EU Shows Up UK Brexit Trade Fantasies by Opening Bi-Lateral Negotiations With Australia and New Zealand

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The EU managed to put paid to one pet Brexit fantasy today, and via a concrete action, rather than the usual route of the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier and European leaders saying things the UK keeps refusing to hear.

The Government has been doing the Oxbridge version of Trump’s patter that he’s going to be able to negotiate great trade deals once it is free from those nasty Brussels overlords. Due to having the backing of a captured and clueless press, plus terrific diction, the boosters have had their ideas be treated with far more seriousness than they warrant.

Given that the EU27 is a much bigger market than the UK is, why anyone should be champing at the bit to negotiate a trade pact with the UK is a bit of a mystery. But Brexiteers have rung the changes on this theme, arguing, for instance that the UK can become the new Singapore (forgetting that Singapore has all of 5.6 million highly educated people, clean government, and a strategically advantaged location) or that the Commonwealth can make up for diminished commerce with the EU.

Today, the EU announced that it had approved starting bilateral trade negotiations with Australia and New Zealand. The Guardian highlighted the implications:

The EU has leapt ahead of the UK in the pursuit of free trade deals with Australia and New Zealand after member states gave the green light for talks to start within weeks.

….the announcement from Brussels opens up the possibility that the EU could enjoy better terms with the two Commonwealth nations after Brexit than the UK will…

The international trade secretary, Liam Fox, had recently spoken of “reinvigorating” the Commonwealth partnership with a host of trade deals after Brexit, labelled “empire 2.0” by sceptical Whitehall officials.

But the UK will not be able to start its negotiations over future trade with New Zealand and Australia until 30 March 2019. The European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, has vowed to complete the EU’s talks with the two countries by 31 October of that year, when his time in office expires.

Another proof of the EU’s relative advantages is that it expects to be able to protect key industries:

The EU has made it clear before its negotiations with Australia and New Zealand that the size of its market offers bountiful opportunities, without the need for the bloc to expose its agricultural sector to cheap imports.

The mandate given to the commission for the talks, due to be formally launched in Wellington and Canberra next month, envisages special treatment for agricultural goods in order to protect European producers.

In contrast, there are some voices in the Brexiter wing of the Conservative party who would like to radically liberalise the farming sector in the UK, and open it up to challenge from highly efficient antipodean agricultural exporters.

As Richard North put it:

And when we see the EU showboating with the announcement of trade talks with Australia and New Zealand – that could give it better terms than we could achieve – we have to recognise that the free-trade ambitions of the “Brexiteers” are as empty as their rhetoric.

The EU getting out ahead of the UK is important for a second reason: trade negotiators have limited bandwidth. Trade agreements, unless they are largely dictated, US style, take time to work though. I would be very much surprised if the EU and their new antipodean counterparts reach a final understanding by the end of October 2019. In these treaties, the devil is in the details, so even if Juncker can correctly claim that the EU and Australia and New Zealand have settled the principal terms, that is a long way away from a completed deal.

The UK starting later means it will unquestionably second in the queue. Australia and New Zealand will no doubt also make efforts to move a UK deal along too, but unless the EU negotiations go pear shaped or are suspended, it’s highly unlikely that the UK would be able to leapfrog the EU talks.

But the British officialdom keeps acting as if all these pesky details will somehow be sorted out, when if even they dimly understood the profiles of the many problems, they don’t begin to have the operational capacity to address them. And as we have said repeatedly, it is ordinary British citizens who will bear the cost of this grotesque leadership failure.

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  1. vlade

    The best the UK could do is to ride on the EU agreement – but it’d have to make concessions that the EU won’t (and IMO, they will include immigration concessions). So basically, if they want it quick, it will be EU–.

    TBH, I don’t see much of a problem of “cheap” agri exports, as Oz and especially Kiwis want to export the higher value stuff (kiwi milk production drives world markets as it is) – but EU will have problems even with that I suspect.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      The agriculture lobby is of course very strong in the EU, so significant imports from outside the EU of core products is always off the table, despite the very best efforts of the US. Consumer pressure is more on quality than price. I think Australian and NZ are relatively relaxed about this as Asian markets are growing so strongly they don’t really need European markets, except for specialist products like wine.

