The following article over at the CapX site explains why the UK should go for unilateral free trade immediately, and summons up arguments deployed a century and a half ago by the likes of Richard Cobden, and Sir Robert Peel, the Conservative prime minister of the time (who had a rather stronger grasp of political economy than, I suspect, any member of the present government):
I trust the government … will not resume the policy which they and we have found most inconvenient, namely the haggling with foreign countries about reciprocal concessions, instead of taking that independent course which we believe to be conducive to our own interests…[L]et us trust that our example, with the proof of practical benefits we derive from it, will at no remote period insure the adoption of the principles on which we have acted… Let, therefore, our commerce be as free as our institutions. Let us proclaim commerce free, and nation after nation will follow our example.
And these comments from the author of the CapX article, Louis Rouanet, who is a student in Paris, strike me as crucial:
A unilateral free trade program is very simple: the British Parliament declares the abolition of all tariffs. To avoid a race in non-tariff barriers, the Parliament can pass a law declaring that every product which conforms to the EU norms and regulations can be sold freely in the UK. This should not be a problem since the UK still is a member of the EU.
By Parliament’s act, most of the “non-tariff barrier” problem withers away without any need for regulatory harmonisation. If the EU legislator considers it necessary to regulate the curvature of vegetables, so be it! But, although EU producers will be free to sell their product in the UK, the British legislature may deem it unnecessary to regulate its producers in the same absurd way.
The advantages of this approach are many. First, the UK can have free trade now instead of waiting through years of negotiations. No need to wait for bureaucrats to agree on which laws we burden consumers and producers with.
Read the whole thing, as they say.
If anything is harming Britain right now, it is the ongoing attempts to catastrophise Brexit being fomented by bitter Remainers – people who would seemingly rather Britain descend into some dark, dystopian future and be vindicated in their doomsaying than help their own country to present a positive, open and internationalist face to the world.
We should not be surprised. In an age where looking good (and signalling virtue) is more important than actually doing good, there is every incentive for Remainers to continue seizing on every morsel of bad news, overlooking every positive development and generally acting hysterically, so long as their precious internal narrative – that They Virtuous Few stood alone against the “dark forces” of racist Brexit – is not disrupted.
Personally, I find it despicable, but good luck to them.
– Samuel Hooper
Following Brexit, an interesting area of agreement has emerged between members of the two contending teams, by which I really mean between Brexiteer me and Daniel Korski, who recently penned a Politico piece entitled Why we lost the Brexit vote. We. His team lost. His discussion of why his team lost strikes me as well worth reading.
Korski was for the EU, and for Britain being in the EU. He describes it as:
— an extraordinary project of continental peacemaking and economic liberalization —
However, those dashes at the beginning and the end of that quote are because that is a parenthetically pre-emptive addition to a long passage in which Korski tells us many of things that have been wrong with the EU, especially recently. The EU …:
… has become increasingly distant from voters. It has struggled with the contradictions laid bare by the euro crisis and come up against the limits of its attraction, in Turkey and on its border with Russia. The resulting impression is of a Continent lurching from crisis to crisis. …
There is much more in a similar vein. Read it all, if you are the sort that relishes unflattering descriptions of the EU. The …:
… the impression of the EU across the Continent was of an enterprise no longer delivering for Europeans. …
The word “impression” occurs twice during this peroration, and again in one of the subheadings that Korski, or someone, has added. But it all reads like a lot worse than just an impression.
→ Continue reading: Have they even been selling EUrope in Europe?
Because it’s being made very clear to us that the Single Market is Brexit. We are being told that if we want membership of that trading area then we’ve got to accept free movement of people (not in itself a bad idea but not really what people voted for), all of the regulation of the economy which the EU imposes, must pay into the EU budget and so on and on. Essentially, it is being made very clear that membership of the Single Market comes with all of the costs and responsibilities of full EU membership.
That is, single market membership is a denial of Brexit itself.
We do all know that a majority of MPs are against the very idea of leaving. Which is exactly why they shouldn’t have a vote on the matter. For accepting single market membership is tantamount to not leaving, it would be a reversal of the referendum by the back door.
– Tim Worstall
The Electoral Reform Society has released a report about the conduct of the EU referendum called “It’s good to talk: Doing referendums differently after the EU vote”.
The title “It’s good to talk” suggests a conversation, a dialogue. Unlike some commentary by prominent Remain supporters, it does not seek to rule that some people are not qualified to take part in the dialogue at all and their votes should be disregarded. In fact if I chose to use this particular document in order to criticise a paternalist tendency in British politics, it is because it shows this tendency at its most well-meaning. But however reasonably expressed, the purpose of the measures suggested by the Electoral Reform Society is to stop the wild voters ever getting loose again.
So it’s time for a root and branch review of referendums, learning the lessons of the EU campaign to make sure the mistakes that were made in terms of regulation, tone and conduct are never repeated.
