Taking stock – 20 years of the Single Market

In the current “debate” over Europe, “loss of sovereignty”, and “power grabbing by the Commission” are the central themes… what an irony on the 20th anniversary of the single market – the key achievement of the EU which was spear-headed by a British Conservative European Commissioner, and cemented by a Conservative Government in 1992 under the Maastricht treaty.

Commissioner Arthur Cockfield in 1985 published a list of 300 recommendations needed to eliminate the barriers to real free trade within Europe, to make the (then) European Community more competitive and profitable for Member States.

Since 1992 the focus has been to “complete” this single market. The benefits are clear; allowing businesses, particularly small ones, to move easily across borders expands their ability to trade and do business, to employ more staff, and source their supplies more efficiently.

The ability for ordinary citizens to move anywhere in Europe without visas helps business and tourism. Opportunities for internet business and for the self-employed to take advantage of these freedoms are enormous, particularly in the UK where most households have access to the internet.

Euro-sceptics rant about the costs of EU membership, about £9billion a year in net contributions (or £28 a year for the average taxpayer). But they don’t talk about the roughly £90billion the UK makes from the single market, nor the 3.5million (1 in 10) UK jobs that rely on it. They ignore the unique position the UK enjoys attracting Foreign Direct Investment, due to our stable labour market, but crucially our access to the European Single Market. Any withdrawal, even a downgrade to EFTA membership (Like Norway or Switzerland) would damage this privileged position.

The BIS department recently published a report highlighting that despite the benefits, the UK fails fully to exploit the single market and could profit even more from EU membership if we put in place the right policies to work with our neighbours constructively.

I’m working on legislation in Brussels to develop a single railway area and European sky, boost interconnection of renewable energy, and roll out broadband to as many citizens as possible. These policies make the single market work better, and benefit all of us every day.

So remember when Cameron threatens another “UK veto” – think carefully about exactly what it is he wants to leave Britain out of.

* Phil Bennion is the Liberal Democrat MEP for the West Midlands

* Phil Bennion is Vice President of Liberal International and former MEP for the West Midlands.

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This entry was posted in Europe / International.


  • Surely, as Lib Dems, we should be sceptical in some ways of the Single Market – it is that, after all, in the name of “levelling the playing field”, that has generated straight banana and square cucumber stories, to mention just two, over the years. More important are the efforts for which the EU has recently received the Nobel Peace Prize, and attempts to integrate as a political entity, which must continue.

    I support Phil Bennion’s ideas of integrated transport, broadband etc, and their possible connection with the development of an integrated “polity”.

  • “Euro-sceptics rant about the costs of EU membership, about £9billion a year in net contributions (or £28 a year for the average taxpayer). But they don’t talk about the roughly £90billion the UK makes from the single market”

    How do we “make” £90bn a year out of the EU precisely? What does the rest of the EU “make” from access to the UK?

    As for the £9 billion cost, that’s £145 a year for every man, woman and child (62 million of us), not £28 for every tax payer, which must be considerably more.

    “They ignore the unique position the UK enjoys attracting Foreign Direct Investment, due to our stable labour market, but crucially our access to the European Single Market. Any withdrawal, even a downgrade to EFTA membership (Like Norway or Switzerland) would damage this privileged position.”

    So that will be the kind of FDI that Ford just pulled out of the UK and put into Turkey instead, despite it not being a member of the EU, will it?

    If this is the kind of calibre of argument we are mounting in favour of EU membership, then God help us.

  • Geoff Crocker 26th Oct '12 - 2:44pm

    Phil Bennion is right. Free access to such a large market is undeniably beneficial to UK business. Similar arguments mean we should go further and join the Euro. This offers the advantage of eliminating exchange rate uncertainty in business plans for major investment in the UK (ask the CEOs of UK plc who exist on supplying the EU market to generate the UK economy). And there are no disadvantages, only two rules i) a common interest rate, which competitive global markets force on us anyway and ii) restricting currency emission to be in line with GDP productivity, which is a prime rule for any sensible economic management.

    Meanwhile RC is wrong. The whole EU faces the problem of outsourcing manufacture to low wage economies. It’s a different issue.

