I’m probably reading too much into this but maybe not

In a tense press conference alongside his British counterpart David Davis after the third round of exit talks in Brussels, Michel Barnier was scathing about the UK’s approach to the financial settlement, citizens’ rights and hopes for future access to the single market.

He said some of the recent British proposals showed “a sort of nostalgia in the form of specific requests which would amount to continuing to enjoy the benefits of the single market and EU membership without actually being part of it”.

His remarks drew an acid response from Davis, the UK’s Brexit secretary, who remarked that Barnier should not “confuse a belief in the free market with nostalgia”.

Over there (or, to me, over here) one can read the attitude as that free trade is some great privilege, some prize for which a toll should and must be paid to the bureaucracy. Over here (or, me, there) at least among the sensible free trade is the natural order of things and why wouldn’t everyone want it anyway, whatever the bureaucracy?

Thus some of the incomprehension here.

Of course, if that analysis is correct then we’ve really got to leave. Who wants to be run by people so wrong on something so basic?

52 thoughts on “I’m probably reading too much into this but maybe not”

  1. Obviously the Graun has been reporting these talks as if the EU is always right and the UK is always in the wrong hence, for Graun remoaners, these are not negotiations between equals but rather victory talks whereby the UK should just accept whatever terms are supplied.

    Also, Barnier is in the unfortunate position of not being able to negotiate in good faith. 27 governments have told him what they want him to achieve and all he can do is to keep insisting that the UK needs to accept whatever he offers. He has no room for flexibility

  2. It would be nice if you could open a city centre restaurant or nightclub without having to pay protection money as well.

    I mean the protection you pay to the local government as well as the set you pay to the local hoods. And possibly the third set to the local government employees.

    Idealism – meet the real world, take a back seat, and let utilitarianism make the decisions.

  3. Davis needs to hammer home that the “benefits” of SM/CU membership to the UK were never as great as the costs, but free trade is a worthwhile goal for all parties and is in fact worth more to the EU than the UK.

  4. It’s as if they think that tariffs are the Natural Order Of Things and almost automatically impose themselves by default. With this framework, it’s easy to see why the hard-of-thinking might conclude that a free-trade agreement is an aberration won after difficult fight against nature.

  5. @Alex,

    Of course there is a racket element. Please show me an industry where there is no element of rent – political structures are the same. There is also a racket element to the British government, German government, and Nether Wallop Metropolitan Borough Council.

    The empirical fact is that independent countries not members of trade blocks are more protectionist than the EU is.

    Of course it’s debatable whether the price of admission is worth it. Britain believes it is not worth it, so is exercising its right to withdraw and stop paying the admission price. The cost of that so far being a ~20% devaluation.

    Tim is an idealist. A free trade fundamentalist to the point that he’s happy to pull back from something closer to free trade than any of the other options currently available because it’s not perfect and costs too much.

    In fact he’s happy to declare unilateral free trade (what about cocaine, machine guns, and other nasties?), but doesn’t accept that that is politically unfeasible – the demos will not support that. Proving that, sometimes, the demos gets it wrong.

  6. @abacab,

    Of course free trade should be the Natural Order Of Things and we should not have to fight for it. Like many things*, It is not and we do.

    * – See: universal suffrage, absence of slavery, freedom of establishment, women’s rights, due process, freedom of contract, right to travel, etc etc etc.

  7. Bloke in Germany

    Yours is an interesting departure from the usual golf club analogy. You share, however, the same misunderstanding, that we alone are seeking to set up a restaurant on their turf, play golf on their course. So let me explain free trade to you – I know you will be outraged as you you clearly don’t need lessons in free trade; except you so do. They are also seeking to set up a restaurant in our city. The natural order of things is we BOTH allow EACH OTHER to get on with it. When one party believes it is in a position to extract protection money from the other and that other isn’t a vulnerable weakling lie,say, Greece, then that other party has a duty to do exactly what we are presently doing.

  8. @Ironman,

    I think Britain’s basic problem is actually that the price of admission is a flat fee that pays for a lot more than what should be the rather minimal costs of administering a free trade bloc. That’s a consequence of the fact that things simply evolved along those lines – politicans always want to do more, if you like.