      I would guess that a major Australian focus would be on Schengen visas and maintaining the maximum free movement for Australian citizens in Europe. It would make an interesting cultural change if Australians found themselves having to choose between the UK or the rest of Europe for their working holidays.

    2. Mark

      Now why would the EU import perishable foodstuffs from halfway around the world in the first place? Especially something so basic and easily homegrown as milk. Call me naive but a society which considers producing basic food on the other side of the world, processing it, shipping it and processing again instead of producing it a few kilometers away seems far from reasonable, no matter how cheap it is supposed to be.

      1. vlade

        NZ exports little milk as such, but it’s a major exporter of milk solids (=milk powder), butter etc.

        Not about milk, but lamb – few years back, NZ grown lamb was cheaper than the UK, even with shipping and all – indeed, it was actually more energy efficient if you believed the report (I didn’t see all the assumptions they made, but on the suface it added up, mostly because UK farming is relatively small and not very energy efficient.. NZ sheep farming uses little energy except when it’s transported, as the sheep farms are magnitudes of order larger than UK ones, and sheep are pretty much left to roam as often as not most of the year)

        1. Jim A.

          In the 18th century Suffolk was known for hard, nearly inedible cheese made from skim milk because it was close enough to London to ship cream there. In most of the rest of the country, they used much fo make cheeses that were more edible than skim milk cheeses, but longer lasting than milk.

  2. PlutoniumKun

    Not mentioned in the articles, but I think very relevant, is that any deal the EU does with major agriculture countries such as OZ and NZ will inevitably include provisions to prevent the UK becoming an entrepôt for cheap food via Northern Ireland or other routes. I’m sure this will apply to the full range of other industries. So the libertarian dream of being Singapore in the Atlantic will be well and truly strangled before birth.

    I was at a presentation this week focusing on Brexit and the construction industry. A representative from the CBI (Confederation of British Industry) said they had been frantically lobbying Tory MP’s over staying in the Single Market – they certainly weren’t confused about the SM/CU issue. The tactic (or perhaps more accurately forlorn hope) is that a crisis could force the government to adopt an EEA option. But he didn’t seem optimistic. The NI business representative was scathing about Tory/DUP politicians and pointed out that opinion polls indicate that many if not most Unionists are now Remainers. The Irish concrete industry rep basically said that they were preparing Irish construction for a major downturn. It was pointed out, that to take one example, Northern Ireland imports nearly all its concrete from the Republic, while it exports a significant amount of precast material south. Even such a mundane, simple trade is threatened because of uncertainty over certification.

    It was stated that industry is doing a lot of work to try to stay within EU certification bodies, even post Brexit. It was suggested, but not elaborated upon, that there was work under way on a sort of British/Irish agreed certification for construction products which would (although it would never be admitted) be a shadow EU certification, so it could lead to a ‘back door’ to EU markets for British products.

    One other minor thing – I got an email yesterday from a major insurance company. I have an insurance policy to cover car hire worldwide with a UK insurer (I wasn’t aware the insurance was underwritten by AIG). The email told me that the insurance is now no longer covered by UK law, its been re-registered in Luxembourg with all non-UK customers now under that particular office. It would seem that many companies are well in advance in their preparations.

    1. makedoanmend

      Hello PK,

      “It was stated that industry is doing a lot of work to try to stay within EU certification bodies, even post Brexit. It was suggested, but not elaborated upon, that there was work under way on a sort of British/Irish agreed certification for construction products which would (although it would never be admitted) be a shadow EU certification, so it could lead to a ‘back door’ to EU markets for British products.”

      Do you think the EU will allow this? Just wondering about your take on this. Off the top of me head, I see a couple of potential snags.

      It sounds like an very informal way to get around the raison d’etre of a single EU market, and what kind of sanctions could possible keep the “shadow” market from changing things when it so suits?

      I also wonder if the EU, which relies on Codification law, can really stomach such an “informal” arrangement. I know we use common Law ourselves but we comply with the EU codes, regulations and laws with concrete verbiage that accepts the codification specifications, and we are subject to sanctions if we break them.

      I suppose I could see arrangements based for specific industries, like concrete/construction, but I suspect that every “special case” would have to negotiated separately and at length. Could that be done before 3/2019?

