Not wholly and exactly Jonathan

Perhaps we’re so hardened, or punch-drunk, after a year of being battered by the pandemic that we don’t quite register how shocking this is. We stand this weekend on the brink of a no-deal crash-out from the European Union: the very outcome that all but the most extreme Brexiters once agreed would be a catastrophe for this country, an outcome our leaders insisted would never happen.

Of course, there might be one last twist. Perhaps Boris Johnson will hail himself as a hero with a breakthrough before the weekend is out. But both he and Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European commission, are bracing themselves for failure, the latter counselling Europe’s leaders that no deal is now the likeliest outcome.

Remind yourself that this is a total reversal of everything the Brexiters ever said.

At least one stout Brexiteers, not a million miles away from here, has been shouting for a long time that reversion to WTO rules would be a very decent outcome. For it would allow us to – as no other deal would – revert to unilateral free trade. That state which is to be desired for itself.

54 thoughts on “Not wholly and exactly Jonathan”

  1. Remind yourself that this is a total reversal of everything the Brexiters ever said.

    You might as well remind yourself (should you need to) that Teresa May repeatedly said that “No deal was better than a bad deal” and she was a remainer.

    You have to feel sorry for the Irish because all of the punishments the EU plans for the UK will hurt Ireland more. On second thoughts you might prefer to remind yourself that Varadker and Coveney were in the vanguard of those making life difficult and have a loud guffaw instead.

    Irexit next?

    Or Polexit perhaps?

  2. The EU has repeatedly made it clear that the UK must not benefit from leaving the EU, thus no deal benefitting the UK is possible. The gov might as well have spent the last four and a half years camping on the shores of Loch Ness looking for the monster as trying to find one.

  3. Don’t know about other Brexiteers, but a no-deal, clean break was the minimum acceptable option.

    i still look forward to the streets of Brussels running red with the blood of the Eurocrats and the rat-a=tat-tat as the guns of the revolution express their doleful parole.

  4. I’m not a fan of BloJo, but the shameless lying about him but presstitutes makes me want to unleash my man-eating blood-crazed attack kitties:

    Exactly a year ago tomorrow, he won a general election by swearing that a Brexit deal was “oven-ready”

    Pretty sure that would be the unloved Withdrawal Agreement, which was indeed concluded swiftly and with relatively little drama.

    Sure, the Tories now like to say they were referring only to the withdrawal agreement (the same text Johnson later condemned as contradictory and sought to rewrite).

    But plenty of voters thought the deal was done – and Johnson was happy for them to think it.

    Jonathan Freedland: psychic detective.

    It will shrink our GDP by at least an extra 2% on top of the 4% that would be inflicted by leaving the EU even with a trade agreement. It will cripple our exports. The more than 50% of our imports that come from the EU will be disrupted or become more expensive, whether that be food, medicine, chemicals or industrial components. The tariff on basic foodstuffs will be 20% or more – and this in a time of rising food poverty.

    Piss off.

    The same people endlessly crying and lying about the supposedly deleterious effects of not paying Belgian kiddy fiddlers to rule us like Bourbon monarchs are also fully in favour of permanent economic depression in the name of half-witted Swedish goblins and “protecting” you from a cough with a 99.72% survival rate.

    Lions with frickin’ laser beams shooting out of their mouths.

  5. Obama has a new book out, endeavouring to explain why his presidency was the best evah despite its achievements being so minuscule. Why is Freedland writing about topics he cannot begin to understand rather than reminding himself of the qualities of the finest human being ever?

  6. It’s frustrating me the BBC don’t break down the positions more. Ok fisheries- i don’t care- well i do, but i could have fudged something or kicked to the long grass. But this level playing field thing. They report Boris’s position alright- he’s agreed not to “regress” (a major major concession- the one that should have sealed it) but he’s not agreeing to comply with new rules under threat of tariffs or whatever. Ok so far so good. Then BBC comes to the EU position. EU don’t want UK competing on their doorstep with different rules. Hold on,that might be a true statement but you surely have to go further than that. Because you have rules for the EU market and rules for the UK market it doesn’t follow that both can’t compete fairly. If you want to sell in one you have to obey those rules. Everyone could compete tariff free. There BBC end it. So is the problem that UK rules would favour UK domestic firms over EU exports to the UK. Not directly, i don’t think, t wouldn’t help them over EU imports from the UK.(cos they have to apply the EU rules). I don’t actually know, hence the frustration over the reporting. I suspect EU believes UK rules would be able to tailor them to optimise inward domestic and foreign investment, any sign of UK doing (even) better on that front would put pressure on other states to follow suit.

