One of the common complaints of Eurosceptics about the EU is that there are too many regulations coming from Brussels. Some of these, such as those protecting employees from exploitation, or rules protecting the environment, are welcomed in certain quarters. Even Boris Johnson’s father is a strong supporter of the EU’s environmental work. But other types of regulation are often resented and the ‘outers’ say that they want the single market, but not all these rules.
What they seem to overlook is that the single market has to consist largely of such regulations. Let me explain. Protectionism, i.e. the opposite of free markets, is not just a matter of tariffs which make imported goods more expensive. It is also often something created because countries have particular rules about products and services which in effect make it difficult or impossible for outsiders to import them. All developed countries have rules about the standard of manufacture of certain items, the safety of toys, for instance, what chemical may or may not be present in domestic paint, or the permissible ingredients in processed foods. If you are a British manufacturer of toy trucks, for example, you have to comply with the standards in your own country to sell at home, and then you need to comply with the standards of any country you sell into. If you are going to export to a dozen countries and they all have different regulations about your product, this will make your life much more difficult, and your product more expensive.
But suppose your country belongs to an organisation in which many countries agree the product standards for toy trucks together. This means that all you need to do is to manufacture to the standards which apply in your own country and the trucks will automatically comply with those in all of the other countries, because they will be the same. Your life will become much easier, your toy trucks cheaper, and the likelihood that your company can export and grow, much greater. This is why many EU regulations are not a hindrance but a help to British businesses and therefore to the prosperity of the whole country.