Wednesday, 5 April 2017

"No deal is better than a bad deal"

This is a tired old debate, see e.g. here.

If you think rationally, there's no reason the UK needs a specific post-Brexit "deal" at all. What if we had never joined? Let's try and get to where we would have been had we never joined.

You have to look at things from an international/third country point of view to judge whose behaviour meets accepted norms: ask yourself: "Which neutral third country will raise an eyebrow at this?"

If I were in charge, here are a few initial thoughts...

1. The UK will say all EU citizens currently in the UK and able to support themselves (or whose partners/family support them) are welcome to stay as long as they like, after six years they can apply for a UK passport under normal rules. There is no earthly way we can chuck significant numbers of them out, even if were not totally inhumane, so let's not even entertain that notion. Paying students are welcome!

Which neutral third country will not think we are being very reasonable?

2. "A quarter of NHS staff are from EU member states", blah blah. A lot of those are Irish citizens, who AFAIAA have always been treated pretty much on a par with UK passport holders (right to move here, work, vote etc). And there are just as many non-UK, non-EU workers in the NHS, they'll all stay.

Which neutral third country will raise an eyebrow at this?

3. As to the future, they can forget about automatic freedom of movement, the UK government has to pander to its own crowd here. If we have sensible rules, quite possibly there will be just as many people from the EU coming to work here in future, but at least we can tear up the Human Rights Act and deport foreign criminals every now and then to keep the home audience happy.

Which neutral third country - all of whom have their own rules - will raise an eyebrow at this?

4. We will unilaterally abandon all tariff and non-tariff barriers. We have our own rules on consumer protection, health and safety, farming and so on, if goods and services comply with these, they can be imported. This applies to the EU as much as anywhere else. If foreign banks want to do business here, they have to comply with our rules etc. Applies equally to banks from France or from the Fiji Islands.

Which neutral third country will raise an eyebrow at this?

5. If the EU wants to play silly buggers and impose trade barriers on us, well so be it, we'll have to sell more elsewhere. Merkel said a proper trade deal would take ten years (probably true), in which case we'll have to get used to living without one anyway, so big deal. If France wants to discourage UK tourists by making them get in the long queue at passport control, we'll sun ourselves elsewhere for a week, thank you very much. If the EU wants to make life difficult for UK banks, it's hard to have much sympathy with UK banks, given how rapacious and malevolent they are. If EU countires start expelling British ex-pats en masse...

Which neutral third country will think that the EU is being fair and reasonable?

6. Under the general rule on succession of treaties, the UK will benefit from dozens of existing favourable treaties which the EU has with third countries, that follows automatically, so saying that we won't is EU nonsense.

Which neutral third country won't be perfectly happy with this?

7. They can forget about that €60 billion "divorce bill", as somebody pointed out in City AM, we can make an equal and opposite claim.

Which neutral third country will be bothered either way over such petty squabbles?

8. There are loads of pan-European treaties and agreements like EHIC cards, Open Skies, delayed flight compensation and so on, which IMHO is all good stuff, but most of these have little to do with the EU and were agreed on an inter-governmental level. It's the same with things like extradition treaties, being in NATO, intelligence sharing, patrolling the Mediterranean to repel illegal immigrants, being a member of the UN and so on, all these have to be judged on their own merits and will continue in exactly the same fashion.

Which neutral third country will want to expel us from all these agreements?

9. Why do we need one all-encompassing agreement anyway? This is madness! The UK is in an intricate web of treaties, conventions, dealing with all manner of stuff. I'm not aware that we have a specific country-to-country agreement covering everything with Brazil or The Phillippines or Turkey, we still get along just fine (or not, as the case may be), why do we need one with the EU-bloc?

Which neutral third country will raise an eyebrow at this?

10. Gibraltar? Don't make me laugh. What the heck does that have to do with anything? If Malaysia were to decide to leave ASEAN and Thailand then demanded border adjustments, would the "international community" not see that as totally unreasonable? Aren't Spain and the UK both in NATO?

Which neutral third country will think that Spain is behaving reasonably, apart from Argentine?

I'd put all of this to them quietly and discreetly and ask how they intend to respond. If they want to save face, they can present most of the above as concessions that they have wrung out of us and present the bits they don't like as a noble and gracious compromise on their part. We can do the opposite, that's fine by me.

If they come up with the usual threats, then we go public, we publish our negotiating position and their list of demands and threats and let the court of public opinion judge the matter

Sooner or later (the sooner the better), the UK will merrily press on and do exactly as outlined above anyway, it's merely a question of giving EU politicians a chance to put a favourable spin on things - they have their own home audiences to pander to as well, fair enough.

End of.

15 comments:

Lola said...