  7. If BoJo and the rest of the party wanted no-deal, they would have decided on it long ago and given the country time to prepare. Teasing businesses with the prospect of a deal then dropping it at the last minute is just reckless.

  8. Bloke in North Dorset

    As I understand it the first sticking point on level playing field negotiations was that the EU wanted to be able to impose tariffs if we didn’t follow their new regulations immediately without having to show they were harmed in any way. Boris wouldn’t last 5 minutes if that was agreed and they must have known it so it was an insult to even propose it.

    On fishing rights, we haven’t got the infrastructure to meet the current market so I don’t see a problem giving them some rights that decrease over time, nobody wins if we get dog in a manger over it. The key is that we are granting them rights and those can and should be renegotiated over time.

  9. Allthegoodnamesaretaken

    I take it you’re new to this EU thingammy jig?

    The key is that we are granting them rights and those can and should be renegotiated over time.

  10. “For it would allow us to – as no other deal would – revert to unilateral free trade. That state which is to be desired for itself.”

    Theoretically possible. But not politically possible. The new UK tariff regime looks closer to free trade than the protectionism of the EU. But there are reasons this government hasn’t, and won’t, opted for unilateral free trade, and it is about as free-trading a government as you can expect to be elected to power within the near future.

  11. @BiND

    https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/comment/the-eu-has-dangerously-misread-britain-tlltcnwj9/ is for some reason outside the pay wall and think you might like it.

    ” But much of the EU’s thinking reflects a mindset that fails to appreciate that the UK was quite serious about leaving in the first place. For instance, the EU is keen that Britain doesn’t deliver what it regards as unfair state aid when the Covid recovery starts. But the EU itself has no plans to restrict itself in this way and thinks that not only its coronavirus recovery scheme but the European Commission and European Investment Bank funding in general should be exempt from subsidy rules. It is not reciprocal for the EU to be able to exempt its €750 billion fund from the treaty’s subsidy rules when the UK’s post-Covid funding would be subject to them.

    These double standards would quickly pose problems in other areas. Imagine that the EU decides to fund development of a zero-emissions jet plane. “Supranational” subsidies for this project would not be caught in the current agreement, but if Johnson went ahead with a British “jet zero” he’d be expected to follow the treaty’s state-aid rules. This is not fair. The EU should make clear that for any EU-level funding that is exempt from state aid rules, a proportionate amount of UK funding would be permitted.

    The same problem can be seen in the biggest sticking point in the talks, the so-called ratchet clause. This is meant to address what happens if the EU tightens its regulations in one area and the UK does not follow suit. The EU wants the right to unilaterally impose tariffs in these circumstances. There would be no obligation to show that Britain’s different standards were distorting trade. The EU would simply be able to act. But Britain would not be able to hit back. The text proposed by the EU would block us from responding to measures that they thought were unfair or disproportionate with their tariffs.

    It is not sustainable to have a system where Brussels can act as judge and jury and then unilaterally disarm the UK to prevent it from taking countermeasures. There is, however, a potential solution to this problem. The EU could still have the right to respond if it increased regulations and Britain didn’t follow. It would, though, not be able to do this automatically. Rather, it would have to go to arbitration and show that the different standards were having a material effect. This would deal with the EU’s medium-term concern about Britain trying to undercut it while maintaining zero-tariff, zero-quota access to its market. It would also reassure the British side that it could not be subject to capricious actions by Brussels every time the EU introduced a relatively minor change.”

    No clue whether the article is accurate in its confident assertions about the current state of negotiations since so many conflicting reports seem to be emerging, even from the same side (one negotiator speaking anonymously rubbishes what another has told the press and so on) and dunno if the clean and simple proposals he puts forward to solve the problem have already been rejected for other reasons. But it at reads as better informed and less superficial than the majority of media coverage.

