The UK helped to deliver the greatest bonfire of red tape in human history. But it is now contemplating the erection of countless new barriers, and in doing so, abandoning its proud record from decades pastby David Anderson / October 9, 2019 / Leave a comment
The government’s “No-Deal Readiness Report,” published on Tuesday, sets out in one place what will change if the UK leaves the EU without a deal. Media coverage has focused on an important but transitory issue: our state of Brexit preparedness. But the report’s 159 pages reveal a more lasting truth: that whenever it comes, Brexit will not only reduce our hard-won freedoms to move and to trade across the EU, but thrust what remains of them into a dense new thicket of red tape.
The report’s length allows for only an outline of the new barriers, many of which are not yet defined. EORI numbers and customs forms will be required for exporters; permits, authorisations and licences for transport operators. Manufacturers must think about new product approvals, certificates and local representatives. Service providers are warned that they may face new discriminatory or non-discriminatory barriers, and will have to comply with a vast array of host state rules, including for visas, if they are to continue doing business in the EU. Migrant UK nationals must register, and navigate local requirements ranging from healthcare eligibility to driving tests. Holiday travellers will need health insurance and should carry proof of funds and a return ticket in case of interest from immigration officials; if they wish to bring their dog or cat, at least four months should be allowed for the necessary preparations.
As Michael Gove’s report was debated in parliament yesterday, I recalled the work of another prominent Conservative: Arthur Cockfield, the so-called “Father of the Single Market.” Appointed to the European Commission by Margaret Thatcher, Lord Cockfield set out in a 1985 White Paper no fewer than 300 barriers to the free movement of persons, goods, services and capital, and persuaded the member states to commit to removing all of them by the end of 1992. At the core of his programme was the “new approach”: in place of time-consuming attempts to legislate for Euro-bread or Euro-architects came the principles of core harmonisation and mutual recognition of national standards, implemented by qualified majority voting in the Council under the Single European Act of 1986.
As a young man I spent five exhilarating months as a stagiaire in Lord Cockfield’s private office in the Berlaymont, the base from which the single market was…