Too many still subscribe to the false belief that the single market is a priceless creation, naïve to the significant drawbacks membership entails, says John Redwood MP.

One of the worst jobs I was given in government was negotiating numerous Directives and Regulations to complete the so called single market. Seeing the construction of this complex web of law codes from the inside taught me that this was no ordinary market. This was a simple power grab by the EU authorities, using the cover of the markets as a means of taking over large areas of legislative authority from member states.

The job was unsatisfactory, as it entailed endless hours of discussions and debates trying to stop needless rules, or trying to amend badly drafted and over the top proposals to make them something business could live with. I soon concluded it was all based on a false premise, that you can legislate to create a market. Markets require willing buyers and willing sellers. They need some people to be good at defining services and designing products that others will value, and other people willing to shop around with an open mind. You do not need to amalgamate law codes or adopt common laws in order to buy from each other. China’s laws are very different from the UK, yet they manage to sell us a large amount of product.

It is true that there is a benefit in the single market legislative programme. If you have a product which is of marketable quality for country A within the single market, that same product will meet the legal and technical specification needed in country B if also within the single market. This of course is an advantage to countries trading with the EU from outside the zone, as much as it is to members inside the zone. It also brings the disadvantage to members of the zone that if the EU decides on unsatisfactory requirements and specifications you are lumbered with it, whatever world companies may be able to produce which is better outside the EU specification.

Too many still seem to think the single market is some priceless creation. I remember it being a series of compromises over very often badly drafted texts, where the main aim seemed to be to establish EU control or involvement in the particular area covered by the draft law. Nor is it true to say you cannot trade with member states if you no longer belong to the single market. The rest of the world trades daily with the EU without being members.

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