Single Market vs EU

January 1, 2011
  1. Isn’t wanting to stay in the single market but not in the EU wanting to have one’s cake and eat it?

(or similar):

“Basically, they want to be in the single market, but don’t want to comply with the rules for participating in the single market. All those European regulations they hate so much are the things that make the single market work - by harmonizing the regulations so people selling things don’t have 20-whatever different sets of possibly contradictory national regulations to comply with. How exactly do they think British goods will have access to the single market without complying with the damn rules? Unicorns and rainbows.”

  1. The Single Market harmonises more than is necessary for free trade within the EU.

This is for several reasons: the legislative process for Single Market affairs is simply less onerous; unnecessary harmonisation allows lobbyists to impose costs on their clients' competitors; politically, regulating the EU’s economy at French levels of intervention is necessary to obtain consent from the French electorate for free trade within the EU: this means increasing regulation in the UK, but decreasing it in, say, Greece.

The EU’s treaties provide for the free movement of goods across EU internal borders. They ban discrimination by country of origin, quantitative restrictions on trade, and “measures having the effect of quantitive restrictions”, that is, cunning protectionist schemes disguised as technical standards and so on. If a product is legal in one EU country, then with few exceptions it’s supposed to be legal to sell it in any other EU country. Under such a regime, you don’t need to specify in great detail how products are made.

It is not necessary for the free movement of goods in this Single Market for there to be detailed regulations on how many hours a week employees can work on activities unconnected with exports to the EU. You don’t need to say that doctors on the NHS (whose services are obviously not exported to Estonia) can only work 48 hours per week, in order to ensure the free movement of British-made machine tools to Germany. Nor should Irish workers making circuit boards for export to South Africa have to work a week similar in length to that worked in France, yet this labour regulation is part of the Single Market. You could repeal it tomorrow and the goods would still move freely across the EU.


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