The EU: Let’s be clear about what we want

Liam Fox

Liam Fox

I’ve always been an admirer of Liam Fox.  In the last Tory Party leadership contest I was supporting Fox, until he dropped out, when I switched my support to David Cameron (OK, guys, we all make mistakes).  And Fox has now made an interesting speech on the EU, calling for a radically different relationship .  “Life outside the EU holds no fears for the UK”, he says.  I agree.

And he calls for the slogan “Back to the Common Market”.  I’m not sure quite how a “Back to the future” slogan works with the public, but as I’ve often said, I’d like a pound for every East Midlands constituent who has said to me “We voted for a Common Market, not for this political union”.  Unfortunately, however, Liam doesn’t quite define what he means by a “Common Market”.

Characteristically, Boris Johnson is much more forthright  — though I fear he’s simply using words he hasn’t really thought through.  He says, in effect, “Let’s keep the Single Market, but get rid of all the bits we don’t like”.

‘m very pleased that a number of senior Tory politicians are now calling for radical changes in the UK’s relationship with the EU, including David Davis and Owen Paterson.  And about time too, you may think.  They’re still behind the curve in terms of public opinion.

And I believe that UKIP can take a rather large slice of the credit.  We have made the case against EU membership.  We have argued that we should be “Better Off Out”.  And we have scared the hell out of the Tories at the ballot box.  (A recent poll puts us on 16% — only ten points behind the Tories).  We know that we take votes from all parties and from none, but we’re certainly perceived in Tory-land as being primarily a threat to the Conservative Party, and that’s given the Tories and urgency on the issue that they might not otherwise have had.  Liam Fox explicitly makes the case that his party needs a clear European policy by end-2013, so that it’s not seen to be running scared after the 2014 euro-elections.

But I’m concerned about the vagueness of the aspirations expressed by senior Tories — almost as though they haven’t really thought through their position.  What exactly is a “common market”?  How can Boris have the Single Market without the stultifying regulation which forms an integral part of it?

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: the “Single Market” is the problem, not the solution.  First of all, it’s an old-fashioned Customs Union, like Bismarck’s 19th century zollverein in Germany.  Then, to make matters worse, it’s overlaid by multiple layers of onerous and hugely expensive regulation, which undermine European competitiveness.  Within the Single Market, we should be (A) subject to all that regulation; and (B) Barred from making our own free trade arrangements with other counties amongst the BRICs and the Anglosphere, where the growth is.

So let’s be quite specific: we want a Free Trade Agreement with the EU.  Nothing more, nothing less.  There are those who claim that this would leave us with serious country-of-origin problems.  But this seems to me simply a last-ditch attempt to justify the unjustifiable, and to defend the status quo.  Other countries make FTAs work.  We can too.  And given the huge imbalance in trade between the UK and the continent, there can be no doubt that Brussels would be keen to agree an FTA.  After all, they have FTAs with Korea and Mexico, and the UK is a rather more important trading partner.

So let’s welcome the new realism on Europe from some senior Tories.  But let’s also demand that they make themselves a little clearer on what they really want.  And let’s remember that the only way to get there is by invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which will allow us to negotiate a new relationship with Brussels.  Cameron’s idea that he can just show up in the Berlaymont Building and jettison half of the acquis communautaire is so much pie in the sky.

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16 Responses to The EU: Let’s be clear about what we want

  1. look , we cant do a half a job as was done so many years ago , as then it was a common market , now its a takeover bid , so we need to get away from this sham .

    all of them people that sit on the fence doing nothing but winge, need to start to be possitive & vote for the only party who wants us out of the EU , thats UKIP

  2. mikestallard says:

    John (above) and you are right. If the choice were really to renegotiate with sensible,kindly people who really wanted to help like, say, the Norwegians, then I would be firmly on the side of Boris Johnson whom I admire greatly.
    That is not the case.
    The Commission is not accountable, it is not elected. It does what it likes. It has not even the pretence of listening to us mortals. It is arbitrary. And it hates us English people who do not “understand” Europe. You only have to watch just one session of the EU Parliament (Dan Hannan or your website) to see this.
    Thanks partly to the ridiculous scam over Gay Marriage and the rising deficit and the scandal of windmills and the lights going out in the near future, I am certainly going to vote UKIP at all next elections. Even Labour could not be this bad. (I may regret saying that).
    Hello the new Mr Wilson! Edward Heath was better than this lot.

  3. Linda Hudson says:

    The people have lived for nigh on 40years of Common Market, E.E.C, up to the present E.U., and politicians have nothing to teach the Common people on any one of these regimes, because living every day with E.U. diktat, laws, rules, regulations, utter bureaucracy and for many years, corruption rearing its ugly head that cost the people billions of pounds in taxes, has served to make the people wary, and astute. politicians are fudging the whole issue, and it’s the people who are losing patience, because we all fear for our country and our people, and have a life to live now!

  4. Mike Spilligan says:

    Mr RH: The EU and its predecessors have never lived up to the many promises made and is now not merely in decline but in its death throes. When that stage is reached in any organization it tends to collapse very rapidly and this is another reason why what you say is so important. When that collapse happens you and like-minds should already have a single strategy in mind – not all the waffling we’ve read from Tory politicians, most of which is meant to get former Tory voters to stay on board a while longer when what they are really doing is just keeping them quiet before the next, false “negotiating” failure is announced.
    Part of Cameron’s failure is to think that he could persuade notional Tory-inclined voters to go along with him as easily as he persuaded the paid-up Party members to do so.

