Willy Hutton on the EU

Geographically and culturally, even they concede we are part of this continent and share its destiny.

That\’s rather the thing you see.

On the technical point, about trade geography, he\’s confused. It used to be true that physical geography was important here. Now it simply isn\’t. It\’s whether you are on the container routes or not. Stuttgart and Shenzen are about the same \”trade distance\” apart from each others as Stuttgart and Sheffield these days. No, it\’s not exactly true but for manufactured goods whether you\’ve got to pay $100 a tonne or $150 a tonne to move them from producer to customer really isn\’t an important number. That\’s just noise.

The delight in this is of course that the first container ship set sail 6 months before the Treaty of Rome was signed. The very ideal, that close geographical neighboutrs should trade more with each other was made archaic before it was even put into practice.

On the other point, culture, he\’s simply wrong. As you know I\’ve bopped about the world a bit. Done business here and there. And we really do share more of our culture with other parts of the Anglosphere than we do with France or Italy. And certainly more so than Greece, Slovenia or Latvia. Sure,we have a certain shared history with some of the places. Others we\’ve had almost no contact with over the millennia. But current culture, structure of economies, laws, ways of interacting, we\’ve really much more in common with many outside the EU than we do with those inside it.

The basic premise from which Hutton starts just doesn\’t really add up.

16 comments on “Willy Hutton on the EU

  1. Sorry, Tim but surely geography does still mater; the gravity model is a good explainer of trade patterns:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gravity_model_of_trade
    Surely, the fact that the UK exports almost as much to Ireland as to the four Brics combined is a clue?
    Or maybe if geography doesn’t matter, then history does, and so the fact that geography mattered in the past matters now.
    (I’m not sure this has bearing on whether we should be in or our of the EU)

    Tim adds: Deeply unconvinced by the gravity model. for it depends when you construct it. What the method of transport was when you did. Cornawall was trading tin with Phoenicia before it was trading corn with East Anglia for example. Because shipping was the only useful method of long distance transport at the time. construct your model around the time of the railways and roads and you’ll get a different answer. Now with containers, different again.

  2. And this shared culture thing tends to be a series of unholy alliances to enable nations to gang up against or defend themselves from other unholy alliances.

  3. Let’s face it, at root Hutton’s proposition is racist. And according to the modern dogma there can be no more evil thing.

  4. Chris,

    Isn’t the Irish trade observation more easily explained by the fact that being such a small nation so close to such an economic powerhouse (more historical than recent I’ll admit) Irish businesses haven’t started up because they had to compete with established busiensses in the UK?

  5. Hmm culturally I do reckon a kid from Camberwell probably has more in common with a kid from a Paris Banlieue than a kid from New Zealand or Australia.

    I lived on the continent for a long time and people my age from western Europe all had watched the same movies, bought the same records, had the same toys and games when growing up. Right the way from Scandinavia to Gibralter. I imagine MTV Europe had quite a big effect and on our generation and may go someway to explain how pretty much everyone speaks some English.

  6. @DrMakkajaz ‘Hmm culturally I do reckon a kid from Camberwell probably has more in common with a kid from a Paris Banlieue than a kid from New Zealand or Australia. ‘

    I think that depends entirely on which kid in Camberwell, which kid in Paris and which Aussie or Kiwi.

    I’ve been to Paris and I’ve been all over Oz, and I have a lot more in common with people, certainly white, Christian-background people, in Oz than any people in Paris. Language, for a (very obvious) start, but we grew up watching Neighbours (I didn’t personally) and going on Lions/Ashes tours etc.

    I can quite see how a Pakistani Muslim in camberwell might have a different position on this, depending on the Aussie.

  7. I doubt I have anything in common with the lazy Europeans.
    Hutton is an arse, having things in common hardly means giving all your money away and being ruled by them.

  8. @Interested

    I prefered home and away!

    Its just my observation really from mixing with students/young professionals on the continent in the 00s. Culture has been globalized, everybody watched Pulp fiction just maybe with subtitles.

    But the other point would be I’m not from London and grew up when indigenous white people weren’t a minority in that city. My observation is that 15 year olds in 2013, in very ethincally diverse working class areas of London or Paris have more in common with each other than the kids of say Perth which frankly by comparison is a paradise. It’s just a guess, I havn’t actually bothered to ask them on recent trips to either city as another guess is that both of them would try to mug me :)

  9. Why do trade links have to be exclusive? Does trading with the EU preclude trading with other countries? Of course not. If the EU’s standardisation-rules (in any particular area) are beneficial within the EU, then they should be extended outside the EU as well – they’d be good global standards to have (for example EuroNCAP). If they’re so costly, for so little benefit, that we can’t trade with those outside the EU as a result, then we ought not to have such rules within the EU either.

    Ultimately, all these arguments one way or another about the EU, UK, and so-on serve as a proof-by-contradiction of the theory that countries are obsolete, since all of the possible conclusions are completely absurd.

  10. Ever wondered how the UK went from a Commonwealth free-trade area set up by the Ottawa Accords in 1932 to getting stuck with the EU instead?NB the Union( with Europe) Movement was Oswald Mosley’s second big idea in the interim.Key moment: negotiations over so-called Atlantic Charter (nobody signed it) when Churchill jibbed at free trade in raw materials “Without discrimination and on equal terms”. Churchill:”I pointed out that the words ‘without discrimination’ might be held to call in question the Ottawa agreements and I was in no position to acccept them.Mr Sumner Welles indicated that this was the core of the matter and that this paragraph embodied the idea for which the State department had striven for the past nine years”
    The State department had been gunning for the Ottawa Accords from the word Go. Enoch Powell remained convinced that the USA wanted to exert trade hegemony over our former markets till the end of his days.Partocularly towards the end, when he published virulently Anti American articles in The Guardian.

  11. “I lived on the continent for a long time and people my age from western Europe all had watched the same movies, bought the same records, had the same toys and games when growing up.”

    You mean everyone across Europe watches the same American and UK TV programmes ? So what do you think kids in Australia watch ?

  12. There was a time a short while ago when it could be said that there was more connection between England and the continent than between England and Australia. That’s the time when Oz was 10 years behind the rest of the world in culture and fashion etc. That backwardness was down to the communication problems, it being a looong way away from everyone else. But with the Internet, Oz has now caught up. Now they get stuff at the same time as the rest of the English speaking world. So there is more in common between the average person in England and Oz than between England and the continent. And by average I mean not capital city centric.

  13. Speaking from the opposite direction, as an ex-pat Aussie living in Britian I have to say I have much more in common with the Brits that anyone on the continent. Grew up watching Doctor Who and Fawlty Towers etc etc. Interestingly I also fine it pretty easy to get on with the North American Anglosphere, plus can relate to those former british colonies in Asia (HK and Singapore).

    As far as Australian being 10 years behind the world in culture and fashion, I kind of hope that my former homeland has matured sufficiently to have its own style and culture. Certainly from the perspective of Music it has its own distinct flavour now.

    But I can certainly buy the argument that Britain should focus on the anglosphere.

  14. It occurs to me that it doesn’t matter in this context whether the gravity model of trade is
    true or not. If it’s true, there is an advantage for your nearby trading partners to trade
    with you so closer political union is unnecessary – they’ll want to do it anyway. If it’s
    false, you’re preferring local partners over others for no good reason. Either way, there’s no upside.

    To put it another way, we in Australia manage to conduct a huge amount of trade with China and
    Japan without any commonality of culture or or political integration.

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