Jam tomorrow and non-tariff barriers

Businesses have to abide by all manner of regulations. Many have come to us from the EU but are made elsewhere and are, to a greater or lesser extent global, with the EU merely acting as a conduit. For instance, your mobile phone continues to work when you cross borders and I don’t suppose that even the hardest Brexiteer would want a unique national standard, so that only British phones worked in Britain.

Similarly, batteries for all the various electronic gadgets are standardised. You can go to a corner shop in Tanganyika or Tokyo, as well as Toulouse and it will fit. That has not happened by chance.

This article by the economist John Kay concerns a lower tech product – jam .

“All developed countries have extensive regulation of their food and drink industries.” he writes,   “If you buy a jar of jam, you want to be confident it is not poisonous:  you want to ensure that it resembles what you expect when you hear the word ‘jam’.  Libertarians might dispute the necessity of such regulation:  Are not the civil and criminal law, and the concern of suppliers for their reputation, sufficient to protect us from toxic or inferior jam?  But history suggests that the answer is probably no.  Britain’s Food Standards Agency came into being after ‘mad cow disease’ transmitted through the food chain, having infected several hundred people with a terminal degenerative illness.  In any event, there is no advanced country in which such libertarian arguments have been found persuasive.”

“But when countries determine their food regulations independently, they will come up with different answers.  Often for essentially arbitrary reasons:  Asked to define ‘jam’, it is probable that French civil servants will come up with somewhat different answers from those reached by British civil servants.  And different countries will have different jam-making traditions, and their jam makers may have chosen different areas of specialisation. Their lobbying will influence, perhaps determine, the local jam regulation.”

“Free trade in jam, or any other product, requires some measure of coordination, a move towards a broadly common perception of what is ‘jam’, to avoid necessity or opportunity for opening jars of imported jam to see what is in them.  This coordination is the process of removing non-tariff barriers to trade.  The European Union’s single market is the result of such coordination.  Not just for jam, but for thousands and thousands of products.”

“The EU does not have a jam directive because some power-crazed bureaucrat in Brussels wants to interfere with the sale of jam at the village fete.  If silly disputes over food standards do arise at village fetes – and they sometimes do – it is because an over-zealous trading standards officer from the local council has crossed the borders of common sense, not because EU officials want to control our crumpets.  In fact the Food Standards Agency gives sensible advice to home cooks at village fetes – as the agency does on many other issues.”

Mr Kay has drawn attention to the biggest issue facing Mrs May’s government as it seeks to decide what sort of trading arrangement it wants with the EU after Brexit. Doctrinaire free traders appear to believe that tariffs are the main problem. However, this is not the case. Our biggest challenge will be to ensure that British goods continue to be internationally acceptable in the global market place as well as the EU and what is more, it is quite obvious that there are far too many regulatory details to negotiate on an item by item basis and such matters will have to be dealt with as a package or off the peg deal.

In whole or in part, the only body of law which contains all these all together is the EEA agreement. It would be relatively simple to do the job “off the peg with alterations” by making deletions or additions to it but to open the whole can of worms would take many years.

With thanks to John Kay for permission to reproduce and quote from his article. His website is www.johnkay.com

“Repatriation” of EU law into UK law – what does it mean?

Although the proposal to “Repatriate” EU law into UK law has been made both by the hardest of Brexiteers and by the Prime Minister, many independence campaigners are still distinctly uneasy at the idea that large parts of the “Acquis Communautaire” being incorporated onto our statute books as Britiish legislation, for later amendment,  replacement or repeal if thought desirable.

Perhaps this note will help to explain the reason why this is necessary and dispel unfounded fears.

We are in a similar position to the newly-independent Parliament of the Irish Free State in 1922 when it enacted its constitution. Although the situation of  the United Kingdom government and Parliament vis a vis the institutions of the EU is by no means identical to that of the Irish Parliament of 1922 to the British government of the day, there is sufficient similarity in the situation, as a Great Repeal Bill is promised and its wording will be scrutinised.

With regard to the “nationalisation” of EU laws to the British statute book, Act No.2  of 1922 in the newly independent Irish parliament adopted all the laws from the Westminster Parliament to be effective in the Irish Free State and enforced by its institutions. To have done anything less would have left an impossible legal vacuum.

A similar thing would happen here on a lesser but significant scale, if (as some suggest) we simply repeal the European Communities Act 1972 and abrogate the treaties.

Amongst other things, there would be no laws at all to protect food safety and no legal basis for the Customs and Excise.  These both presently  stem from regulations made in Brussels, not Act of Parliament and would instantly cease to exist if the U.K. simply “walked away” from its treaty obligations and repealed the European Communities Act 1972.

We do have time during the two-year negotiating period of Article 50 to highlight some legislation to exclude from the “nationalisation” of EU law, in particular fisheries, where there is no need to pursue a shadow version of the disastrous Common Fisheries Policy. Unlike, for example, food safety or bathing water standards, where we would have no laws at all if we did not incorporate the acquis into UK law, we are in a different position with fisheries. Making an exception gives us complete control over our national waters and than chance to bring in a much better  fisheries management system.  Similar considerations apply with agriculture.

