses. It is in essence a form of corruption and exploitation through regulation of the public.

    Keep up the good work JR.

  2. Lifelogic
    November 14, 2015

    Doubtless the BBC types and Cameron government will react to the dreadful Paris outrages by pushing for (and later introducing) yet more legal protections to prevent any criticism of religious belief systems and extend the state funding for religious schools.

    Thus augmenting the cleavages in the society as we saw clearly in Northern Ireland.

    Still Cameron wants to keep open borders (but he does want to restrict some benefits for new migrants for a few day after arrival and other worthless trivia).

    1. Bazman
      November 14, 2015

      Maybe any criticism of right wing religious economics and the state funding that allows them to prosper at the countries expense such as state funded private companies avoiding tax paying minimum wages and landlords making large profits via housing benefits, from housing shortages. You need to think who the real scroungers are.
      This in your case is cardboard over Paris.

      1. Lifelogic
        November 14, 2015

        Could you perhaps put that into some sort of reasoned, rational argument? Then I might be able to respond to it.

        1. Bazman
          November 16, 2015

          State funded private companies avoiding tax paying minimum wages whilst costing more than the state funded ones they replaced. There are many examples the NHS and railways for example and as I have pointed out private landlords mainly funded by the state after council housing was sold off costing unprecedented housing bills on the the state.
          Read the post again and think who are the biggest scroungers are in this country. It is not the working poor.
          Reasoned rational argument. Now reply.

  3. The Active Citizen
    November 14, 2015

    Well said JR, as usual. I’d just like to add a dimension to the question of “the EU… legislating beyond global minima… the UK currently has little ability to stop them where we disagree.”

    My companies trade with 100 countries round the World. It’s a simple fact that different countries have different ideas in general about business, which have influenced both their commercial laws and their general way of doing things.

    Not surprisingly, the EU’s overall approach to business has been heavily influenced by that of its most powerful individual members, notably Germany and France. This approach has little in common with the British model so we shouldn’t be surprised. In addition, the EU takes world standards from the ISO, IEC, IMO, ILO, etc, and then complicates them before introducing them after months or years of delay. It is a simple fact that I see no evidence of real British influence in shaping a more competitive EU.

    I choose to live in a continental EU country. Nothing on earth would persuade me to employ a single soul here, despite unemployment being much higher than in the UK. The employer’s tax contributions I’d have to pay would be astronomical, and employees have grown accustomed to absurd employee protection laws, working hours, holiday and other entitlements. Readers of this post will just have to take my word that I’m a very considerate employer with no desire to exploit anyone – just to have a fair exchange of labour in return for providing a decent salary and conditions.

    The last time I set up a new company in the UK it took a few days. The last time I did it here, it took almost six months. I kid you not.

    I have no problem trading with people in EU countries (although it’s often much easier with people from outside the EU), but there’s no doubt in my mind that the EU’s whole approach to business is pretty much alien to what would be considered ‘normal’ in the UK and in many non-EU countries. It certainly won’t help EU countries to compete on the World stage. Its share of world trade in goods and services will therefore continue to decline.

    Yes I know I’m generalising but it doesn’t make it any the less true. I say the above with the same conviction with which I say that Mr Cameron’s ‘negotiations’ are – and were always going to be – a nonsense.

    replacement para in other post

    Surely now is the time for all ‘Eurosceptic’ MPs and Ministers to say without any equivocation that the UK should leave the EU as soon as practically possible.

    1. oldtimer
      November 14, 2015

      I would add that the system whereby the EU develops its standards favour large corporates or associations of large corporates. These are able to afford the big lobby effort and personnel to be on hand permanently in Brussels to press their own specific needs, preferably at the expense of smaller competitors. This often can be achieved by ensuring tests and specifications that many smaller businesses simply cannot afford.

    2. Antisthenes
      November 14, 2015

      ” Readers of this post will just have to take my word ”

      Not just yours I can wade in with my own experience that mirrors yours.

      Although in some ways the UK could learn from some of the practices of the Continentals in fact if the EU had been set up as it should have been we could all have learnt from the best practices of each other. Unfortunately as you say the EU was set up not to be democratic and freely competitive but to protect the interests of France and Germany. So no other EU member has much influence and the UK least of all as how we do things is quite alien to all the others who have at least some things in common thanks to Napolian and being land locked together.

