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Samizdata quote of the day

A lot of strange stuff has been written about the referendum and its aftermath, so a writer really has to go some to stand out from the crowd. As was highlighted today by Walter Ellis (brilliant Reaction Remainer, who shows we are a broad church while generally being for enthusiastically getting on with Brexit), the case of Christopher Booker is most strange. Booker was, along with his associates, a robust voice for leaving the EU for many years. Now he writes it will be a disaster because we are leaving the customs union and because NO-ONE WILL LISTEN TO HIM AND HIS FRIENDS, or something. Let’s face it. There is a strand in the Eurosceptic movement that liked being a minority interest. There is a similarity there with music fans who like showing their alleged superiority by being into an obscure act. What they hate most is when other people start buying the records of their hitherto little-known favourites.

Iain Martin

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44 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Y. Knott

    I’ve read him and Richard North for some years now, and I agree with their take; Brexit is a wonderful idea being horribly done, due more than anything to guvmint laziness and ignorance. Just tearing-it-up and walking away would be a decades-long migraine with severe economic consequences for Britain, not to mention breaking numerous international treaties and laws; whereas if one studies the matter (and they’ve done so for many years), it could be much simpler and more successful. I detect in their writings only mounting frustration that nobody will listen to this; and Cassandra of Troy comes to-mind.

    Are they mere limelight-hogs, or are they possibly right? And can the nation afford the consequences of ignoring them if it’s the latter? One must expect that whether they’re right or wrong, the matter will be long-drawn-out and dreadfully complicated; and at least they’ve done their homework, which few of the MFWIC’s even pretend to.

    So sneering at them now might prove catastrophically unwise in the long run; “Here Be Dragons” is only silly until you run-into the dragons.

  • PeterT

    First of all, it is the single market, not the custom’s union, that Booker is keen on staying in. Secondly, this was always his preferred option, including pre-referendum. The criticism of Booker (and by extension Richard North of eureferendum.com) is deeply ignorant.

    The purpose of the single market is to enable trade, not to get in the way. Whilst there will be some tipping point where our producers would face fewer regulations outside of the single market than if we stay in, the transition period has the potential to be extremely disrupting, in a bad way.

    Statements such as “people trade; not governments”, “you don’t need agreements to trade” are, frankly, indicative of a lack of thinking capacity. Governments get in the way of trade, mostly by putting in place technical requirements and compliance regimes. The purpose of trade agreements is to overcome these self-imposed barriers, either by adopting a common regulatory framework or equivalence, or by a give and take style trade agreement.

    I happen to believe that the most likely outcome is some transition deal will be cobbled together, but there is no reason whatever to think that this would be better than just joining the EEA.

    Ultimately the UK will of course adapt to its new environment, whatever it looks like. But I don’t see why we can’t do this gradually as opposed to a phoenix like approach.

  • Lee Moore

    Just tearing-it-up and walking away would be a decades-long migraine with severe economic consequences for Britain, not to mention breaking numerous international treaties and laws

    Who is proposing such a course ? I thought the UK government had just gone to an enormous amount of trouble to pass a special Act of Parliament to amuse the country’s judges, precisely so they could follow the procedure for departure set out by the EU treaty. So what “numerous international treaties and laws” do you foresee being broken ?

    As to the shape of any agreement setting out terms of departure and relations thereafter, who can say for sure what will be agreed ? I suspect nothing, as I suspect the EU will not want to agree anything. Whatever the EU offers will be transparently presented as punishment, pour encourager les autres, so even if the Archangel Gabriel were to lead the British negotiating team, the EU offer would still be a horse’s head.

    And this is one of the main reasons why it is essential to leave, and leave as soon as possible (consistent with the two year courtesy.) The EU is not a practical institution for international co-operation as so many soapily pro EU Brits have fondly imagined, it is a quasi-religious movement for the political unification of Europe. Leavers are not merely traitors, they are heretics. Staying in a Church you don’t believe in can lead only to even greater unhappiness, on both sides, down the road.