  • This article has more holes than a Swiss cheese. I asked several threads back for a bullet point list of the benefits of EU membership, which is simple enough to put on an A4, that could be pushed through the average voters letterbox. My challenge, left a deafening silence.
    It’s becoming clear by the day that this EU ‘project’ is becoming a monstrous Death Star, intent on absorbing all sovereignty within its undemocratic reach.
    I’m just not sure, which will come first.
    1. A referendum, finally grasped from a Westminster body politic, intent on refusing the electorate their right to true democracy.
    2. Financial implosion of the Euro Zone Death Star, into outer space, where no-one can hear it scream.
    Frankly, either will do, as long as we can once and for all, exit this utter madness.

  • @ “Meanwhile RC is wrong. The whole EU faces the problem of outsourcing manufacture to low wage economies. It’s a different issue.”

    So being in the EU or not makes no difference to the fact that FDI is being redirected to lower cost countries. In the mean time, we are paying to have other countries upgrade their infrastructure at our expense (while our own is sadly neglected and underfunded), facilitating their ability to poach thousands of manufacturing jobs from the UK every year.

    “Free access to such a large market is undeniably beneficial to UK business. Similar arguments mean we should go further and join the Euro.”

    Sorry, but that is a complete non sequitur. What evidence is there that tying ourselves to a flailing currency with an interest rate that is likely to be wrong for the UK is going to help our economy? Switzerland isn’t either in the EU or the Euro but manages to export proportionately more the the EU than we do.

    More flimsy argument from Europhiles. We’re going to have to do better than this.

  • Geoff Crocker 26th Oct '12 - 4:25pm

    RC, well being in the Euro may actually help UK FDI since investments would not face exchange rate uncertainty (all costs in £ and the majority of revenues in Euro) which is a very substantial argument and not a ‘flimsy’ one as you claim. The UK economy is not comparable to Switzerland (Switzerland is however in Schengen), and one can well argue that Switzerland would do even better in the Euro. The Euro is not failing and will not fail. The rules that each member can only issue currency in line with their GDP productivity simply need to be strengthened particularly with respect to Greece. Brits have a curious irrational antipathy to Europe, the EU and the Euro.Our economic performance lags many European countries. In the Eurozone, only Spain, Italy and Greece have lower GDP/capita than UK.

  • Geoff Crocker 26th Oct '12 - 9:30pm

    Jedibeeftrix, noone is talking of ‘common governance’.

  • ” noone is talking of ‘common governance’.”
    I’m not sure if you are getting the same news feed as me Geoff, but what I’ve seen of the machinations of the ECB, it looks very clear to me that their attempt at control of the fiscal structures of Europe is exactly the same thing, as control of Europe. You may not wish to call it common governance, but control of the money and fiscal structures, is control, full stop.
    I actually have to admire this misplaced Europhile confidence, despite the clear evidence of ongoing financial collapse, into the abyss, of a dying Eurozone.
    Incidentally, why do you think Germany is suddenly concerned about their gold reserves, and are making efforts to repatriate them from New York and London? Why are they so keen to get their hands on their ‘barbarous relic’,? Do they see something that the majority of EU fantasists do not?

    When I get my first £1000 instalment of Citizens Income, (Ta Geoff), I think maybe I will buy a 1oz Gold Krugerrand.
    If it’s good enough for the Germans?

  • Malcolm Todd 26th Oct '12 - 11:46pm

    Geoff Crocker at 9.30 pm
    “Jedibeeftrix, noone is talking of ‘common governance’.”

    Geoff Crocker at 4.25 pm
    “The rules that each member can only issue currency in line with their GDP productivity simply need to be strengthened particularly with respect to Greece.”

    Geoff Crocker, can I introduce you to … Geoff Crocker?

  • Richard Dean 27th Oct '12 - 12:57am

    @John Dunn, I gave you first-pass bullet points and they were so overwhelming that you couldn’t disagree!