    My reason for thinking this it that Britain hasn’t given a shit about EU external tarrifs, up until this point.

    And it is perfectly reasonable to ask if you want that package deal and choose not to have it. So Britain has freed itself from the cheapest and least noticeable (for most people) level of government it has. But the rest of them? Oh no, BoJo wants to keep those!

  9. I also think you see the EU27 as “the EU”. The fact is that every other state is in the same relationship to the EU superstructure as pre-Brexit Britain was. And we did get to set up our restaurants on the turf of those 27 and they on ours. Setting up a restaurant on the turf of the EU doesn’t make sense (outside the staff canteens in Brussels, I suppose).

  10. politicans always want to do more

    One of the problems with the EU is that the politicians in the Commission take many of the decisions largely unconstrained by any democratic control. If the UK PM decides to impose unnecessary (or simply unpopular) government controls, we, the people, can throw the blighters out. In the case of Juncker, not so much.

  11. You have enough tripe to open your own butcher’s shop Biggie. Hell why not? Turning Europe into a butcher’s shop is a a good old German game.

    Go along to get along? Drop your pants and grab your ankles?

    Fluellen answered you better than I can:

    “If the enemy is an ass and a fool and a prating
    coxcomb, is it meet, think you, that we should also, look you, be an ass and a fool and a prating coxcomb?”

    Let alone dogs who crawl around the corrupt table of our enemies.

    Fry your own fish Biggie. And get yourself that gun before the beard-boys come calling on you.

  12. “Britain hasn’t given a shit about EU external tarrifs, up until this point.”

    That did strike me as a glaring omission from the Leave campaign. Dan Hannan (bless the ground he walks on) wrote about tarrifs and certainly would wax lyrical in the debates I saw.

    But he seemed a lone voice. I don’t recall many others beating the drum over how evil tarrifs (especially the abhorrent CAP actually are.

    It seems odd – I found tarrifs to be a strong point in discussions with Remainers that gave several of them pause. There just wasn’t (isn’t) much awareness of this issue.

  13. “I think Britain’s basic problem is actually that the price of admission is a flat fee that pays for a lot more than what should be the rather minimal costs of administering a free trade bloc.”

    I think that the EU’s basic problem is thinking that there needs to be administration of a free trade bloc. Australia and NZ have free trade in goods and services (with a few exemptions) and free movement of people. No need for some overarching body to run it.

  14. @Biggie “Nether Wallop Metropolitan Borough Council”.
    It’s a parish council, and the amount of tax they extract through precept is likely to be negligible, particularly if they have a volonteer clerk, probably just gouging locals for the cost of cutting a few hedges.
    Perhaps the British are less used to paying danegeld to keep branches of government afloat.

  15. The Unused Testicle

    Tariffs.

    We will have to accept that the EU will impose huge tariffs on goods and services coming from the UK into the EU.The idea has always been that nothing comes into the EU from outside. There is nothing we can do about that.

    If they decide to be (possibly) unique in the world and subject their exports to the UK to a tariff, there’s nothing we can do about that either. Only the individual countries in the EU can try to do anything about that.

    Finally, the EU is famed for breaking its own laws when it’s expedient. So why are we wasting so much time “negotiating”?

    When I voted for Brexit, I did so in the full and certain knowledge that the EU would make our exit as painful and humiliating as they possibly could to make us as poor as they could.

    So negotiating and paying them a brass farthing are exercises in futility. We could pay them £500 billion and they’d still spit in our face.

  16. The Unused Testicle

    I say “negotiating” because the uncivil service are doing their best to ensure that the whole process of Brexit is an abject failure, to teach a lesson to the great unwashed who were stupid enough to vote to leave the sacred EU

  17. “The idea has always been that nothing comes into the EU from outside. There is nothing we can do about that.”

