A Teachable Moment?

Vote Leave’s Campaign Manager, Dominic Cummings, does not think that most people have even heard of the Single Market. Presumably, he thinks that even fewer understand the difference between the Single Market and the European Union.

Of course, a capable “leave” campaign would be in the business of educating people so that they can make an informed decision about whether Britain should remain in or leave the European Union come the referendum.

Indeed, Vote Leave and Leave.EU were recently presented with an ideal opportunity to do just that.

Former Google CEO, Dr Eric Schmidt, now Executive Chairman of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, recently commented on the benefits of Britain remaining in the European Single Market.

Unfortunately for Vote Leave, this story came after two consecutive days spent criticising Britain’s Single Market membership, complaining about the “costs” associated with regulatory compliance (a necessity for cross-border trade) and of participation in co-operative programmes administered at the EU level (does Vote Leave favour non-participation in these ventures or should Britain—uniquely—be exempted from payment?).

Meeting claim with counter-claim will not convince many people and will leave most none the wiser about which way to cast their ballot. The Vote Leave strategy also places Brexiteers in the unsatisfactory position of whinging about a status quo that nobody supports—the “remainers” make a point of saying that the EU is in need of “reform”—rather than advancing their positive vision for an independent Britain. Moreover, the sources with the upper-hand in these exchanges are invariably those with the greater prestige. The “prestige” of an international businessman of Dr Schmidt’s stature is difficult for a campaigning organisation to oppose.

To that end, it is far more effective to communicate new information that explains the true relationship between Britain, the European Union and the Single Market. As the bloggers associated with LeaveHQ and the Flexcit plan will have cause to assert and reassert more times than I care to consider: the EU is not the Single Market. We are not planning to leave the Single Market, which brings the jobs and prosperity that Dr Schmidt promotes; we are fixed upon leaving the supranational political institutions of the EU, which subordinate Britain’s national political institutions and denude the people of Great Britain of their right to independent self-government.

The rejection of supranational governance for Britain is a point of principle that no “reform” could ever address.

This distinction is crucial and the fact that Vote Leave is in the business of conflating the Single Market and the European Union—yet another characteristic that the Elliott/Cummings vehicle shares with Britain Stronger in Europe (BSE) and the other “remainers”—is yet another reason why this grouping is not fit to represent the outcome that Brexiteers seek.

6 thoughts on “A Teachable Moment?

  1. Very useful observatons, Leonardo.

    Whether we like it or not, the single market enables the kind of trade people and businesses want. Vote Leave don’t want this because they’re wedded to the idea of replicating the bi-lateral arrangement Switzerland has with the EU, even though the EU has made clear it would never agree to a similar deal again.

    Over time the single market can be enlarged and administered by an organisation that isn’t hell bent on political control over nation states, addressing concerns about freedom of movement, and that is the political objective we can work towards after leaving the EU.


  2. However there remains further confusion between a Single Market and a Free Market. The SM is merely a customs union – requiring members to be welded together – whereas Free Markets do not require this.


    • EFTA/EEA members are not within the EU customs union. Participating countries are not obliged to adopt a “common position” at the WTO or on any of the other global bodies that agree technical standards for trade. Neither do they apply the Common External Tariff or surrender the right to make independent trade deals with third countries to a supranational authority.


  3. Single market? What are the conditions for being in it?
    The four freedoms – Goods, Credit, Services, People. The CAP. The CFP. The assumption that all states will one day join the Eurozone.
    To be part of any other single market, all countries need is to join and agree.


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