LibLink: Nick Clegg: When it comes to the EU, we shouldn’t kid ourselves. All forms of “Out” are as bad as each other

Nick Clegg is doing a lot of writing at the moment. Today, he has an article in the Independent busting the myths put about by Leave the EU campaigners that it would all be fine if we left as we could just be like Iceland or Norway and enjoy the benefits of the single market.

Errr, no, actually, we couldn’t says Nick.

The Outers want us to believe we can have our cake and eat it, effortlessly freeing ourselves from the shackles of Brussels while continuing to trade on equal terms with our neighbours across the Channel.

And that last point is the most deceptive of all. There is no access to the single market without adherence to its rules and regulations.

Out campaigners respond by talking misleadingly of a ‘free trade deal’ with our European neighbours – but a free trade agreement is a very different thing to accessing the single market.

A free trade deal means removing the taxes and tariffs that would apply to the import and export of British goods. But a single market is about much more than this. It is about adhering to common standards. A free trade only arrangement would leave British companies discriminated against in a market governed by strict rules designed to level the playing field of cross-border trade. Margaret Thatcher knew this, which is why she signed us up to the single market in the first place by signing the Single European Act.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Leaving the EU is about restoring parliamentary accountability, democracy and sovereignty. As the fifth largest economy in the world it is incredible that our politicians handed over these priceless assets in return for a trading agreement.

    Now we find ourselves tied to a declining, failed political experiment. Even Juncker admits that the EU has been left behind by the rest of the world. Germany is in decline and that started before Merkel invited every migrant on the planet. Their captive consumers in the rest of the EU can no longer afford to buy their products. Can you imagine the Germans refusing to have a free trade deal with the UK? It would finish them off.

  • You tell them Peter and while you’re at it can you tell us how we replace the EU workers who presently help keep the NHS, construction, catering, hospitality leisure and tourism industries going? Oh and be sure to let all the UK citizens working in Europe know they need to get their affairs in order and head back to your sovereign, democratic and accountable UK.Where is that exactly?

  • Steve, clearly any Brexit arrangements would not require reciprocal repatriation. That would be crazy. Also, controlled immigration of needed skills would be sensible. However, it would be good to see employers pay a decent wage, invest in training and apprenticeships and not rely on cheap labour from elsewhere. Our hospitals are full of EU member state nurses. That is not good for those countries who invested in their training and it is not good that our own supply of nurses is inadequate.

    These are major problems but they should be addressed whether or not we remain in the EU.

  • Fair comment Peter. I suspect we will never agree on EU membership, but a skilled labour force is essential, inside or outside of EU. Managed migration is a great idea in principle, but in practice it is a difficult process.

  • Thanks Steve. I recognise that people like Nick Clegg are besotted by the EU dream while others see it as a nightmare. The challenge for honest debate is to address the real implications of staying in or leaving. These are confused by much froth and spin. Thank you for your honesty in acknowledging problems that will exist beyond EU considerations.

  • Richard Underhill 29th Oct '15 - 8:25pm

    Peter 29th Oct ’15 – 4:56pm Article 51.

  • Article 50

  • Richard, quoting articles at each other is excellent efficiency for those familiar with the content, but poor sport for those interested in honest debate.

  • Little Jackie Paper 29th Oct '15 - 8:49pm

    I myself am a euro-agnostic. We do exist. The sky will not fall in the EU, nor will It fall should the UK leave. For the moment however, what neither side of this debate seems able to present to me is anything even close to a coherent vision of why I should cast my vote for them. What we have is a totally unsatisfactory exchange of stats and advocacy research that provoke internet comment of the most ephemeral nature.

    The OUT side have a vision that is remarkably narrow and practically a list of grievances. To the extent that the EU is a problem it is almost certainly a symptom, not a cause. Almost certainly the supposed advantages of the Norway/Switzerland models have been overstated and the reason that has happened is an unwillingness to engage with the core problem which is the pursuit of the, ‘open agenda.’ The IN argument seem incapable of recognising that what we have now in the EU is qualitatively different to what we had in the past. That might not be a problem if there was some sense of thought being given of how an IN UK could realistically better manage the asymmetries we now see in Europe.

    The word that both sides run a mile from is, ‘corporatism.’

    It’s hard to avoid the feeling that this referendum is going to be a ghastly experience.

  • Little Jackie Paper, I can only say that making our own laws gives us better accountability and democracy. That does not prevent us from taking part in any EU initiatives but it protects us from being compelled to take part in EU initiatives that are damaging to our interests.