    Aside from almost all clothing coming from China and Bangladesh, electronics from China and Korea, cars from Japan, rice coming from all over the non-EU world and and and and and….. :/

    In Holland we also got green beans airfreighted in from Ethiopia…

  18. @Geoff Taylor “That did strike me as a glaring omission from the Leave campaign. ”

    You don’t say. The whole campaign was poorly explained. At no point did we ever see the total costs and benefits of EU membership laid out. Instead we got endless special interest groups telling us that their £1m benefit was important (and sod the billions the rest of us pay to make it happen).

    Almost as if someone had something to hide.

  19. The government seriously need to frame the argument here.

    EU commission: UK must hand over subs for EU institutions.

    Britain: It’s a trivial thing to demonstrate that free trade generates money all round. Your saying only members get free trade? really? OK we’ll need to know how much poorer everyone’s going to be due to EU tariffs before we agree to a final figure on the Subs.

  20. @TUT ‘We will have to accept that the EU will impose huge tariffs on goods and services coming from the UK”

    There never were and never will be tariffs on services. Most UK exports of goods have very low or nil tariffs. The main exception being cars and food, both of which we import more from the EU than they import from us. Their call if they want a free trade deal.

  21. I think that the EU’s basic problem is thinking that there needs to be administration of a free trade bloc. Australia and NZ have free trade in goods and services (with a few exemptions) and free movement of people. No need for some overarching body to run it.

    The mistake here is to think of the EU as a free trade block. It isn’t.

    At best the trade related part of the EU is a customs union and nothing more. The level of regulation of EU goods is extraordinary and the requirement that such regulations must apply to all transactions (including the 90% or whatever that is purely UK internal) is beyond belief.

    The EU is little more than an attempt at invasion by economic rather than military means. Britain might have escaped again (as we did in 1940), but it will be a close run thing.

    Meanwhile our follow Europeans remain under the bureaucratic jackboot because of the corruption of their own local politicians.

    I suspect the Visegrád group (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia) will be next to attempt to break free, although I suspect they will wait to see the outcome of BRExit first.

    Since the EU money to Poland and others will tail off after 2020 (and their contributions rise), I suspect we will see an attempt at V4Exit around that time.

    Hopefully, this time we will get the European free trade zone that we actually want rather than the one the EU bureaucracy wishes to impose in exchange for Danegeld.

  22. Knowing Me, Knowing Steve

    Diogenes says Obviously the Graun has been reporting these talks as if the EU is always right and the UK is always in the wrong

    Yarp x 1000.

    Like The Unused Testicle, I’m not even sure why we’re negotiating at all. It’s obviously not in good faith on the EU’s part, starting with their demands for more cash before we leave.

    We’ve been massive net contributors to the EU for decades. So for why do we owe them money?

  23. Guy Verhofstadt is now claiming that the EU has always bent over backwards to be accommodating to the UK. Obviously the Verhof manœuvre will be useful in a forthcoming opus

  24. of course spud u don’t like has chipped in with one of his doom and gloom pieces about how wonderful the eu is and everything will turn to shit when we havent the german jackboot crushing our windpipe. Forgets to mention that he’s the beneficiary of eu largesse so he can continue his one campaign of demonstrating his idiocy and cowardice. he talks about trying to reform the eu from the inside. Didn’t we already try that and were given the finger? Perhaps he out to move to brussels. i hear Molenbeek is nice.

  25. Like The Unused Testicle, I’m not even sure why we’re negotiating at all. It’s obviously not in good faith on the EU’s part, starting with their demands for more cash before we leave.

    It is right that Britain continues to negotiate with the EU in good faith (as we have always attempted to do with our continental allies, even when they belittle us beforehand and stab us in the back afterwards).

    The current BRexit deal negotiations are little more than theatre, a pantomime necessary to show that the UK attempted to negotiate in good faith and the EU frustrated that.

    Regardless of the actors the roles cannot be played differently.

    We’ve been massive net contributors to the EU for decades. So for why do we owe them money?

    At its simplest level it is because there must be a penalty for leaving the project, otherwise any member state could feel free to leave at any time.

    More significantly it is because the EU has made commitments based upon the totality of membership contributions in the 2014-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework agreed by the European Parliament and Member states in 2013.

    Clearly this did not take into account the loss of UK Membership contributions from April 2019 onwards. In essence, the EU is attempting to force the UK to cover the deficit through to 2020.

