It will not surprise regular readers of this blog, or listeners to the podcast, that I am in favour of leaving the EU. It may surprise some that I don’t think there is a single good thing about it.
It’s worth repeating. There is nothing good about the EU.
Most Brexiteers, even the most ardent ones, usually concede one or two things about the EU that they like. Or, at the very least, struggle to argue against. They usually like free trade between EU countries. Many like free movement. They sometimes like the inability of the British government to be able to nationalise large swathes of the economy. Sometimes they concede that they agree with some EU regulation.
It’s worth remembering however, that the only good things the EU claim to do, do not require the EU at all.
Personally, I love free trade. Free trade between all European countries would be fantastic. But that does not require the EU, for free trade is the default position between any two individuals anywhere, until government steps in the way. It is also worth remembering that we do not currently have free trade at all. Far from it.
Free trade requires more than the absence of tariffs. It requires the absence of regulation. Sadly, when almost all people take about free trade, they really mean non-tariff trade. “Free trade” deals are more about balancing standards and regulation than they are about consumer taxes (tariffs). But what about individual standards? Why must my standards be the same as everyone else’s, based purely on arbitrary geographical proximity?
I also love free movement. But we don’t need the EU for that, either. Without a government preventing us, we would be able to go wherever we chose, so long as we respected property rights.
Unilateral free trade and unilateral free movement. Two easy ways to for the British government to leave us alone to prosper.
Whilst I’m here, I’d like to point out that you don’t need a bigger government to force a smaller one to respect property rights. That’s like hiring the Yakuza to stop the Mafia.
And what is to stop the EU from changing its rules to enforce nationalisation? What if all other member states decided it was a good idea? We’d be forced to nationalise against our will. Currently, with its heavyweight regulation, the EU is firmly on the right of the political spectrum. But nothing is stopping it from one day swinging to the left, and there would be no way for us to stop it. Other than leaving.
Regulation is possibly my biggest hatred of the EU. There is no such thing as a good regulation.
All regulations create barriers to entry within sectors of the economy whilst simultaneously hindering (and often outright preventing) innovation.
How many brand new banks have we seen in the last 150 years in Britain? I can think of two. Could I start my own bank? Of course not. I wouldn’t be able to afford to adhere to the expensive regulations, which is why big companies love them. Regulation maintains the status quo.
If you’re worried about standards, you’re still free to have your own as high as you like, without the state forcing others to agree with you. An individual should be free to choose his or her own standards and if standards auditors are wanted, then the market will provide them. In fact they already do. Just look at the ISO standards.
So, of the four usual suspects (free trade, free movement, property rights and regulation), we’ve proven we don’t need the EU for any of them. But what else does the EU do? Can it really be all bad?
- The EU adds huge tariffs to non-EU goods.
- The EU doesn’t respect its own laws (bail outs and audited accounts, anyone?).
- EU commissioners, the ones who draft the laws, are not voted for by citizens.
- EU commissioners are required to vote against their own countries interests, if its perceived to be in the interests of the EU itself.
- EU countries cannot set their own trade policies.
- The EU wastes money constantly travelling (and shipping everything) back and forth between Strasbourg and Brussels.
- The EU installs technocrats when they don’t approve of national governments (Italy).
- The EU is the only shrinking trade bloc on the planet.
Yes, it can.
The sooner we leave, the better.