  • @ Richard
    In fairness to you Richard, you did have a go at the bullet point list of the benefits of EU membership. But without trawling into the bowels of LDV, I think the four points you wrote, were a touch vague, and by your own admission a bit first draft.
    Still, at least you put effort into it, whereas most Europhiles are still scratching their heads to come up with one benefit.
    Remember : The points need to be clear, understandable, and ‘letter box’ ready.

  • In reference to one of my earlier comments, I add the link:
    Will the fashion statement of 2013 be : Gold is the new Black?

  • Richard Dean 27th Oct '12 - 10:44am

    John Dunn.

    Ah! So you hide behind “bowels” and the “letter box ready” excuse! It seems therefore that you have no counter-arguments to my bulet points, and must logically therefore agree with me.

    You do not have to explore bowels. Here is an easy link …

    Bullet points do no need to be “letter box ready” in a detailed dicussion like this on LDV. They only need to be “letter box ready” when the discussion ends and the campaigning begins.

  • Richard :
    Thanks for delving into the bowels to retrieve this.
    Your points are :
    > maintain and enhance our national sovereignty, by giving us a say in some of the major decisions that will affect our financial future, our exports, and our financial services, and a say in the rules and regulations that others in Europe shall follow
    { When people speak about sovereignty, its meaning seems confused. My understanding of the definition of Sovereignty is : Supreme dominance, power or rule through legal authority. So the idea of handing sovereignty to the EU level, whilst retaining ‘some’ sovereignty within the UK is nonsensical. EU sovereignty, means that they can override anything that is decided in the ‘talking shops’ of The Commons or The Lords. When sovereignty is gone, it’s GONE. [Prisoners and Votes ring a bell?] This is clear evidence that the EU is telling parliament who is boss, and who calls the shots ( i.e. WHO HAS SOVEREIGNTY) }

    > eliminate exchange rate fluctautions with our major export destinations, thereby helping to ensure that UK exporters face less risk , and helping to attract inward investment in UK jobs, while avoiding pressure on investors to seek excess profits to manage risk, safeguarding UK wages and worse working conditions

    { Global trade goes far beyond Europe, and as such exchange rate fluctuations are a fact of business life. As for safeguarding wages and working conditions, I suspect most peoples wages are falling behind inflation year on year. And as more and more graduates come out of Uni with a 50,000 debt, and are unable to find ANY suitable work, I think ‘check working conditions’, will be low on their to do list }

    > stimulate our national life, and waken our somnolescent leaders, through the fresh air of continental thinking, artistic development, and challenge
    { I have absolutely no idea what this means Richard. But for certain, the point is NOT ‘letterbox’ ready }

    > provide us with the additional economic and financial strength that will be needed in a world in which powerhouses emerge from the huge industrial developments in Brazil, Russia, India, China in the medium term, and from Africa, South America, and the Near and Far East in the longer term.
    { There is this odd fallacy that any economic venture has to go through Europe to be rubber stamped. Remember, for hundreds of years, if you could make (it), or provide (it), and someone wanted (it), they would trade with you for (it).
    And they still will, without any intervention from Brussels (plus their 10% fee of course). }

  • Richard Dean 27th Oct '12 - 1:36pm

    The truth about sovereignty is that we sacrifice it every day we are outside the Eurozone, because being outside means we lose influence over decisions that can shape our future. The truth behind the Telegraph story is that common governance is NOT being discussed. Here is what the Telegraph says …

    Schaeuble said five days ago a new “currency commissioner” could have the power to reject national budgets not in line with the euro zone’s strict fiscal rules. The model for the position would be the EU’s competition commissioner who, Schaeuble said, was “feared in the whole world”. However, a previous proposal from Schaeuble for a “Sparkommissar”, or savings commissioner, was quietly dropped after it stirred fury in Greece and got a cool reception from Germany’s other EU part

    So it’s obvious that Schaeuble’s ideas are generated by an overblown sense of his own self-importance. The Greeks didn’t understand this and got angry. The Germans know all about the dangers of self-importance, and simply didn’t take it seriously.

    It’s true that there are dangers from idiots, but we don’t have to be dominated by them like the Greeks – we just have to be sensible like the Germans.

