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By John Redwood's Diary
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Leaving the single market

Thursday, November 10, 2016 22:20
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Let’s have another go at explaining why many of us want to leave the so called single market, whilst having access to sell into the EU internal market.

As Single market Minister who “completed” the single market in 1992 according to EU false statements at the time, I remember an endless procession of businesses lobbying me to water down, delay or scupper law after law the EU thought necessary for more trading. Business did not see these laws as helpful on balance when they were being brought in. The one that would have made the London Stock Exchange’s trading system illegal was a good example of the kind of problem we encountered. Having a Eurosceptically inclined Minister was a reassurance to them that I would battle to avoid disaster for them.

As a past Chairman of two global manufacturing businesses I always found it easier to do business in the USA and Asia than on the continent, despite the alleged advantages of the single market. As a Company Chairman I did not use my position to intervene in the political debate about the EU and its market. I was very conscious that I had responsibility for many livelihoods, that I represented employees of all political views, and had to sell to customers with an equally wide range of views. I kept the companies I led neutral on politics, and did not seek to know an individual’s politics or discuss UK party politics with employees.

When trying to do business on the continent I sought to select executives keen on the EU project with the necessary language skills to speak to each target market in their home tongue. Where possible we recruited nationals of the country concerned, as we were well aware of the cultural and linguistic barriers to more EU commerce. Despite this it usually proved impossible to sell manufactured product into Germany, even where we had a technical or competitive advantage that was appreciated in many other places.

It is true some of the businesses I was involved with in the past had complex supply chains involving procurement from places on the continent. They also had procurement from India, China and the USA as part of the supply chain. There was no noticeable greater complication in using the non EU parts of the supply chain. All was judged on assessment of value for money, seeking high quality at affordable prices.

I did not find the so called single market helped us much and were I still in post I would not be too worried about departure from it. I did find the European Exchange Rate Mechanism did a lot of damage with the recession it caused, and always avoided business in countries like Greece, Portugal and Spain given the damage being done to their economies by the Euro.


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