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The real fix facing Boris

I am going to assume for the purposes of argument that Boris Johnson will shortly become leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister.

I am also going to assume that Parliament will prevent Boris from taking the UK out of the European Union. Even if he makes it a matter of confidence.

At this point the usual response would be to call a general election.

B-B-But… Nige. And his Brexit Party. Nige is not going to go away. Nige doesn’t want to go away. He did that once and it didn’t go well. And he has won a national election. And he beat the Conservatives into third place in a recent by-election.

All things being equal if a general election is called, the Brexit Party will stand and split the Conservative vote while the Conservative Party will stand and split the Brexit vote. Yeah, I know the Brexit Party will get some votes from former Labour supporters but mostly it will come from the Conservatives. So, the vote will be split, Labour will win and we’re all off to the Gulag.

Boris knows this, Nige knows this. Or, at least I hope they do. Therefore, they must avoid splitting the vote and they must make a deal (with one another, not the EU, that is).

B-B-But… I can’t think of two people less likely to make a deal. They are both political entrepreneurs. They are both outsiders who have achieved their position on their own terms and they like being in charge. They are NOT team players and yet a deal requires team playing. This is not looking good.

Britain this time next year

Esprit d’escalier: it occurs to me that the Queen might ask someone else to form a government rather than dissolving Parliament and holding a general election. Ach! Scrub that. There is no one else who could come even remotely close to commanding a majority. Ooh hang about! What about Cooper or Grieve or both? A sort of Chuk 2? Is it a possibility? Would it make any difference?

45 comments to The real fix facing Boris

  • Obviously, it is the Tory parliamentary party’s fault they have a problem (and we have the related problem). Of course, that doesn’t alter the problem.

    As Paul Marks has very accurately noted, a non-trivial purge of Tory MPs is essential. A purge can be done internally, getting the constituency association to replace the candidate before the election, or externally (disowning the candidate who then loses – to the Brexit Party, we hope). I suspect it may require a mixture of both. If Boris is the party’s choice but not the parliamentary party’s choice – and Patrick’s scenario is very precisely that – then he needs a purged parliamentary party. If Nigel faces an election soon – and it might be as soon as Boris becomes leader – then the Brexit party might struggle to find good candidates for every seat, even while Boris is struggling to get constituency associations to dump remain MPs.

    Labour marginals may resemble some seats in Scotland, where we have seen the ‘who will beat the nat’ effect determine the winner. The key marginal voters among the public will often make that deal anyway. Some of these will be get-a-leaver-in people and others (more like the Scottish situation) will be keep-Corbyn-out people. So there are pressures to see and accept where voters will go – but when looking-like-you’ll-win means you’ll win, there are also pressures on everyone to keep insisting they’re the one who will win.

    Patrick (and history) show how it could go badly wrong. The LibDems chance to replace Labour in the 80s died in no small part because David Steele and David Owen could not agree which of them would be prime minister.

    On the other hand, it could be great. If the LibDems split the Labour vote, we could see a swathe of Brexit and dry-Tory MPs dominating the commons. Or death-wish Tories, death-wish labour and bubble libdems could see a Brexit Party landside. One can hope. 🙂

  • Mr Ecks

    TBP loss in Peterborough is likely explained by the large rise in postal votes to 6000 . ZaNu are well known for postal vote fraud and the Tories have done sodall about it. ZaNu ranks include at least one REAL PV fraudster–jail time served not the remainiac fantasy type. My guess is that sans PV TBP would have won.

    Jizz is not popular.

    If the vote is split then Jizz might win but I think it unlikely. BoJo is making all idiotic moves that suggest that he has learned buggerall from Treason’s demise. We can hope that enough fuckwit Tory MPs prefer Brexit to Marxism.

  • Itellyounothing

    I honestly don’t care about Labour taking over anymore. Corbyn is awful with even worse behind him. I get that argument.

    I am not willing to vote for the Tories doing a slightly slower version of Labour’s evil any longer.

    My whole damn adult life I voted for greater civil liberties and lower taxes and got the opposite of both.
    Not half a loaf. Free speech is at real risk, armed self defence is gone and I’ve never paid more for government nobody wants or needs and fails to deliver even on it’s own terms.

    I will vote for the BREXIT party because I want independence.

    Beyond that I will vote tactically for as close to a hung parliament as I can manage until someone offers me Swiss style direct democracy. Voting once in five years is clearly insufficient supervision for people as unpleasant as MPs.

    The Tories have offered nothing but three years of betrayal. It’s not like BREXIT is the only thing they have failed at.