“Regulation, tone and conduct.” How very British, how very Sir Humphrey! Yet the people who wrote this probably object to being called “The Establishment”. The report assumes that the referendum was ill-regulated and that the referendum was something that should be regulated. By people like them.
We’ve made nine key recommendations to improve the conduct of future referendums. They are:
Laying the groundwork
1. Mandatory pre-legislative scrutiny for any Bill on a referendum, lasting at least three months, with citizens’ involvement
2. A minimum six-month regulated campaigning period to ensure time for a proper public discussion
3. A definitive ‘rulebook’ to be published, setting out technical aspects of the vote, as soon as possible after the passing of any referendum Bill
1. A ‘minimum data set’ or impartial information guide to be published at the start of the regulated campaigning period
Written by their sort of people, containing the information that their sort of people think is relevant, impartial in the sense of being in the middle of the spread of opinion that is socially acceptable for their sort of people.
2. An official body should be given the task of intervening when misleading claims are made by the campaigns, as in New Zealand
“An official body” means a body with power. “Given the task of intervening” means given the power to silence. And, of course, the official body will be staffed by suitably qualified people. So some more of their sort of people will have new powers to censor the unenlightened.
3. Citizenship education to be extended in schools
I don’t really need to say it, do I?
alongside UK-wide extension of votes at 16
With the result that those who have only known a life where the majority of their waking hours were spent under the control of the clerisy will mostly vote as directed. There is another point, too. The extension of the franchise to children is no longer an anomaly if all the voters are treated as children. Like children, all the information they receive will be censored and filtered by their wise teachers, who get to decide what claims are misleading.
1. The government should fund a resource for stimulating deliberative discussion/debate about referendum
2. An official body should be tasked with providing a toolkit for members of the public to host own debates/deliberative events on the referendum
“Providing the toolkit” for debates is an example of the agenda-setting power.
3. Ofcom should conduct a review into an appropriate role for broadcasters to play in referendums, with aim of making coverage/formats more deliberative rather than combative/binary
It’s a referendum, for goodness sake. How can it be other than binary? Ah, I think I know. I came across many comments by Remainers saying that the simple option “Leave the EU” was too easy and the question in the corrective referendum should be broken up into multiple different flavours of Leave plus one flavour of Remain. This would have the happy effect of splitting the Leave vote.
We think our new report, ‘It’s Good to Talk: Doing Referendums Differently After the EU Vote’, will be a useful resource in tackling the big questions about where we go from here when it comes to referendums. We hope you agree.
I do not agree. The report suggests various measures that would reduce the chance that polite conversation will be interrupted by shouting. Another way of putting that is that the report puts forward measures to make it harder for angry, inarticulate people to be heard, harder for them to sense that they are not alone, harder for referendums to fulfil their function of yanking the people’s representatives back into contact with what the people actually want.
More than that though, we hope the recommendations we suggest lead to some genuine change so that the public get the referendum debates they deserve in the future.
The wording is revealing. Although the mention of the public getting what they deserve is meant politely rather than literally, debate is seen as something the public get given to them, not as something they do themselves, however raw and “combative” and “binary” it may be.
I just heard, on the telly, the leader of the Lib Dems repeat his support for a return by Britain to the EU. Other Lib Dems on the same show are echoing him. The Empire Loyalists of our time. They’ll attract a small lump of enthusiasts, who will spend the rest of their lives insisting that they were right to oppose Brexit. And everyone else will watch and say: so what? Even most of those who voted Remain themselves. Regret is not a policy.
– Brian Micklethwait
This was too perfect not to warrant a little post of its own.
Let’s be clear: No deal is better than a bad deal.
– Richard Tice, discussing Brexit.
A friend of mine reckons that Ex-Prime-Minister David Cameron’s plan was, all long, to extricate Britain from the EU. This theory reminds me of the similar things that were said about Gorbachev and the collapse of the old USSR. If Gorbachev had been a CIA agent, working to contrive the exact USSR collapse that happened, what would he have done differently? Very little. It’s the same with Cameron and Brexit. How could Cameron have done a better job of contriving Brexit than he actually did do?
You may say: Cameron might actually have argued for Brexit, in public. But if he had done that, then many of those north of England Labourites who hate Cameron might have voted Remain instead of Out, just to stick it to those out-of-touch Etonian bastards, the way they actually did feel they were sticking it to the Etonians by voting Out. And Britain might now be chained to the sinking ship that is the EU rather than liberated from it.
But, whether by design, as my friend thinks, or by accident, as most others assume, Brexit has unified the Conservative Party. With that observation, I move from the territory of undisprovable speculative diversion into the land of out-in-the-open truth. And I am not the only one who has noticed this.
For all of my adult life, the Europe issue has divided the Conservative Party. Until now.