      Go on, go on, go on…give us some more tidbits. :-)

      1. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you.

        From the turn of the decade, in part due to experience with Switzerland, the EU has said it no longer wants sector by sector deals. This was made particularly clear to the UK at a Guildhall event I attended, as representative of the buy side trade body, in 2013. EU officials and politicians from various countries attended to hear and drive this message. The Swiss do not appear to have got the message as they are still pushing for bilateral and sectoral deals, including getting Asia Pacific financial services centres and the City into an informal body to lobby the EU(27).

        1. makedoanmend

          Thank you for the very valuable information. I suppose it makes sense from a single market EU standpoint. From a formal EU viewpoint, I can’t see them making any special arrangements in Ireland, even if they are inclined to do so*. I suppose if another “third” country sees a special arrange for Ireland, they’ll make a case for their own “special” situation – ad infinitum.

          *but one can hope in a world where hope is a quickly diminishing commodity (I think Obama nearly used it all up)

      2. PlutoniumKun

        Do you think the EU will allow this? Just wondering about your take on this. Off the top of me head, I see a couple of potential snags.

        There are plenty of potential snags. It wasn’t discussed in detail – I could see how it would be a way around issues of British-Irish trade for quite simple products like (the example they were discussing) precast concrete structural items. The certification would be officially for Irish British trade, but in reality it would be a Xerox of whatever EU standard was required. The problems would come if it was applied to more tightly regulated products (for example, fireproof cladding materials), and then used to trade with the Continent. Disgruntled competitors would no doubt point to the certification as not being subject to EU jurisdiction as a reason to protest. So I could see it working in very limited circumstances to overcome problems in a chaotic Brexit, but its not a long term solution to anything.

        1. makedoanmend

          Thanks for the reply.

          I hadn’t even considered the “disgruntled competitor” angle. Money talks.

          1. PlutoniumKun

            The disgruntled competitor is the key to why informal ‘turn a blind eye’ approaches to certification and trade will never work, this is something the Brexiters refuse to get their heads around. Someone always loses out, and its not something that the EU or national governments have discretion over, its a civil court matter. Why should any legitimate business ignore a competitor who isn’t, in their eyes, playing fair? Taking a complaint to the courts is simply and relatively cheap.

            Any deal which fudges certification and regulatory processes for UK companies would immediately be subject to national and EU court challenges at multiple levels.

  3. The Rv Kev

    UK to NZ-Australia
    EU to NZ-Australia. Check!

    I am not so sure that this is as simple as it seems. To quote Elmer Fudd-

    Not so long ago, a multi-billion dollar free trade agreement with Canada was almost blown up by regional parliaments in Belgium. Apparently the President and his Commissioners were not happy campers about this. This time, with the NZ-Australian negotiations, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker announced “fast-tracked” free-trade negotiations which he hopes will wind up before the next European elections in May of 2019 (and two months after Brexit). Countries like France, Ireland and Belgium are kicking up a bit of a stink but France may have been brought onboard with the $50 billion submarine deal Australia signed with France.
    Point is, the final deal will not need the final approval of the European Union’s 38 separate national and regional parliaments but the European Commission can do it all by itself. It may be that the European Commission is doing this deal as not so much as to put the kibosh on the UK’s aspirations but to establish a precedent as to who gives the nod on any free-trade deals which will not need the input of the 38 members of the EU. European democracy at work again!

  4. Reza

    Points well made but with one fundamental error which is that in the UK it is not the press that is “captured and clueless” but it is the government which is (beyond) clueless and captured by the press.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Please see Richard North. Any media outlet that parrots the Government’s idiocy, like David Davis saying that the EU’s deadlines don’t matter, or that the EU is being mean and disingenuous in rejecting the Government’s magical techno-Irish border fix, is a captured press. He’s been going on for weeks about how they are similarly repeating nonsense on the customs union.

      At best, you can argue that this is reflexivity.

      1. Alex

        The relationship between the press and the government in the UK is symbiotic. David Davis (& co) spew nonsense all the time, but the influence of the Daily Mail and The Telegraph on government policy is undeniable and they are, in many instances, the source of the lunatic thinking. In fact, arguably the entire approach of the government to the Brexit problem is journalistic in that they are completely focused on the superficial and refuse to take-on, understand or deal with the details; remember Boris & Govey are ex journos.

