Let’s say you’re a manufacturer of widgets. You’ve got a nice profitable market in the UK and you think you could shift some in China too. So you look into selling in China. First off, the Chinese have different safety regulations from the UK, and also your widget isn’t quite compatible with the products currently sold in China, so you have to do some redesigning. Then you have to test to some safety standards you’ve never heard of, which you have to pay someone in China to do because nobody in the UK understands them.
Then you try to register your trademark in China but you find that someone already has a really similar trademark, so you have to do a bit of rebranding then apply for the new trademark, which again you have to pay someone in China to do.
Finally you’re ready to ship. Every shipment has to have customs paperwork, and you have to pay import duty to get the stuff into China. You have to use a local distributor because your employees don’t have the right to go and live in China to sell your widgets for you.
All of this is really shaving off your profit, so you don’t have a lot of headroom. Then a couple of large Chinese companies, which also make widgets and don’t want yours on their market, band together to undercut you and force you out. They don’t lose too much money as they make their factories work unpaid overtime for a few months. You, however, have to give up and write off your Chinese enterprise.
Some or all of this unfortunate story will be familiar to anyone who’s expanded their business outside the EU. But it’s not the case within the EU. Selling to the EU is almost as easy as selling to Birmingham, and that’s because of EU regulations that harmonise some aspects of our law across 28 countries. (No mean feat.) Things like safety standards, interoperability, intellectual property law, competition law, health and safety, workers’ rights, and so on.
These laws that people go on about that trump our national laws, they’re not about home affairs, our fiscal policy, our defence, our education, our healthcare, or any of the things we all care about. They are, mostly, to do with cutting red tape to allow EU businesses to trade easily within the EU. So that when you want to sell your widgets in Denmark, you just take some widgets out there and sell them. There, wasn’t that easier?
And that is one reason why being in the EU is good. And that is why we will go into recession if we leave. It’s not some scaremongering doom and gloom, it’s the inevitable result of removing ourselves from the benefits our governments have worked so hard to create.
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