→ Continue reading: How Brexit has unified the Conservative Party
Douglas Carswell makes some excellent points about the perils of any post-Brexit trade agreements with the EU:
So let’s spell it out. Access to the single market means being able to trade with single-market countries. Membership means being bound by single-market rules.
Why is this difference so important?
Because access is consistent with the vote to leave the EU. Membership isn’t.
Access clearly doesn’t require membership. Countries around the world trade with the single market. Many do so freely, with no tariff barriers, via bilateral free-trade agreements. Britain can do the same. We don’t need to be part of the single market to trade freely with it.
In fact, we will have freer trade once we leave the single market. Because the single market doesn’t enable commerce, but rather restricts it.
The single market is a permission-based system. It stops suppliers from selling things people want to buy unless they conform to standards set by bureaucrats in Brussels. Rather than remove trade barriers, the single market creates them. Not between countries, but between producers and consumers.
The effect is to limit competition. Big corporations with expensive lobbyists rig the rules to shut out disruptive innovation from upstart rivals. Economic progress is impeded.
Indeed, and as Peter Lilly wrote not all that long ago:
How important are trade deals? As a former trade minister it pains me to admit – their importance is grossly exaggerated. Countries succeed, with or without trade deals, if they produce goods and services other countries want. Thanks to the Uruguay Round, tariffs between developed countries now average low single figures – small beer compared with recent movements in exchange rates. So the most worthwhile trade agreements are with fast growing developing countries which still have high tariffs.
Quite so. The sooner we are out of the EU the better.
There is nothing new about this; it mostly started fifteen years ago, in 2001, and again the Irish were the main target. Ireland in the early 1990s had a high general corporation tax rate of 40%, but it introduced a special low 10% rate for finance companies in its Dublin-based International Financial Services Centre (IFSC). The Commission ruled that this was effectively an improper subsidy to the finance industry under the State Aid rules, and ordered its abolition.
That was really the root cause of the EU’s current row with Ireland, because the Irish response to the IFSC being declared illegal was to reduce all its corporation tax to 12.5%. Because that wasn’t targeted at a particular company or industry sector, it wasn’t illegal State Aid and so the EU Commission could do nothing to stop them, much as it wanted to.
So the EU Commission’s current action against Ireland over Apple is largely “Round Two”, a repeat of what it did fifteen years ago.
– Richard Teather
I have been familiar with some of the details of a Romanian case, which has taken a shocking turn, and it highlights the mess of the European Union’s Arrest Warrant. Stephen Pollard, editor of the Jewish Chronicle, writes about the case. Even the more cynical out there will be shocked at the brazenness of the Romanian government in this case. And it raises a wider issue about governments co-operating to move alleged suspects from A to B and sharing data with one another about their citizens.
Consider a new anti-tax evasion regime called the Common Reporting Standard, under which certain governments swap data to catch alleged tax dodgers. With CRS, there is a presumption that the countries involved can move information around and that this will not compromise legitimate financial privacy. All I can say is “good luck with that”. Abuses will occur. (Governments in recent times have been happy to obtain data from Swiss banks via thieves, for example.)
The UK has an extradition treaty with the US and this has caused controversy at times because of the alleged lack of a need for a prima facie suspicion of guilt to be proven against a person before extradition (instead, a country has to show “probable cause”, which waters the test down marvellously). What may be a crime in the US, for existence (running an internet gambling site, for example) isn’t in the UK. And so on.
The Romanian case in question here is particularly noxious to a sense of justice because of the heavy-handed behaviour of Romania. Its attempt to bully news organisations that are covering controversies, such as arms dealing, is also outrageous – such an attack on freedom of the press hardly meets the sort of test one would have supposed is necessary for a country to be a member of the EU at all. And as long as this arrest warrant remains, I see zero chance of a country such as Turkey joining the EU.
I’d like to know what the UK government’s view is of the case, and of whether any MPs have taken this matter on. Theresa May, the Prime Minister, is not exactly a poster girl for civil liberty, but even she might be shocked at what is going on here. (When she was Home Secretary, she blocked an extradition of a person to the US.)
One way for Mrs May to prove that “Brexit means Brexit” is to ensure that the UK removes itself from the EU arrest warrant process immediately. The reasons why I am so glad the UK voted to get out of the whole wretched structure continue.
Addendum: As an aside, it is also worth noting that these actions by Romania are often typical of certain regimes seeking to crush alleged corruption. Much of the media will applaud this; I even spoke to a fund manager about Romania, who applauded the steps that the country has made against corruption. But as we have seen in countries such as China, anti-corruption sometimes means little more than score-settling or persecution of political opponents or those who are deemed to be embarrassing. (And needless to say, the ultimate case of this is Putin’s Russia, and Romania is to some extent under Russian influence.)
In an astonishing EU ruling, Apple is being told the pay the Irish state €13 billion(!!!) in retrospective taxation that the Irish state never asked for. And the reply from Apple is very well crafted. It is clear they are not going to take this shakedown by the European Commission lying down.