    If all you are offering me is Corbyn or Slow Corbyn, don’t expect support or a vote. If Tory loyalists really want to avoid a Corbyn government, well you’ll have to vote BREXIT party cause I have no compromise left. Vote Tory, get Labour is true in every possible way.

  • Gavin Longmuir

    MPs have a sweet deal — like “legislators” in too many Western “democracies”. Big pay, no responsibility, feeling of power, private drinking clubs in the Palace of Westminster.

    Whatever happens, it is a safe bet that the overwhelming majority of MPs do not want to have an election which, in these trying times, could result in even their safe seats becoming decidedly unsafe, with loss of sweet gig for the incumbents. The blogger Wretchard refers to this as the Agency problem — the agents look after their own interests, not the interests of the people who hired them.

    So the likely outcome is that Conservative & Labour MPs will work closely to ensure that there is no election, and live with whatever compromises are necessary to make that happen.

  • The Fyrdman

    The low turnout in Peterborough is a significant factor for TBP not winning. There are a lot of disillusioned voters out there who don’t vote generally and only voted Brexit because they thought it mattered. The Conservatives have shown it didn’t. With enough time and focus TBP will bring those people out.

  • Flubber

    Itellyounothing

    Spot on. The current Tory Party is simply the Labour Party circa 2005. And they were a bunch of cunts.

  • Dyspeptic Curmudgeon

    There is an application before the Queen’s Bench, for a declaration that the UK actually left the EU on March 29, on the grounds that the Treaty and especially Article 50 does not allow for extensions of the ‘Leave Date’ to be done, in the manner in which it was done.
    Whatever you think of the argument, all Boris need do, is have the government’s barristers, concede *and consent* to the Declaration being sought. There is no precedent for a Judge to deny parties agreeing to settle their dispute by way of a consent Order.
    The Judge cannot deny the declaration sought: if he/she does, then there will be an Appeal on the same basis, not that the Declaration is wrong, as a matter of law, but that the Courts have no jurisdiction to refuse, and the question of whether the declaration is correct, is, at base, a matter *for the government*.

    And Boris gets rid of Nigel *without having to make a deal*. (But Nigel wins too: Brexit!)
    As to the remainder of the problem with the Conservative Party, that would have to wait for another day. But it is clear that lots of Cons Remainers will be ‘primaried’, and lots will not want to face the electoral music, so Boris might gain that way too.

    And Boris ends up with 39Billion (pounds or euro???) in the Treasury, too!
    Win-Win-Win. And the UK does not ‘have to’ do anything with the Northern Ireland border. If the EU or Ireland has a problem, they can fix it themselves.
    Not a bad platform for Boris to stand on, going into an election. He has delivered what May promised to do, but never did. He has saved the country 39 Billion and will have purged the party of a lot of remoaners. (And Nigel is no longer necessary…)

  • Fraser Orr

    @dyspeptic, very interesting analysis. Even without that particular course, AFAIK Britain has an extension till Halloween and then, sans action, they leave come what may (if you’ll excuse the pun.) I’m not exactly sure what Parliament can do about that without the cooperation of the government, and come to that, the EU.

    Leaving is now the default, and the remainders will have to move a mountain or two to stop it.

    Moreover, I suspect leaving without a deal is also the most likely course, and with your recent American visitor hypnotized by Her Majesty, I think you’ll get a great transatlantic trade deal. It is what I said they should have done from the beginning, and really they nearly blew it. But it looks like you Brits are on course to a rocky few years, followed by a bright new Europe free future.

    However, one should never underestimate the ability of politicians and Parliament to screw the whole thing up. Nonetheless, a good outcome is produced here when we have our politicians doing what they are best at: lots of activity but not actually doing anything.

  • Mr Ed

    DC,

    The Judge cannot deny the declaration sought: if he/she does, then there will be an Appeal on the same basis

    Not so I fear, a judge always has a discretion, e.g. on a judicial review, the court rules for England and Wales on ‘agreed orders‘ provide:

    Agreed final order
    17.1 If the parties agree about the final order to be made in a claim for judicial review, the claimant must file at the court a document (with 2 copies) signed by all the parties setting out the terms of the proposed agreed order together with a short statement of the matters relied on as justifying the proposed agreed order and copies of any authorities or statutory provisions relied on.
    17.2 The court will consider the documents referred to in paragraph 17.1 and will make the order if satisfied that the order should be made.

    Furthermore, the judge could allow ‘interveners’ and interested parties to have input in the case, e.g. The Scottish and Welsh devolved governments.