    And so, the transition will be more troublesome than one might hope. But a smooth exit will not be offered, so it’s fantasy to demand that it all be done smoothly.

  • John B

    @PeterT

    You have that exactly the wrong way round.

    It is not a Single Market – they pretend it is – because there are still impediments to the free movement of goods, labour and services, mostly due to protectionist behaviour by some nations or practical matters. For example a UK company cannot move workers to an EU Country to work exclusively on a UK contract paying income tax to the UK – that restricts movement of labour; nor can citizens of an EU Country be employed to work in their Country on a UK contract. Services cannot be offered cross border; goods have to be labelled in the language of the destination Country, pharmaceuticals approved in the UK may not be sold in other EU States without approval there, this restricts freedom of movement of goods and service. There are other examples.

    It is not a Single Market.

    It is however a Customs Union because there is an external Customs border and incoming goods that cross that border at any point must be subject to agreed tariff and non-tariff barriers. Once inside the Customs Union goods are in free circulation the same as goods produced inside the Customs Union; goods produced inside the Customs Union circulate without any cross border tariffs or non-tariffs applied.

    The EU is a Customs Union.

    “Statements such as “people trade; not governments”, “you don’t need agreements to trade” are, frankly, indicative of a lack of thinking capacity. Governments get in the way of trade, mostly by putting in place technical requirements and compliance regimes. The purpose of trade agreements is to overcome these self-imposed barriers, either by adopting a common regulatory framework or equivalence, or by a give and take style trade agreement.”

    Trade agreements PUT tariff and non-tariff barriers in the way, on a tit-for-tat basis.

    WTO agreements limits the school playground behaviour of I’m going to get you back you rotter and do it to you harder than you do it to me.

    Free trade means no agreements – that is what the ‘free’ means… free of agreements.

    Imports make us wealthy, not exports. All the UK has to do us declare itself a free trade zone. It is most likely that other Countries will adopt free trade with the UK in return. IF not the UK will be no worse off than at present. If the EU imposes WTO tariffs on UK imports, the recent devaluation in the Pound more than cover that.

    If the EU does reduce imports from the UK – they are already declining and have been for some years – that not only makes their own citizens poorer, but it means the UK has fewer euro with which to buy EU produce or invest in the EU. The EU would be shooting itself in the foot – although I agree that has never stopped the fools in the past.

    The World in aggregate is a far bigger market than the EU, and unlike the EU economy which is going nowhere, the World economy is growing fast.

    There are no solutions in life just trade-offs.

    Whatever the real, as opposed to the alleged, negatives of leaving the EU these will be more than balanced out by the positives of trading with the World outside.

  • bobby b

    “But I don’t see why we can’t do this gradually as opposed to a phoenix like approach.”

    Your Brexit discussion has reached a place similar to the US discussion concerning weapons. After years of anti-weapon people advancing seemingly useful ideas concerning the wise control of weapons while insisting that these ideas would never be used to further prohibit weapons followed quickly by the use of those ideas to advance incrementally the idea of total prohibition, there has been a complete breakdown in trust between the sides.

    Because of this breakdown in trust, ideas that might marginally improve the situation are viewed as camel-nose-under-the-tent-flap bad-faith attempts to trick a win.

    Asking to slow down or organize Leave is now going to be perceived as a tricky attempt to sabotage Leave. “Gradually” has become a watchword meaning “he wants to delay it as a way to cancel it.”

    You need trust to negotiate half-measures. Trust is dead.

  • The purpose of the single market is to enable trade, not to get in the way.

    Utter bollocks. If the purpose of the single market was to enable trade, its purpose would be to prevent barriers with all of the EU’s trading partners & not just members of the club. The purpose of the ‘single market’ is to facility regulations and controls at the European level.

  • Laird

    PeterT sees the existence of comments such as “people trade; not governments” as evidence of limited cognitive ability. Yet he contradicts himself in the very next sentence: it is governments, not “people”, which interfere with trade. And his comment that “[t]he purpose of the single market is to enable trade, not to get in the way” is risible. The sole purpose of any such system is to permit governments to manage trade in ways which suit their purposes, which is the very definition of “getting in the way.” If he’s looking for impaired cognitive ability he’s pointing in the wrong direction.