    3. Trevor Butler
      November 14, 2015

      I set up a company in Hong Kong – It took an hour…

      1. Lifelogic
        November 14, 2015

        It take very little time in the UK now perhaps less than an hour. But filings and tax returns can be a pain to file.

  4. Mike Stallard
    November 14, 2015

    Mr Redwood, the problem is not the EU making all the rules. There is a huge industry out there making the rules for the whole world.
    Admittedly the EU gold plates and adds to those rules (How much? Difficult and very time consuming to find out).
    And then our own dear bureaucrats add their little bit of gold plating too. (How much? Difficult to find out.)

    This has been discussed a lot on the EUReferendum blog. The general idea is that the EU is not the main source of all this fussy and often unnecessary interference in free trade. What we need to do – urgently – is to get away from the gold plating EU and once again make our voice heard in the international standards authorities. At the moment, we are not represented.

    The article I quote says it much better and more thoroughly than I have.

  5. The Active Citizen
    November 14, 2015

    My apologies John, I just realised my penultimate para is capable of misinterpretation. Here is what I wanted to say and as you haven’t approved the post yet I’d be grateful if you could replace that para with the following :-
    Kind regards,


    I’m delighted to read your attitude appearing to harden in what you now write. I just wish that you and your like-minded MPs would come out and state categorically that there’s no point in waiting for the outcome of the ‘negotiation’. I note that the ‘Vote Leave’ group similarly will not confirm that its’ position is to leave the EU whatever the outcome of the ‘negotiations’. This is quite absurd for a campaign supposedly wanting to be the official campaign authorised by the Electoral Commission to represent Brexit.

    1. alan jutson
      November 14, 2015

      Active Citizen

      This paragraph echoes exactly my point of yesterday.

      Now we know what Cameron wants, there is absolutely no point in waiting for the result, because even if he gets everything he has asked for, its far, far, too little.

      Get campaigning to get out now, do not waste time, we have to plant the FACTS before the UK public, and hammer them home over very many moths, so that they gain traction and get the message across.

  6. Bernard from Bucks
    November 14, 2015

    If I can’t vote and elect an alternative administration to successfully repeal laws, of which I and millions of others, do not approve, then we do not have democracy.

    1. oldtimer
      November 14, 2015

      Exactly my view too.

    2. Timaction
      November 14, 2015

      Exactly right. With over 75% of our laws being made by unelected Commissioners in the EU we do not live in a democracy. The legacies have been giving up our independent sovereign democracy for years. Mandelson and others have openly stated that we are beyond democracy!!
      British people need to wake up, stop listening to the legacy spin masters who lie constantly on their political project. You don’t have to be in the EU to trade with it. e.g. China, Japan, USA etc.
      It’s time for patriots to act, campaign and do what ever is necessary to get our sovereignty back!

  7. matthu
    November 14, 2015

    The EU and democracy is all about appeasing your local electorate by making vacuous promises at home while clandestinely supporting the direct opposite in Brussels.

    Andrew Lilico analyses how many powers the Conservative party have promised to repatriate in manifestos over the past 25 years – and now are strangely silent and acquiescent they are now about allowing these powers to remain with Brussels.

    Even after the full extent of Cameron’s letter to Tusk, there is no sense of outrage within the Conservative Party.

    Just a shrug.

  8. Ex-expat Colin
    November 14, 2015

    Standards…not sure that we make sufficient volumes of anything to warrant EU contrived standards on whats left of our manufacturing? Their influence on energy and related as we know is a disaster.

    We are supposed to be aiming at niche product markets which I wouldn’t think wide area standards apply to very much. Its special stuff? We don’t manufacture commoners cars for instance, just assemble them. Related standards are driven from elsewhere…and don’t we know it!

    The money fiddling in London is something else, a very large something else that the EU VI’s are dead interested in. And I think the EU (+UK VI’s) have a destructive plan for that if the UK leaves. It will be removed from London and no doubt new arrangements are being readied for its residence anywhere else…or Frankfurt etc.

    I am concerned that no after plan is being constructed for the possible OUT. 2 years to break is likely not enough and 5 year government timelines are never useful regarding big we see with NHS requirements – flip flopping.

