On 6th June I attended the 18th annual conference of the German British forum. I seemed to be the one Eurosceptic invited to put a different point of view. Most of the participants expressed views which were very positive about the EU in general and the single market in particular. Most wanted to get over the message that they would like the UK to stay in, and regard staying in as crucial for our economic well being and for the trade between the UK and Germany.
There were a few Eurosceptic noises from some of the Germans. They did not necessarily like the idea of a transfer union. Some seemed to side with those in Central banking circles in Germany who do not favour monetary looseness and adventurism. All seemed to think the single market was good for them and necessary for us.
I sought to explain to them why so many people in the UK are no longer happy with our membership of the EU on current terms. I explained the strong feeling that we need a new relationship with the EU without all the rules, regulations and qualified majority votes. I had to accept some of the usual unfriendly comments from a couple of UK participants.
I stressed that we do not see the single market as crucial to our trade with Germany. Indeed, I am sure they would want to keep selling us their BMWs and their Mercedes, so a way will be found to facilitate trade between us, even if the UK voters vote to leave the EU. The UK has no wish to impose tariffs or barriers against German cars or other products. Indeed, it would be against international trade rules anyway, even if the UK were outside the EU. We assume Germany would not wish to block our exports to them.
I take an optimistic view about modern democratic Germany and assume they would have no such wish. I asked them at the meeting to tell me if they would want to block our trade. None signified they would. There is the added security from the UK point of view that they sell us more than we sell them. Eurosceptics should unite to explain to voters that there is no threat to our trade with Germany if we seek to renegotiate, or if the decision is taken to leave.
I went on to explain why many of us no longer believe the single market is the guarantor of our trade or prosperity. The idea of free trade around the continent was never fully implemented. Instead the single market brand was used to introduce a very wide range of new laws and regulations. It means that UK companies have to accept all these requirements, even for good solds in the UK or to non EU countries. Sometimes these EU rules make us less competitive or get in the way of selling elsewhere. The dear energy the EU is imposing is especially worrying, at a time when the US and Asia is benefitting from much cheaper energy supplies.
The single market has also been stretched to give the EU control over our borders, immigration policy and even over parts of our welfare and benefits policy. This is making the single market the problem, not the prize. UK people do not want the EU interfering in these matters, and do not see the benefit from the interference.