See also the attachment A Time Like Never Before from our last CIB members’ newsletter. The Prime Minister has decisively rejected any harebrained scheme to renege on treaty agreements and also promised a Bill to repeal the European Communities Act 1972  when the agreed settlement is in place. We will then finally be out of the EU which, after all, is our main objective. The tidying up can come later!

Patriotism is not enough

Photo by The Library of Congress

In the centenary year of her execution, independence campaigners would do well to recall the words of Edith Cavell. The controversy over our membership of the EU has moved from being a cherished hope amongst a small, slighted minority to the realms of political possibility. With or without a referendum, it will not go away.

In the wilderness years, one motivation for burning anger was the sly adroitness with which politicians of the main parties concealed the profound injury to our constitution, caused by their subservience to the alien authority of the EU. Ministers who, as Privy Counsellors, had assented to the oath “….You will to your utmost bear faith and allegiance to the Queen’s Majesty and will assist and defend all civil and temporal jurisdictions …granted to Her Majesty and annexed to the Crown….against all foreign princes, persons, prelates, states or potentates…” brazenly made the Queen and all of us into mere subjects of the EU. A soldier takes an oath of similar import, to be kept at the risk of his life and with the prospect of severe punishment if he should break it. Yet he is sent into battle by a minister who faces no penalty for dereliction of his most basic duty at the very heart of the state.

The sheer maleficence and treachery of British Europhile ministers – “Europe at the heart of Britain” rather than “Britain at the heart of Europe”- was a strong motive for many to keep going. Yet it found little resonance with the wider public. Much of the heated debate within the independence movement was conditioned by such righteous wrath and took very little account of opinion amongst the vast majority of our fellow countrymen and women or of our country’s realistic role and opportunities in the wider world.

Just over two years ago, Nigel Farage ventured the opinion that his ideal free trade agreement was “a blank sheet of paper”. It may have gone down well with his audience but it showed a profound, determined ignorance of the way in which trade, not just with the EU but with the wider world, is now regulated. In that world Britain must make its living. Belatedly, UKIP and the wider independence movement is beginning to realise that it must have a credible strategy to deal with that world, if it is to be taken seriously. Slogans and pent-up rage against our political class are of no use but rather a hindrance

The world has changed enormously since 1972 and nowhere more so than in our schools. The Campaign for an Independent Britain has published a booklet on the recently introduced national history curriculum, entitled “Generations Betrayed – Cutting the Roots of our National Identity” It is written by Christopher McGovern, a head teacher of thirty five years’ experience, and explains how the teaching of our national story has been sapped and subverted by political correctness. This method of teaching, sometimes called “history lite” has been increasingly influential over the last forty years.

Schools and teachers will vary but frustrated defenders of our former happy constitution will find here one source of explanation for their lack of success. Without factual, sequential knowledge of our history, those who hear them have no frame of reference.

In England, though not so much in Scotland or Ireland, many share Henry Ford’s view that “History is bunk”, summed up in the demotic by that West Country folk group, The Wurzels

“Never been to school,
Never been to college,
Sooner be dead than fill me ‘ead,
With a load of useless knowledge.
Never couldn’t see
No use in history,
‘cos I weren’t there,
So I don’t care.
So don’t tell I, tell ‘ee!

And with such a leaden, dispiriting, official framework and method of instruction, it is an opinion which is easy to understand. All credit to those teachers who manage to maintain a lively enthusiasm and interest in spite of the way they are told to work.

Against this background, independence campaigners have to produce a narrative which is true, lively, forward-looking and attractive. This requires a great deal of that most difficult effort, actually thinking outside our well-trodden paths of thought – not disregarding our knowledge but realising that it now mostly serves a niche market which shrinks with the years.

We actually have to get to grips with the way countries become independent in the real world and some of what happens is quite counter-intuitive. One of the first things which newly independent Ireland did was to repatriate nearly all of the laws which had been enacted in Westminster during the 120 years when Ireland was part of the United Kingdom. This was absolutely necessary for the continuation of orderly government and trade – county councils, district councils, criminal law, civil law, weights and measures, protection of public health and so on. Although they had a new flag and the post boxes had been painted green, the laws governing newly independent Ireland were overwhelmingly those which had come from England – but now able to be repealed or amended over time by their own parliament.

Something similar will need to happen when we leave the EU. Taking just one example: if we simply repeal the European Communities Act 1972 , we will have no laws at all protecting food safety. They all come from an EU Regulation which will no longer apply. Not only will this be an enormous public health hazard here but it will mean that none of our considerable food exports to the EU could clear customs until they had been detained and found wholesome by detailed testing.

We often think of regulation as being a pain in the neck but we need it to keep us from food poisoning and it often promotes real convenience and practical freedom. Your mobile phone still works when you cross borders in most parts of the world – but only because of very detailed regulation. Similarly, if you need a new battery on your travels, you can buy one that will fit. That did not happen by chance but because of regulation on a global scale. For twenty years now, the EU has been legally bound to accept global standards. Britain needs to be represented on the global bodies which make the rules – and where we can have a veto. The EU keeps us off that top table. So we must raise our sights confidently to wider horizons, persuading the majority to do the same.