Business for Britain believes that only British businesses that trade with the EU should be subject to Single Market regulations (that’s five per cent of all of them). And a poll commissioned by the organisation found that British business leaders believe the costs of complying with the Single Market to outweigh the benefits of being in the EU, by 46 per cent to 37 per cent. This view represents a strand of opinion on the right that’s sceptical about or even hostile to the Single Market – see Bill Cash and Bernard Jenkin’s paper on the subject – because it sees it as representing not free trade but a customs union (which it is) – or, to put it another way, a zollverein aimed at political union.
But whatever one’s view of the Single Market, it is a matter of fact that a country doesn’t have to be a member of the EU to participate in it. For example, the EEA countries, such as Norway; a non-EEA European country country, Switzerland, and a country which isn’t really part of Europe at all – Turkey – have Single Market access. (Daniel Hannan suggested yesterday that “Brussels will find some similarly symbolic way to penalise the Swiss” for their recent referendum, and that’s the point – that any such move will be more shadow than substance).
We read today that the Government’s review of EU competences will apparently include “a strong endorsement of the commercial advantages of Britain’s EU membership”. Since the review hasn’t been released, we can’t yet get our teeth into it – though Mark Wallace has explained on this site why it has been flawed from the start. If reports of its contents are right, it certainly doesn’t represent the views of Conservative MPs or activists. But more importantly still, it seems to argue backwards – simply asserting that what it wants to be true is true, in claiming that Britain regaining control of its trade policy would mean “giving up benefits of access to the single market”. Like Norway, or Switzerland, or Turkey?
As I say, the review isn’t published yet, but if it muddles opinion and fact like this, all the Government will achieve is a balance of incompetencies.