Businesses’ Euro Illusions

One of the abiding features of the debate about Britain’s future relationship with the European Union is the apparent inability of chairmen and chief executives of large British companies to understand its fundamental nature.

Consistency of European Objectives

The EU is not a club, nor a so-called Single Market.  It is a proto-state, designed to lead to an actual legally recognised state – “The Single European State”.  “Ever closer union” has been the fundamental objective of the EU and its forerunner the EEC since the latter’s foundation in 1957 (Treaty of Rome).  “Ever closer union” is not a motto or a slogan, but an article of faith for the vast majority of the continental educariate ever since the goal and process of building a united Europe was formulated by its founder, Jean Monnet (1889-1978): “We are not forming coalitions between States, but a Union of peoples”[1].

This objective has been reproduced in every EU treaty from Rome (1957) to Lisbon (2007) and has been held to, through thick and thin, by every significant politician in the founding countries of the EEC who signed the Treaty of Rome: West Germany (now Germany), France, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.  There is no way that they will countenance any significant treaty changes as the EU President, José Manuel Barroso, has repeatedly said.

We in Britain, the majority of whose people do not want to be part of this proto-European state, let alone the Single European State, should respect both the objective and the huge progress which has been made towards achieving it.  Renegotiation of any significant part of this is completely illusory – playing with words.

Business Pronouncements about the EU

What then can we make of numerous calls (e.g. “Open Europe”) for the EU to focus on free trade as the basis of a new British relationship with the EU while still remaining part of the EU.  Lord Wolfson, head of the retail chain ‘Next’ and member of Open Europe, asked (BBC Radio4 on the flagship ‘Today’ programme, 31st December 2013): “What is the EU for?”

As he makes clear in his memoirs[1], Monnet (page 431) was well aware of the possibility that “ever closer union” would degenerate into being just a slogan.  That is why he and his successors defined a process – first the Iron and Steel Authority, then the EC, then forms of political union “built on everyday realities”.

The Korean and Canadian Free Trade Models

Now, the EU is confident enough to negotiate free trade treaties with other countries – the first being Korea (2011), the second Canada, due to come into operation from January 1st 2014.  In the preamble to the Korean FTA (Canada’s is very similar), the parties state that:

  • The Agreement eliminates tariffs on agricultural and industrial goods in a progressive, step-by-step approach(Some agricultural products are excluded from tariff elimination (as in the Canada-EU FTA.)
  • The Agreement addresses non-tariff barriers to trade (e.g. standards and qualifications).
  • It also includes provisions on issues ranging from services (including financial services), investments, competition, government procurement, intellectual property rights, transparency of regulation and sustainable development.

These provisions constitute the exact coverage of the so-called Single Market, for access to which the UK currently pays £18 billion per annum gross – over half the defence budget (£12 billion net).  Korea pays nothing, nor is she going to be entangled in a complicated, costly cat’s cradle of the European Parliament, European Council, European Commission, and constant negotiations about new regulations in innumerable committees such as COREPER and its derivatives.  Instead there is a sensible dispute resolution procedure (articles 14.4 to 14.12) involving one, numerically small, standing council (which can look at proposed changes and resolve any difference of interpretation between just two parties), not 28 as is the case within the EU.

Outside the EU’s political structures Britain could have exactly these arrangements, easier to negotiate since there are no tariffs to begin with, plus the freedom of course to negotiate its own trade and industrial agreements with third parties to suit itself, not 27 other countries.  Negotiating a trade agreement for all 28 EU countries has been likened to 28 people, one leg bound to another’s trying to get over a wall.

So why don’t “Open Europe” and other like-minded groups cast off their fears of being “excluded” from the EU, bite the bullet and help the British government negotiate a British-EU Free Trade Agreement fit for the 21st Century, to the advantage in truth for both British and European peoples?


[1]  Jean Monnet, “Memoires”, Frontispiece and page 431, published by Collins, London, 1978.

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