    And as to Y. Knott’s assertion that a hard Brexit would break “numerous international treaties and laws”, I second Lee Moore’s call for specifics. And I would go farther: all treaties are subject to renunciation by any of the parties; that is the essence of sovereignty. The specific treaty might (probably does) provide a mechanism for withdrawal (which, in the case of the EU withdrawal, is being scrupulously observed by the UK), but beyond that every party is always free to walk away at any time. And as to violating “laws”, this can only mean domestic legislation (there is no such thing as true “international law”, merely treaties and conventions which are observed only so long as it remains useful to do so), and those can be changed unilaterally by the national government. The diktats from Brussels will no longer be “laws” within the UK and so would not be broken. There is nothing “illegal” in any sense about Brexit. Whether it is prudent is an entirely different matter, but the voters have spoken so that decision has been made. Good luck to you!

  • Charlie Suet

    There are a lot of things to parse in the question of how we Brexit – I don’t think I begin to understand them all myself. But the suggestion that the Flexcit approach favoured by Booker, North et al is perfect and any other way is madness fails the sniff test for me, however long they’ve been advocating it. Creating a false dichotomy between EEA/EFTA and an ill-defined ‘Hard Brexit’ is baseless.

    I also don’t really recognise the picture die-hard Remainers like the editorial staff of the Observer want to paint of a cabinet being dictated to by hardliners like IDS. It’s clear to me that plenty of different opinions are being canvassed and will continue to be. Further, the prospect of a Scottish referendum after any deal will probably serve to moderate what they aim for.

    Perhaps this requires a bit too much faith in the “top men”, particularly for a libertarian website and particularly given that we are in this mess due to the stupidity of the past 25 years of politicians. But it needs to be remembered that we are big enough to take quite a few European countries with us if we ‘plunged off a cliff’. I wouldn’t ever rule out unaccountable idiots like Druncker screwing everything up, but I think PeterT is right that something will be cobbled together if necessary.

  • Mr Ed

    There is no more reason to miss the EU than to miss Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, the USSR or the unlovable United Arab Republic joining Syria and Egypt. If the EU dissolved tomorrow, Europe would still be there, only a bureaucracy and legal system would vanish. Departing the EU is restoring the status quo ante of the UK in its natural state as an independent country, and if Barbados can manage it, even within CARICOM, why can’t the UK?

  • Mr Ecks

    In fairness to Richard North, he is a meticulous researcher. But he is an egoman and his way is the only way as far as he is concerned. Which is why he and Farage don’t get on-both egomen but Farage is much the more personable whatever his failings. North is also the arch statist who thinks the world will end unless political scum are overseeing every minute facet of it.

    Had Farage never existed we would have lost the Referendum ( had it ever come about) and North would still be producing vast reports that few will even read. He thinks he is a player of the long game but he simply has little influence due to his abrasive nature and Right-Man attitudes.

  • Andrew Douglas

    Stopped reading North last year. Doesn’t see the wood for the trees, and massively undervalues the need to persuade people, not just sneer and shout at them.
    Britain is in the position of the first person on the Titanic to see the iceberg. A (very) half-hearted and unsuccessful attempt to wrestle control of the wheel has, rightly, been followed by a charge for the lifeboat. Now we need to paddle in the opposite direction, as fast as we can.
    There is no ‘single market’ in services, which is and will remain the UK’s strength, so the single market has entrenched an imbalance in our current account. Given the differential growth rates between the EU and pretty much everywhere else, a so-called ‘hard Brexit’ and WTO rules, or even better, unilateral free trade by us will be of substantial benefit to the UK economy.

  • staghounds

    “Buying the records”, how quaint.