        This is a new thing. New Labour under Blair, faults and all, was meticulous in its thinking and planning as was, but to a lesser extent, Cameron during the coalition period. It is hard to have imagined a few years ago that any British government would be so intent on doing so much harm to the national interest but that is the situation that we find ourselves in.

        1. Fazal Majid

          Gove’s wife is still an editorialist, and she is clearly the one who wears the pants in this household, as shown by the list of talking points she issued him viz. Boris, that led him to knife Johnson in the back and ultimately the May premiership.

      2. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you, Yves.

        Further to deadlines, oddly, my EU27 employer is working to an October deadline and appears to ignore the EU27’s June deadline. I suspect the management at home wants to avoid a drift of staff and disruption of a transition from London. I am not hanging around and looking for work in the Middle and Far East.

        Further to David Davis, I jest, but how would he know. He hardly visits Brussels. Olly Robbins, sadly for his sanity, is the main man, but has to work with / for Theresa May.

      3. Synoia

        Any media outlet that parrots the Government’s idiocy

        Would the Parrots be Norwegian Blues?

    2. EoH

      As others have said, government-press relations in the UK are quite close, some would say incestuous. It depends on the medium. The Guardian used to be more antagonistic; under Viner, the relationship is more comfy. Murdoch media and Tory governments are inseparable, and the Daily Telegraph nearly so. The Independent is now a small outlier. The BBC, of course, is the government.

      The legal relationship is also different than in, say, the US. There is no First Amendment – or Second, but that’s another story. And there is an Official Secrets Act, which no longer has a public interest defense.

  5. Colonel Smithers

    Thank you, Yves, PK and Vlade.

    Further to ANZ preferring to deal with the EU, the former colonies in Africa, either as part of the Southern African Development Community or on their own, have also stated their intention to prioritise arrangements with the EU. I don’t know about the SADC, but Mauritius and South Africa have Brexit teams, composed of government officials and business representatives, working on such matters. Their preparations seem more advanced than the mother country’s.

    As the Irish government began preparing for Brexit as soon as Cameron announced the referendum and a hard Brexit as soon as the result was announced, one can only marvel at the diligence of the country that is actually leaving the EU, a country where many people still make comments and assumptions about the Irish.

    I would not call PK’s insurance novation a minor point. These changes are going on quietly, but gathering in pace and scale. It all adds up, but the execrable MSM and somewhat disinterested public at large don’t or won’t notice.

    The newlyweds are off to ANZ later this year, so hopefully can exercise some soft power and sweet talk the colonials into prioritising the mother country and resist the charms of the EU27. One can dream, eh?!

    1. rfdawn

      When joining the EU long ago, the UK showed scant concern for Commonwealth trade. Antipodean elders may still recall that time and, having since adjusted their trade, choose to reciprocate.

      1. vlade

        It’s worse than that – NZ suffered a lot when the UK joined EU and had to dump the good-ole imperial preference (not called that anymore of course) area. It took it more than a decade to recover, but you can now bet your last penny that it will never hitch its wagon to the UK exclusively. China, EU and Middle East are so much more interesting markets for NZ than the UK.

        1. ChrisPacific

          Yes, I was going to make that point but I see others have done so already. New Zealand knows very well what the “deep and special relationship” term means when the UK uses it. We are in a better space now, and I doubt anyone but the most ardent Anglophiles would want to return to our old, codependent state.

        2. Kfish

          In the national museum in Auckland, you can see a population chart showing a large drop post-1976, when the UK shifted its trade priorities to the EU. The recession got so bad, and so many young NZers left for Australia, that the population went backwards for a few years.

      2. Chris

        Many older Australians remember the undignified haste with which the UK dropped us as a supplier of primary produce when they joined the Common Market.

        Annihilated the Tasmanian apple industry.

        We haven’t forgotten.

    2. Christopher Dale Rogers


      Well, the good news is whatever happens the Tories own it, this despite the MSM in the UK continually giving the impression that its Jeremy Corbyn who’s the PM and Ms May the leader of the Opposition, that’s the level on enquiry we’ve been getting since last years GE result, hence all the hysteria about the Labour Party we have had in the MSM since late February. The Local elections are over and still they persist, its as if Brexit is not happening if you read the front pages of the UK press day in and day out.