  • Richard Dean 27th Oct '12 - 4:46pm

    The idea that sovereignty is “supreme dominance” seems laughable. A millenium or two out of date. For one thing, it ignores the very individual and often rebellious characteristics of populations. For another it ignores the fact that standards and restraints imposed by customer countries will always dominate the standards and restraints in supplier countries, because otherwise the customers won’t buy what the suppliers want.

    What sovereignty has always been about is decision-making power, and decisions are always about planning and controlling the future. And decision-making power is always partial, no-one ever has complete control – and indeed it’s rather unwise to even try to have complete control because it tends to stifle. So when we refuse to engage with Europe, to the extent that we become shut out of decision-making, we are damaging our own sovereignty.

    Sovereignty – decison-making power and influence – alsonhas many varied aspects. Is the Pope the sovereign in Brazil?
    But legality, and whom makes laws that apply where, is not a definition of what sovereignty is – it comes after. First you get sovereignty, then you get law, not the other way round!

    The concept of sovereignty as located geographically is also going out of date fast. Think the Dutch East Inida Company. Think multi-nationals. Think world-wide-web. The modern world is connected, internet savvy, and hackers in South East Asia can affect markets and security in North West America. So sovereignty becomes less about where the effects of decisions apply, and more about how and who they are agreed by and apply to.

  • Richard :
    I think we will have to accept that your understanding of sovereignty, and mine, are different, and as such cannot be resolved.

  • Geoff Crocker 27th Oct '12 - 7:02pm

    Malcolm Todd, Your comment is lacking. Agreeing to abide by two rules of a currency union does not amount to ‘common governance’ in any wider sense at all. My two comments are therefore not at all inconsistent as you claim in a rather impolite way.

  • Geoff Crocker 27th Oct '12 - 7:07pm

    To John Dunn and Jedibeeftrix who comment in more polite ways, although at great length, I repeat my claim that there are only 2 rules needed for a currency union, a common interest rate and limitation of currency emission to the member state’s GDP productivity. Both of these are unobjectionable. Greece has broken the second and needs straightening about it. The Eurozone does not need common fiscal governance, only the second currency rule. As for talk of the gold standard, if you want to regulate the economy by the amount of some mineral we dig out of the ground, you’re welcoms.

  • Geoff Crocker 27th Oct '12 - 7:13pm

    It never ceases to amaze me that so many commentators, including our dear LDV Eurosceptics above, express such huge concern about sovereign control of our currency, but are not the slightest bit concerned about sovereign control of UK airports, power stations, and large swathes of British industry?

  • Richard Dean 27th Oct '12 - 7:27pm

    John Dunn. I thought about and rejected your concept in my teens, about 50 years ago. Why don’t you try thinking about mine? Why do you think “sovereignty” needs to include anything more than decision-making power and the ability to implement those decisions?

  • Richard writes :
    “Why do you think “sovereignty” needs to include anything more than decision-making power and the ability to implement those decisions? ”
    Because that is not what sovereignty means.
    Let’s use the Prisoner / Voting situation as an experiment. Our elected ‘sovereign’ parliament, has voted that ‘prisoners should not have a vote’. The EU says otherwise.
    Sovereignty CANNOT reside in two places. Whoever wins this prisoner/voting argument, HAS SOVEREIGNTY !!

  • Geoff writes :
    “Greece has broken the second [rule], and needs straightening about it.”
    So, Geoff, thinks the Greeks have infringed the ‘adults’ perceived rules, and need to be grounded like children. ( i.e. loss of ‘Greek sovereignty’ to the Troika adults who know better ). This arrogant view tells me that panic is setting in, and ‘The Project’, is within 12 months or so, of its end. ~~ Thank God.
    The sooner Greece, Spain etc get out of this mad Euro straightjacket the better for them.
    “As for talk of the gold standard, if you want to regulate the economy by the amount of some mineral we dig out of the ground “.
    So, can you answer why this ‘Keynesian barbarous relic’, still grabs such attention by every sovereign county around the world? If we were to use your philosophy, each country could just casually print more and more pretend currency, as and when required. Maybe sound money, is making a comeback, and virtual money is increasingly seen for the fantasy that it is ?
    Gold has been the base of sound money, for about 5000 years.
    Fiat money, backed by nothing but promises and fresh air has been in existence for 41 years.
    Nuff said?

