I once asked Rupert Murdoch why he was so opposed to the European Union. “That’s easy,” he replied. “When I go into Downing Street they do what I say; when I go to Brussels they take no notice.”
That was some years ago but things have not changed that much. Size matters. Individual countries buckle but the EU is big enough to resist. British politicians have to fawn to foreign businessmen so they will invest here. The much-maligned bureaucrats in Brussels can afford to be much tougher — as Honeywell, Microsoft and Murdoch have found in the past and as Google is finding now. That, indeed, is one of the few real certainties in an EU debate which is largely fact-free.
Likewise with governments. Matthew Elliott, of Business for Britain, and in the Brexit camp, says we would be free to negotiate our own trade deals with the rest of the world. He should heed the words of a leading American trade negotiator discussing the slow progress being made on a trade deal between the US and the EU. It was taking time, he said, because the US was having to learn how to deal with an adversary who was an equal. This was in stark contrast with the way the US deals with individual countries. “Normally we just fax them our terms and tell them to sign.”