It is enduring mystery how otherwise intelligent people can claim to support the European single market but at the same time object to EU regulation. The single market was created by suppressing national regulations and did so by creating superior European ones instead. Isn’t that obvious?
Andrew Blick, writing for the Federal Trust, has just published a stirring defence of the EU’s role in regulating the single market (read it here). As a good and prominent example of the having-it-both-ways attitude I have mentioned here, he cites David Cameron’s speech on Europe in January this year (you remember, the one that was supposed to unite the Tory party on Europe and see off the rise of Ukip).
The same speech asserts first that:
At the core of the European Union must be, as it is now, the single market. Britain is at the heart of that single market, and must remain so.
And when he argues this:
But when the Single Market remains incomplete in services, energy and digital – the very sectors that are the engines of a modern economy – it is only half the success it could be. It is nonsense that people shopping online in some parts of Europe are unable to access the best deals because of where they live.
he is of course calling for more regulation to be adopted at the European level.
But how do we square that view with this?
People feel that the EU is heading in a direction that they never signed up to. They resent the interference in our national life by what they see as unnecessary rules and regulation. And they wonder what the point of it all is.
Well, the point of it is to make the single market work. In those few words, David Cameron is representing the public view, rather than necessarily saying what he himself thinks, but if that’s so, the duty on him as prime minister is to explain to the British people what the point of it all is. We should hearing more speeches about why the EU and the single market is a good thing and that EU regulation is a necessary part of that, and we should not be hearing simple-minded complaints that the EU regulates too much. We live in hope.