Friday, 3 June 2016

Noises from Norway

There are various noises from Norway this week about how much EU law they accept. One should be mindful that the present ruling party in Norway ids about as Europhile as it gets. Another disconnected political elite at odds with the people. Most of what we're hearing is technocratic foibles, some of which are valid, some of which are not. I was going to have a look at some of them in detail but if this vote really is swung on whether marine antifouling paint is included in TTIP then there really isn't any point is there?

But actually it;s quite telling. What they are saying is that even though they have single market access, it's still quite difficult to trade with the EU in those areas where they opt not to follow EU rules. That is, however, entirely their own choice. So we must ask why after all this time they still elect not to follow EU rules.

As it happens it's a trade off. In some respects Norway sacrifices trade with the EU in order to keep its preferential agreements that the EU does not have and would not allow.  But as much as Norway might conclude trade in certain goods with the EU, the same can be said of the rest of the world. The EU is not an easy market to gain access to. And that right there is a reason to leave.

Outside the EU we, as a much larger, more economically diverse economy can create preferential agreements for all kinds of industries. We can be the back door into the EU. But that''s besides the point. The point is that the EU is expressly exclusive and has zero interest in opening up its markets. TTIP is the clue right there. Though it is a comprehensive agreement covering a number of areas it is still a tightly proscribed exclusive agreement. It might facilitate trade between the EU and the US (if it passes) but actually does nothing to open up the rest of the world.

Meanwhile outside of the walled garden we are seeing incremental developments toward a global single market. The tweet from Codex last night sets it all out. We have global forums for regulatory harmonisation like Codex, working inside the framework of the WTO's TBT/TFA agreements, with new ratifications nearly week.

As much as it is a genuine single market for trade in goods and services, bringing UNECE/ITU/ILO and IMO into play it is one which does not impose diktats. It is not concerned with redrawing borders, rather it is breaking them down. The EU on the other hand is about creating the EU utopian walled garden state, which has no interest in opening up to Africa and the far east - while at the same time employing dubious measures to stop African migration. As far as the EU is concerned, Africa is only there to be plundered.

While the rest of the work is advancing incrementally at a lightning pace, the EU and USA are crawling at snails pace to preserve their whites only ecosystem. We could be participating in and advancing an inclusive global single market as a full member, but while we remain in the EU, largely neutered at the top tables, we are a meagre voice. And as the EU is declining in relevance, so are we.

And though the EU has signed up to these global agreements using the same regulatory platforms, being a Frankenstein's monster, it will be the very last to agree a position on adopting new measures meaning we are always trailing far behind the rest. Outside the EU we could either work independently, or as part of Efta or build WTO coalitions in order to get things done.

In this considerations it isn't market size that buys you influence. It's the soft power you bring to to the table, usually by way of expertise and the common interests that coalesce around you. Britain as one of the most liberal and well connected countries on earth has prestige and a reputation for upholding the rule of law. We exemplify the values we seek to promote - fairness and good governance and that is what will make us leaders in this new global marketplace.

The more I look at it the more I find the potential of it genuinely exciting, especially when compared with the dismal Euro-parochialism, trying to patch holes in the roof of a bad idea from the last century. So much so I believe it would be genuinely moronic to stay in the EU. If we look beyond the horizon there is something far more promising on the horizon built on ideas that will endure.

Nobody is especially taken with the Norway option. Everybody recognises the deficiencies, but it's a great position from which to chart a new course, working with multiple allies to bring about something far more visionary.

It seems to me the more we hear about the woes of Norway the more the EU is implicated as an obstacle to open trade with the world. The solution is not to do as the Norwegian ruling class propose and cave into the EU. Now is the time to break free of it, challenging the EU's dominance and creaking indolence. There is something bigger and better going on. All we need to do is wake up from our forty year slumber.

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