The EU has the advantage not just because of its economic heft, but because of its regulatory infrastructureby Ian Dunt / May 8, 2018 / Leave a comment
Jacob Rees-Mogg has a rather unpleasant knack for delivering threats as if they are supportive platitudes. He was at it again in the Telegraph today, telling readers about why the European Union would prefer Theresa May to Boris Johnson.
“The EU knows if they don’t support and help Theresa May to get a deal, there is the risk of having somebody much, much more aggressive, which they don’t want,” he said. “I think that’s helping her. By being a Remainer, by being moderate, by being courteous, she is doing a highly competent job in negotiations. I don’t think they would like to have Boris Johnson, do you?”
The supportive comments are of course a thin veil for an ice-cold threat to dethrone May if she refuses to do his bidding on post-Brexit customs. The idea that Britain should assert itself more strongly is fairly common among Brexiters on the Conservative benches. They are infuriated by the government’s continued capitulations. They think that if only someone really tough, someone with the proper bulldog spirit of Brexit in them, went into those negotiations, the grey bureaucrats of Brussels would blink first. Faced with the true grit of an Englishman, cowardly Europeans would run a mile.
It couldn’t really be any other way. For decades eurosceptics imagined the EU stifled Britain’s ingenuity and can-do attitude. It therefore follows that when these cultures meet in opposition, the European side will surely wilt.
In reality, any team, under any leader, from any country going into these negotiations with the EU would lose if they were operating under these constraints in terms of both politics and time. It is not about being tough, or clever, or daring. It is simply about the cards you have in your hand. A country leaving the EU is in a weak position for lots of reasons. Its small relative economic size for one thing. But there is also another very specific reason, less discussed but just as important: infrastructure.
Once you’re in the EU, you share regulatory infrastructure. You’ve entered into a regulatory web designed to make things easier to trade and run around the continent. Drugs are licensed by the European Medicines Agency. Intellectual property rights for new plant varieties are granted through the Community Plant Variety Office. The safety checks for…