Sunday 25 February 2018

As the Labour policy approves 'a' customs union...

First of all, let's crack this one about trade outside the EU allowing expansion just as we would want.

We go to China for a trade deal. What do we have to give to get a look-in at their huge market? Surely as we go with a 'need for a deal', we discover a renewed threat regarding steel imports and the viability of the UK steel industry. China needs to face a large bloc for the rest of us to have a chance to get a grip on a Chinese view of making and selling steel.

We say to the United States, we want a trade deal with you. The United States says, if you want a deal with us, it must include our agriculture. Don't expect to see cattle on the prairies like we see them in our UK fields. They are in sheds, a miserable, intensive, life. Chicken? Ugh.

Or we say welcome back to the Australians and New Zealand. Can we have a trade deal with you? Watch out UK farmers! Here comes cheap lamb, undercutting, as if life on the hills isn't tough enough already.

 The Indians have already told us the terms of a free trade agreement with them: much more immigration into the UK of Indian nationals. Given that the referendum was in large about immigration, that will be an interesting agreement.

This is why blocs must do trade deals, or very large economies.

In any case, can the UK do trade deals? Powers from the EU given to devolved parliaments and assemblies create their own divergence. We'd have to have 'common standards' in the UK, and then would it be the UK government doing trade deals, or Scotland, Wales and whoever runs Northern Ireland?

Meanwhile, Labour has shifted policy. It will now press for 'a customs union' which, presumably, could be The Customs Union but Labour has a problem with that. Labour wants a customs union in which we have an input, unlike buying into the EU customs union from the outside.

It doesn't take long to realise the problem with this. The Customs Union of the EU is an integral part of EU decision making, in which we have been a part. There cannot be two customs unions, each making different decisions, just as regulatory alignment means The Single Market in minature on a product by product basis. The EU guards its independent and complete decision making jealously, and all paying hangers-on do as it determines.

This is why a free trade deal is never up to much. So long as a nation state retains its own regulatory autonomy, then not much is possible. Canada's deal also says: if another nation gets a better deal then this also applies to Canada. So Canada plus plus plus is Canada. It's called 'Most Favoured Nation' and built into the Canada deal. Canada does not have regulatory alignment. So the United Kingdom won't get much from a free trade deal, and it will take years to achieve.

So a Customs Union is The Customs Union, or it is nothing. So is The Single Market. The given model is Norway or the European Economic Area. It is a passive role, of occasional meetings about interests but not decision making.

Thus it is, for sovereignty, and for economics (but also for much else), that we may as well make our apologies to the European Council and European Commission, stop this stupidity, and stay within the European Union.

No more referenda - divisive and misinformed, except to confirm a major, made, constitutional decision. We have representative democracy, giving to MPs the time and space to come to reasoned decisions along party preferences. No parliament ever can bind another; a General Election renews the body politic.

It is time for the House of Commons to grab the centre and control of this whole Brexit madness. At the minimum, of course, it should vote across parties to institute Single Market and Customs Union membership - and the Fixed Term Parliament Act can prevent a General Election in order to do it.

The Conservative Government Cabinet is; divided on the Europe issue, but a policy of divergence (managed or otherwise) will not carry the House of Commons or the House of Lords and is utterly unsuitable for Ireland. So the House of Commons must grab the initiative and take the decisions with the Lords scrutinising. I see a core behind the scenes role for the Liberal Democrats here, more so than Labour, although the 'remainers' in the large parties are getting together.

Or, let us have this General Election, and stand for policies regarding the European Union. Candidates make it clear that they are in, out or shaking it about. The country can then decide. I don't think a referendum on 'the deal' will do it: Parliament is quite capable of responding to the deal.

The options stay the same. 1) We are out, and severely damaged and go into a low cost, low wage capital-poor (low productivity), poor welfare, economy off the shores of Europe. 2) We have a connection via the Single Market and Customs Union, but cannot join in deciding policies. 3) Or we stay in.

Staying in is logical, and it is about sharing sovereignty in a confederation that is the European Union. It is about liberties, peace, standards, economic overlapping, and liberal democracy. Of course there should be an elected President of the Commission, the body that proposes and regulates, and we should be fully in this. It is still a confederacy, because power is with the Council of Ministers. It was time the public was educated about how these institutions work, rather than being subjected to the media diet of tribal drivel that has dominated for far too long.