    Interesting charts on your currency piece….very interesting indeed. Thank you for your efforts.

  9. Ian wragg
    November 14, 2015

    John. As has been said many times, the EU is modelled on the Soviet Union. If allowed to continue we will have just one model, specification. Then we can resort to annual tractor targets made of course by Germany and the UK can become a theme park.
    I’m sorry you deleted my post on accommodation for immigrants in our town. It just proves that the requirements are subject to the official secrets act.
    What is being done in our name

  10. Antisthenes
    November 14, 2015

    Bureaucrats like nothing more than expanding their usefulness which means poking into everything whether it is their business to do so or not. Give them one role and they will find ways to add many more and keep adding at the same time either by design or accident make complicated process that only they can understand so as to become indispensable. The EU has been structured to be one monolithic bureaucracy without a counterbalancing force to keep it in check.

    The UK has seen this phenomena as over the decades bureaucracy has been expanding so that now we have a government department and quango that controls nearly every aspect of our lives. The only force that we have against this rising tide is democracy and even that is often not powerful enough as the statist the left thwart the anti-statists the right from curbing this advance let alone rolling it back.

    EU has a democratic deficit and always will. If the UK cannot reliably control the rise of it’s own bureaucracy how on earth can a government with 28 states all with differing self interests, cultures, languages, economies and political objectives hope to do so. They cannot possibly for decades set up a workable democracy (so never will) that is robust enough to control the bureaucrats.

    The EU is a totalitarian bureaucratic state imposing on it’s members what they believe is good for them whether the states think it is or not or even want it or need it. Undemocratic centrally controlled command societies always fail in the end and it will be no different for EU(ssr).

  11. Original Richard
    November 14, 2015

    We have just seen with VW and its engines one of the worst aspects of the single market.

    That is that a manufacturer only needs to have type approval from just one, single testing station for the product to be licenced for the whole of the EU.

    This fraud would never have been possible if each country had its own tests.

    It consequently took a non-EU country, the USA, to discover the fraud.

    1. Lifelogic
      November 14, 2015

      Much truth in that. But any decent engineer with the figures and full information would have smelled a rat.

    November 14, 2015

    “The UK government has lost a string of court cases over financial and banking regulation in recent months”
    The Rt Hon Theresa May is also famed for having Courts hampering and obstructing our wishes.
    One wonders what originally possessed MPs to get themselves neutered . Was it Freudian, Jungian or bromide in their tea? The Labour Party obviously hogged the teapot.

  13. Denis Cooper
    November 14, 2015

    I would accept your general rule that “… if something is of merchandisable quality in country A, it can be offered for sale in country B … “, JR, but I would still wish to have reserve powers to ban or restrict imports as well-founded exceptions to that rule.

  14. Denis Cooper
    November 14, 2015

    JR, if Norway only has to implement about a tenth of new EU laws to ensure continued conformity with the requirements of the EU Single Market, as Norwegian opponents of EU membership claim*, then should we not be asking what the other nine tenths of new EU laws are about?

    Is much of it just the relentless pursuit of “ever closer union” for its own sake?

    * For example, recently:

    “Some people say that Norway is forced to accept all EU regulations. In fact, despite the EEA agreement, most EU regulations do not apply to Norway. Between 2000 and 2013, Norway adopted 4,723 directives and regulations through the EEA agreement. In the same period, the EU adopted 52,183 pieces of legislation. Of all EU legislation, only 9 per cent was adopted into the EEA agreement.”

  15. Bert Young
    November 14, 2015

    If manufacturers and commercial suppliers create products and services that other users want – at prices that are competitive , they will always find buyers and markets . The service organisation that I lead for 24 years had clients throughout Europe , the USA and the Far East , offices in those countries maintained the liaison and presence necessary to attract business . There were no blocs or constraints of any kind to prevent the service activities ; the only prevailing condition was the excellence of the staff who were engaged in dealing with client requests and problems . Competition came from a number of quarters – all leading to and maintaining the very high standards required .

    Markets do not need rules and regulations to create business . Control umbrellas do not need to interfere , standard pricing conditions do not need to exist . Where there is free enterprise and choice , suppliers and customers balance out demand and quality ; these are the only constraints that should exist . EU controls and edicts are incidents of bureaucratic thinking ; in the end they achieve nothing other than their own destruction .