  • Gavin Longmuir

    Fraser O:“… I think you’ll get a great transatlantic trade deal.”

    Depends what you mean by a great transatlantic trade deal. If you mean a deal that looks very good FOR THE US, then there is an excellent chance that the Trump Administration will be favorably disposed. But as we all know, the default Democrat/spineless Republican senatorial position is — Orange Man Bad, and everything he touches has to be opposed. Certainly, whatever deal the UK can negotiate (UK negotiators? After what we have seen these last few years, that sounds like the punch line of a joke!) with the US is not going to be close in scale to replacing the trade deal the UK formerly had with European countries in the EU.

    “But it looks like you Brits are on course to a rocky few years, followed by a bright new Europe free future.”

    That sounds like a fair assessment. One of the big imponderables is how the 63% of UK citizens who did not vote Leave are going to react to those initially rocky few years. To quote the long dead Prime Minister Harold Wilson, ‘A week in politics is a long time’.

  • Nico

    Well, hey, there’s one more party here: the rest of Parliament, specifically all the non-Labour MPs that might be unwilling to join Labour in a coalition government or might rue seeing Labour in power. Now, I grant that a non-trivial number of Tory MPs secretly want to see Labour and Corbyn in charge, which is why the blog post, but there’s also time.

    Boris could simply run out the clock and never bring May’s withdrawal agreement back for a third vote. In that case you get imminent no-deal Brexit, and the only things Parliament could do to prevent it are: call an early GE, or impeach the PM. Oh, they could try to twist the PM’s arms in other ways, but they probably couldn’t succeed. Impeachment is out of the question.

    What can Boris do to defeat a vote of no-confidence? Easy! There are two options: either successfully negotiate a better deal with the EU, or continue trying to do so so as to run out the clock. He won’t get a better deal from the EU: the EU will too know that Parliament is pefidious.

    Parliament can’t defeat Boris’ running out the clock unless they’re certain that’s what Boris is doing. The EU could, of course, one-sidedly offer an extension so that on the even of no-deal Brexit Parliament could call a GE, but between now and then there will be plenty of time for the prospect of Corbyn as PM to sharpen the Tories’ focus.

    Another variable here is that if the new party leader wins overwhelming support from the party membership while advocating a-much-better-deal-or-no-deal, then the Remainer Tories will have to simmer down for a while. That might actually restore the leverage Boris needs to successfully negotiate a better deal, which means he also will have an easier time running down the clock.

    What am I missing?

  • bobby b

    “If you mean a deal that looks very good FOR THE US, then there is an excellent chance that the Trump Administration will be favorably disposed. But as we all know, the default Democrat/spineless Republican senatorial position is — Orange Man Bad, and everything he touches has to be opposed.”

    Too true. Trump will do what he can to open trade between us, but his powers in this regard are actually quite limited.

    In the USA, Congress controls international trade, except for those narrow areas in which it has transferred its power to the president. This Congressional Research Service report (setting out the limits of presidential power over international trade) is quite good if anyone is interested.

    It would be accurate to consider the Democrat-controlled House and the divided Senate as EU-ophile Remainers when attempting to predict their actions. But don’t discount Trump’s ability to sway public opinion – which can have a large effect on Congress as we approach elections.

  • Nico

    I seriously doubt the Senate would block a trade deal with the UK. Blocking it would be small-ball politics in the U.S., and it will be easy to drum up business support for a deal, so the dems will not seek to block it even though they would block anything for no other reason than to pester the President.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Well said: the Donkeys are indeed Pestilential.

  • Gavin Longmuir

    bobby b: “But don’t discount Trump’s ability to sway public opinion …”

    Certainly not! Still, let’s not forget that there are many other irons in the fire. There are suspicions that the UK’s spy authorities conspired with the Democrat Deep State in the US to plant lies about candidate, now President, Trump. It would not be surprising to find that the Trump Administration’s price for any trade deal with the UK would be full public disclosure of the UK’s role in the Russian election interference scam — which could be extremely embarrassing for the upper echelons of UK politics, as well as cutting the legs out from the Democrats 24/7 obsession. Which in turn means that getting the necessary Senate approval for a deal will be … challenging.

    We will undoubtedly find out how many Americans still think there is a “Special Relationship” with the UK. Logically, it is hard to see substantial support among US Lefties or US Righties for doing much to subsidize the UK after separation from the EU — not when the US is running unsustainable budget deficits and trade deficits. But logic and politics don’t necessarily run together. Just another of the imponderables which a newly-independent UK will face as it scrambles to build relationships with other countries.

