Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Sins of the father...

One of the most towering influences of the eurosceptic community is one Richard North. This is a fact. This cannot be denied. It is widely acknowledged even by Ukip's MEPs and a great many of our political enemies.

Through several influential books and a series of prominent Daily Mail features, both he and Christopher Booker charted gradual incursion of what was then thought to be EU red tape and how it was destroying businesses up and down the country.

It is this that has informed much of Eurosceptic thinking for the last twenty years and has remained a pillar of eurosceptic argument. So in some respects, it's ironic that I should be the one spending so much of my time shooting it down.

As much as a lot of the regulation following the Maastricht Treaty was bad regulation, it was the transition costs that finished off small and medium sized operators from slaughterhouses to electronics manufactures. Conformity, training and equipping for a new regime is no small undertaking and in the case of small producers, too much to ask.

That is why any fag packet calculations from cranks like Ruth Lea are best ignored. To say we can ditch the single market and have different rules for those who do not export is such a fatuous idea, it's difficult to know where to start. For starters, while you as a business may not export, you may well produce components or methods for assembly lines who most definitely do export. In the first instance that knocks Lea's bean counting out of kilter.

But then she doesn't account for the transitional costs or the fact that if the higher standards of EU regulation meet the domestic requirement then there would be no incentive or rush to depart from them anyway. 

Then of course there's the efficiency aspect. There's a lot to be said for so-called EU regulations. While they were bad at the time of The Mad Officials, we have seen twenty years of incremental improvements for what is an increasingly complex world. To have our own set of rules and regulations would mean massively bloating the public sector in order to accumulate the necessary expertise to regulate. Why not take off the shelf regulations and tweak them? After all, that's what the EU does.

In many respects, that's what makes the Norway Option ideal, in that we still get to outsource our regulations and we can still comply with the single market but secure our own opt outs in ways the EU will not allow.

If we want to talk about deregulation then the answer is to secure better regulation. After all deregulation is just code for cutting red tape. Standardising and reforming regulation is every bit as good as deregulation when it comes to removing red tape and in fact there would be more red tape if no regulation existed. Most of it would be protectionist. It's actually quite amusing that Ruth Lea of all people would be arguing a case that in practice runs anti-ethical to her liberal conservative outlook.

In order to get regulatory reforms what we need is to be in at the top tables influencing the conventions and agreements that make up the larger trade deals. Just yesterday, Martin Schulz was arguing that the ILO conventions should be part of TTIP. So if we want to shape these goliath agreements then obviously you'd want to be in at the ILO level with a full veto to make sure that any package deals the EU makes are shaped the way you want them. That is influence we would not have in the EU, especially as the EU ever more so marginalises British input when we go via the EU.

The short of it is, our side needs to modernise their arguments, slaughter the sacred cows of old and embrace the fact that regulation is now part of the modern world and that our ace in the hole argument is the fact that the EU is the middleman not and not the top table. It's a simple enough premise, but one seemingly beyond the grasp of the loser eurosceptic brigade. That is why we have to spend so much time fighting them before we can even begin to think about fighting the enemy. Until these battles are won, they are the enemy.

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