Introduction: a debate re-opened?
The Financial Times reported on 26 July that there is:
a ‘live debate’ in government about whether Britain should quit the customs union
The FT points out that staying inside the customs union:
could restrict Dr Fox’s ability to strike new trade deals[,] or prevent them altogether.
Before continuing to examine the possible outlines of a post-Brexit Mutual Recognition Agreement on conformity assessment for products traded with the European Union, it occurs to me that it would be appropriate, and indeed logically prior, to consider what the situation would be without any such agreement. I have seen very different estimations of the extent of the problem of Technical Barriers to Trade in the absence of any such agreement. On the one hand, in Flexcit, Richard North has warned (p. 69, referring also to barriers related to Sanitary measures for trade in animal products) that in the absence of such MRAs the UK would:
In my last post, I explained how Switzerland, having rejected in a referendum in December 1992 the EEA Agreement which it had signed in May, and having thereupon suspended its membership application to the European Community which it had made in the same month of May 1992, then found an alternative means of participating in the EU/EEA single market. First, it further developed the practice, which it had begun in 1988, of the autonomous adoption of EU law into its own domestic legislation; and second, it successfully negotiated with the EU a series of bilateral agreements, building upon the already extant 1972 Free Trade Agreement, which have given Switzerland a degree of access to the single market almost certainly greater than that of any other state outside the EU/EEA, but without the peril of being obliged (I am discounting here the virtually unusable right of reservation contained in Article 102 of the EEA Agreement) to adopt new EU legislation as it issues forth from the Commission.
Michael Gove claimed this week that there exists a European free trade zone. He said:
There is a free trade zone stretching from Iceland to Turkey that all European nations have access to, regardless of whether they are in or out of the euro or EU. [his footnote n. 26] After we vote to leave we will remain in this zone. The suggestion that Bosnia, Serbia, Albania and the Ukraine would remain part of this free trade area – and Britain would be on the outside with just Belarus – is as credible as Jean-Claude Juncker joining UKIP.
His only supporting reference for this claim, as given in the above document, is this map from the EU:
What is at stake is our freedom as a nation. The economy is not the main issue, nor even is immigration for that matter. What matters is that we are a free people at heart and long to be free in our country again, to rule ourselves and not to be ruled by others. This is very simple, and the point cannot be over-emphasised.
That said, we can consider the effect on our economy of a Brexit, in a form which does not involve continued subjugation to the dictates of Brussels. Once we are out, or rather, as we are on our way out under Article 50, we should attempt to obtain a Free Trade Agreement with the EU, and it is reasonable to expect that we could reach an agreement by which we continued to trade in industrial goods without tariffs. Non-tariff barriers, especially in services, are liable to prove more of an obstacle.
It is obvious, when one thinks about it, that trade will be easier if everybody keeps exactly the same rules. The only way for everybody to keep the same rules is for there to be a single authority which sets and enforces them. If we desire to be free, and not be subject to such an authority, then there will be divergences in rules and regulations, and trade is likely to become a little harder. That is a price of freedom, and it is worth paying in my opinion.
In its leaflet, on page 8 of the pdf, the Government claims that no country has so far:
managed to secure significant access to the Single Market, without having to:
• follow EU rules over which they have no real say
• pay into the EU
• accept EU citizens living and working in their country
The Government claim (at page 8 of pdf) that less than 8% of EU exports come to the UK, whereas 44% of UK exports go to the EU. Is this true?