  • bobby b

    ” . . . the dems will not seek to block it even though they would block anything for no other reason than to pester the President.”

    I doubt they would do anything so drastic as to block a deal. That would be taking a stand. They don’t do that.

    But I predict they’ll slow-walk anything that comes down from the White House, with a million little details that “need checking” all while the USA press beats on about how the UK needs the EU and how we’re just setting the UK up for a harder fall and ourselves for throwing good money after bad when we need to be encouraging the civilizational benefits of the EU . . .

    Our Congress could still be “working on a solution” two years after the first proposal.

  • ROBERT SYKES

    The House has no role in treaty ratification, although any enabling legislation must go through it.

  • Gavin Longmuir

    bobby b: “I predict they’ll slow-walk anything that comes down from the White House …”

    That is a given. Look at how painful and slow the process of replacing NAFTA has been. Or look at the 3 years that the Brits have been fiddling about with a simple leaving agreement with the EU. It seems to be almost a universal rule these days — international trade negotiations take years, without any guarantee of eventual success. The EU-Canada trade deal took something like 7 years.

    For this audience, let me hasten to add that view is not anti-Brexit — it is simply the way the world is.

  • Mr Ed

    The horrific prospect of a governing Labour-SNP (+ Green tagging along) coalition, assuming a small increase in Labour MPs, would at least show us how far the SNP would go in putting statism first. If the SNP insisted on independence, the coalition would lose its majority on independence. What a choice.

  • john in cheshire

    If the Conservative swamp rats were really determined to take us out of the EU, despite the majority of the house of rats plotting to keep us in, they would throw their support behind the Robin Tilbrook court case. In that way, they could achieve their objective and plead that it was a legal matter that the house of rats had themselves voted for.

  • Rob Fisher

    “International trade deals take years”

    I’d be minded to just refuse to play the game. Unilateral free trade. You guys all do what you want.

    Possibly it’s a good thing I’m not a politician.

  • Rudolph Hucker

    *

    KEEP CALM
    AND
    DESELECT
    YOUR MP

  • TMLutas

    I’m a bit unclear on what happens if the UK just does nothing. What actually needs to be passed?

  • I’m a bit unclear on what happens if the UK just does nothing. What actually needs to be passed?

    Nothing. All of the legislation for “No Deal” (actually exit on WTO terms) has been in place since the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017 was passed and given royal assent.

    To do anything other than “No Deal” requires legislation to be passed, for which there is no majority in the HoC. Those who agree that “No Deal is bad” might know what they DON’T WANT, but they all WANT different things.

    So any PM wanting to achieve BRExit has to pursue Sir Bernard’s “Masterly Inactivity” approach to seeking a new EU deal, allowing a time-out on October 31st.

    Sure, Parliament can huff-and-puff about forcing the new PM into agreeing a deal, but it would be difficult to sanction a PM who went through the motions but didn’t press the issue, allowing matters to simply lapse through a time out at the end of October.

    I can’t see the EU making any changes of substance to the withdrawal agreement and doubt any PM would bring back May’s “thrice rejected turd” of a BRINO deal, so it’s just a case of holding our nerve to allow a “No Deal” BRExit to happen naturally of its own accord, simply because there is no consensus for anything else…

  • Gavin Longmuir

    Rob Fisher: “Unilateral free trade. You guys all do what you want.”

    The British Empire tried something close to unilateral free trade back in the later 19th Century. There still seems to be some debate about how much that trade policy contributed to the demise of the once globe-spanning British Empire. The US has been practicing unbalanced terms of trade (part way to unilateral free trade) since the end of WWII. The result has been the loss of entire industries along with the social stress of the loss of millions of jobs and the related loss of untold tax revenue. In exchange, the US had gained an unsustainable Balance of Trade deficit.

    Unilateral free trade seems a bit like unilateral disarmament — there may be some benefits, until another country decides to take advantage of the situation.

  • Unilateral free trade seems a bit like unilateral disarmament — there may be some benefits, until another country decides to take advantage of the situation

    What, like foreigners selling us goods at prices lower than we can afford to produce them ourselves? Not sure that I see that I am seeing a downside here. Sure, some local producers / industries will be forced to be more competitive or go to the wall, but since they seem to have enough money to throw around on diversity advisers and all the rest of this garbage it suggests that more foreign competition is not only beneficial, but long overdue.

    The value of unilateral free trade goes to consumers, not producers. That’s the whole point. About bloody time.