  • I agree with bobby b (March 27, 2017 at 3:01 pm) that flexit ideas are rightly rejected because of the issue of trust. However this is merely an aspect of a larger picture. Remember, we don’t believe in socialism, not just because we think we’re smart enough to see its fundamental problems, but because we know we (and everyone else) are stupid enough to make an utter mess of it even if the scheme were in fact capable of being implemented by a very wise and wholly high-minded government.

    Brexit, unlike socialism, can and will work. However of course it will be implemented less well than it could be. What else, rationally, would its supporters expect?

  • PeterT

    Very predictable responses which fail for the same reasons they did “last time”. Primarily the mistake is comparing the current situation with an alternative that simply does not exist. Once we have left the single market we will not fall into a free trading nirvana, both the UK and single market area will maintain their respective rules – which might initially of course be exactly the same yet by virtue of not having a comprehensive agreement with the EU we might still not be able to trade as easily with the EU as we do now and face additional inspection regimes etc which could seriously disrupt trade.

    If I were to pick just one of the objections made, Laird and Perry object to the notion that the single market exists to enable trade. Yes, obviously it is about regulating the market at a European market. But the alternative is for the French, Germans, Belgians, everybody else and us, to have separate rules. This plethora of rules is worse than having one set of rules and in any event event exporters may well feel the only practical way of managing the situation is to comply with the strictest rules. This does vary country by country though, although I have to say that I don’t have faith that the UK would choose to become a less regulated country.

    Although I have some sympathy with the exasperation that North feels, given how hard it seems to be to get these fairly basic concepts through to people, it is hard to disagree entirely with Mr Ecks and Andrew Douglas’s assessments, and quite possibly it is now too late, as bobby b says. Hopefully we will have to turn ourselves into a tax haven. You never know! But frankly it seems much more likely that PM May will leave us in a transition agreement that is worse that simply going into the EEA. I assume that is not what you guys want.

  • James

    PeterT, I think it’s a racing certainty that if we were to crash out of the EU in two years with no deal, we wouldn’t be able to export to the EU as easily as we do now. But hey! Everyone on this blog is always telling me that exports don’t matter, and imports are what make us rich. And I guess if we do need to sell anything anywhere to pay for all those imports, all those other free trading, non-mercantilist places like Trump’s America, China and Japan might be some of the places we look to. Hurrah!

  • Paul Marks

    A “Customs Union” is NOT a Free Trade Zone – a Customs Union is about CONTROL.

    And the European Union “Single Market” is about endless regulation of our domestic (internal) affairs.

    Who said the above – time after time?

    Christopher Booker did.

  • lucklucky

    Britain have to go libertarian-tax heaven etc, Brexit is in fact a secession and that is the only option. This obviously scares any of stateist Brexisters, those that want the same power over people like UE, they are competitors for the same level of power.
    I don’t see the media-political complex able to coupe with that so i expect a coup. They of course will try to make it appear a legal coup.

    With Brexit thing can’t go as they were, it implies that the State will have to change.

  • I don’t accept that RAE North is intellectually honest.

    I was at a meeting at which he was speaking a year or two ago, and asked some questions. He said I didn’t know how the constitution worked because I hadn’t studied it. I pointed out that I’d studied constitutional law at Cambridge. He then said that such study was irrelevant. i.e., something is only relevant or irrelevant depending on whether it helps him win an argument. Personally, I am extremely sympathetic to autodidacts and independent scholars – he chose the wrong guy to pick on.

    He lost his temper when I used the term “rent-seeking” in relation to regulations and tariffs. I don’t see how his ideas can have been well-enough tested if it’s impossible to contradict him without massive blowback. To be fair to him, he did buy me a beer afterwards, but the damage had been done.

    His written output is full of these massive understructured braindumps of single-sentence paragraphs and detail after detail with no summation or introduction. It’s very hard to get a handle on how the various facts advance the points he’s trying to make. The sheer accumulation of facts might be impressive to some people, but not to enough.

    Overall, RAE North and co hit upon the idea of doing loads of reading and writing and proposing a concrete plan for how the UK might leave the EU. They were doing this long before Alex Salmond proved you could get 45% of the vote not knowing what currency you’d be using post-independence. North’s crowd never did any opinion polling showing that fleshing out their particular Leave plan won more votes than it lost. If they’d actually done the numbers, I’m sure they wouldn’t shut up about them.

