If you’re anything like me, then some days you open the news and are baffled. We asked our readers what news item are they the most confused about and one of the answers was the ‘single market’. Well, you know what, I’m confused too, so let’s learn together.

The short version

The single market refers to the freedom afforded to everyone in the European Union (EU) where goods, services, people, and capital are free to move between any country inside the EU without having to pay. The UK is no longer part of the EU, so we don’t have access to these freedoms.

The long version

The ‘single market’ is more about regulation than it is literal prevention. If a country outside the EU’s single market wants to trade with those within (like the UK now must), then they are hit with tariffs (tax on imports). When a country is a member of the EU, they do not have to pay tariffs to move stuff to other EU member countries.

It’s similar to the freedom of movement stuff – it was completely unlocked and you could move from the UK to Sweden for work without a problem, but now you need visas and a new (BLOO) passport.

Some things can be moved tariff and quota-free, so long as they meet the ‘Rules of Origin’ requirements. This is a set of conditions that determines whether something mostly originates from the EU or from the UK, which is about as easy as trying to decipher which unmarked black PlayStation controller is yours after a big sleepover.

This sounds like a pain in the arse. Why did the UK leave the EU?

Hey, kid, you ever heard of Brexit? No?! Well, let me tell you about it.

In 2013, then Prime Minister David Cameron thought he could get the Eurosceptic Tories on his side by promising that, if the Tories won the 2015 general election, they would set out to renegotiate the terms of the UK’s membership to the EU. Well, the Tories won, and in 2016 held a national public referendum on whether we should remain in the EU or leave.

The vote ended with 52% pro-leave and 48% pro-remain. Cameron, for the record, supported remaining. The leave campaigns were full of lies and, now, one in five people who voted for leave say it was the wrong decision.

And so we began gearing up to leave. Theresa May succeeded Cameron after he weaselled himself out of office, and then the UK spent four years doing sweet fuck all before leaving the EU without a deal on how anything would work on 31 January 2020. A deal was finally organised and came into effect on 1 January 2021.

May was ardently against being a part of the single market, claiming that not leaving it was basically “not leaving the EU at all“.