  • Dyspeptic Curmudgeon

    @ Mr Ed
    June 10, 2019 at 9:21 pm

    >>The Judge cannot deny the declaration sought: if he/she does, then there will be an Appeal on the same basis

    >Not so I fear, a judge always has a discretion, e.g. on a judicial review, the court rules for England and Wales on ‘agreed orders‘ provide:

    >Agreed final order
    >17.1 If the parties agree about the final order to be made in a claim for judicial review, the claimant must file at the court a document (with 2 copies) signed by all the parties setting out the terms of the proposed agreed order together with a short statement of the matters relied on as justifying the proposed agreed order and copies of any authorities or statutory provisions relied on.
    >17.2 The court will consider the documents referred to in paragraph 17.1 and will make the order if satisfied that the order should be made.

    Point Taken. A Judge always has a discretion to do whatever he damn well pleases.
    I don’t know where you got the references to ‘17.1’ and ‘17.2’. Tilbrook’s application is NOT an application for judicial review. There has been no prior proceeding from which a review might be taken. AIUI, it is an application for a declaratory judgment.

    I don’t own a copy of a recent ‘WHITE BOOK’ and Her Majesty’s Government Printing Office does not bother to publish consolidated versions of the Rules updated from 1998, so I am now looking at the 1998 version, Part 14 Admissions, and Part 40, Judgements and Orders. Part 40.20, added in 2001, allows purely declaratory applications, whether or not other relief is sought.

    The Rules provide for a residual discretion even if BoJo had the government agree to Tilbrook’s legal argument:
    14.3—(1) Where a party makes an admission under rule 14.1(2) (admission by notice in writing), any other party may apply for judgment on the admission.
    (2) Judgment shall be such judgment as it appears to the court that the applicant is entitled to on the admission.

    However, a Judge would be hard-pressed to disagree with the application, if the government specifies its agreement with the underlying factual basis for the logical conclusion. A judge’s explicit disagreement with a wholly legal argument based upon agreed facts regarding what the documents say, is a fair basis for appeal, *on a matter of law*. The position is, that the steps taken by PMTM, in the run-up to March 29th, and the steps taken thereafter, were based upon an inapplicable legal standard: On a proper reading of the Treaty, (and the empowering legislation which provided for the giving of the Notice under Article 50,) the extension was not properly sought, nor properly given.

    (At base, the argument seems to me to be that due to the Withdrawal Act’s terms, an extension requires *another piece of legislation*, which has never been brought before the House. There is however, a side argument that the extension could be and was obtained by Statutory Instrument. That dives deep into the mud and weeds…. as the SI appears not to have been properly promulgated, or tabled or, or, or somethgin…).

    Leaving all that crap aside, my point is that BoJo will have the power of the government on his side, so as to castrate the Remoaners, AND avoid a vote of confidence. OTOH, if he can run out the clock to October 31, he gets the same result. The question is whether he can run out the clock while avoiding the disastrous “other outcomes”. Agreeing to Tilbrook’s application gives him another arrow or a better bullet proof vest, depending upon which metaphor one wishes to mangle.

  • Itellyounothing

    I see Letwin, Cooper and the rest are lining up for another mini Coup…….

  • Mr Ecks

    Won’t do them any good. No Brexit –no Tory Party. While there is a crust of mad BlueLabour shite–I think the time servers and best-job-they’ll-ever-have gang are getting the message. Now is not the time to double down on pissing on the British people.

  • Gavin Longmuir

    John Galt: “The value of unilateral free trade goes to consumers, not producers.”

    Ummm — consumers ARE producers. In fact, people have to produce tradable goods & services BEFORE they can consume anything produced by other people. One of the big Leftie lies is to pretend that producers & consumers are somehow different. They are the same human beings — we produce, we trade, and we consume.

    OK — there is a way that a consumer can avoid being a producer. That is by electing a government which will take from the producers, and give to the consumers. It is not economically efficient, and it creates serious moral problems with entitlement mentalities. But there are lots of politicians who are glad to rob Peter to pay Paul, if that is what you want.

    Free trade is a good idea between near-peers with similar regulatory environments and an absence of non-tariff barriers. And then there are the purists who insist that free trade in goods & services also requires free movement of capital and free movement of people. But unilateral free trade is a slow form of economic suicide.

  • staghounds

    Maybe the Great Pumpkin will bring you Brexit.

  • Nico

    Eh, perennial unbalanced trade sure feels good [to some]. Perennial exporters build up industry (of the wrong kind, but who’s keeping count??). Perennial importers get really cheap stuff — potentially free when you add in possible future default via high inflation or actual default.

