Open Letter to the Telegraph’s Damian Reece

Damian Reece

Damian Reece

Dear Damian,

In your piece on Saturday 5th, you argue that “Staying with Europe is good business sense”, and that “There is a consensus here that the UK must retain its membership of the Single Market”.

I think you’re wrong.  There’s a consensus that the UK must maintain market access and free trade, but that’s a rather different matter.

As a respected commentator, I’m sure that you are well aware of the difference between a Free Trade Area and the Single Market — though that was not apparent in your piece, which makes no mention of free trade.  So for the avoidance of doubt, let me clarify.  The Single Market is a Customs Union, not a Free Trade Area.  The Customs Union is an old-fashioned and sub-optimal form of trade organisation, so much so that no other group of advanced economies has adopted it.  It is based on Bismarck’s idea of a “Zollverein”.  Membership means that our trade policies are outsourced to Brussels, and we are unable to make our own trade deals.

But the Single Market is more than a straightforward Customs Union.  It is also overlaid by a massive superstructure of regulation, which most business people agree is excessively restrictive and expensive.  Some credible estimates of the annual cost to the UK of European regulation run to over £100 bn a year — a massive drain on our economy.

If we were to leave the EU but remain in the Single Market (if that’s possible) we should be stuck with the trade controls, the regulatory costs, and probably the budget contributions — precisely the things which, in economic terms, we want to escape.  Indeed the very concept of “out of the EU but in the Single Market” is meaningless, since the Single Market is most of the EU.

Those of us who believe that we should be “Better Off Out” would argue for full independence, plus a free trade agreement.  Such an agreement can certainly be achieved, because it is overwhelmingly in the interests of both parties, and of Brussels more than the UK (since we are a net importer from the EU).  It is also required in the Treaties for the EU to negotiate such an agreement with a departing member-state.  Even in the unthinkable case that we left the EU with no such agreement, the duties we should pay on our exports to the EU would be a mere fraction of our current net EU budget contributions.

Like most apologists for the EU, you make a comparison with Switzerland (in terms not very obliging to the Swiss).  At least you don’t mention Norway, as many do.  But why do they always compare an independent UK to small countries like Switzerland and Norway?  In terms of GDP, the UK lies between the USA and Canada, and like them, forms part of the Anglosphere.  An EU/Canada FTA is under negotiation, but had the UK been an independent nation we should surely have struck such a deal years ago.

There is clearly no question of the USA or Canada applying for EU membership.  So why do we think it benefits us?

We hear a lot about “regulation by fax” for non-member countries involved in trade deals with the EU.  But I am not aware that Mexico or Korea (which have FTAs with the EU), or the USA and Canada (which are discussing them) have such worries.  EU apologists persistently seek to conflate the need to conform to EU regulations on exports to the EU (just as we have to meet US regulations on exports to the US) with subjection to the whole gamut of EU regulation.  I worked in international businesses for thirty years; it is a commonplace that an exporter has to conform to the local rules of his export market.  That’s not at all the same as being subjected to wholesale regulation — still less political control.

You worry, Damian, about the UK’s position in the event of an EU/USA FTA (which may take a long time to arrive).  But any such deal will undoubtedly also involve current EFTA members in Europe.

I would call on you to remember that the Single Market is not just about free trade, and that it carries a huge burden of baggage which is damaging our economy.  We need free trade and market access, not Single Market membership.  And we will be Better Off Out.


This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Open Letter to the Telegraph’s Damian Reece

  1. Brilliant, thought-provoking letter Mr Helmer. I would imagine it will fall on deaf ears unfortunately, but your persistence in correcting the spin of pieces like Reece`s is much appreciated.

  2. Bernard Hough says:

    Excellent read and very enlightening for those who `don`t quite understand the politics` like me.
    What I do see are the massive amount of imports from China, Japan, Korea etc. etc. who are not subscribing anything to the EU but seem to do quite well out of it, if you will pardon the pun!
    I`ve no doubt that if we were to leave we would be made to pay for it in some way!!
    But since we take more imports from Europe than we send, it probably would not last long.

  3. MartinW says:

    Succinctly explained, Roger. This needs to be said over and over again, and copied to all MPs and others until the message gets through. Relentless repetition is key.
    Cameron, however, may be unpersuadable. By restating, yesterday, that he will never agree to leave the EU, he reassures the ‘colleagues’ that they can quite happily refuse any concessions the UK might wish to ask for. Cameron is either cynical or uniquely stupid.

  4. Bernard Hough says:

    I watched Andrew Marr interview Cameron on his BBC program this morning, either Mr Cameron is a highly skilled `dodge the issue` person, or, a totally ignorant one.
    He talked over Andrew at every question, did not answer the question put, stated every drawback with the EU as a reason to stay in, ie. if we are in we can change things! Don`t make me laugh!!
    He appeared totally arrogant and had a “only I know best” attitude.
    I would only disagree with Martin on two points, I don`t think Mr. Cameron is cynical or uniquely stupid, I think he is both!
    If it didn`t seem so silly I would think that Mr. Cameron were being paid by Brussels to sell their country down the river!
    Or maybe the promise of a lucrative job like Mr. Blair got.

  5. Bernard Hough says:

    Sorry I should have said “his country” down the river

  6. Sean O'Hare says:


    Who in UKIP has responsibility for developing a credible EU exit strategy that ensures we retain access to the single market? It is becoming patently obvious that the party’s thoughts in that area a not very far advanced. Scaremongering by organisations like the CBI, Open Europe and the MSM is going to get a lot more persistent over the coming months and the party’s arguments are going to have to be very convincing indeed in order to counter it. Currently they don’t appear to be.

    Looking at the list of spokesman on the UKIP website I note that you have responsibility for Business, Tim Congdon and Nigel Farage for the economy and William Dartmouth for trade. Do you have regular meetings to discuss the exit strategy or are you singing from different hymn sheets?

  7. Duyfken says:

    “As a respected commentator, I’m sure that you are well aware of the difference between a Free Trade Area and the Single Market — though that was not apparent in your piece, which makes no mention of free trade.”

    This is correct inasmuch as Mr Helmer is the respected commentator, even though he says it himself, and not Reece who has shown himself to be anything but.

  8. neilfutureboy says:

    I looked at Tim Congleton’s estimate of the EU costing £150 bn & he had, at several points, chosen to err on the side of caution so that figure is definitely not on the high side.

    It is up to anybody putting the case for membership to explain where the necessary £150+bn benefit comes from (& why British governments have, for 50 years, refused to do an independent cost benefit analysis).

  9. Sean makes an excellent point regarding exit strategy – this will be THE key battleground, and spin, may indeed, win, unless kept in check. Reactive reasoned argument may not be enough, UKIP should consider going on the attack.

    • neilfutureboy says:

      How long did it take Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia&Hercegovina to declare indepedence from Yugoslavia & get EU recognition – a country recognised under international law & which, under the Helsinki treaty, we had guarantted to “take no action against the territorial integrity or unity of”?

      It took a matter of days – in Bosnia’s case it may have been under 24 hours after the “referendum” carried out only in the Moslem/Croat areas by a body which was not the legal government.

      With that EU endorsed precedent there can be no question of it taking longer to get out of the still non-sovereign EU. Anything else is an attempt to delay the decision.

      • cosmic says:

        It depends on how much chaos you think people are prepared to tolerate and the amount of political will there would be to continue in the face of uncertainty and temporary disruption.

        I’d say that the wish to withdraw from the EU is still quite soft and the mirage of renegotiation is obviously appealing. Minimising the scares and the genuine disruption caused by leaving, by having a plan to deal with it, is sensible.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s