Yup. My thoughts. Exactly.
Re point (5). Those tariffs will cost the EU more than they cost us. All such tariffs are incident upon the Bloc or state that applies them as they result in higher prices for their citizens. Why? Because that's the bloody point! See CAP and French farmers; i.e. blatant protectionism and high price maintenance.

mombers said...

Surely an auspicious organisation like the EU wouldn't have a criminally underfunded pension scheme??? If so, who is the Philip Green in this case who can be pressurised to step in instead of it being socialised?

Sean Vosper said...

Quite brilliant article from MW - really very, very good. Well done!

paulc156 said...

Not sure why the human rights act is an issue at all. France and Italy had no problems sending terrorist suspects packing. We chose to interpret the act differently, our problem, not the act.
L. Tariffs will be incident on the UK if the EU impose them and we don't.

Bayard said...

P156, I think the whole human rights/terrorist deportation fuss was a sham, designed to turn people against the ECHR and the Human Rights Act. A few (show?) cases were blown up out of all proportion, rather in the way that the Daily Mail Romainian-asylum-seeker-single-mother-with-ten-children-on-£1000-a-week-benefits sort of story is used to discredit all Romanians, asylum seekers, single mothers and those on benefits using a single (probably isolated if it existed at all) example.

Lola said...

P156. No. Tariffs are generally incident on the citizens of the state that applies them. They are protectionist measures designed to keep prices high.

Bayard said...

"A lot of those are Irish citizens, who AFAIAA have always been treated pretty much on a par with UK passport holders"

I rather suspect that the EU are going to at least threaten to prevent Eire returning to the close ties it had with the UK pre-EU.

Mark Wadsworth said...

PC, it's not the Act itself, but the way that activist judges interpret it.

Either you are on favour of tariffs or you aren't. I'm not. It's like nuclear weapons, if you are in favour, you have to accept that Iran, North Korea ans Pakistan can have them. If you are against, you must be in favour of unilateral disarmament (which I am).

B, again, how will neutral third countries - let alone the Irish - judge that sort of behaviour?

L, agreed.

paulc156 said...

B. Agreed
L. Yeh I see the protectionist angle. Though floating exchange rates will mitigate most of that.
MW. I am a unilateralist and I am not in favour of tariffs (in developed economies at any rate.)

Mark Wadsworth said...

PC, if you are not in favour of tariffs, then you ought to be against the UK imposing them, surely?

Your earlier statement "Tariffs will be incident on the UK if the EU impose them and we don't" suggested that you wanted the UK to have tariffs.

paulc156 said...

MW.I think tariffs should disappear as far as all developed economies are concerned. I'm assuming the UK position if sanctions are imposed would be to impose similar sanctions. Obviously they might not, I don't think these possible scenarios have been 'openly' discussed.

Bayard said...

"it's not the Act itself, but the way that activist judges interpret it."

If the judges are "activist" their activity is on behalf of the state, IMHO. You don't get much more "Establishment" than a judge. How many terrorists did the Home Office have trouble deporting? Two or three, AFAICR, how much fuss was made about it and how much did it turn popular opinion, including your own, against the Human Rights Act and the ECHR? What government is going to welcome a shackle on its activities like the ECHR, let alone a Tory one?

"again, how will neutral third countries - let alone the Irish - judge that sort of behaviour?"

For the sort of spiteful federalist behaviour that it is, probably, but do the eurocrats care?

john b said...

"We have our own rules on consumer protection, health and safety, farming and so on, if goods and services comply with these, they can be imported."

You realise this is the literal definition of what "non-tariff barriers" are, right?

Contact YPP said...

JB, not really.

Extreme non-tariff barriers are things like quotas.

If national standards operate so as to exclude stuff from other countries (by accident or by design), then those are also NTBs.

Then there are some rules which most would agree are broadly sensible, like cars having to pass MOT or not putting lead paint on kids' toys.

You can call these "non-tariff barriers" if you like, as far as I am concerned, they are just "broadly sensible rules".

Then there will be some UK national standards which are far too strict and ought to be loosened or scrapped anyway, for the overall benefit of everybody.

Gilman Grundy said...

"Then there are some rules which most would agree are broadly sensible, like cars having to pass MOT or not putting lead paint on kids' toys.

You can call these "non-tariff barriers" if you like, as far as I am concerned, they are just "broadly sensible rules"."


John is right: regulations that block imports of a certain kind *ARE* non-tariff barriers. The entire reason the EU has all these regulations that Brexiters love to deride is simply because for the countries of Europe to be able to trade with each other freely they have to use the same set of "broadly sensible rules".

This is also the reason why removing EU regulation is unlikely to result in any big changes in the standards to which small domestic appliances like vacuum cleaners are produced - because the manufacturers will still want to be able to sell the same products in Europe and it won't be economical to produce a separate product for sale in the UK only. Anyone hoping that we will have more powerful vacuum cleaners or whatever post-brexit is unlikely to see their wishes come true.