Thursday, 10 October 2019

Sorry, Could you say that again?

“There is also a fourth French objection to the Johnson plan — one that France stresses more than other EU countries. Theresa May’s agreement with the EU promised a level playing field in employment, industrial and other regulations between the UK and the EU. Johnson has abandoned that pledge.

France fears that, combined with a back-door into the EU market through Ireland, this would give Britain an unfair competitive advantage.”

The text highlighted tells you all you need to know about the EU, T May and the French.

The EU is a rules based regime. Rules enforced by bureaucrats (not Courts of Law) enabled to apply sanctions as they see fit.   Which does not mean that the rules are ‘lawful’ in Common Law terms.

It also shows the absolute disconnect between the ambitions of Brexiteers (like me) and the EU.  And this obviously means that there is No Deal that will suit both parties.  There can be no consensus.  Why?  A major part of Leaving the EU was precisely to enable differences. To not have a ‘level playing field’.   And to be fair to the EU why would they want to make a special arrangement for the UK?

In any event the EU – and the UK (post Brexit) – will be entirely entitled to require importers to demonstrate that the goods and services being supplied by overseas organisations were made in accordance with EU (or UK) regulations and rules.  That has always been the case.  

However how far can these rules be insisted upon? Suppose the UK prefers a more looser labour market. That people and employers freely decide their contracts?  Suppose for reasons of flexibility it is better for a business firm to use contract of self employed labour?  How can governance of such arrangements be in the remit of what will be a foreign power? On the other hand it is quite reasonable to insist on husbandry standards for say beef production.  That is not actually anything to do with ‘production’ as such but mostly to do with how we think that animals should be treated.

As to industrial production, lots of rules inhibit innovation.  This is probably deliberate as it is obviously protectionist; and protectionism is hardwired into the EU, and France.  But as long as the product itself complies with EU rules – if it is being exported to the EU – then that is an end of it. 

Lastly, ‘unfair competitive advantage’. Eh?  Everyone is looking for one of those all the time.  And in a sense the EU is doing just that by trying to insist that the UK keeps to all of its, the EU’s, rules post Brexit.  In any event there is only one case when such an ‘unfair’ advantage truly exists and that is when special interests are provided with subsidies or other special privileges.  And again the EU is a past master at such shenanigans – look at Airbus.

Personally I am of the view that each side (post T May) are talking entirely different languages and really cannot compute what the other is saying.  Neither us nor them gets it.  This writer excepted and, I would hazard, a lot of you, the reader.


Physiocrat said...

It was a mistake for the UK to join the EEC in the first place and it should have left when the terms and conditions of membership changed. There are too many differences. Geography: Britain is a peripheral offshore island with trade links across the oceans of the world. There is the Common Law system of justice. There is the British Free Trade tradition, based on the economic liberalism promoted by the Classical Economists, notably Smith, Ricardo, J S Mill and Henry George, and championed by the Liberal Party, which never gained a hold in most of the other EU countries, apart from Denmark. There was the cheap food policy which had been followed from the abolition of the Corn Laws in 1846 until their reinstatement in 1973.

Another difference is the inherently dirigiste Roman Catholic Social Teaching which informed the EEC's founders, but which never had much of an influence in Britain.

Britain was never going to be comfortable in a multinational body with a very different tradition of political economy and governance. This was recognised in the EU's founding principle of Subsidiarity, but was ignored in practice. Heath made a historic mistake in bringing the UK into the EEC in 1973.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Agreed. Vive la difference!

Mark Wadsworth said...

Re Airbus, USA is just as bad with Boeing and rest of military industrial bloc. The UK bailed out its banks (and Irish banks, for some mad reason). Pots, kettles.

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Lola said...

MW. Of course. 'Crony capitalism rules OK.'

IMHO we don't have 'capitalism' at all. What we have is a form of crony corporatist welfarism. And bad money, of course. Immer bloody bad money...

George Carty said...


Is the manufacture of large airliners a natural duopoly or even monopoly, given that there are only two examples (Airbus and Boeing) both of which are heavily subsidized (Airbus blatantly, Boeing via US military contracts)?


Didn't David Edgerton show in The Rise and Fall of the British Nation that the UK sought to drastically lessen its dependence on imported food after the war (probably because the Battle of the Atlantic had demonstrated just how dangerous this dependence could be) and actually came closest to being self-sufficient in 1984. This nationalist era in British food policy encompassed times both outside and inside the EEC. What changed incidentally to make us more import-dependent again: more demanding and diverse tastes of British consumers?

" should have left when the terms and conditions of membership changed."

Would that have been around the time of Maastricht in your view? Certainly leaving the EU then (before the single market had had so much effect on trading patterns) would have been a lot less damaging than leaving now is turning out to be!