Dr Liam Fox on what voters want: anything but the truth?

10 October 2012

Dr Liam Fox is no dummie so I’m not sure quite what he means when, as reported by Isabel, he told Tories gathered at a Carlton Club fringe event:

What I want is to see us keeping faith with the British people and I want to see us having a slogan at the next election which says ‘Back to a Common Market’, back to an economic and trading relationship with Europe that parks all the political interference in the running of our economy, our workplace, our legal system and all the other things that we don’t like.’

How, pray, is this going to work? Dr Fox surely knows that much of the “interference” to which he objects are laws, directives and other regulations designed to improve, broaden, manage or otherwise regulate the Common Market of which he is so enthused.

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In other words, a politician who asks you to believe that Britain, uniquely amongst european countries, can have all that she likes about europe and nothing that she dislikes is a politician who’s not being straight with you.

I’ve written before that the European Court of Human Rights is, despite what the British press would have you believe, a Good Thing. So too, of course, is the common market. But while it would be lovely to think that trade agreements might occupy no more than a single piece of paper the reality of the world we endure is that they do not. Rather, they are larded with detail and detail means regulations which in turn mean laws.

I assume that – since, again, he is not a cretin – Dr Fox must know this. If he does not it’s a sad reflection on our political system that he could have risen so high as to become Secretary of State for Defence.

The EU has its annoyances. It is often a fairly hopeless set of institutions and when not busy being hopeless they often settle for being frustrating. But while this “Back to the Common Market” slogan has an obvious political appeal it would not, in fact, free the United Kingdom from its Brussels entanglements. And that’s supposing the other countries would allow Britain to set its own terms of membership in the first place.

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Show comments
  • rndtechnologies786

    blog is very good.

  • mikewaller

    What I think should be off limits in any of this is letting a referendum decide. I have two reasons for saying this. First, I make a habit of asking people I meet whether they feel competent to decide whether or not we should stay in. Save for those few to whom getting out seems to be an obsession, the answer is almost invariably “No” and I do not mix with particularly stupid people. Second, the “information” recently given by those opposing a change in the voting system would have brought a blush to the face of a snake-oil salesman. For example, the costs of the referendum were include in the costs of switching IF a change were made and a hypothetical voter whose fifth choice got in was described as the privileged recipient of five votes.

    Although I favour “first past the post”, I thought the whole exercise disgusting. I therefore view most of those pressing to settle the Europe question by means of a referendum as hoping to pull the same stunt on this question as well. In other words, crooks!

  • Rupert Baines

    How rare to see an intelligent and well informed article about the EU – and in The Spectator no less.

    I imagine this reflects the dearth of politicians who have any real world experience: if they had tried to export things then they might appreciate the value of laws, directives etc rather better.

    That said, I wonder if this something Dr Fox is hinting at: could it be he wants free movement of goods (“a market”) but not of people (“union”). Now that is fundamental in Treaty of Rome, it would be a major re-negotiation and it would not be easy (what about those retirees in Spain? or British businessmen based in Warsaw?) but it would perhaps be consistent with Dr Fox’s logic?

  • Daniel Maris

    Yep, some might say he was misleading the British people. I would.

    We need politicians to spell out the viable options.

    1. Proceed to the Eurozone, the union that will be directing the affairs of the EU from now on.

    2. Stay in the EU but not join the EZ – max interference with least influence (Cameron’s policy).

    3. Leave the EU and join the EEA. You avoid the huge net payments to the EU but are still subject to a lot of EU influence and your borders are still pretty open.

    4. Leave EU and negotiate a separate deal with the EU similar to EEA but perhaps with more control over borders.

    5. Leave EU and attempt to operate as a completely independent unit – a Taiwan of the North Sea as it were.

    I favour 4. The 5, 3 and 1. I don’t think option 2 is in our interests at all.

    We certainly could do with some rational debate on this.,

    • Rupert Baines

      Worth saying that both Switzerland and Norway (approximately your #3) do still make large net payments to EU as “access fees” and “contributions”

      The numbers are hard to sort out but I have seen some estimates that per capita it is higher than UK (as they get no rebate and no payments in eg no CAP to their farmers).

      That would likely be true of #4 too.

      #5 seems very unstable: a lot of risks to exporters and few upsides. And, de facto (as in Alex’s article) we woulsd still have to follow a lot of the EU regulations (not borders or social chapter, to be sure, but all of the trade ones – even Taiwan obeys EU RoHS for example).

      • Rahul Kamath

        I agree. The choice here is between Daniel’s #2 and #3. I don’t see #4 as an option as I don’t see incentives for the rest of the EU to give Britain that deal. Rupert – your per capita comments on option #3 and #4 are I believe correct. Realistically, the status quo is the way to go with a more cooperative British government.

  • Rahul Kamath

    I doubt he is a fool much as I doubted the media view of George W Bush being a fool. You can’t believe in a market system and still accept that fools rise to the top/ win. Rather I think he is disingenuous as are most of our current crop of Tory politicians. Unfortunately they are aided and abetted by people like Fraser Nelson, the ASI and the odd Telegraph journalist (though not all). Never mind the braying bigots who comment on this forum.

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