    This is a bit like you quitting the golf club and them telling you they will go bust if you stop paying, so you’ll have to pay a lump sum to cover their losses.

  26. I think Britain’s basic problem is an EU mentality. Like TUT said, the purpose of negotiations is failure.

    Britain should publish their date certain departure. Nothing else. There is nothing to negotiate.

    ‘financial settlement’

    You gotta be kidding?

    citizens’ rights

    UK citizens have rights; yours don’t (except for basic human rights)

    ‘access to the single market’

    Like the rest of the non-EU world has.

  27. he talks about trying to reform the eu from the inside. Didn’t we already try that and were given the finger?

    Indeed. I always thought Cameron was a fool for the whole “EU tour on renegotiation”, but it clearly demonstrated the absolute contempt that our so-called partners had for both EU reform generally and UK goals on reform specifically. This was despite the reforms being requested by Cameron being the weakest of watered down shit imaginable.

    We’ve tried being reasonable and attempting reform since Major and nothing of any significance has been achieved, only temporary UK opt-outs of the most egregious parts. You can’t reform the EU because it is not open to reform. It is the road to a European super state and that road only goes in one direction.

  28. “We will have to accept that the EU will impose huge tariffs on goods and services coming from the UK into the EU. …. If they decide to …subject their exports to the UK to a tariff …”

    So not only kick their own people in the goolies for the crime of buying UK goods, they kick their own manufacturers in the goolies for the crime of selling goods to the UK. Madness!

    Ah ha! but tariffs go to the EU coffers, not states’ coffers! The EU treasury has to make up the money it will lose from the UK leaving.

  29. Knowing Me, Knowing Steve

    John – I’m sure you’re right, I just don’t see the value in this failure theatre. Looks like a mug’s game to me.

    It’s the same old same old, at the worst possible time for doing the same old crap that failed us before. The public is sick of politics as usual. If we wanted more of the same, we wouldn’t have voted Leave.

    The question every right wing politician in the Western world should be asking himself is WWTD?

    What would Trump do? Not the media caricature Trump. The guy who singlehandedly changed the course of history and revived the fortunes of the political Right just as the Left was prematurely dancing on its grave.

    Up until 9 months ago all the Smart People in the US were saying the Republicans were probably demographically locked out of the White House forever and had better get used to the imported new majority twerking on the ruins of Western civilisation while electing socialist presidents forever.

    What would Trump do? He’d probably send some shitlord negotiatiors in to keep Barnier busy while the real work went on at an intergovernmental level.

    Skillfully exploit the gaps between our opponents. Love-bomb the increasingly Eurosceptic East Europeans, make use of French self-interest. Find new ways of creating win-win deals across the continent. For example, Italy, Spain and Greece have major problems we can help with – if they scratch our back. Why shouldn’t we, for instance, send the Royal Navy to help defend the Med from “migrants?”.

    We could change the conversation entirely. This is the sort of thing Britain used to be good at. Not sitting on our hands while people who mean us harm set the agenda.

    Theresa May is not long for this political world, so whoever replaces her would be wise to catch on. This isn’t the Oxford Union. Nobody’s going to award us points for form.

  30. “I think Britain’s basic problem is actually that the price of admission is a flat fee that pays for a lot more than what should be the rather minimal costs of administering a free trade bloc.”

    Thats because the EU is not a free trade bloc, its a putative State, and acts like one.

    “This is a bit like you quitting the golf club and them telling you they will go bust if you stop paying, so you’ll have to pay a lump sum to cover their losses.”

    In which case you tell them to go swivel, because you paid last years membership sub, and never signed anything that committed you to continuing to pay a penny if you decided to leave.

  31. I suspect that the simplest response to the tarif question is:

    “We will not impose tariffs on EU goods into the UK. However, if you impose tariffs on UK goods into the EU (and remember you’re limited to WTO rules), we’ll impose exactly the same rates. Our rate will thus track your rate 1 for 1. Your move”.

    And then go to the French and say “you know, if the EU were to impose tariffs on our alcohol and dairy products, it wouldn’t look so good for the French wine & cheese industry now, would it?” Then do the same with the Germans and motor cars, etc etc etc.

