The UK joined the EEC, as it then was, for one reason – trade. Historically a trading nation, Britain understood and valued the importance of trade in increasing the prosperity of all its citizens. Less than a hundred years ago, we saw what happened when bad policy piled on top of bad policy to strangle trade and economic activity. The result was the Great Depression.
With increasing barriers to trade and activity between countries, international trade plummeted (in UK such trade fell by 60%!). The economic damage was so bad that most states were determined not to let it happen again. Fortunately, after the war, increased trade between counties produced such beneficial results that people wanted to encourage it and barriers started to fall.
In the 1980s, the UK was frustrated at the continued high levels of protectionist rules and barriers that dominated trade within the EEC. The government of the time was therefore instrumental in pushing forward the single market and the reduction of all such restrictions on tradable goods. This was implemented – including the adoption of Qualified Majority Voting to avoid one state holding up all the others – with the target for completion by the end of 1992.
This was broadly done for goods allowing companies to trade the continent over without barriers. Most trade now is in services and the single market in these is still only partially complete. Which is why this is the current focus of Single Market work.
Does the UK benefit from this? I could quote reports and statistics on this and this would probably either bore you or annoy you; so I won’t. Instead I’ll direct you back to my earlier post on the economy, which basically makes the sound economic argument that bigger markets are better. For example, you will find a better painter or designer in town of 100,000 than in a village of 100; and you can sell more of your latest product to 508 million people than to 64 million. So we want to be part of the biggest market – where we can trade and sell out stuff freely – as we can.
This is why we have benefited from the Single Market – selling to 8 times as many people as before means 8 times more opportunities, 8 times more profits for British firms. But it has also given us great opportunities to live, work and study in other EU countries. It’s even possible to go to university in some other states for free!
The Single Market is what the UK wanted. It’s something that the UK benefits from. And it’s something that will be lost if we Leave.