  12. I can’t understand how so many commentators are so insistant that the first thing we will do is shoot ourselves through the head and force ourselves to pay more for our imported food. And the EU would follow and shoot their own people in the head and force them to pay more for food they buy from the UK.

    I understand that lying is how they get paid, but I can’t understand how they can be so blatant and keep insisting on it.

  13. We voted to leave, not to accept a sellout “deal”.
    The question on the vote form was so simple that even a journalist should have understood it.
    That they appear not to have done so must therefore indicate deliberate lying: they have sold out to the EU blob and are doing their owners bidding. Before long, a period of silence might be wise.

  14. Bloke in North Dorset

    Thanks, MBE.

    More or less what the Spectator is reporting and they’re fairly well plugged in as well. (I can’t remember who it was but it was a senior Tory commented that James Forsyth had a Priest Hole in the cabinet room because he was so well informed)

  15. A chap writing in this morning’s Tel pointed out that our firms have already prepared for a no-deal Brexit so that there’s virtually no economic gain to be had by caving in now.

    How about this view? Since WWII there have only been three political giants in Western Europe (four if you count the Polish Pope) – Adenauer, de Gaulle, and Thatcher. All three were against Britain being in the EEC/EU. So why care about the views of midgets like Heath or Wilson, Cameron or Blair?

  16. jgh – yes to the first part: the UK can impose tarriffs as it sees fit with the proviso that the tarriff isn’t selective and applies across imports irrespective of origin. Not so much the second part, where the EU applies uniform tarriffs by category on all goods originating outside the EU.

    Consequently, EU importers of UK goods will now be charged a levy on those imports.

    However, what Freedland and the British Retail Consortium fail to recognise is that EU exports to the UK will no longer have a tarriff advantage over exports from other countries so UK consumers will inevitably buy fewer EU foodstuffs and substitute with food and drink from elsewhere.

    Where M Macron is making a fantastic bloomer is that this substitution effect will hit France’s wine and food sector (the second most important export category to the UK after motors) very hard. Consider how competetive, say, Chilean wine is already compared with the French and Italian wines and how much more competetive it will be when the high EU tarriffs currently charged against it are replaced by a tarriff applied for the first time to EU wines.

    Wine producers are particularly hard hit at the present time with heavy discounting of stocks to make space for the new vintage. Wealthy Chinese will still buy the finest Pomerols to mix with their Coca-cola but the rest of us in the UK will raise a glass or two of Chilean merlot with gusto.

  17. @jgh

    “I can’t understand how so many commentators are so insistant that the first thing we will do is shoot ourselves through the head and force ourselves to pay more for our imported food. And the EU would follow and shoot their own people in the head and force them to pay more for food they buy from the UK.

    I understand that lying is how they get paid, but I can’t understand how they can be so blatant and keep insisting on it.”

    They’re not lying. The tariffs that the EU will impose on the UK, and indeed the UK on EU (and the rest of the world) have already been published. The very first thing both sides are going to do is indeed (as you would see it) to each shoot themselves in the feet. There are political dynamics around agriculture that make this pretty much inevitable, but the fact it is going to happen is not misinformed speculation, it is someone looking at the published list of tariffs.

    @TMB

    Apparently the UK food and drink tariffs have been designed with the explicit intention of not substantially altering the mix of products imported. No idea why this was considered so politically desirable except to avoid disruption in agriculture. But then the disruptive effect of trade is supposed to be a good deal of the point of it economically – trading is meant to give you a signal as to what you’re really good at, what you’re not, and encourage you to move more to the former and away from the latter… Painfully but it makes you richer in the end.

    However as you also correctly say, putting the EU on level footing with, say, Chile does seem likely to rebalance certain aspects of trade, even without cuttting rates to zero. And indeed to reduce the share of our trade which is with (artificially in this case, due to previously being on the inside of their protectionist wall) Europe.

  18. the UK will no longer have a tarriff advantage over exports from other countries so UK consumers will inevitably buy fewer EU foodstuffs and substitute with food and drink from elsewhere.

