Yes, it’s true: I am a fan of the common market. I buy cheaply made laptops and mobile phones that are made in China. I sell my consulting services to the United States. And I download software programmed in Bangalore.
This, of course, is not the common market of old, imprisoned in Europe. It’s the global common market that has been created at the World Trade Organisation and its predecessor, known as GATT. Tariffs on manufactured goods are now tiny, and trade in services in protected by the General Agreement on Trade in Services.
As a 30-something, I do most of my shopping on the internet. It’s very easy to buy second-hand books from United States. Americans speak the same language – well, mostly – and they have a similar heritage of common law. In fact, I think nothing of buying from other English-speaking nations.
The truth is that, aside from agricultural products, the world has pretty low tariffs. Just how small? Well, globally, average tariffs on manufactured goods have fallen from 40% in 1947 to just 5 per cent today.
This is where it gets interesting. The Europhiles say that EU would punish us if we chose to leave the EU. Even if they wanted to, they’d have a tough time trying. You see, the EU has signed a treaty to be a member of the World Trade Organisation and it has agreed not to discriminate between those nations with which it does not have a free trade agreement.
Britain, like the United States, manufactures vacuum cleaners – those nice Henry ones. Exports of vacuum cleaners from the US into Europe have a tariff of 2.2% imposed on them. If we left the EU and did not join the European Free Trade Association, the EU would be required to charge us exactly the same tariff.
Given the savings to our economy from leaving the EU, we’d actually be better off even if we did have to pay this.
And these low tariffs are why, despite EU membership, we still routinely trade with America and Commonwealth producers such as New Zealand and Australia. We live a common market – but it’s global, not European.