One thing Brits do endlessly is whinge about rules and regulations. It is
often in the top five list of complaints about the EU, and results in many a "bent banana" story in the press. This often prompts the EU to
publish official rebuttals saying "not us, guv". But that's not surprising. Our entire body of law is confusing mess.
While some have suggested the EU was wholly responsible for the flooding in Somerset, though there was a
strong element of misapplied EU law, the fault lies less with the law
itself as the agencies responsible for implementation. The clear
argument is to abandon things like the Habitats Directive in favour of a
mix between international conventions and local laws if only to simplify
the process and shorten lines of accountability. That is, however,
besides the point.
What we see in the government's own enquiry into the balance of competences is the age old complaint that the continent is far more
relaxed about regulation and legal implementation than Britain. And
that's because, while we may moan about legal red tape, we Brits love
the stuff. Law and regulation is one of our primary preoccupations and
it is one of our major exports. We are culturally predisposed toward it. Red tape is in our blood.
It really comes down to our fundamental belief in the rule of law. That
it is written into the articles of the EU treaties is very much a
British contribution. What the EU does to us is no worse than what we
would do to ourselves if left to our own devices. So then we might be
tempted to ask, whose actual fault is it if we aren't getting the best
from our EU relationship?
But this isn't about blame. It's just a recognition that we are
significantly culturally different and what works for the continent does
not work especially well here. Or rather it does. Our fixation with the
rule of law and red tape and the sanctity of contracts is why the City
of London is a global financial hub - and would be in or out of the EU.
It is why we are in the top five economies despite being a rainy little
island with a big attitude problem.
This dynamic, if recognised, drives a horse and cart through all of the
europhile arguments that things would not be regulated if we left the
EU. The notion is utterly
risible. If anything, you might even say that membership of the EU - or
at least consenting to abide by global standards is a safeguard against
regulating ourselves into oblivion.
What we need to recognise though is that the nexus of lawmaking is mind
boggling in its complexity - and certainly beyond the wit of most oxygen
wasters we send to Westminster. In most respects we
will always be markedly different to the EU and there is never going to
be full convergence - and there is never going to be a single legal
framework however much the EU would like that. Thus it is in those areas
where it is necessary for functional reasons we must concentrate our
efforts - rather than for the sake of pursuing some ideological notion
of federal "ever closer union".
In this we must also recognise that the efforts for common standards in
trade are increasingly globalised. If, as industry suggests we do not
have sufficient influence, then we need to increase our participation on
all those international forums that make the laws, standards and codes
If we look at the British EEC/EU membership debate at any point in history, we have
always heard the europhiles singing the song of how it is vitally
important that we have a say in how the rules are made. What we are
increasingly finding is that the EU blocks our access to the top tables
and overrides our veto - and the trend is for that to become the norm. We
would argue that EU membership means we have less say in the rules than
We have argued at length that we should still seek maximum convergence
with the EU regardless, but in order to protect, and acknowledge our
uniqueness, we must have that vital veto, and as much as anything we
must have it for purposes of leverage to ensure that our voice is heard.
In fact, looking at it, we are essentially agreeing with all the
arguments made by the europhiles through the decades when it comes to the
question of influence and engagement, only the crucial difference is we
recognise the tectonic shift that has occurred over the last twenty
years that has seen the EU usurped as the engine of globalisation. From
this we see a fractal effect where the "little Englander" mentality has
flourished across the whole of the EU, giving birth to a form of
It is such an enormous realisation for most that many a europhile zealot
cannot even bring themselves to acknowledge it. When we speak of UNECE
and the IMO, even to MEPs might as well be speaking in a foreign
language. This is how disconnected they have become from the process.
The answer is to evolve the original vision beyond the corner
of Europe we inhabit and break it open to the world, dispensing with the
ideological and focusing on the practical - to bring about a global
single market and a world wide community of equals, operating in the
spirit of multilateralism - which has been gradually eroded by trade
blocs and bloc deals like TTIP. In effect, it has to mutate to survive.
All it can do to resist the tide of progress is to become ever more
Since letting go of old ideas is too traumatic to contemplate for an EU
so set in its ways, it must be shaken out of its complacency and Brexit
is the catalyst even that will drag the EU into the new century. The EU
is a blocker to a new era of global politics and global cooperation -
and until we break the deadlock - as only we can, we will continue to
miss out - and the world will pass us by.
What we need is global system that protects our individuality but
strengthens our commonality. That is the antithesis of the homogenising
EU - who seeks harmonisation at any cost. Being that the case, our
heritage, culture and habitats are threatened by the EU in that the EU
will never care for our customs more than it cares about its
When it adds a layer of complexity to that which is already complex, the
result can only be legislative chaos and a gradual collapse of good
governance. We believe the Somerset floods are clear symptom of that
dynamic and the next avoidable disaster we see will run along similar
In short, there is a nothing much to be lost by parting ways with old
ideas - and everything to be gained by embracing the new order of
things. "Ever closer union" was always morally and intellectually
bankrupt and could never secure an honest mandate in a billion years of
trying. What we could have instead is a world without barriers - and a
world where our freedom to work and travel is not limited to those
places we can reach by EasyJet for less than a hundred quid.
We don't even have to take a gamble to do it. As we demonstrate in Flexcit,
it can be done with minimal risk and has clear advantages for all
concerned. As much as it puts us on the road to real domestic democratic
reform, it also sees a new way forward for the world. To us, that is
far more exciting than the tired ideas of the ring of stars. If we could
put that proposition in front of voters come the day of the poll, we
would actually have to work pretty hard to lose it.