    But it isn’t good. Long before Trump came along to be POTUS there was talk in China of rebalancing, and there has been for over a decade now. Why should anyone in China want to rebalance? Because the mercantilist setup hurts Chinese workers and their families. Because the mercantilist setup comes with financial repression. But it also hurts American workers and industry, and British too.

    Perhaps Trump should have used reverse psychology on China. He should have said that he’s going to insist they keep sending us stuff real cheap, real cheap, and that oh by the way we might default on our debt eventually. Of course, that wouldn’t have gone over well in Peoria, but it might have gotten China’s government to do the right thing for the wrong reasons.

  • Johnathan Pearce (London)

    John Galt: The value of unilateral free trade goes to consumers, not producers. Actually that under-sells it. Some producers also benefit from being able to import raw materials and unfinished goods at prices lower than otherwise. Bush 2’s steel tariffs in the early noughties hit US domestic manufacturers, just as is happening now with users of steel and aluminium (be sure to pronounce that word correctly, chaps) now.

    Other countries might “take advantage” of how the UK would remove tariffs and non-tariff barriers, but even then, if they want to give us lots of cheap stuff, it means we have to earn less to enjoy a comfortable standard of living. I am not seeing a downside here.

    Mercantilism is a hard mental beast to kill, that is for sure.

    Here is Daniel Mitchell, a US-based free market policy wonk, on the case for unilateral free trade: https://danieljmitchell.wordpress.com/2018/09/18/the-evidence-based-case-for-unilateral-free-trade/

  • Guido’s poll implies that Boris (only, of the candidates) isn’t actually in a fix.

    As regards the OP point, this is good news, though, speaking as someone who has a place in his heart for the Brexit party, I can only hope that Boris’ majority would have enough new-replacing-deselected-old MPs that this indicates not just what Boris “genuinely thinks” but also what his party might genuinely do. One can hope.

    The usual caveats about all polls (especially a seat-by-seat breakdown like this one) apply.

  • Gavin Longmuir

    Johnathan P: “Here is Daniel Mitchell, a US-based free market policy wonk, on the case for unilateral free trade …”

    Not very convincing. Macau & Hong Kong are wards of the great Chinese state, with rather unusual economies. New Zealand went through a period of major roll-backs in its previous excessive Socialist regulation, which unsurprisingly caused the economy to grow. The UK was the Number One economy in the world when it adopted unilateral free trade in the later part of the 19th Century, and then declined significantly; how much of that decline was due to trade policy and how much to other factors is very difficult to sort out.

    Cheap imports can be good (as long as they do not reflect exploitation of other human beings). But that depends on the importing country being able to produce enough to trade for those imports, which requires the citizens who lose their jobs to cheap imports finding other productive employment. That may happen in the Free Marketeers theoretical world, or even in the real world if every country plays by the same rules. But the current example of unbalanced trade between the US and China shows that the free trade paradigm fails when one of the countries adopts a Mercantilist approach. Mr. Mitchell averts his eyes from the real world.

  • Gavin Longmuir

    Niall K: “Guido’s poll implies that Boris (only, of the candidates) isn’t actually in a fix”

    A First Past the Post electoral system works well enough when there are two major parties and a handful of Screaming Lord Sutches. When there are 5 serious parties competing in England, plus additional parties in the other countries in the UK, then the FPtP system may yield very unpredictable results. It also means that even if a single party manages to gain a parliamentary majority, it will likely have only minority electoral support, implying further political instability.

    I have mentioned before the unusual case in New Mexico some years ago where the ruling Democrats split and ran two candidates for Governor. In the FPtP electoral system, a functional Libertarian surprised everyone by winning the Governorship with a minority of the votes, and became a very effective Governor. That was a fortunate outcome of the distortions implicit in FPtP when there are more than two candidates — perhaps the UK would not be so lucky?

    Any chance of the Conservatives putting country ahead of party and dissolving themselves ahead of the next election to prevent a debacle?

  • Nullius in Verba

    “But the current example of unbalanced trade between the US and China shows that the free trade paradigm fails when one of the countries adopts a Mercantilist approach. Mr. Mitchell averts his eyes from the real world.”

    That’s nothing to do with unilateral free trade. That’s to do with borrowing and spending more than you earn.

    It may be convenient for politicians who are spending hugely more than they earn to put the blame for the consequences of their policies on China, but the same would apply if China applied bilateral free trade rules, too. If you spend more than you earn, you will necessarily import more than you export. The only way to fix it is to stop digging yourself deeper into debt.

  • Tim the Coder

    I’m a bit unclear on what happens if the UK just does nothing. What actually needs to be passed?

