Douglas Carswell

01 MAR 2017

Real free trade is only possible outside the EU

"Leaving the single market is protectionist", claims George Osborne. He couldn't be more wrong. Quitting the 'single market' is what will make free trade possible.

The so-called 'single market' is really a single regulatory system. Its purpose is not so much to facilitate trade but to create supranational law. As George might recall, that's what the electorate rejected on June 23rd last year.

Remainers like Osborne seem to believe that free trade requires supranational regulation. But that's patently false. We don't need to have the same laws as another country to trade freely with it.

Instead, all we need to do is mutually recognise each other's laws. Whatever it is legal to buy and sell in the EU, for example, it should be legal to buy and sell here – and vice versa.

Think that can't work?

Actually, that's exactly how free trade in the European Common Market worked some forty years ago, before widespread harmonisation. It's called the Cassis de Dijon principle.

Supranational regulation isn't just undemocratic. It can be trade-destroying, rather than trade-creating. It results in overregulation, inflexibility, and – worst of all – regulatory capture, as corporate special interests with expensive lobbyists co-opt the rules to cut out competition.

In place of barriers between countries, it creates barriers to small business and disruptive innovation.

We should have a free-trade deal with the EU. It's in our mutual interests to strike one.

But that deal cannot entail any kind of 'single-market' membership. Britain must no longer be subject to EU laws.

If the EU refuses to trade on new terms, we will have no option but to walk away. But that will be their protectionism, not ours.

Post-Brexit, we will be free to set our own tariffs, make our own trade agreements, and decide our own rules. Our trade will be as free as we want it to be.

I'd like to see Britain make a raft of free-trade deals, based on the principle of mutual recognition – as per a forthcoming paper to be published by the UKIP PRU.

Brexit will only end in protectionism if people like George Osborne keep insisting free trade must be tied to supranationalism. That false assumption must now be laid to rest.

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