  • Petepet

    North predicted the E U referendum for 2017 and any other date was met with derision and ridicule when it happened in 2016 not a word of contrition. That’s the man and Booker is marginally better because he needs readers.

  • Stephen K

    Brexit is a wonderful idea being horribly done
    You could (stretching a point) say the same thing about the EU itself, which is why I voted Leave.

    of course it will be implemented less well than it could be. What else, rationally, would its supporters expect?
    This is true of every idea anyone has ever come up with – the crooked timber of humanity makes its appearance, always.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Peter T, there is no need to get sniffy about “predictable” responses. The responses are (mostly) cogent ones, not least the point by Laird and John B that the “single market” is a customs union, and that the supposed benefits of a level playing field in regulations within the 28-member bloc need to be weighed against the continued protectionist stance, both in the form of tariffs and non-tariff barriers, against outside entities. Many major countries, not least the US, trade with the EU without having to be part of some formal single market deal.

    The point of the original posting is that Booker, after having railed against what he sees as the centralising, bureaucratic juggernaut of the single market, and the system of qualified majority voting that is part of it, now seems to be wailing that exit is all too complicated, that we must patiently negotiate for eons, and even then this might be a disaster (unless of course we do exactly as he says). Colour me unimpressed by this. For a start, it is not the UK (the fifth-largest economy in the world) that needs to walk on eggshells lest it upsets the bruised egos of the EU. The EU also needs to realise that by being seen to “punish”, in a petulant fit of rage, a country for the temerity of recovering its parliamentary authority, it comes across as the arrogant, out-of-touch entity that encouraged Brexit in the first place.

    On a factual point, the Single Market is most developed, if one can use the term, at the level of financial services. (Other service sectors are not really covered at all.) Even then, if the UK were to leave without a deal, the UK could, given the sheer dominance of the City, and stressing its importance as a provider of liquidity to the eurozone, get a deal, such as the “third country” equivalence under EU rules as enjoyed by jurisdictions such as Switzerland and the Channel Islands (I work in this sector, and speak from the position of some knowledge about these matters).

    It is also worth pointing out that the single market is not quite the great, pro-market entity it has been cracked up to be. The think tank Civitas has made this point very powerfully.

    Finally, as Booker knows (but seems to have forgotten), the ultras on the Remainer side are insisting that if the UK wishes to retain full access, it must concede not just full freedom of movement (which some of us libertarians don’t demur from) but everything else that goes with it, including the contributions and red tape. There comes a point where the benefits of being part of such a system are outweighed by the crap.

    My preferred stance is unilateral free trade, or, if necessary, specific bilateral treaties with member states and an approach that is based on mutual recognition of standards. There are certain areas where a multi-lateral agreement makes sense, such as on airlines and overflight rights. But we don’t need a thumping great bureaucratic entity to make that work. Booker used to articulate this point well.

  • Charlie Suet

    You can get an idea of Pete North’s arrogance in the face of any sort of criticism in this twitter thread:

    https://twitter.com/Hjortur_J/status/846144365944852482

    ὅστις γὰρ αὐτὸς ἢ φρονεῖν μόνος δοκεῖ,
    ἢ γλῶσσαν, ἣν οὐκ ἄλλος, ἢ ψυχὴν ἔχειν,
    οὗτοι διαπτυχθέντες ὤφθησαν κενοί.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Charlie, I used to accept North on my FB page but stopped for his way of ranting. I decided to cut off the air supply – life is too short.

  • Włodek P.

    Antigone?

  • PeterT

    North is arrogant – in other news the Pope is catholic

    Johnathan – what you say makes sense but there is a difference between discussing the relative attractiveness of the destination and the route of going there. It is the latter which I have been discussing. Obviously the UK will ultimately adapt to whatever situation it finds itself in – but it seems to make sense to try and get there in the smartest way possible.

