23 January, 2013

The speech

Mr Cameron has made his much trailed speech. Actually it wasn't bad: it was polite but reasonably firm. He framed it such that the European Union had to change in its members' interest, and made it clear that the changes he wanted should be for all countries in the EU.

I have two issues with the content of the speech; the first concerns its scope. There are several changes he alluded to, such as the working time directive, which would be a sine qua non for his party to opt out of. I really don't think the French trade unions are going to allow their government to approve this, and the last thing the French need is a neighbouring country, also in the EU, where you are allowed to work harder than you are in France.  Indeed there is the possibility that several countries will just call Cameron's bluff, particularly since he has already conceded that he doesn't want to leave.

The second issue concerns what was not in the speech. He said he wanted to base Britain's membership around the Single Market. I think it ought to be based around a free market. Under the present arrangements what can be produced or sold in the European Union countries is heavily restricted and regulated. These restrictions apply to whether we are selling to Germany or to Zambia. The raft of regulations, tens of thousands of pages, are restricting British companies and costing British jobs. It is all well for the Chairman of Honda to say he thinks Britain should remain in the EU: developing a new model costs billions and they can afford a few extra millions in costs caused by European regulation. Small to medium sized firms cannot, they just suffer.

And Britain cannot negotiate its own trade treaties with other countries. Many possible treaties, such as with Canada, are being held up because the Belgians or the Romanians or someone want something specific; often they have their own industry to protect, so Britain is party to a host of treaties which do not really suit it, and not party to possible trade relations which would suit us but not, say, the French.

We need to change the Single Market into a Free Market, and what with everything else that needs changing the best thing to do would be to leave.

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