The level of concert in the actions of those seeking to undermine the democratic will of the British people is breathtaking in its utter, could-not-give-a-damn, transparency.
I suppose it must be expected that the CBI – which should be re-named the Confederation of Brussels Influence – would choose to publish a report just before the Brexit technical talks commence in earnest, seeking to undermine our government’s negotiating position and thus damage the nation’s prospects, in order to feed the narrow, vested interests of multi-nationals.
The bare faced gall of it is astonishing, with the IoD leading the way a few days ago and then Michel Barnier’s statement that he wants Britain to sign up to a “non-regression clause” timed for the evening before the CBI report is published. Not at all co-ordinated then!
A united front between the CBI and our adversaries in Brussels, those whose stated intent is to do us harm; there is no shame, no patriotism in the corridors of the fat cats.
The irony that Barnier has termed regulatory alignment a “non-regression clause” should not be lost, for it would be highly regressive in its effect on the post-Brexit UK economy and we would have to be regressed to be fool enough to sign up to it.
Just 13% of UK GDP is associated with exports to the EU, 17% with the rest of the world and the balance, 70%, is domestic. Why on earth should multi-nationals dictate that 87% of the economy should follow the EU slavishly in order to make their lives a little easier? Why not, for example, follow US standards in order to facilitate exports to a market with which we have a large trade surplus? The answer is that producers in the UK need to align their production standards to whichever market they are exporting to, for those products they export.
The benefits of smarter regulation and flexible standards have been estimated variously at between 0.7% and 1.4% of GDP depending on how much is changed – a considerable boost. Who wouldn’t want to get rid of MIFID II, the ridiculously bureaucratic parts of data protection, the tick box and counter-productive safety stuff coming out of Luxembourg, or the label on packets of smoked salmon which say “may contain fish” – not to mention the multitude of other requirements which add nothing to safety but which prevent us importing perfectly safe components and raw materials, tariff-free, from around the world.
The people who wouldn’t want this are the large corporations with burgeoning compliance departments, who are happy with stiff barriers to entry and want to stifle competition. And, of course, the EU want to maintain their protectionist fortress at the expense of its citizens, for it is they who are paying for it.
Beyond the direct boost from smarter standards, there lies the vital ability to do trade deals around the world and import tariff-free goods: competition for the Eurocrats and the corporate bureaucrats.
There is so much misinformation on these matters. Let us take two causes célèbres as an example:
Firstly, chlorinated chicken. Every day everyone drinks chlorinated water in their tea, coffee or straight from the tap. It is there to protect people from bad bacteria. Every time someone eats a bagged salad it will have been washed in chlorinated water. In Britain each year hundreds of people are made ill and some die from contaminated meat, E coli, campylobacter and salmonella. If chlorination helps prevent this, what is the problem with chlorinated chicken other than the EU trying to prevent competition from overseas?
In any event, as it is, most chicken meat in ready meals is imported from Thailand or Brazil, pre-cooked and chilled. So much misinformation, so much hypocrisy.
Secondly, GM products. The citizens of the US have been consuming GM foods for decades and I haven’t seen many people in America with two heads as a consequence; in fact they look pretty healthy to me. Most animal feed in the UK, which is soya, is GM as there is no restriction or labelling requirement on feedstuffs and the world ran out of places to produce non-GM, sufficient for feedstuffs, years ago. Has the World Health Organisation declared this a health hazard? Of course not.
Britain used to be in the forefront of developing better crops to feed the world, but the EU wants to restrict competition to fortress Europe, deny the developing world a market and make its citizens poorer, so that its wealthy landowners and corporations can become richer.
When you read the CBI report and listen to Michel Barnier, it is worth reflecting on the true motivations of the authors.