  32. @abacab: that won’t work, because we aren’t allowed under WTO rules to discriminate between countries with a tariff on cheese (say). So if France puts a 20% tariff on UK cheese exports, and we retaliate with 20% on theirs, we also have to charge 20% on Swiss gruyere.

    So any tariff we impose on any given product from the EU would increase the cost of that product from all sources, worldwide.

  33. @Jim again – although, the EU is bound by the same constraint then, no?

    And why do we lose out – we’re currently behind the EU tariff wall, so if we end up (temporarily, hopefully), imposing EU-level tariffs on certain products, the status quo pertains there, no?

  34. Bloke in North Dorset

    abacab,

    “Aside from almost all clothing coming from China and Bangladesh,”
    Not for long:https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2016/jul/16/robot-factories-threaten-jobs-millions-garment-workers-south-east-asia-women

    “The jobs of nearly 90% of garment and footwear workers in Cambodia and Vietnam are at risk from automated assembly lines – or “sewbots” – according to a new report from the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

    There are 9 million people, mostly young women, dependent upon jobs in textiles, garments, and footwear within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) economic area, which includes Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia. These are the workers the ILO identifies as most susceptible to losing their jobs to the new robot workforce.”

    And the fuckers still aren’t happy that this will bring an end to sweatshops and may even bring textile manufacturing back to U.K.

  35. Germans gotta be German.

    I’m a first generation Canadian. I entered adulthood with only 2 Canadian brothers, 14 German aunts and uncles and over 90 German cousins. I still get over there a lot, they come visit me and I am fluent in Krautish, my mother tongue.

    There is a strong strain of “Alles nicht verboten ist verpflichtet, und alles nicht verpflichtet ist verboten.” (Everything not forbidden is mandatory, and everything not mandatory is forbidden] in Germans. Very strong.

    And really, the quote should really be “…is forbidden, unless licensed by the state”.

    Since German seems mostly to run the EU, and as free trade is not mandatory, it is forbidden, unless licensed by the state.

    I can’t really speak about the Frogs and Belgians, but really they’re just an odd mix of German and Gael, so likely just as mad as the worst of both. The Dutch are of course the most mad of the Germans. And you’ll notice that the upper class rulers of Spain and Northern Italy all have fair hair, eyes and skin.

    So, what do you expect? You Brits seem to have somehow gotten rid of most of your ancestral Germanic authoritarianism but forgotten what it means.

  36. I was rather hoping that there would be massive tariffs against UK exports to the UK, so that we could retaliate, and all those twats driving German cars without indicators would find spare parts and replacements hard to come by. Incidentally, are the leather seats in Krautmobiles still made of human skin (several suppliers across Germany and Poland), or has the supply dried up? Vote Corbyn, and we’ll have out own home-grown supply here.

    And Jim, FFS. We put the tariffs on – or not – as we see fit, after we are out.

  37. David Davis had this right – the real work will be done with the member states who will agree to a deal and then this will be imposed on the Commission. The main issue is that the critical deal has to be done with the Germans – who are busy until the election is over. Since the damage to German manufacturing from a major dislocation of the auto sector would be high, the Germans will prioritise a decent trade deal, and Juncker and Barnier will be forced to fall into line.

    Would the EU like the UK to cave and agree to a permanent transition including single market and free movement? Of course. Will they agree to a deal with free trade and a modest contribution? Yes, if they cannot get anything better. It’s the job of the DExEu to get it to the point that the EU cannot get anything better. And agreeing to pay money in without anything in return would be a step towards a permanent transition, which is why it has to be a quid pro quo transaction.

  38. @ken “Will they agree to a deal with free trade and a modest contribution?”

    I doubt the EU would make any contribution. Oh you mean we pay them for a free trade deal? As various people have been saying, no deal is actually better than that.

  39. The Moggster (pbuh) was on Any Questions this evening and pointed out how unlikely it was that if it were a net recipient state leaving the EU, the Commissioners would be chasing after them demanding to continue paying them for years after they had left. Once you see it in that light, it becomes obvious that this whole ‘bill for leaving’ is just a farce.