    Many years ago we were promised that EU membership would not mean loss of sovereignty. That was a huge lie. Let Mr Clegg or anyone else address that simple point.

  • People who start accusing politicians of being liars know they have lost the argument

  • Nick’s article refers to the difference between a free trade agreement and adherence to the single market. Can someone please explain what the practical difference would be?

  • I think the “in” and “out” parties are both equally happy to pull the wool over the public’s eyes. On one hand you have people like Nick Clegg who would not utter a bad word about the EU and on the other you have people like Farage who would have us leave regardless of the cost.

    Personally I will be voting to stay in as although I don’t think leaving will be the apocalyptic scenario some would leave us to believe, there are simply too many factors which the “out” campaign have not addressed, including but not limited to:

    Minimum annual leave entitlements
    Equal replacement of TUPE regulations
    Working time and child care
    Health and safety
    Pensions funding
    Maternity leave
    What happens to all the Acts, Statutory Instruments and judicial precedents based on or regarding EU law

    My principal concern is that some in the “out” campaign may use leaving the EU to scale back worker’s (and possibly human) rights to 1972.

  • I honestly don’t get how anyone can seriously believe one of the biggest economies in world leaving the EU l won’t have dire consequences! I can understand sovereignty argument, However, I’m expecting a lot of financial panic and a crash as Brexit looms. I’m voting to stay in, but I suspect we’re heading out.

  • Richard Underhill 30th Oct '15 - 12:02pm

    Peter 29th Oct ’15 – 10:39pm You said “Many years ago we were promised that EU membership would not mean loss of sovereignty. That was a huge lie.”
    Please be more precise about who said this and when. Are you quoting Nigel Farage?
    When Harold MacMillan was Prime Minister he applied for membership and his Lord Chancellor spelled out the consequences to parliament. The application was rejected by the French President, General De Gaulle, our wartime guest.

  • jedibeeftrix 30th Oct '15 - 1:43pm

    I imagine he is quoting the government referendum pamphlet issued to households, and helpfully hosted online by harvard.

  • What I would like to see from the “in” camp is a clear, concrete set of positive things that they expect to come from our membership of the EU in the next ten years – and not just generalisations. What role do they expect the UK to be playing in the EU a decade from now, how much will our membership cost, how will we deal with an inner Euro “core” while protecting our interests, will we be safe from further political power grabs etc?

    If they can spell out a clear, detailed, positive outlook for the UK’s future in the EU, they can win. Otherwise, if they stick to generalist blather, veiled threats and scaremongering, I don’t think people will fall for it.

  • @Jedi, when was the UK ever well managed? We have some of.the greatest nincompoops the universe has ever seen in our parliament and whitehall. No skills in commerce, technology, finance etc etc. If you want to leave the EU fine, just toddle off back to the Tories and Labour and get them to recruit MPs who are capable, skillful, representative and not merely a bunch of PPE grads with a couple of months working for free for one of Daddy’s friends in the City or union stooges. If we leave the EU with the clowns we have for MPs right now we are doomed.

  • James Gane 30th Oct ’15 – 9.30a.m.

    You really do give too much credit to the European Union regarding “worker’s rights”.

    The first thing to say is that workers’ rights are all well and good if people are working; freedom of movement and freedom of establishment have conspired to lock a huge number of the UK’s unemployed out of the jobs market. We also live in an age of the Short Term Contract – any person in their late 50s, slowed down with the usual wear and tear of a lifetime in work and prone to associated illnesses, will find it hard to compete with the thousands of fit, young men/women outside the factory gate; their contract doesn’t get renewed – pure market forces are taking us back a whole generation.

    Also, a system of EU-wide tendering of government contracts has bypassed the UK’s unemployed, leaving a situation whereby the relationship between local councils and their communities has broken down; there now seems to be no reason to train the people who need employment, to fill the jobs that need doing at a local level. Those jobs can be outsourced.

    The second point to make, is that it is ridiculous to believe that the EU has been solely responsible for workers’ rights in the UK – that if it weren’t for the EU, the UK would still be sending children up chimneys. This is plainly ridiculous.

    The UK has a noble history of fighting for workers’ protections and conditions in the workplace – numerous Factory Acts and the Health and Safety at Work Act come to mind; with proper democratic accountability, and our representatives focusing upon the welfare of this nation’s people instead of worshipping at the EU’s corporatist altar, I am sure that the UK could come up with a similar package of rights to match your list.

    I’m afraid that, although you may be able to accredit a whole host of virtues to the European Union, representing the workers (and the unemployed) of the UK is not one of those virtues.

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