Conservative MP Dan Hannan lays out the reasons why Britain shouldn’t fear leaving the EU if a new relationship can’t be negotiated. Where it’s liable to stick?
Hardest of all is the issue of the single market. Almost everyone agrees that Britain should remain part of a European free trade area. The trouble is that Brussels defines unrelated matters as single market issues, because doing so makes them subject to majority voting. The 48-hour week is considered a single market, not an employment, measure; the emissions trading scheme is labelled single market, not environment. Since the PM has explicitly called for the repatriation of social and employment policy, and since the other members won’t want to give Britain a competitive advantage, this is where the hardest pounding will be.
It’s entirely conceivable that such a deal can’t be reached, and Britain will either have to walk away entirely, or live with Brussels’s gilded cage. If they do choose to walk away, the most obvious partner is NAFTA, dominated as it is by two English-speaking countries.
The difficulties Hannen notes should also give more pause than it has to those who were so quick to compliment the idea of our entering a free trade area with Europe. It’s a perfect example of how the regulatory mindset relentlessly expands its authority. As opposed to an agreement, a trade treaty – living on the same level as the Constitution – could easily become a back-door for introducing all of those employment and contractual regulations that the administration seems to admire, without the messiness of potential Congressional review, especially if the RAILS Act ever gets into law.