      1. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you, CDR.

        I am glad that you have chimed in, especially with regard to Labour. From contributions on this blog, I know that Clive, Gonzo Marx (I think) and you are party members.

        Labour may well inherit the Tory mess, so may come to own the problem in a different way. From this outsider’s and Old Labour supporter’s perspective, Labour is going to have to get off the fence soon and start engaging the EU27 in a way that it has not – or not been reported as doing so.

        Gardiner’s interviews, including last Sunday’s, do not help. I know that the MSM has it in for Labour, but that does not absolve Labour representatives on the airwaves from doing some homework.

        1. Clive

          Yes, and at a local level, there’s little point in the Constituency Labour Party agitating for this- or that- party policy response. For one thing, in a lot of CLPs (especially outside of London) there’s only a marginal Remain majority amongst members and in Home Counties CLPs like mine (strong Leave areas) possibly even a Leave majority. So there’s simply not this huge groundswell of member opposition to Leave which anyone — Corbyn or otherwise — could harness, even if he wanted to.

          And besides, why on earth should Corbyn try to cobble together some anti-Brexit coalition of the willing in parliament (Labour Remain, SNP, Liberal Democrats and Remain Conservatives) ? Hearding cats would be easier. And there’s not — yet — any clear electoral pay-off. A year after a yucky Brexit, perhaps people would think — and possibly vote — differently.

          But right now, as in today’s decisions and today’s actions, Corbyn would merely earn the wrath of Leave voters and it would be hard to see him getting the credit from Remain’ers. People don’t vote out of gratitude for some parliamentary manoeuvring. SNP voters would be likely to vote SNP still and Liberal Democrat voters would likewise still vote Liberal Democrat. It’s past lunchtime and I’ve still not had coffee this morning so that’s probably responsible for my employing the rather déclassé phrasing that follows, but here goes: voters don’t tend to give political parties the ballot box equivalent of a sympathy shag at election time.

          1. vlade

            The problem is that leave voters can’t win labour the elections – because majority of those will always go Tory, but Remain voters can lose it elections (as the surprise strong showing of Corbyn last year was, according to a number of polls, due to a number of remain soft labour votes).

            So Corbyn courting Leave voters while saying “there’s no alternative for remain voters but Labour” risks ending like Hilary.

            So no, voters might not remember whether he did some small remain stuff or not. But with the same logic you can argue that they remember whether he seemed to support leave. And I believe if you asked most voters where they believe Corbyn is leaning, it would be leave. So playing both sides is ok, but will get you only so far – especially if there’s a vote (like the EEA), which forces you to come off your fence.

            TBH, Corbyn’s “we want a job Brexit” was the right way IMO, as ultimately that’s what people care about – not Brexit, not ECJ, not even immigrants in most cases – but whether they have a reasonable job. But that also means Single Market, at least medium term, not the bollocks he used to espouse of “we want to preserve all of SM w/o being there”, which was as dumb as BJ’s cake-and-eat-it.

            And, again, according to the polls, there is a majority of the voters who want to stay in SM (and once they understand what it means for jobs, even with free movement), whatever the Tory disaster capitalists claim of the “will of the people”.

            So there it is – Corbyn had an option, but he does not really want to be in SM (for reasons we discussed elsewhere to death).

            But that means he will lose the soft remain vote (w/o getting the leavers), and he will be one that helped to trigger the jobs losses coming with the Brexit crash-out.

            He might think that the good old communist motto “the worse, the better” is a way for him to get to the power, but TBH, I can’t and won’t support anyone who’s willing to do this amount of damage to people to get to power. The whipping for A50 without insting on a plan made Corbyn and Labour unvotable for me, and look for the UK exit – but I’m lucky that I can, unlike lots of others.

            1. Clive

              Unfortunately parliamentary machinations combined with First Past the Post means it’s not quite that straightforward.

              Taking two examples, here in North West Hampshire, which you could quite accurately rename Leave Central, Labour is a lost cause, electorally speaking, so it doesn’t matter a jot what any Corbyn supporter does or doesn’t do with regards to Brexit. It’s just a waste of energy and resources — no matter how many Remain votes we might pick up, and there’s not that many anyway, it’ll never be enough. Labour wouldn’t win here even if the Tories fielded a donkey as their candidate (I’m still minded to think they did just that).