  40. Abacab: “I suspect that the simplest response to the tarif question is:

    “We will not impose tariffs on EU goods into the UK. However, if you impose tariffs on UK goods into the EU (and remember you’re limited to WTO rules), we’ll impose exactly the same rates. Our rate will thus track your rate 1 for 1. Your move”.

    And then go to the French and say “you know, if the EU were to impose tariffs on our alcohol and dairy products, it wouldn’t look so good for the French wine & cheese industry now, would it?” Then do the same with the Germans and motor cars, etc etc etc.”

    But that would be idiocy. Why make your consumers pay more for stuff because someone else wants to do the same to their consumers?

    Everyone is a consumer, very few people are exporters.

  41. Got fedup of the spudotollahs simpering EU arselicking so gave him both barrels –
    “bob garrod says:
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    September 2 2017 at 2:08 am
    You do realise of course that the vast majority of countries in the world exist outside the EU ? Someone once described remainers as both pompous and pathetic – ie we know best but we’re so hopeless without nanny to tell us what to do. The fact the the southern half of europes economies seem to be basket cases with large levels of unemployment especially of young people seems to have passed you by. Exactly what has the EU inflicted on Greece – a better future with wonderful opportunities? You may be passionate about staying in the eu – but then again you fail to mention your vested interest in staying in the eu as they are partly your paymasters. Others including myself see it as a bloated bureaucracy who often seem to have little concern about the ordinary concerns of it’s citizens or nation states. Nations working together for a better present is a great idea – but the EU is not the answer. Basic economic s ( you claim to be an economist) describe how in large businesses the managers of the company often work for the benefits of themselves rather than the interests of the ordinary shareholders- hence the bloated salaries of chief executives in the west. I see no difference between that and the EU. How many presidents has the EU got – can’t remember if it’s 4 or 5, plus the 10000+ bureaucrats in brussels earning £150000 per annum. The European parliament cannot even iniatiate legislation of it’s own and is just a rubber stamp organisation. You can claim that the EU is democratic but the power is so divorced from the average citizen , that it’s meaningless. Who honestly would vote for Juncker – a man with a drink problem , who was involved in dodgy tax deals whilst in charge of luxembourg setting up sweet heart deals so companies could avoid tax in other EU countries. Tax Justice ????. You often tell of your visits to brussels – a city run down in the 1980s transformed by huge office blocks built by the eu – in fact whole neighbourhoods were demolished to build some of these buildings- empire building at it’s finest. You advise reform – but thats a dead duck – it’s been tried before and ignored.

    I’m sorry but if you keep up this panglossian fiction of the eu you come across as a shill – a paid one at that.”

    Expect yet another ban in the morning – but feel better for it.

  42. @Wat Dabney:

    I think Britain should just not show up for these meetings one day, and never go back.

    While justifiable, it would just give the EU and more importantly the Remoaners another stick to beat us with. David Davis is a bit of a prick but he’s not a complete fool.

    He knows that by turning up and engaging constructively on his part (even if that means saying no to EU demands for Danegeld repeatedly until he is blue in the face) is the only way to get through to the representatives of the Turd Reich that we will pay what we owe and not a penny more, but also that while we are leaving the EU we are doing so constructively with a view to our future partnerships.

    Displays of petulance (justified or not) play into that and is almost certainly why Michel Barnier was appointed to the task by Jean-Claude Juncker. Barnier is not just a rabid-Europhile, but a rabid Anglo-phobe (or whatever the correct terminology)

    Once the Germans re-engage after the election there might be a more balanced approach (including parallel trade negotiations), possibly even a change of negotiator to someone more in tune with the Germanic view, but that will be as far as it goes.

    I don’t expect the “Britain must pay what it owes” line to fade away.

  43. Can’t we just go into EFTA for a bit? Our contributions under the EEA agreement (aid paid directly to the poorer EU members) taking the place of our contributions to the EU budget *and* being counted again as part of the foreign aid target, so having the potential to be a net saving for the UK taxpayer as long as the foreign aid budget was held at the target and not increased?

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