  5. Sean O'Hare says:


    And let’s remember that the only way to get there is by invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which will allow us to negotiate a new relationship with Brussels.

    Is this actually UKIP policy now. I thought they were insisting on repeal of ECA 1972 first?

    • I can be sure that it’s UKIP’s policy to get us out — and no compromises. Whether on the day we start with repealing the 1972 Act or the Article 50 route, I wouldn’t be prepared to swear. But it’s certainly the case that the only realistic way in which Cameron could start to renegotiate would be to invoke Article 50. But that means announcing an intention to withdraw.

      • Sean O'Hare says:

        Thanks for replying Roger. There seems to be a fixation within UKIP that repeal of ECA 1972 is the only way out. There are more cautious souls, equally keen on extracting the UK from the EU, that think that would be a recipe for chaos. I’m inclined to think that as it has taken 40 years to get this far in, taking a couple of years to extract ourselves would be tolerable to most people. Lib/Lab/Con instilling a fear of a leap in the dark will be play big time in the event that an in/out referendum is called so it seems to me that the Article 50 approach should be being promoted in order allay those fears.

      • john macgregor says:

        i am right behind any ! ideas to get out of the EU , and by that i mean any way [possable )invoked Article 50, then we have a chance ill be right behind every body who like the idea

      • I’m unaware that that is current UKIP policy although, IMO, it should be. A sudden tearing up of the treaties without a clearly thought out and agreed path for exit, would be dangerous. However, what the European Council might cook up in two years when we are not allowed to be party to negotiations, is anyone’s guess. My guess is that the rebate would go on day one.

  6. harrybeckhough says:

    No such deal is possible with EU; the only way is OUT NOW which I have been preaching over 20 years in publications, writings, addresses, DVDs etc; dont try to sup with the devil who has already reduced us to a hulk!

    • Sean O'Hare says:

      Actually once we have invoked Article 50 which is announcing that we intend to leave they have to negotiate a trade agreement. No ifs, no buts, not even Barroso and Van Rompuy can wriggle out of it ‘cos its in the Treaty on European Union (TEU)

  7. ianhillsatsparklingsites says:

    Article 50 – which is EU law, overriding UK law – shows that we can only leave if both the European Council and the Parliament consent to it, and on their terms. Given that fact, attempted repeal of the EC Act, etc might be struck down by our judges.

    (But having said all that, I notice that judges didn’t strike down legislation made by Oliver Cromwell until the monarchy was restored. Who wants to lose his head, after all?)

    Extract from Article 50 –

    2. A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention. In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union. That agreement shall be negotiated in accordance with Article 218(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. It shall be concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament.

    • You need to add Paragraph 3 which makes it clear that withdrawal takes a maximum of two years. Your statement ” that we can only leave if both the European Council and the Parliament consent to it” is incorrect.

      “3. The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.”

  8. Anne Palmer says:

    And we believed that all we had to do to prevent any EU laws going through our Parliament was to repeal the European Communities Act 1972/3. Then activate Article 50 and see what happens. As long as people keep voting for one of the three Major Political parties THAT WANT TO REMAIN IN THE EUROPEAN UNION-forever, we will indeed remain in the EU-FOREVER. It is up to everyone to get the people to vote for -wait for it-UKIP. (No, and I am not in any Political party, never have been and never will be. The only other way is for the people to fight for their freedom and one way is there staring you all in your faces. The people cannot according to their Constitution, contribute in any way, even financially, for foreigners governing this Country and that also means foreigners making laws that even our Government have to obey by putting all into UK Laws through our Parliament. This is what is happening NOW re the treacherous diabolical Data Retention Bill Directive 2006/24/EC. Most of the rest has been put through via the EU’s Localism Act. Same -Sex Marriage also started its Journey from the EU too. I think nearly everything comes via the EU and will do so as long as we remain in it.

  9. Anne Ppalmer says:

    However, further to my previous contribution, if what we read in certain news Papers today is true that our Government may allow our deliberately reduced forces to take part or come under any EU Officer or amalgamate even one of our Forces in to, or contributing to a European Air Force, Army or Navy then I cannot contribute any more taxes towards any part of this according to our very long standing and so far ignored Common Law Constitution. I can’t believe even now, a British Government prefers to contribute to the EU’s Defence Agency when he is deliberately cutting each section of our Forces down, yet I remember promises made by the best Prime Mnister this Country has ever had, that this Country should never again be ‘found wanting’ in the field of the Defence of this Country ever again, yet look at what is happening now. A Government that puts payment to Foreigners in the EU BEFORE THE DEFENCE OF THIS HIS OWN COUNTRY THAT HE IS PRIIME MINISTER OF. In two places of our Constitution, “”…all usurped and foreign power and authority…may forever be clearly extinguished, and never used or obeyed in this realm. …no foreign prince, person, prelate, state, or potentate…shall at any time after the
    last day of this session of Parliament, use, enjoy or exercise any manner of power, jurisdiction, superiority, authority, preeminence or privilege…within this realm, but that henceforth the same shall be clearly abolished out of this realm, for ever.”

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