              The reverse is true in Remain heartland in metropolitan London. Labour could be full-fat revoking A50, second referendum, flat out campaigning for Remain and they wouldn’t achieve anything in that constituency because it is Labour and always will be. Similarly, the current Labour do nothing and let the Conservatives try to sort it all out approach isn’t a vote loser on any kind of scale which would threaten that seat.

              So you’re proposed electoral strategy stands or falls in the marginals. Which, for every Remain vote you might pick up, you’d probably end up sacrificing a Leave’er vote for. It might win some but it just as well might lose others.

              And for this highly speculative electoral gamble, you have to take a big risk with the various parliamentary parties, not least your own.

              Sorry, I’d love it if I could — nothing would please me more than for
              Labour to sweep to power having “saved the country from Brexit” (I voted Brexit but would trade Brexit for a government with a Blairite-faction proof majority) — but I just can’t see the numbers working out.

              The other problem I have is it’s all a bit too much 11 dimensional chess for my liking.

              1. vlade

                I don’t buy the margina/non-marginal entirely – my counterexample is Hampstead and Kilburn, which is a pretty new seat. in 2010 and 2015 it was a pretty close race (in 2010 it was the closest three way race in the country, in 2015 it was the 10th most narrowest win. Compare to 2017 – a very comfortable 60% of votes went to Labour, which now probably counts it a safe seat as a result. But that is only because the 2010 LD voters (that in 2015 split between Labour and soft Tories) didn’t want to split the vote, and chucked it to Labour. Which can change on a drop of a hat.

                Undoubtedly there is a similar story for Leave constituency – but TBH, that is my point. It’s impossible IMO for Labour to keep both. But I suspect that it’s harder for it to keep Leave, as the competition there is stronger, than Remain – but its behaviour now is that it assumes it gets Remainers no matter what, and IMO that will backfire. The “you have no other place to go” works until it doesn’t.

                TBH, thinking about it, I believe the best strategy (hah, 20-20 hindsight) would have been for Labour to ignore Brexit as much as they could, and focus on their main messages. Abstain everywhere where they could (A50 w/o plan), and have their message “we don’t care about Brexit, we care about jobs etc. etc.”. Then it could approach the various Brexit votes as (for example)”is it about jobs or not?”, which would be probably acceptable to reasonable part of both leave and remain. This way Labour is seens as not much less split than Tories, but hiding it better – because it’s not so much in the limelight.

                On the other hand, this would also require Labour to have reasonable knowledge of EU and its working, which IMO is as much missing in Labour as it is in Tory party, and it’s run on assumptions and beliefs.

                So really no win either way.

                1. Colonel Smithers

                  Many thanks, Clive and Vlade. I am glad that both of you have piped up.

                  In my constituency at the last election, Vale of Aylesbury (held by the Tory cabinet minister David Lidington), Labour’s vote increased substantially, enough to leap from 4th to 2nd. The party has had no councillors in the district since 1983. I suspect that a remain vote from younger voters having to move in from London caused the spike in the Labour vote.

                  There was no municipal contest this year, but polling shows that the enthusiasm for Labour is waning, but the Liberals have yet to benefit much.

                  The area voted leave in the referendum. Buckinghamshire followed the national %. The northern half (Aylesbury, Buckingham and Milton Keynes) voted out by a bigger margin. The southern half (Amersham, Beaconsfield, Gerrard’s Cross, High Wycombe and Marlow), on London’s doorstep, voted to stay in by a bigger margin.

                  I agree with Vlade that Labour is assuming wrongly that remainers have nowhere to go. In a pissing contest over who can deliver Brexit, I reckon voters will vote Team Blue.

                2. Clive

                  Yes, I think
                  Labour should have voted down planless A50 and said they’d resist a bumbling Brexit every step of the way but made a counter offer to cooperate in a fully costed exit scheme and detail-heavy Bill which spelt out how a no-impact or least possible impact Brexit could be delivered. Even if it took a full parliamentary term to implement. Then, there could be a general election with a final decision / A50 trigger in 2023 as either a manifesto policy commitment or a “look, everyone can see this isn’t worth the cost / risk / benefit trade off, we’re campaigning against going any further with this” pitch.

