Tuesday, 7 June 2016

A remain vote will be a spectacular own goal

Europhiles make me laugh. "But Norway has to adopt EU rules!!" they shriek. True. Some, not all. But whose rules are they anyway? Anyone paying attention to this debate knows that anything to do with land management comes form the Food and Agriculture Organisation and food standards are made by Codex Alimentarius. Everywhere you look there are global super regulators setting the agenda, even for the EU. I could go on but I will bore my regular readers to death. The basics of it is, the EU does not make the rules. It is just as much a recipient of hard coded regulation as we are.

Further to this, more than a hundred other countries are as well. There are new signatories to Codex rules and standards all the time. So when people say that Norway is half in and half out of the EU, well if that's true of Norway, then soon it will be true of the rest of the world.

If you want to export to the EU you have to to meet certain standards. Standards specified in EU regulations but actually not standards made by the EU. And since non-EU members also export between themselves, they have also agreed to meet these standards. We are seeing a global universal export standard in food and many other areas from chemicals, pharmaceuticals right through to cars. This is why we won't be rushing to deregulate anything when we leave the EU.

But as more nations come on stream into the global rules based trading system, this naturally means the EU's own voice within it is diminished. A shrinking fish in a growing pond. Now some say that Britain would have no influence outside the EU. Categorically untrue.

In order to join this network of rules based trade, you need to first put the systems in place. Regulatory systems comprise of qualifications, training, instrumentation, inspection and audit. This stuff requires real expertise, quality science and and modern technology. This is now central to our exports. The market for British expertise is vast the world over.

While we can say in theory that Zimbabwe is a signatory to Codex conventions, their regulatory regime is actually in its infancy. Consequently food control systems are part of the pilot testing of the new Food and Agriculture Organisation/World Health Organisation food control assessment tool.

As much as its about maintaining food standards and meeting marketing and transportation rules, it's about protecting the supply chain from fraud and corruption - an ongoing global concern. This requires an intensive application of expertise, involving supply chain surveillance, teaching and laboratory testing. Areas where Britain excels.

Only when it can be demonstrated that newly aligned members can maintain their own systems can we then look at a system for automatic mutual recognition to do away with the necessity for time consuming trade deals. Outside of EU there is therefore an incentive to invest in lesser developed countries, not only to increase the supply of cheaper food, but also to forge allies at the top tables and challenge the EUs own dominance. By investing through aid we open up new markets but we also strengthen our hand at the negotiating tables.

The aim of trade facilitation globally is a to establish means by which nations can opt into markets by way of adopting and maintaining standards, thus qualifying without discrimination or demands for more intrusive internal reforms that are none of the EU's business.

This in fact renders much of the blather about leaving the single market redundant. The reason being is that if we did leave the single market we would be the odd one out globally. If we opt out of "EU rules" we are in fact opting out of global rules which makes no sense and serves very little purpose.

The purpose of Brexit is not to leave the single market but to expand it and wrest it out of the EU's control. We then have a global rules based market based on cooperation and consent rather than the diktats of a small and insular euro elite. The eventual destination of this would be a global community of equals which includes Africa and the developing world, giving them a real say in the formation of the rules too.

What makes it all the more possible is seizing the opportunity Brexit presents. Roberto Azavedo, director general of the WTO has said that we are looking at a series of complex negotiations at the WTO level of we leave the EU but were we to approach the WTO with an agenda of our own to help kick start this process of global regulatory harmonisation then we may well find we have supporters.

The EU is a notoriously difficult market for Africa to enter. Britain acting as a facilitator would be a welcome development. We have the tools and the expertise. More to the point, we can afford to. We can look at joining the EEA Grants programme and look at reforming it to give it global reach to the end of regulatory convergence. In that regard, being half in, half out of the EU, while a misrepresentation, is actually exactly where we want to be.

We are told that Brexit is an isolationist proposition but the more I look at the possibilities the more opportunity I see for a major reform and reboot of global trade, enhancing the global forums and building something more befitting this century.

If you have looked into trade facilitation in any depth, you will see that as much as it's about establishing a rules based system, there are also infrastructure opportunities and major requirements for IT in order for it all to function. This will have to operate to global standards, especially in electronic tracking of goods and regulatory administration.

This is where the opportunities for British industry lie and this is why we need our own voice and veto at the top tables, not least the International Telecommunication Union. Extending the reach of the internet into rural areas in the developing world is critical to reaching new customers.

This is why I will be deeply sad if Britain chooses to remain in the EU. The opportunities for British science and technology are vast. The potential for global growth is boundless. All it requires of us is to imagine something bigger and more enterprising than the EU. The europhiles are obsessed with their walled garden enterprise, stitching up bilateral deals to exclude intruders and competitors, stifling growth in the process. Something far more progressive is waiting for us if only we can lift the shroud of the EU and recognise its total obsolescence.

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