    Clearly whether you find the single market route attractive or not will depend on your view of the single market. Whilst I myself am no expert, North and co clearly have read up on the topic and I have no good reason to think that they are misrepresenting what it is, and when they say that leaving the EU but remaining in the single market will allow us to shed 75% of EU rules (disregarding the fact that May has said she will keep all of them to start with then gradually reevaluate them – hah, we know how that ends), do our own trade deals and so on, without any major disruption to existing trade, then I see no reason not to take their word for it.

    I obviously don’t want to come across as sniffy but it is hard not to when being attacked for saying things which I did not say.

  • Andrew Duffin

    I have read Booker for years, and he writes some good stuff – particularly on the train-wreck-come-clusterfuck that is the UK’s family court system.

    But on the EU he has become tedious and I no longer take him seriously. He and his master North are no doubt experts on the rules and treaties, and know exactly how to cross the t’s and dot the i’s.

    What he forgets, though, is that political processes are run by people, who will always find a way if they want to. Once the shouting and wailing has been shut out, the grownups will get down to business, and apart from saving a bit of Juncker’s face nobody wants EU/UK trade to come to a stop, so it won’t.

    In the same way, if Scotland votes for independence, it will seamlessly become/remain a full EU member, just like that; the treaties forbid it, the process doesn’t work that way, North and Booker will hyper-ventilate, but it suits tptb of both parties so a way will be found, and it will just happen; Rajoy will be told to put it in his pipe and smoke it – in return for some meaningless concession.

    Brexit will eventually work out the same. May knows this; Booker refuses to accept it, because the rules. He’s insufficiently worldly imho.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    but it seems to make sense to try and get there in the smartest way possible.

    Well obviously. I don’t think May, or anyone else, is thinking, “Hey guys, let’s break free of the EU in the dumbest way possible”.

    There are, let’s not forget, several actors in the piece. The Germans, for example, are probably keen to get a decent deal, seeing the need for their continuing access to the UK auto market; other countries feel the same way. Some, such as Juncker, may want to be seen to punish the UK for having the gall to leave the loving embrace of Brussels, but just how much clout do such people really have? May knows she has to raise the threat of our leaving without a deal to bring some of these actors to their senses.

    Remember, David Cameron tried to be all smart and sensible a year ago, and fat lot of good that did him. The UK has for years tried to play the game, occasionally winning the odd concession but often as not, being shafted. Booker and his chums were among those who pointed this out, in bright lights. It’s a bit late for him to start playing the voice of moderation now. In fact, he’s making himself into a laughing stock.

  • John K

    North predicted the E U referendum for 2017 and any other date was met with derision and ridicule when it happened in 2016 not a word of contrition. That’s the man and Booker is marginally better because he needs readers.

    To be fair to Dr North, he thought Cameron would try and get some sort of proper renegotiation of our EU membership, which would require a treaty change. In that case, the referendum would have been in 2017. He did not imagine that Dodgy Dave would settle for a few vague promises written on the back of a menu, and actually try and sell these to the British people.

    With regard to the Single Market and the WTO, what Dr North is pointing out is that non tariff barriers will be the killer to our trade with the EU if we try to trade on “WTO terms”. He also points out the myth that the USA, China et al trade with the EU on “WTO terms”, when they do not. They have many sectoral trade agreements, what they do not have is a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement.

    I must admit that if I did not read Dr North’s blog I would be in the dark about this, because no-one else seems to cover it, probably because it is pretty dry stuff. It is also the case that Dr North is not so starry-eyed about the EEA/Efta as to think that is our final destination, merely that it represents a quick and fairly easy way to get out of the EU without disrupting our trade too much. The British government, in contrast, thinks it can negotiate a comprehensive FTA in about a year and half, whereas most FTAs seem to take five to ten years. Well done to Theresa May if she can do it, but I don’t see much value in criticizing Richard North for pointing out the dangers we will face if she does not.

  • PeterT

    I don’t think May, or anyone else, is thinking, “Hey guys, let’s break free of the EU in the dumbest way possible”.