                  But no, we got the Conservative hubris* instead. Of course, when the NC commentariat rules the world, we’ll all be fine.

                  (* Or, as my autocorrect just almost had it, hibiscus)

                  1. albert

                    “…In the Philippines, the gumamela (local name for hibiscus) is used by children as part of a bubble-making pastime. The flowers and leaves are crushed until the sticky juices come out. Hollow papaya stalks are then dipped into this and used as straws for blowing bubbles. Together with soap, hibiscus juices produce more bubbles….” – Wikipedia


                    . .. . .. — ….

                  2. vlade

                    I believe that strategy you describe would, while initially painful, result in Labour win be it in post-Brexit 2019 (if Tories pressed on, as would be likely) or regular 2022 elections.

        2. Christopher Dale Rogers


          Regretfully I was one of the victims of the Great Purge II undertaken by Iain McNicol and Johanna Baxter in late August 2016 – obviously my crime was being an ardent and outspoken supporter of Corbyn and the full democratisation of the Labour Party – I now try and help others unjustly suspended or kicked out, which I come under attack for, never mind supporting the Palestine cause, which again means I’m often attacked by some sinister forces, the ones that ensured Marc Wadsworth was ejected from our Party.

          As for sentiment towards the EU, not a great deal has changed in South Wales and the Labour Party has great difficulty in trying to weld all sections together – I always thought we’d have a Norway Plus model, but that seems most unlikely given May’s poor handling of relations with the EU.

          Unlike others, I’m aware Corbyn has done much to reach out to other Left-of-Centre groups in Europe to ensure close relations, however, such efforts themselves are doomed to failure if the EU continues with its austerity driven monetary policies that are enabling rather nasty Rightist forces to raise their ugly heads again.

          Lets just hope that Corbyn is PM by 2022 & Melenchon or another Leftist inherits the French Presidency – have given up on the German SDP, which is now in its death throes & events in Italy cause great trepidation – we need a new consensus, alas its still being birthed presently.

          1. Colonel Smithers

            Thank you, CDR.

            As a regular visitor to France, I reckon it will take a while for the French left to regroup into a force capable of fighting the neo-liberals. I don’t know if Melenchon is the person, may be one of his younger lieutenants.

            I gave up on the SPD when Lafontaine was ousted from the Finance Ministry. I have worked with some SPD activists. Their idols are Blair and Justin Trudeau.

            Great to see you Sic Semper Tyrannis, too.

            1. David

              It’s not clear that it will. A major pan-leftist demonstration against Macron in Paris yesterday attracted 16,000 people, which is pitiful. Melenchon is going to have to make a fundamental choice soon, whether to accept anyone (including political islamists) into his tent to make it bigger, or whether to put his foot down and try to re-create a genuine class-based leftist party. It’s not clear that he has the guts to do the second. Meanwhile, there’s a new trivia game this side of the Channel. Name the Secretary General of the Socialist Party. Um. Um …..

  6. vlade

    On the CU, EC published a one-slider last Fri on what border issues CU addresses.

    Out of 20 odd items, it’s 2 (although TBH, lot of it appears to be more of examples, than specific legislative items, although at the same time, a number of legislative items is wrapped into a couple of bullet points).

    One pager. Why can’t UK govt do a one pager that is this concise???? Instead it generates 100 pages of a total waffle..

    1. PlutoniumKun

      Thanks for that, its an excellent slide, very clear. Conciseness is always a sign I think of clear thinking. Waffle can sometimes be deliberate (to conceal real intentions), but more often than not is a sign of confusion. The contrast between EU and UK documents shows very clearly the asymmetry in understanding and approach.

    2. fajensen

      When people have to decide but don’t agree on anything, some committee or task force without formal authority will be tasked with producing a “policy document” containing the “consensus” between the stakeholders.

      When the committee is smart, the white paper will be short yet written in a very obtuse way so it can be interpreted to anything anyone might wish, a less clever committee has to list every pet pony and sacred elephant of all decision makers.

      The obtuse paper is often worked into “law” by lawyers or domain experts, the epic tome is usually revised by those proverbial 3-4 people in a sauna, who are the ones who actually decides.