    Nothing. All of the legislation for “No Deal” (actually exit on WTO terms) has been in place since the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017 was passed and given royal assent.

    Very true, but here’s a speculation.
    We get thus to 31st October and claim to have left on WTO terms. The EU say, “Oh no you didn’t, Theresa’s BRINO turd is agreed, unilaterally by us, as default”.

    What happens? Do we just ignore them? Can we? One thing for sure, the lawyers will win.

  • We get thus to 31st October and claim to have left on WTO terms. The EU say, “Oh no you didn’t, Theresa’s BRINO turd is agreed, unilaterally by us, as default”.

    You laugh. Seriously. You laugh bloody long and hard. Then the new PM says “Get back to us when you’ve decided how you want to proceed”.

    Seriously though, the EU has some remaining credibility because they can claim to have negotiated their capitulation agreement in “good faith” (as far as their own selfish personal interests in European federasty goes), but to act as you’ve described would be to repudiate their own hugely biased treaty on its own terms. Not that I wouldn’t put that passed the EU, but actions have consequences and doing so would inflict more damage on the EU than on the UK.

    From the EU’s perspective, it is far better to acknowledge the UK’s departure with profound regret and then proceed to shaft the UK in the next round (actual trading terms going forward). There is also the additional bonus that any problems affecting the EU for then remainder of its (hopefully short) life, including its final demise, can be blamed on “perfidious Albion”.

  • Gavin Longmuir

    NIV: “If you spend more than you earn, you will necessarily import more than you export.”

    That does not comport with the real world. Look at Japan, which runs a budget deficit (spending more than the government earns) and still runs a trade surplus (importing less than it exports).

    Keynesian economics was based on the idea of the government spending more than it earns — but spending that money internally to boost the country’s own economy. You can see this in China, where there is vast infrastructure spending using Chinese labor, Chinese steel, Chinese cement. What matters is how the spending in excess of earnings gets spent — and in the real world it obviously does not have to be spent on imports.

  • Paul Marks

    Parliament must be “prorogued” – send home (till November) before it can do more harm. If this can not be done (and that “Remainer” Theresa May, is not likely to do it) before it sabotage independence (yet again) then, yes, a General Election must be called.

    Nigel Farage and whoever is the leader of the Conservative Party MUST cooperate – there is no other way to win.

    I have been fighting election campaigns for 40 years – and one can not repeal the laws of mathematics in a “First Past the Post” voting system. If the Conservatives and the Brexit Party fail to come together – then we both lose.

    Patrick is quite correct – both Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson have big egos. But it is time to be PROFESSIONAL – politics is a trade, and if people can not be professional in their line of work they need to get out of politics.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “That does not comport with the real world. Look at Japan, which runs a budget deficit (spending more than the government earns) and still runs a trade surplus (importing less than it exports).”

    The country is not the same as the government. When the country spends more than it earns (generally as a result of political interference in the economy), it thereby receives more goods than it sells. Where does it get the money to buy them? It borrows, or it sells it’s domestic assets.

    It’s the same number seen from a different viewpoint. In trade, money goes one way as goods go the other. If more goods are headed in one direction than the other, then the opposite must be true of the money.

    “What matters is how the spending in excess of earnings gets spent — and in the real world it obviously does not have to be spent on imports.”

    What matters is the total amount of stuff produced for the total amount of effort expended producing it. More stuff for less effort is good. More stuff to go around means society is on average richer.

    You can produce one bag of potatoes a month with your own labour, or you can internally invest several months building a plough to produce two bags of potatoes a month, Or you can buy a bag of potatoes at market for the price of a week’s labour growing and selling tomatoes (which takes less effort but far more skill), and thus get four bags of potatoes a month. But none of that helps if you buy eight bags of potatoes at market with money you haven’t got! You’re selling four bags-worth of tomatoes exported, and importing eight bags – you have a balance of trade deficit. But you can’t make yourself richer by growing your own potatoes instead of trading for them. That’s more effort for less stuff. Bad! You’d drop down to one bag, or at best if you invested internally, two.

    There’s no point in having a secure job in the potato growing industry if it’s only producing one or two bags a month, when you can have four for the same effort in another industry. And it doesn’t help you to say you don’t currently know how to grow tomatoes so you’ll stick with growing potatoes, thanks. You have to learn to earn.

    You’re richer trading – if you didn’t gain more than you lost you wouldn’t agree to the trade. But in the long run you can only spend as much as you earn. You have to limit yourself to four bags, which is what you can earn. Four bags-worth of tomatoes for four bags results in balanced trade.

