Against Models│ Jake Scott

You often hear the Eurocrats telling us we would have “no special deal” after Brexit, that we should choose a model of relationship akin to those established by the Swiss or Norwegians in the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). This is strikingly revealing of the European Union’s obsession with a priori systems imposed from above; it is the logical conclusion of the madness we read regarding the “straightness of bananas” or the “size of cabbages”. These seemingly unrelated phenomena are merely two extremes of the obsession with governance models that has plagued the EU from its conception. It is for this reason that Britain should resist any attempt to hem the UK into the EFTA, or force it to accept a relationship model that will bind us irrevocably into permanent position with relation to the EU.

The “educated elite” scoff when the majority of people complain at EU dictats such as those governing the size, length and colour of fruit, dismissing them as lunatics, but a subtle truth hides in this pedantic fixation of the EU’s; take the EU law regarding the size of a cabbage as an example. It is often quoted as 26,000 words long, and while this particular claim is false, there are many regulations over the sale of certain farm produce that stretch to over 32,000 words long.

This may seem like the ravings of a madman wearing a tin hat (and I grant you, I don’t come off well here), but the devil is in the details. The EU’s obsession with a priori regulations, on attempting to decide before the fact exactly how to proceed is revealing of their misunderstanding of the spontaneity of market economics, and the free interaction of individuals. Recently, Polish butchers have complained of the EU regulation over which fuels can be burnt to give their once-beautiful sausages their flavour; now, most woods are banned (due, of course, to “environmental concerns”), and so the flavours are gone. Instead, what you have is a meaty paste of indiscernible taste.

All this points to a serious fault in European continental politics, which is to attempt to legislate for every conceivable eventuality, divorced entirely from reality, in such a way that, as reality changes – as it must – the legislation cannot, because it was never attached to a fixed legislative moment in the first place. Historically, the legislative tradition in Britain has differed greatly from the majority of the continent’s own tradition; the English common law has created spontaneous, bottom-up legality that has legitimised the rule of our rulers because it found expression in our courts where the law was discovered, whereas since the days of Napoleon and the Code Napoleon the continental attitude to legality, from the Second Republic of France to Bismarkian Prussia, from the Sultanate of the Ottomons to the First International of the Bolsheviks, has been one of top-down, edictal laws, derived from the arbitrary will of the monarchs and, in the modern world, from “rational deductions” of the bureaucrats.

This is why Britain should resist fixing ourselves to a pre-ordained model of economic relationship with Europe; not for any economic reason, but for the same reason Britain left (and indeed, was never happy as part of the Union) in the first place, that it would not be attached to any real circumstance, but an a priori (mis)understanding of the need of the two partners to the agreement.

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