At PMQs yesterday, ex-Eurosceptic Jeremy Corbyn defended EU regulations, and attacked the prospect of a US-UK free-trade agreement. The line of questioning was revealing. Brexiteers want to enable free trade. Labour want officials to restrict it.
Labour MPs still campaigning to keep Britain in the single market – and, thereby, effectively in the EU – make out that it has to do with trading access.
But that argument doesn’t hold up. We don’t need to have the same rules as EU countries to trade with them – and do so on good terms. Access to the single market doesn’t require membership.
The truth is, for many on the left, the rules are really the goal. That’s what the single market is, after all – the European Union’s regulatory system.
Corbyn and co are hostile to a US-UK trade deal because they see consumer choice as a bad thing. They don’t trust us to make decisions about what we buy, eat, or drink for ourselves. They want officials to decide for us.
At its core, this is a debate about the nature of society. Many on the left can’t accept that trade happens when it is mutually beneficial for both parties, not when the state coordinates it. They see progress as something that happens through top-down planning, not bottom-up evolution.
But, in truth, society is self-organising – as the market demonstrates. Freedom has created prosperity. Central planning has only ever held progress back.
Many supporters of the EU sincerely believe that officials in Brussels can run our lives better than we can ourselves. But we’re leaving that behind. Brexit means more power for individuals to organise themselves. It truly does mean taking back control.