    And if someone is stupid enough to tax the trade in the hopes of stopping it, it makes absolutely no difference at all whether the tax is on potatoes or tomatoes or both. The total tax on both combined is what inhibits the trade of potatoes-for-tomatoes. And which makes both of you poorer.

  • Gavin Longmuir

    NIV — My apologies, I am not sure I follow your example. After all, in the theoretical world, there never can be a trade imbalance between countries. The exchange rate (in theory) automatically adjusts to bring trade into balance. So in the real world where there are large persistent trade imbalances, we have already left the simple theoretical world behind.

    Implicit in your vegetarian example is that the guy is hard at work in either case — either growing low value potatoes or high value tomatoes. Either way, he produces and then consumes. How does the simple theory explain the real world situation of people who used to have jobs and be producers, but now have lost their jobs to imports and are not producing anything? The losers in free trade become a charge on the rest of society, since we will not let them starve in the dark. How do we put that reality into the simple free trade theory?

    Further, the situation becomes even more unclear when we throw in money as well as goods, and start thinking about tariffs. Does it make a difference to the citizen if the government taxes his income so that he cannot afford imported potatoes or if the government puts a tariff on imported potatoes so that he can no longer afford them? And in either case, the government does not withdraw the money it collects as tariffs or taxes from the economy. In the real world, the government spends all the money it collects — taking from some individuals and giving to others. We can probably both agree that it would be better if politicians did not interfere in commerce in this way — but again, we are living in the real world.

    Let’s get to the heart of the matter. If free trade is so wonderful, then why would anyone want to be a Brexiteer and leave the largest free trade zone in the world? The answer of course is that free trade is a good aspirational goal, but it is only one factor among many that the citizens of a country have to consider — and it is not the most important goal for most people.

  • Alsadius

    If Boris wins, he should prorogue until November. No deal, and Parliament can’t do a damned thing about it. Nigel can retire happy, the Tories will continue to exist as a party, and the screaming will be popcornalicious. It’s win-win.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “After all, in the theoretical world, there never can be a trade imbalance between countries. The exchange rate (in theory) automatically adjusts to bring trade into balance.”

    There are many different theoretical worlds, depending on what simplifying assumptions you choose to make. The textbooks start with the simplest model that demonstrates the principle. Then later they may elaborate with a number of the complications, if they think they’re relevant.

    In a simple household, you work to produce stuff, then you consume it. Trade is zero.

    Then we add in trade. You work to produce stuff, some of which you trade for the produce of other households. You sell home-made stuff for money as an ‘export’, and buy market goods for money as an ‘import’. Assuming you can only spend money you’ve got and you have to spend it all immediately, trade balances.

    If you spend more than you earn, money gets scarce in your household and plentiful in the other households, and scarcity raises its value to you. The exchange rate forces you towards balance, because you’re essentially running out of money.

    Now we add in credit cards. You work to produce stuff, some of which you trade for the produce of other households. Because you’re trading for goods your wife used to make, your wife has some of her time freed up in which she’s not earning. As a household you’re still ahead, but your wife is unemployed. And the wife goes shopping for shoes and fancy dresses and stuff. You sell home-made stuff for money as an ‘export’, and your wife buys an even larger amount of market goods for money as an ‘import’. Part of the money you earn, part you borrow. The outside households are getting more money than they’re spending, so they put it into savings, which back the credit card company offering your wife credit.

    In fact, trade still balances overall in the long run, if you include future repayments of your debts. All you’re doing is putting it off until later. Over the long run, as your debt gets bigger, your credit rating goes down, your interest payments go up, and you’re again forced to cut your expenditure to match your income. Repaying the debts puts the trade balance into reverse. You have to spend less than you earn, which means you buy less goods than you produce and sell.

    Money flows in the opposite direction to goods in every trade. By measuring the imbalance of goods imported and exported, we’re really measuring the imbalance of money spent and earnt. If you keep on spending more than you earn, you’ll get in trouble.

    “Let’s get to the heart of the matter. If free trade is so wonderful, then why would anyone want to be a Brexiteer and leave the largest free trade zone in the world?”

    Because it’s not a free trade zone. It’s a massive trade barrier, built around the outer boundary of Europe. You only get ‘free trade’ internally, like you do inside your own country.

    The trade barrier does massive harm to our economies. We want to get rid of it. But the ideal is to be able to trade freely inside the union, as well as trading freely outside it. But that would be like blasting a massive hole in the barrier, which would nullify its entire purpose. The EU are still believers in the value of walls, and are not going to tolerate that. So you’re either inside or outside it. You can’t reform the system and stay inside.

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