It is all too common for those who do not know very much about the EU and its institutions to disbelieve and even deny the unarguable fact that the EU is a government. This arises at least in part from the way in which the political class and the legacy media conflate the EU and Europe, and Europe and the Single Market. Make no mistake, however, the EU is a government.
The EU is comprised of five supranational institutions: The European Commission, the European Parliament, the European Court of Justice, the European Council and the Council of the EU (formerly the Council of Ministers). The way in which these institutions operate and interact is quite complex, but the essential point is that EU Member States accept the imposition of a supranational political and judicial overlay which passes legislation and issues binding court judgements that are recognised as superior to their own domestic law and policy-making apparatus.
Over the course of its existence, the EU has assumed ever more competencies or powers. Today that includes exclusive competency in the areas of trade, fisheries and agricultural policy; shared competency in the areas of environmental, energy, transportation, telecommunications, justice and home affairs policy; and supporting competency in the areas of health, industry, culture, tourism and education. It is evident from this list that self-governance and EU membership are mutually incompatible—that is what this referendum is all about; you have to choose.
The idea that self-governance is some kind of an extreme or unwelcome political approach is as absurd as it is offensive and I am very happy to be able to direct people towards this excellent piece by another Leave Alliance blogger in which he focuses his laser-like attention on that specific point. The political class support EU membership because it is in their interests to do so; it is they who are “Stronger In”, not the electorate. Democracy and accountable government are uncomfortable for politicians, but very good for voters. That is how it is supposed to be.
In this context, the idea that EU Treaties, Institutions and Representation have been “reformed” or that the UK has been excluded from “ever closer union” is ridiculous. Political integration is a “salami-slicing” process that occurs day by day with the passage of EU legislation and ECJ court judgements. The only way to opt-out of “ever closer union” is to leave the EU.
Nowhere is this more clear than in the area of trade, which is an exclusive EU competency. This exemplary essay written by Dr Richard North explains how Britain has less say over international standards than its non-EU counterparts as a result of the EU assuming a “common position” on global bodies. This is done under the auspices of Article 34 of the Treaty on European Union.
However, you do not need to take my word for it or even that of Dr Richard North.
The British Standards Institute (BSI) EU referendum report introduces the importance of mutual recognition of conformity assessment and the role of global standards-setting bodies to a wider audience than has previously had exposure to the topic.
In the area of food safety, the BSI recognises that the EU takes standards from a global body called “the Codex Alimentarius Commission (an intergovernmental body sponsored by the WHO and the Food and Agriculture Organization) and develops them for the EU market, then enacts the provisions”. In the area of automotive manufacture (a major UK industry), the BSI notes, “The EU participates in UNECE [United Nations Economic Commission for Europe] international committees to develop the standards that are adopted as EU law”. The report also specifies that the technical specifications for vehicle safety and automotive parts are “standardised internationally”.
This is all very interesting. Unfortunately, although the BSI report briefly makes mention of the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade, the authors do not explain that as a signatory to the agreement (as is the UK), the EU is compelled to accept international standards. In other words, Codex and UNECE standards are the de facto standards for the Single Market, except in areas where WTO expressly agrees to allow an exception. Moreover, under the terms of the Vienna and Dresden Agreements the distinction between European (CEN) and international (ISO) standards is in the process of being eliminated. In other words, it is possible, as never before, to drive the standards-setting process from a position outside of the supranational EU.
In a world that is increasingly global, EU Member States are surrendering their voice, vote and right of reservation to the supranational EU, which represents not their national interests—as is the case for all of the independent self-governing countries which participate on these global bodies—but the “common position” of the EU28. That is, the compromise position that EU Member States are able to agree prior to beginning multilateral discussions with other countries in intergovernmental forums at the global level.
Read the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade; read Article 34 of the Treaty on European Union; read the BSI report, which explains the role of UNECE and Codex in the international standards-setting process; and read the Vienna and Dresden Agreements, which re-affirm the EU commitment to working with ISO and IEC to reduce duplication and enhance mutual recognition. The picture is clear.
EU membership does not give Britain more say, in the vitally important area of trade and technical standards, it renders our representatives mute in international forums. Leaving the EU means rediscovering our global voice and driving the standards-setting process from a position of strength, sitting eye-to-eye with our trading partners at the global level.