    Could have fooled me since this seems to be what they are intent on doing. And I wouldn’t particularly credit May or Cameron with intelligence. Thick fascists both. May probably worse than Cameron.

  • Rob Fisher

    “This plethora of rules is worse than having one set of rules”

    I’ll take the plethora of rules because that way the most trade happens in the places with the easiest rules and the places with the hardest rules notice this.

  • bobby b

    Might as well read North’s reply to Martin and Ellis as long as we’re here.

  • CaptDMO

    I wonder how much cash (ie)Glen Beck was pulling in, for himself, and his employer,when he drew an audience for his “Chalk Talks”?
    I wonder how much cash he pulls in
    with The Blaze?
    Let’s see, “Economics Today”, or “Elvis fathered my husband with Big Foot!!!!!”
    See story-opposite page three!
    Sensationalist yellow journalism, and titties media,(especially with comic strips)
    actually puts food on the table.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Peter T, I suppose Theresa May might think, hmmm, how can I leave the EU in the way that sounds like a horror movie, but I think that’s unlikely. She made the point that no deal is better than a bad deal, which is correct; this has had the salient fact of concentrating minds wonderfully in Brussels. For a few months, the narrative was building that May (a remainer, remember) would gently move to a fudged deal, with no real noticeable change so as not to frighten anyone. With free movement the main sticking point, she realised this was not possible. The fact is the UK needs to get on with it; the eurozone is a disaster in the making; there could be more problems in the EU going forward and the UK needs to focus on getting out as soon as possible, even if that means pain on the way. We don’t have years and years to drag out a slow exit, which is what Booker and his fellow malcontents want.

    John K: the point about leaving on the basis of WTO rules has some validity, but then again, this is mainly about services.

    Bobby B, yes, I read North’s response, which is more a sort of venting of rage that his genius has been called into question. He makes not one substantive point in defence of Booker, other than to say that Martin is being rude.

    I say it is a matter of case closed.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Peter T: Whilst I myself am no expert, North and co clearly have read up on the topic and I have no good reason to think that they are misrepresenting what it is, and when they say that leaving the EU but remaining in the single market will allow us to shed 75% of EU rules (disregarding the fact that May has said she will keep all of them to start with then gradually reevaluate them – hah, we know how that ends), do our own trade deals and so on, without any major disruption to existing trade, then I see no reason not to take their word for it.

    I find it hard to believe that we could stay in the Single Market, given the insistence of some like Juncker that we retain all the other conditions of membership of said, and shed three-quarters of the rules of the EU. Given that the Single Market has been the excuse, or rationale, for many of these rules (such as to harmonise standards) I find that bizarre.

  • Mr Ed

    So how, quite, did Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania leave the USSR so easily and quickly when the prison wall fell down? They did not wail about the years it would take to sort out their ruined economies and international relations, they just did it.

    And then sort of undid it, oh, well, small fish need big ponds.

  • Paul Marks

    There are still people on this thread who are writing as if the European Union “Single Market” was about foreign trade.

    That might have been an acceptable error in 1986 (although I, and many others, knew that the “Single Market” was NOT going to be about foreign trade – in 1986), but it is not acceptable now, more than 20 years later.

    The “Single Market” is about the intense regulation of our domestic (internal) affairs.

    Any more nonsense about “trade” totally misses the point.

  • Paul Marks

    Merit mark for me for not losing my temper.

  • AndrewZ

    Any attempt to make Brexit as painful as possible for Britain would only hasten the final collapse of the EU. A significant interruption to trade between Britain and the remaining members of the EU would hurt both sides. Many people in Europe would be furious that they were being forced to bear the cost of a vindictive and ultimately futile campaign of economic warfare against Britain. They would see the EU acting like an imperial power trying to punish a rebellious province and they would not like that at all. The more obvious the intent to harm Britain, the more harm it would do to the credibility of the EU. The question is whether they are arrogant or foolish enough to do it anyway.

  • Lee Moore

    At the risk of lighting the blue touchpaper coming out of Paul Marks’ ear….

