I am surprised how long it is taking some in the media and politics to grasp that the UK will leave the single market and customs union. It should not be news. Both the official Leave and Remain campaigns made this clear in the referendum. It was one of the few things they agreed about. Staying in the single market whilst leaving the EU is not offer. There is no legal structure that allows that.
Nor should the UK apply to join the European Economic Area, a body we belong to only by virtue of being an EU member. Again, the official Leave campaign made clear we did not want to apply to belong, and Remain explained it could be difficult and would come with budget contributions and freedom of movement attached.
I came to the conclusion a long time ago that we needed to leave the single market. I did so because I saw the single market close up. As a senior businessman working in a large industrial group I saw how it did not work for the UK or for innovative companies. As the UK’s single market Minister helping construct it I saw how anti innovation and enterprise the whole structure was designed to be.
In the 1980s I was chairman of a large international industrial group. We had successful businesses in the UK, USA, Australia, Malaysia, South Africa and various other Asian countries. The only European country where we had a business was Greece. We found it difficult to sell into the EEC’s single market. During the Conservative opposition years this century again I was involved international business. Again it was difficult to do business on the continent despite putting in effort to do so with local people working in the relevant languages. We flourished outside the EU as well as in the UK.
As single market Minister the whole scheme seemed to me to be wrongly constructed. It was a con. It was not about free trade or free access. It was all about piling more and more laws and rules onto business and citizens in the name of the single market. It ended up favouring large companies already dominant in a market, and the status quo. The danger was it could make exciting innovation illegal. The definition of a single market measure could range from employment and welfare policy through environmental policy to transport and taxation.