    Yarp. Hence the scary stories about chlorinated chicken.

    Again, the people crying the hardest about possible post-Brexit food prices are the very same people who want to make food as dear as possible. It’s an avalanche of insincere bullshit.

  19. MBE – tariffs have been designed with the explicit intention of not substantially altering the mix of products imported

    Be that as it may, I doubt whether it is within the gift of officials or politicians to determine whether you or I buy Spanish tomatoes or buy them from some other source or indeed whether we can be nudged into buying peaches rather than pineapples.

    I shall be very interested to see how British lamb exports fair next spring. Despite the hand-wringing, the reason that the UK produces a relatively large amount of lamb is that we have a relative abundance of land that isn’t suitable for arable farming combined with available winter grazing when cattle are indoors and the weather is usually temperate . If the export of live animals destined for slaughter is prohibited then new markets for chilled carcases may be developed further afield. The people whose views should be canvassed are not the hill-farmers but the slaughterers for whom this is a great opportunity.

  20. Oi! Steve!

    EU exports to the UK will no longer have a tarriff advantage over exports from other countries so UK consumers will inevitably buy fewer EU foodstuffs and substitute with food and drink from elsewhere.

    Lion cub. Water pistol.

  21. I think Europhiles have criticised Liz Truss for signing up to a UK-Japan deal because it just mirrors the EU-Japan deal so not a major accomplishment and there’s some truth in that. However, if we offer Monsieur Barnier’s team a UK-EU deal which mirrors the EU-Japan one, then that isn’t ok for some reason.

  22. If I understand this tariff thing correctly, WTO rules mean you must impose the same rate on everyone EXCEPT where you have a free trade agreement.

    So new tariffs on imports of German cars, French wine, Spanish vegetable, etc, but greatly reduced tariffs on imports from outside EU of those same things.

    And because of free trade agreements, no tariffs on imports of Japanese cars (& Korean, Malaysian soon?), no tariffs on imports of Australian wine, and perhaps soon no tariffs on USA fruit & veg.

    The EU nations get a major loss of their export market, while we also get a loss, but smaller. But we gain imports from everywhere else, no longer at penal non-EU tariffs, while the EU punish their serfs with anti-UK import taxes.

    Eire become isolated, since most of their imports and exports flow either to the UK, or via the UK. Both seriously crippled by EU under no deal. If the EU play hard-balll on air & shipping and we reciprocate (as we should), it’ll be hard even travelling to/from Eire, as all routes must go 200 miles west into the Atlantic to get out of our territory.

    Oh, and removing the penal tariffs on 3rd world country’s produce enabling us to buy their exports is 100x more effective than filling the bank accounts of their “presidents for life”.

    What’s not to like?
    Or have I been totally misinformed…

  23. @Herr Wisent
    the rest of us in the UK will raise a glass or two of Chilean merlot with gusto

    Argentinian Malbec for me, but otherwise spot on.

  24. Unilateral free trade is impossible because too few people believe in it. Plenty of local businesses will complain about being undercut by imports and it is impossible to avoid letting the politicians pander to some of them. Similarly, free immigration would be highly desireable (as has been proved by history) but is politically impossible to the point where NHS workers – so venerated by the public – face exceissive visa charges and other immigration difficulties. Brexit is throwing away guaranteed free trade within a group for an illusory goal. It would have been much more productive to have used our influence within the EU to make the EU as a whole lower tariffs.

    @Tim – Ireland will not need to import around the UK unless the UK suffers such extreme congestion at the ports that it cannot handle the volume of traffic. It will simply cause a reversion to TIR (Transports Internationaux Routiers) traffic, which allows frictionless transit of the UK.

  25. @steve “half-witted Swedish goblins”?
    Are you getting confused with Harold Wilson’s “gnomes of Zurich”?
    Genuinely curious

  26. @ Chris Miller
    +1
    Incidentally Chile also produces a tolerable Pinot Noir, not as good as Burgundy but a lot cheaper so some people will regard it as better value.

  27. Tim the Coder,

    “Eire become isolated, since most of their imports and exports flow either to the UK, or via the UK. Both seriously crippled by EU under no deal. If the EU play hard-balll on air & shipping and we reciprocate (as we should), it’ll be hard even travelling to/from Eire, as all routes must go 200 miles west into the Atlantic to get out of our territory.”

