Bill Cash, Bernard Jenkin and I will be talking this morning about the differences between the internal or single market of the EU and a free market, or the common market that many UK voters thought they were signing up to in 1972-5. Bill and Bernard have written a piece explaining the nature of the EU single market.
All you need for a flourishing free market is the simple rule established in the Cassis de Dijon judgement – if a product is of merchandisable quality and can be offered for sale in one country, it can also be offered for sale in the other countries of the free market area. If France approves a French product for sale in France, the UK authorities should be prepared to accept the French decision and allow it to be sold in the UK.
The EU has developed something more and something different from this idea. They have used the concept of a single market to erect a vast legislative structure. They have sought to transfer more and more regulation from individual member states to the EU. They have sought to define, influence and control many products, services and industries in the name of the single market. They have claimed that we need to harmonise laws, standards, employment rules, health and safety rules and much else besides to have a “fair single market. ”
The single market programme was meant to have concluded in 1992. The member states solemnly signed up to around 300 Directives under qualified majority votes in order to complete the single market. There was a fanfare to launch it. We were all told it would make the EU as a whole richer, and would greatly expand the trade between the EU members.
Instead, trade with non some EU countries grew more quickly than trade between the UK and the rest of the EU. The EU decided that it would take many more than 300 new laws to have their kind of regulated single market. They decided their market had to be a social market and include labour law. They saw all types of regulation as being part of the single market, from energy and renewables through to safety matters. Member states lost more and more powers and the EU gained more and more in the name of the single market. Some twenty years after the so called completion of the single market large law codes are still being wheeled out in the name of completing the single market.
I suspect that most UK people and much of UK business does not want a single market if that means EU legislation on everything from food standards to transport, from financial services to health and safety. We want a freer market, a common market, that allows trade but still allows member state decision making and differentiation.
We should heed the European Parliament Fact Sheet which describes the current phase of Single market evolution. It says:
“The requirements of European integration suggest that the internal market should eventually culminate in a fully integrated market on national lines ….a single currency, a harmonised tax system, integrated infrastructure, complete freedom of movement of persons and legal instruments to operate effectively throughout the market”
I am sure that this is what they are creating. I am not sure that is what so many UK advocates of the “Single market” have in mind.