  16. Graham Wood
    November 14, 2015

    “Living with the EU is like having a constant cyber attack on our law codes, rules and regulations. ……. they do all this in the name of European integration.”

    Once again, an excellent comment and way of describing the complete incompatibility of our membership with a free and democratic society.
    You go on to say: “To have a successful trade you usually have a system where the customer specifies what he wants” Indeed so, and given the huge trade imbalance between the UK and the EU, I suppose that could be summarised very fittingly in the old adage : “he who pays the piper, calls the tune”
    Would that Mr Cameron understood that simple but apposite principle!

  17. turbo terrier
    November 14, 2015


    State practising government by the people, so the dictionary states.

    As far as the EU goes that is rubbish.

    They operate the the shovel system. When they shout “crap” we have to jump on the shovel.

    Apart from our host and his small band of colleagues,the remaining members at Westminster accept it

  18. Denis Cooper
    November 14, 2015

    JR, you write:

    “The system is never stable, with the EU constantly seeking to extend their grip, change their laws, and increase their jurisdiction. They do all this in the name of European integration.”

    But that is exactly what the EU institutions should do when the member states have made it clear that they want greater integration, an unceasing, unlimited process of “ever closer union”, and have set up the EU and its institutions for that paramount purpose.

    Given that clear direction not just from the leading politicians in the governments of the EU member states but also from the national parliaments which approved the treaties, and in many cases also from the peoples who have approved the treaties in national referendums, it would be wrong, a dereliction of duty, for those employed in the EU institutions not to do whatever they could to progress integration.

    And nor would this be changed if just the EU leaders came together to make a political agreement, or issue a declaration, that they now wanted an end to the process of “ever closer union”, or wanted it modified or qualified in some way, unless that change was actually put into the treaties, and duly approved by the national parliaments and if necessary by national referendums, and then ratified.

    Not only the Court of Justice, but all the other institutions as well, would still be under a duty to follow what it said in the treaties, the same treaties to which they owe their very existence, and to disregard what the EU leaders said contrary to the treaties.

    In fact the European Council included a brief statement about “ever closer union” in the Conclusions of its meeting of 26/27 June 2014, a single short paragraph inserted more or less as an aside in a 22 page document:

    and that has made no perceptible difference to the way in which those in the other institutions have chosen to proceed.

    Nor should it have done, because legally a mere statement from the EU leaders cannot over-ride what is in the EU treaties as previously approved by the national parliaments and by national referendums, and rather paradoxically it would actually be an affront to national democracy if it was allowed to do so.

  19. Paul Cohen
    November 14, 2015

    Another impressive analytical post by JR.

    This really needs to reach a much wider audience in order to spread some appreciation of the hole we could be digging for ourselves, unless there is more factual information out there, alerting to the dangers of an in effect possible status quo result.

  20. Vanessa
    November 14, 2015

    JR – What you describe is “the Market”. This has been hijacked by all politicians who try to use it to their own ends – it is NOT a machine which can be tweeked and tinkered with, but a consensus of millions of people in the interests of their lives.

    To control interest rates and to pass laws to control aspects of this “machine” only makes the Market collapse. We have seen this in the “falling off a cliff” of trade. Millions of cars are made but no-one wants to buy them. Ships with containers ferrying goods from country to country have dried up and the shipping lanes are empty.

    The more politicians think they have power to control, the bigger the catastrophe will be.

  21. ian
    November 14, 2015

    The biggest threat coming up for Europe is the migration of the Africa people north, there is all ready over 1 billion people living in Africa and forecast to go up to 4,5 billion by the of this century.
    At the moment only a few crossover to Europe but as the population grows the 1 million a year coming now from the middle east will look small compared to the Africa migration when it get underway as you will see as the years go by.
    I am not worry about eastern Europe, when they see the wave coming they will turn east once more just like they are putting up the fencing now and shutting down the borders.

  22. ian
    November 14, 2015

    This attack should unseat the german leader and apart from the core country of the EU the people in Europe will go for anti EU leaders even france with le penn I cannot see the EU lasting as it is.

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