  • Geoff Crocker 28th Oct '12 - 7:16am

    I see you refuse to even try to understand me John. There is nothing arrogant about insisting that a member of a currency union keeps to an important rule (ie not to issue more of the currency than its GDP productivity allows) which it agreed to on joining. The same applies to your beloved gold standard. Why not make it a tin standard? You are wrong to caricature a view which rejects the gold standard as being in favour of unlimited ‘printing of money’, that worn overused phrase. The only thing which supports the value of money is not gold, but output GDP. So money supply is restricted by GDP output and all will be well as it has been throughout the NICE decade which operated with no gold standard.

  • Richard Dean 28th Oct '12 - 10:29pm

    Here is the truth about sovereignty and prisoner’s rights ….

    Something like 60 years ago, the UK decided to exercise its sovereignty in a unique way. Together with others, it developed a list of human rights, and a service to provide advice about them. You cannot ask other countries to accept something you yourself don’t, so the UK signed up to the list – which is called the European Charter of Human Rights – and agreed to be bound by the rulings of advisory service – which is called the European Court of Human Rights.

    Fast forward 60 years. The advisory service has provided a ruling about voting rights for prisoners, The court itself is a direct expression of the UK’s sovereignty, and its rulings are too. So this ruling must not be thwarted by any government – including our own.

    Governments are temporary – they come and go – but sovereignty remains, it does not switch from red to blue overnight and green the next afternoon.

    If the present incumbents do not like the ruling, they must restrict their actions to those which maintain the UK’s sovereignty, as expressed all those years ago, and which are permitted within the Rule of Law. Perhaps Mr Grayling will find a way to do this, but in the meantime the ruling must be implemented. If not, the government would be illegally preventing the exercise of the UK’s sovereignty, and should be kicked out.

  • Richard Dean 28th Oct '12 - 11:13pm

    It appears that there is NOT any kind of clear majority in the electorate for denying all prisoners the right to vote.

    Quite the reverse! Many people think of prison as a place to rehabilitate rather than hurt an offender, and many differing views appearin the comments on http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-20115675. One suggestions is to remove the right initially, but to re-instate it as part of the process of rehabilitation, about half way through a prison sentence.

    Personally, I suggest that, whenever a court is to remove a right from a person, a statement to that effect should be included explicitly in the sentance that is handed down. I would instinctively support removing voting rights from anyone convicted of harm against a person, but not for other offences.

  • Richard Dean 29th Oct '12 - 12:17am

    @jedibeeftrix. Look in the comments by members of the public.

  • On “votes for prisoners” let’s be quite clear as set out by Richard Dean above that this issue has nothing to do with the EU as such – except for the rather important point that if we were crazy enough to opt out of the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights we would also be chucked out of the EU – but I daresay the isolationists would say “hooray” to that.

    As to the voting rights issue itself, bear in mind that it is only the blanket ban on all jail inmates that the European Court has ruled against. No-one is forcing us to enfranchise dangerous criminals. In a country with a prison population proportionally one of the highest in the world – where even someone misguidedly disrupting the Boat Race as a form of protest ends up in prison – surely to goodness parliament can come up with a formula which let’s us off the hook by (say) allowing the vote to prisoners sentenced to terms under 12 months.

    Already several prisoners (including some serving sentences for major crimes) are setting the wheels in motion to claim tidy sums in damages. This trickle could become a tsunami. Taxpayers – all of us – will pay.

    What a ludicrous bone-headed situation to get ourselves into.

  • Geoff Crocker 29th Oct '12 - 5:56pm

    Since the EU issue has been debated above through the example of prisoner votes, I support the EU ruling, and personally think that all prisoners should have the vote. For imprisonment to be legitimate, imprisoned people need to have the right to vote for the power which imprisons them. This offers some safeguard against a corrupt executive or judiciary, removes the option for an imprisoned person to feel that it is some power to which he/she does not subscribe / does not belong which has imprisoned them, and prepares the way for re-integration into society.

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