    ….The Single Market could, in theory, have been about deregulation; replacing twenty plus detailed persnicketty sets of national regulations with one much less persnicketty EU wide regulation (per subject.) That was roughly the error Mrs T made when she signed up to it. In fact, of course, The Single Market is far more persnickety and intrusive than anything any of the individual nations could have managed by themselves. (Note that national legal cultures differ so that an absurd French regulation could be ignored, as no one would bother to enforce it. While British bureaucrats and judges have always frowned on non enforcement.)

    Any centralisation of power is always exercised in a more regulation direction and never in a less regulation direction. This is universal – it applies equally in the “Land of the Free.”Thus Obamacare is nuttier and bossier than any previous State effort. The Commerce Clause is always used to regulate rather than to deregulate.

  • I don’t agree with Andrew Z. I think a vindictive and negative approach by the EU to the British departure is :

    (a) very likely
    (b) much more likely to cause bruises in the UK than on the continent (the EU is a much bigger slice of the UK’s trade than the UK is of any EU member’s trade, except Ireland)
    (c ) consequently unlikely to have much of a political cost to EU politicians and bureaucrats
    (d) quite likely to have an adverse effect on Mrs May’s political standing

    BUT – and this is far more important than (a) to (d) put together

    (e) likely to imprint itself into the political consciousness of the great lump of British voters, Leavers and Soft Remainers alike – “These people do not like us. No more entanglements.” The EU will have ensured that a squidgy British establishment hungry for summits and conferences, and for strutting their “influence” on a bigger stage, will have no chance of slipping us into another disastrous dance with the mainland. The EU will – and we should thank them for it – have burned our boats.

  • Chester Draws

    (b) much more likely to cause bruises in the UK than on the continent (the EU is a much bigger slice of the UK’s trade than the UK is of any EU member’s trade, except Ireland)

    But here we have the nub for the EU. Ireland is likely to get very, very shirty about that.

    And they could block quite a lot of things happening until it was sorted out to their satisfaction. And if leaving the EU looked a better bet than ruinous trade conditions with Britain — why would they not leave too?

    May only has to keep the UK relatively happy with the final deal. The EU really have to try to keep all its members happy. That may prove to be very tricky indeed.

  • The EU really have to try to keep all its members happy. That may prove to be very tricky indeed.

    And likely to be too tricky, even if they were bursting with goodwill, which they aren’t. The fact that all the EU countries have to agree means that the EU won’t be able to agree anything beyond what the most recalcitrant member is prepared to agree (even if the EU wanted to – hmm I am sounding like a broken record.) This pretty much guarantees that the final deal will be….nada. Nada is the most expansive deal that the EU members will be able to cobble together between themselves. So nada it will be. No point worrying too much about the British negotiating position, other than for political posturing purposes. There won’t be any serious negotiations, just a bit of going through the motions. The important thing is for the UK to start planning seriously for departure with no deal. But the trade side of this will look after itself. The pound will fall some more.

    As for Ireland, I think it’ll do fine. It’s not in British interests to keep out imports from Ireland, so they’ll be able to export to the UK just fine, without any EU deal.

  • Mary Contrary

    PeterT wrote:

    The purpose of trade agreements is to overcome these self-imposed barriers, either by adopting a common regulatory framework…

    That sounds rather like staying in to me. Surely the vote, if it was anything, was a vote against having our laws determined by the EU. Let’s not do that.

  • Jim

    Andrew Duffin nails it – North/Booker are the sort of people you’d want on your side if you were trying to beat the rap for a particularly intricate fraud charge, but not the sort of people you’d want trying to get you an exit visa from a public official in a corrupt 3rd world country. The former requires intricate examination of the minutest detail and how the law interacts with the known facts, the latter requires a knowledge of human psychology rather than the letter of the law. Brexit tends to the latter than the former, and Booker/North can’t see it. They see Brexit as a legal process when in fact its the splitting up of a long term cohabiting relationship – more about satisfying egos and emotions than the application of legal principles.