Trade is good. It’s not a zero-sum game. By matching one party’s needs with a second party’s surplus, free trade in an open market enriches both parties.
Individuals trade; companies trade. But — with the exception of government procurement — governments don’t trade. Despite their rhetoric about striking trade deals, most of the time, most government intervention in the market is designed to impede free trade. By erecting tariffs and non-tariff barriers, they aim to protect indigenous industry, to promote consumer protection or to advance some dubious policy objective. Most “trade deals” aim simply to reduce constraints on trade previously imposed.
The single market of the European Union is a protectionist structure, erecting barriers to the ability of Europeans to trade with non-members of the Union.
Some who argue in favour of leaving the EU place the highest priority on Britain retaining participation in the single market — at least in the short-medium term. From this flow consequences such as continuing to accept, at least temporarily, the four freedoms of movement, of goods, services, people and capital.
We don’t agree. Trade is important, especially for a nation such as Britain. But inter-governmental trade arrangements cannot be given absolute priority. Our instinct is that in the end the natural individual propensity to trade will overcome governments’ desire to constrain it. Considerations of sovereignty thus have to take precedence over those of short-term trading constraints.