    When the UK leaves the EU, more of Ireland’s trade is with the rest of the world than with the EU. They’ve been heading that way for years as agriculture declines as a percentage of exports. And if you’re producing pharma or machinery, proximity just doesn’t matter so much. The cost of shipping a packet of pills or a parking meter is a miniscule percentage of the cost.

    When you’re selling perfumes around the world, with the EU as just another market, or maybe you don’t see much EU trade (like software), you’re going to start questioning the value of it. It’s something remoaners never grasped. EU countries do much more inter-EU trade than the UK does.

  28. john77,

    “Incidentally Chile also produces a tolerable Pinot Noir, not as good as Burgundy but a lot cheaper so some people will regard it as better value.”

    Burgundy is bad value. If you’re buying the top end stuff, it might be worth it. Maybe no-one in New Zealand or Child is producing anything as good as La Tache (£4K/bottle). But £25 on pinot noir goes a lot further in New Zealand, gets you something a bit special, where Burgundy is quite average at that price.

  29. “used our influence within the EU to make the EU as a whole lower tariffs.”

    That old line, when Cameron went to ask for some crumbs to help the remain vote he got sent packing, that shows how much influence we had in Europe

  30. BoM4: NZ, Oz, Safra, Argie, Chile, … The French can go and whistle. Hell, we’ve even had a lovely Canadian Eiswein. And, I must say, we’ve very much enjoyed some English whites, sparkling and still.

    With a bit of GMO we could probably enjoy Pinot Noir from Easter Ross.

  31. The realities of electoral politics dictate that “unilateral free trade” will not happen.

    The immediate impact of “No Deal” will be a wave of job losses and bankruptcies among British exporters, the haulage industry, and their suppliers. Tim will say that it’s imports that matter. The median voter will say that it’s jobs that matter. Tim will say that hard times are just another reason to drop all barriers to imports and make everything cheaper. The median voter will say that policy would destroy even more jobs and make us the world’s dumping ground for dangerous sub-standard goods. The media will go full “Project Fear” on that, and it will work because so many people already believe it.

    There will be a clamour for the government to make a deal with the EU and protect British jobs. The Tories will panic. They will replace Johnson with somebody who is willing to do whatever it takes to placate the angry voters. If they fail, Starmer will win the next election by promising a trade deal with the EU and protection for British jobs. Either way, current politics and the broader cultural context both make “unilateral free trade” a total fantasy.

  32. dearieme,

    “BoM4: NZ, Oz, Safra, Argie, Chile, … The French can go and whistle. Hell, we’ve even had a lovely Canadian Eiswein. And, I must say, we’ve very much enjoyed some English whites, sparkling and still.”

    I’d add Eastern Europe. Some good stuff out of Romania, Moldova and I’ve heard Georgia is good.

    I still buy from less fashionable areas of France. The sparkling wines from Jura and Alsace are very good value.

  33. The UK has had UFT before. Repeal of the Corn Laws(1846) and Repeal of the Navigation Acts(1849) and that worked pretty well imv. According to the IMF the UK was the world’s number one economy until the mid 1880s, and even when overtaken by the Unions States of Americas (pbuh for they understood the importance of limited government) they had a population 10m higher.
    Of course by the time of the defeat in the 2nd Boer War the USA was ahead of the UK on GDP per head.

  34. Robbo, “half-witted Swedish goblin” = Greta Tintin Eleonora Ernman Thunberg

    .

    Steve:
    . . . fully in favour of permanent economic depression in the name of half-witted Swedish goblins and “protecting” you from a cough with a 99.72% survival rate.

    Why yes, yes he is:

    Boris Johnson claims climate change is ‘far more destructive’ than Covid
    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9046409/Stop-assault-planet-increase-ambition-climate-change-leaders-urged.html

    “Co-hosting the virtual summit today, the Prime Minister suggested a green recovery from Covid-19 pandemic could create thousands of jobs and radically cut the world’s dependence on fossil fuels.”

    But the build-back-better Great Reset is still just a crazy conspiracy.

