Around The World

I am not sure if there is a policy that better exemplifies the faux internationalism of the EU than its proposal to create a “European digital single market”. Owing to the success of the Internet and especially the Web, the market for IT-based products and services is truly global. Barring geography-specific customisations, from a user perspective, it is possible to serve the same content to anybody with access to the Internet, regardless of where they are on the planet.

How this is possible requires a modicum (not that much) of understanding about what the Internet and the Web are from a programmer’s perspective.

Ostensibly the Internet might look like what then United States Senator, Ted Stevens, famously referred to as a “series of tubes”. The wires and radio towers and submarine cable systems over which digital signals are transmitted are part of the Internet, but they are not the core technology. The heart of the Internet is the Internet Protocol Suite, which defines the various standards that computer equipment implements in order to send and receive data via the Internet.

Those standards are published in the form of Requests For Comments (RFCs) by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and hardware- and software-makers opt into and incorporate those technical descriptions into their product engineering and design.

The Web has a similar standards-setting body called W3C based in Massachusetts and headed by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, which is a membership-based organisation comprised of representatives from public and private sector organisations (corporate giants such as Google, Apple and Microsoft) which debate, draft and distribute the standards that are implemented in software by the browser-makers and networking vendors.

The grandfather of the lot in the IT and telecommunications sector is the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), where Britain is compelled to adopt the EU’s “common position”. EU membership is not a “force multiplier” for Britain’s “global influence”, as is often claimed, it is an encumbrance and an obstacle to full self-representation.

Given the enormous flexibility, scale and scope of this partially voluntary, partially intergovernmental set up, the EU’s interest in creating a digital single market for Europe is a case of empire building, at the expense of multilateral co-operation with partners beyond the European landmass and neighbouring archipelagos. In order to benefit from globalisation while also maintaining necessary democratic safeguards, Britain needs a voice, a vote and (should it come to it) a veto on global bodies, as well as the economic agility that comes from negotiating trade agreements in Britain’s national interest.

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