      In any case, stakeholders get the brown end of the stake and feel empowered.

  7. Fazal Majid

    Another way the British elites display their insularity and cluelessness is all their talk about “Empire 2.0”. As if the Aussies and Kiwis forgot being (ab)used as cannon fodder at Gallipoli, let alone the Indians and other non-white victims of imperialism. The delicious irony is that the UK is now subject to reverse colonization, the largest private employer there being Tata of India.

    1. Andrew Dodds

      There’s always the Chinese, assuming that they’ve forgotten the whole Opium-national-humiliation thing.

    2. Synoia

      As if the Aussies and Kiwis forgot being (ab)used as cannon fodder at Gallipoli,

      Or the current Labor supporters whose grandfathers or great-grandfathers enjoyed a Summer or two in Northern France.

      Or as my father put it when I asked about Douglas Haig – “Yes, I supposed he killed as many as the rest of them,” and I sincerely doubt he was talking about German Deaths.

    3. ChrisPacific

      New Zealand, like a lot of small countries, places a lot of emphasis on the UN, at least the concept if not always the reality. National feelings around Gallipoli are complex, but I think it’s fair to say that New Zealanders going to war under the banner of Commonwealth or Empire is a thing of the past. There used to be a general feeling that we could align ourselves with a larger power (initially the UK, later the US) and they would look out for our interests and keep us from coming to harm. I don’t think anyone really believes that any more, which means that the UN, flawed as it is, is our best hope.

      1. Christopher Dale Rogers


        Thanks for your insightful comment, its fair to say most on the Left I associate with place great emphasis on the UN, indeed, actually strengthening the UN and breaking the hold that the Big Five have on its deliberations, anything that can lead to this reform is to be welcomed.

  8. Ignacio

    Thank you Yves and all commenters here!!! I feel privileged to have access to the kind and quality of analyses and comments made here. There is no place/site, apart form North’s blog, where to find anything equivalent except specialized sites covering particular commerce sectors.

    Brexit is horribly covered by spanish media.

  9. RBHoughton

    Many of those people we call Aussies today were not long ago called Greeks or Italians. Australia is a dormitory area for Europe’s formerly oppressed in the same way the American colonies got the dispossessed of the German states a century earlier. This initiative could be just the recipe for a rise in southern Europe trade.

  10. Edward

    I hope this trade deal isn’t a disaster for labor or the environment the way NAFTA was.

  11. Mark T

    The EU has very few trade deals because of the difficulty of dealing with 27 different sets of vested interests, so if the prospect of getting one over on the Brits (which does seem to be a motivating force for Barnier et al) enables the Aussies and Kiwis to negotiate a deal with the EU in under a decade then good for them. As to why they would want to do a deal with the UK, why not? It’s still one of the biggest economies in the world and more importantly a major net importer of goods – China, Japan and Germany are all net exporters remember. There is an old Soviet saying that to a man with a hammer everything looks like a nail and to most economists and certainly most crony (rather than naked) capitalists, the EU is all about the customs union and the single market and making it as comfy as possible for ‘our export industries’. Well there’s more to life than them, and that doesn’t just mean the opportunities for cheaper imports. For an awful lot of people the vote was about sovereignty, the ability to set our own laws and regulations, control our own borders and budgets and, quite simply, not to be part of a federal super-state. The Crony Capitalists want their regulatory barriers to entry and subsidies while the political class crave the continued power of patronage, especially when it comes without the unpleasant burden of actually standing for election. As such they are trying to obstruct the will of the people as represented in the referendum, quite simply because it doesn’t suit their interests. To call the press fools to encourage foolish Brexit thinking is thus ironic. It is the remainer media – The TImes, Guardian, Indy, Observer, BBC, Sky, Channel 4 etc, egged on by the likes of Blair, Clegg and Mandelson who are encouraging the rest of the media/political classes to believe that they can ‘have another go’ until the public come up with the ‘correct answer’. In the meantime the majority of MPs are doing there best to make such a pig’s ear of things that somehow staying in their beloved superstate will be seen as a preferred option.
    The fact that unpicking the last 40 years will be difficult does not mean it shouldn’t be done, nor that it can’t be done better. There is way to much bad intent around, sadly.

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