Dr Liam Fox is no dummie so I’m not sure quite what he means when, as reported by Isabel, he told Tories gathered at a Carlton Club fringe event:
What I want is to see us keeping faith with the British people and I want to see us having a slogan at the next election which says ‘Back to a Common Market’, back to an economic and trading relationship with Europe that parks all the political interference in the running of our economy, our workplace, our legal system and all the other things that we don’t like.’
How, pray, is this going to work? Dr Fox surely knows that much of the “interference” to which he objects are laws, directives and other regulations designed to improve, broaden, manage or otherwise regulate the Common Market of which he is so enthused.
In other words, a politician who asks you to believe that Britain, uniquely amongst european countries, can have all that she likes about europe and nothing that she dislikes is a politician who’s not being straight with you.
I’ve written before that the European Court of Human Rights is, despite what the British press would have you believe, a Good Thing. So too, of course, is the common market. But while it would be lovely to think that trade agreements might occupy no more than a single piece of paper the reality of the world we endure is that they do not. Rather, they are larded with detail and detail means regulations which in turn mean laws.
I assume that – since, again, he is not a cretin – Dr Fox must know this. If he does not it’s a sad reflection on our political system that he could have risen so high as to become Secretary of State for Defence.
The EU has its annoyances. It is often a fairly hopeless set of institutions and when not busy being hopeless they often settle for being frustrating. But while this “Back to the Common Market” slogan has an obvious political appeal it would not, in fact, free the United Kingdom from its Brussels entanglements. And that’s supposing the other countries would allow Britain to set its own terms of membership in the first place.
Give something clever this Christmas – a year’s subscription to The Spectator for just £75. And we’ll give you a free bottle of champagne. Click here.