A gentleman called Pete North has responded to my earlier blog entry with this. While Mr North thinks it fair game to describe me thus “Jon Worth, fancies himself as a bit of a political wunderkind and sees fit to opine on the subject of Brexit” and links to the about page on this site, it is impossible to find what North himself does, either on his own blog, or through his Twitter profile. He might say his day job is not up for debate, but if we cannot know what it is, or what drives him to write what he does, how can anyone judge? I at least, in contrast, make my starting point clear.
He also starts with a classic attack approach – to take one single blog entry, and a brief one at that, and takes that apart, ignoring whatever else I have written on this issue – not least this much more detailed post that was linked from the one he takes apart. He also uses classical straw man tactics – that because I do not mention internationally set standards in my blog entry, it must automatically mean that I am in denial about the role of those – something he berates me for repeatedly, without grounds for doing so. He calls this “ignorance or dishonesty”, but I’d beg to differ.
So then to each of North’s points (and please note – his blog entry is 1700 words, so I am trying to take what I think are the key points – if you quibble with what you reckon are the key points, tell me)
Readers of this blog by now will be well aware of the many contexts where Norway has a great deal more direct influence in the laws that govern us, from fishing to maritime safety through to the automotive industry.
Right, as I acknowledge in the original blog entry the point about fishing – UK out of the EU means no CFP. On maritime issues, as far as I can tell, the UK, and not the European Union, is a member of the IMO, and this is the only blog entry from North I can find that even mentions maritime issues (could be my error though, as his blog has no search function, so I am relying on Google). The European Maritime Safety Agency lists six major pieces of EU law relevant to shipping here (plus their relevant amendments) – if the UK were in the EEA then it would have to still implement all of that, and would have no say over the amendment of those laws in future. Same problem with the automotive industry – as North rightly points out here, some standards are now to be set globally, but others – like new rules on eAlert emergency devices in cars, are set by EU law – see this for example. So Norway, in the EEA, would have that eAlert system too, as would the UK if it were in the EEA instead of the EU.
It is the typical little Europe mentality that cannot see beyond the confines of the EU entity. To them, nothing else exists outside […] In fact, such is the nature of global trade now that the real deals, the ones that are often far from the public radar happen between obscure entities that govern standards and practices […] This is not only damaging to the UK’s economic interests it is also harmful to Europe in general since the UK is a driver of European growth […] clearly intergovernmentalism is the model that gets results.
How the first assertion is gleaned from my blog entry I am not altogether sure, but anyway, if what North writes is true (and he provides no link to prove his case), why would the UK necessarily be more successful getting its demands met if it pushes on its own, as opposed to pushing in the EU, and then the EU to push for the standards internationally? And the notion that intergovernmentalism gets results – look at an intergovernmental body like the G20, or worse still the UN, to see what intergovernmentalism looks like – it means moving at the speed of the slowest. QMV within the EU might not be to everyone’s tastes democratically as it means that states can be outvoted, but it sure makes decision making more swift as unanimous agreement between 28 states is hellish slow.
European emissions standards [for cars] are in fact made by the UNECE
This is only half true – there is a role for UNECE, but there is also a role for the EU – setting binding CO2 emissions limits for example, and setting procedures to check the types of vehicles that conform to international standards. My vocabulary may have been a little imprecise in my original blog, but the EU law with regard to vehicle emissions and approvals is clear, and it has EEA relevance. North later points out that Norway has a vote in UNECE, while the UK does not itself as the European Union is represented there, but Norway is then not represented in deciding the EU rules in this area, and the UK, as a Member State of the EU has some say to determine the EU’s position in UNECE.
As to data protection, Worth is clearly unaware that along with banking rules, the progenitor is the OECD
Same as with the car issue above – that there are other international organisations with a role does not, at the same time, mean the EU does not regulate in this area. I mentioned Safe Harbor in my original blog entry – whatever is agreed with the US after the Schrems ECJ case is going to apply to EEA members anyway. Here’s a list of the EU law in this area. Or on the issue of standards of electrical goods that North has an issue with, try the 1 watt standby rules, or Ecodesign Directive.
There is, however, every advantage to be had by having our own voice at the top tables and cutting out the EU middleman.
This assumes the EU is indeed the middleman. In some cases it might be, but – as shown above – even in the areas North mentions, the EU also has wide regulatory impact. Leaving the EU cuts the UK off from that. And North also seems to assume that the UK does not actually manage to ever get its way in EU business, even where the EU would then need to negotiate internationally – this is based on the notion that EU negotiations are a zero sum game, and that the UK’s wishes and other EU countries’ wishes are fundamentally different in trade with the rest of the world.
Also if the EU level is not relevant, why is Brussels swarming with business lobbyists – second only to Washington DC in terms of numbers? Why are these people not all in Geneva instead? They are all, I assume in North’s world, like me in not being able to see beyond the confines of the EU entity? Strikes me lobby money will go where the influence is.
The essential case North is trying to make, it seems to me, is that when it comes to standards, the European Union is not a very relevant player. I do not deny that international standards are important, but EU law is also important (and, as stated above, I do not disagree with him over agriculture and fish). The point of my original blog entry then still stands – the UK out of the EU and in the EEA would lose political influence and would not gain democratically, even if the economic impact were to be negligible.
UPDATE – re. the search point above – for some reason the search bar does not appear in Firefox on my Mac, but does appear in Google Chrome. Screenshot here. Apologies for the confusion.