I heard it again on the Radio today (June 22nd, as I write). The Today Programme, in fact. A journalist was interviewing a Spokesman for Business for Britain, and he said: “But businessmen are constantly telling me that if we leave the EU, we’ll still have to obey EU rules”.
This is nonsense, and I suspect that many of those who say it – especially the politicians – know full well that it’s nonsense. In a piece of very deceitful sleight-of-hand, they’re conflating two quite separate things – on the one hand, country-specific product specs, and on the other, broad-based EU regulations.
I spent thirty years in international businesses, so I know a bit about international trade. If you want to sell a tractor to India, or a car to Singapore, or an air-conditioner to the USA, then of course you must ensure that your product meets the local country specs. If we want to sell any product to an EU member state, after Brexit, we’ll have to make sure that it meets EU specs (just as we do now). That’s just a commonplace of international trade, and it applies to all export destinations.
What will not apply, after Brexit, is the vast mountain of excessive and expensive EU regulation which covers not just EU exports but most aspects of most businesses. Let’s look at some examples:
Employment law: Much of the EU’s employment laws are well-intended, and designed to protect workers. But their effect is to damage the economy, suppress growth, and cost jobs. Yes, we want worker protection, but we don’t need to go over the top as the EU does. We want our opt-out from the Social Chapter back (and a great deal more).
Product registration: The REACH directive alone has applied vast and unnecessary costs to industry, especially the chemical industry. We can ensure safety of chemicals without the EU’s over-kill.
Taxation: We shall be free of the threat of the EU’s creeping tax harmonisation. They’re already asking for a common corporate tax base. Common corporate tax rates will be next – never mind the damaging proposals for bank regulation and a financial transfer tax.
Immigration: We shall be able to control our borders, and admit (for example) highly qualified Commonwealth immigrants, rather than unskilled Eastern Europeans.
Energy: EU energy policy is forcing up prices and driving plants, jobs and investment out of Britain and out of Europe. After Brexit, we will still have a battle to persuade our own parliament to be more realistic – but at least we have the opportunity to decide for ourselves.
Agriculture: We shall have a farm support régime designed in Britain for British farmers, not one designed in Brussels for French farmers. More support, less red tape.
Fisheries: We’ll reclaim our territorial waters under international law, and re-establish our fishing industry.
Suddenly, these vast swathes of policy and regulation will be decided by our elected representatives, not by unelected, unaccountable and unresponsive technocratic institution in Brussels.
Consider: The biggest suppliers of goods to the EU are China, Russia and the USA. Do they observe EU specs on exports to the EU. Yes. Do they apply EU rules to every aspect of their economies? The hell they do.