A regular mantra of supporters of Brexit is that the EU is not the same as the European single market, and that leaving the EU doesn’t necessarily mean leaving the single market.
But those who make this claim are either blissfully unaware of, or deliberately obscuring, the key point that the single market was created by the EU, is run by the EU, and access to it is granted — or not — by the EU.
There are some countries with smaller niche economies, such as Norway and Switzerland, that participate to some extent in the single market, but they are not full EU members and they don’t have the same totally free access as EU members like the UK. And some crucially important elements of their economies lose out: Norway’s fishing industry can’t sell its wares to the EU without tariffs, and Switzerland doesn’t have access to the single market in services.
Also, importantly, their access comes at the price of having to accept the EU’s rules for the market without having a say on those rules. Their laws on competition policy, consumer protection, workers’ rights, environmental standards and suchlike are largely set for them. That is a real loss of sovereignty and democracy!
They even have to accept freedom of movement and make a financial contribution. Anyone who thinks Brexit would get Britain out of those obligations while staying in the single market has another think coming!
If we want to stay in the single market, then it’s far better for us to stay in its management body, the EU, and have a say in the rules that will affect us anyway.