  35. AndrewZ: The immediate impact of “No Deal” will be a wave of job losses and bankruptcies among British exporters, the haulage industry, and their suppliers.

    So not unlike lockdown then.

    The median voter will say that it’s jobs that matter.

    “No, it’s saving lives that matters”, say the politicians, “have this money we’ve created and stay at home”.

    The median voter will say that policy would destroy even more jobs and make us the world’s dumping ground for dangerous sub-standard goods.

    You have something against Chinese stuff?

    The media will go full “Project Fear” on that, and it will work because so many people already believe it.

    The latest edition of The Observer is on sale now.

    There will be a clamour for the government to make a deal with the EU and protect British jobs.

    Too late for that.

    The Tories will panic.

    The way toast panics?

    They will replace Johnson with somebody who is willing to do whatever it takes to placate the angry voters.

    Because angry voters will take to the streets, and go full on gilets jaunes? You’re dreaming. This is the stuff of a LibDem branch meeting.

    If they fail, Starmer will win the next election by promising a trade deal with the EU and protection for British jobs. Either way, current politics and the broader cultural context both make “unilateral free trade” a total fantasy.

    Take care not to eat a lot of blue cheese like Bleu de Bresse before turning in and a rubber undersheet might be a sensible precaution.

  36. “philip

    Can we arrest and impound any French trawler found in our EEZ after January 1st?”

    Why? The Navy vessels have guns. Why not use them?

  37. Andrew Z,

    “The immediate impact of “No Deal” will be a wave of job losses and bankruptcies among British exporters, the haulage industry, and their suppliers.”

    They’re being pretty quiet, then, aren’t they? Other than car factories and farmers, who have been whining from the start, I can’t think of many other exporters. JCB were happy to leave the EU, happy with no deal, what’s your companies complaining about it?

  38. So Much For Subtlety

    Charles December 12, 2020 at 5:35 pm – “Unilateral free trade is impossible because too few people believe in it.”

    Well too many educated people. Because it does not give bureaucrats opportunities to shake down businesses the way regulations do.

    “Similarly, free immigration would be highly desireable (as has been proved by history)”

    History shows that it is better to import nuclear waste than immigrants. I think it would be better to spray medium level nuclear waste across London rather than allowing in an equal weight of non-Whites. Or even Whites.

    “but is politically impossible to the point where NHS workers – so venerated by the public – face exceissive visa charges and other immigration difficulties.”

    The NHS is a slave-driven Vietnamese nail bar by any other name. We should stop running it on cheap sweated third world labour.

    “It would have been much more productive to have used our influence within the EU to make the EU as a whole lower tariffs.”

    And it would have been even better for the Other Tim to shack up with that drug-popping Russian tennis player. At least that could have happened.

  39. Andrew Z–remainiac bullshit.

    Blojob would love to sell us out but he cant do it in any non-obvious manner. And he cant afford any more tons of shite landing on him. He has ducked LD economic ruin –so far. That wont last. But Brexit treason as well is a bridge way too far for the scumbag.

    And–as John Galt predicted at the height of Treason May’s attempted sell out–EU intransigence will lead to No Deal. So all credit again to Mr Galt for his powers of prophecy.

  40. The Telegraph reports today that the government will provide “billions” of pounds to support industries affected by “No Deal”. They are committing themselves to subsidising British producers to protect jobs because that’s where the votes are. So they are already moving in the opposite direction to “unilateral free trade” before we even know for sure if “No Deal” is actually going to happen. Does anyone here really imagine that they will suddenly do a U-turn after the event?

  41. “It would have been much more productive to have used our influence within the EU to make the EU as a whole lower tariffs.”

    ahahahahha! Best laugh I’ve had all day.

  42. I should mention that “half-witted Swedish goblin” is Steve’s characterisation. Not one I share.

    Correct. Greta would need to double her intelligence to qualify as half-witted.

  43. Andrew Z –that load of shite is more of Blojob’s fantasy virus-freak spending spree. He is a rich prick who has no idea about money vs wealth and thinks that printing funny money will cover everything.

    It is of note that the 100 billion Operation Moonshite has been quietly forgotten.

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