European Union

A slight problem with this analysis

This seems only to have been confirmed by the EU’s collective approach to vaccination – slow to order, late to get going, incompetently rolled out, and possibly for reasons of vested interest, riddled with bad bets.

The limitation of this to the collective approach to vaccination only is the mistake there. It’s a general malaise…..

Hang on, VAT doesn’t work that way

Previously, when the UK was in the EU and during the transition period, Moss and other small businesses did not charge VAT on customers in other EU countries. But EU rules on third countries dictate that VAT must now be paid before goods are received from the UK.

Moss could not believe what was happening. Loyal customers were being told to pay around 20% extra on top of the quoted price for his goods before they could get hold of them. Of course, if this continued, they would look elsewhere for cheaper suppliers. What could he and other business managers do?

Moss had three options – and none would be easy. First, he could bite the bullet and pay the VAT himself on behalf of customers in the EU. But this would mean running at a huge loss and was not possible for the long term. Second, he could stop all exports to the EU – but this would reduce the size of his business overnight and mean that years of hard work finding customers abroad had been for nothing. Or third, he could set up and register a company in the EU, ship all his goods out once a week to avoid the delays and individual Brexit-related payments, and distribute his goods from there. The European branch of his company could then pay the VAT and claim it back from the government of whichever EU member state it was based in.

It’s not a 20% difference. It’s a cashflow timing difference.

If VAT is charged along the way then it is reclaimable by the customer – they’re all going to be businesses here. This story has got very garbled somehow. Being in or out of the EU doesn’t determine whether VAT is chargeable overall, it might though change the timing of when it is.

Isn’t this fun?

Britain’s Covid vaccine supply is in jeopardy after the EU threatened to block exports of the Belgian-made Pfizer jabs amid a row with UK-based AstraZeneca.

Brussels decided to impose tighter controls on exports after reacting with fury to the news that AstraZeneca will deliver 50 million fewer doses to the EU than it had expected.

Nicely fascist little moment there. And I do actually mean fascist, nothing outside the state etc.

One private sector company is having a little problem delivering against a contract. Therefore some other private sector company will be prevented from filling its own, entirely unrelated contract.

For spiteful reasons of State. Come and see the petulance inherent in the system…..

Well, no, not really

Yesterday, as the impact of leaving the single market and customs union on 1 January became ever more clear, the Financial Times reported that the cost of a £12 bottle of wine in UK shops could rise by up to £1.50 a bottle because of the extra bureaucracy and charges affecting imports.

The price of a bottle of wine from the remnant EU might rise by that. But Malbec has been paying those charges all along so that price shouldn’t change.

Well, yes Dennis, this is the problem

Each morning at 8am, for example, there is what is called “coordination” in Geneva, where all EU ambassadors, including until recently the British ambassador, meet to discuss what is on the agenda for decisions at the various UN agencies such as the WTO, the World Health Organization and numerous other bodies that decide international conventions and regulations Britain abides by.

Lions with flamethrowers is the correct answer to that sort of nonsense.

Quite so Guardian, quite so

The real tangle of red tape is now at the EU border, where Brexit imposes cumbersome new procedures. The cost is already being paid, as fish and other animal products rot before they can be cleared for continental markets. The drag on growth is inevitable. There were warnings, but leavers dismissed them as scaremongering. Ministers now hardly dare admit that such problems exist. The tragedy – and the absurdity – of the situation is that Mr Johnson will feel compelled to indulge the rhetoric of releasing business from a burden of imagined bureaucracy to avoid taking responsibility for the real burden, imposed by him. The prime minister will indulge policies based on ideological fiction, because he turned his back on economic facts several years ago.

These being the red tape and bureaucracy we’ve been imposing on the 6.5 billion out there not in the EU for the past few decades.

Given that the benefit of trade is the imports isn’t it fun that Brexit now shows us the costs of EU membership.

On the EU’s diplomatic status

True intellectual consistency would demand that were the EU’s demands to be acceded to, Mr Raab would need to call in 27 European ambassadors and tell them they were being downgraded to provincial emissaries no longer entitled to ignore parking fines or tax demands.

Well, mebbe

She claimed that the resilience of banks in the face of the coronavirus pandemic was thanks to the swathes of financial regulation introduced by the EU after the crisis.

Myself I think it might be likely that it’s about the stonking mountains of capital they have to hold these days. But, you know, opinions differ:

She added, “What we want to have as effective regulation, we do not like light touch and deregulation is not on our agenda.”

That’s just stupid.

Sometimes less regulation is more effective. As is light touch and so on.

Quite so Polly, quite so

Friction is the new normal. As the chief EU negotiator, Michel Barnier said firmly last week, things have “changed for good”. UK choices mean “mechanical, obvious, inevitable consequences when you leave the single market and that’s what the British wished to do”. It’s not French revenge, or bloody-minded Brussels, but ordinary life as a third country.

We’ve been imposing this friction on the 6,500 million people outside the EU for 40 years now. As 6,500 million is a larger number than 450 million in the remnant EU the balance is obviously that being out and lowering our trade barriers to all is the correct response.

That is, Brexit isn’t showing us the cost of being out, it’s showing us the long running cost of having been in.

These people are insane

The boss of M&S was using Percy Pigs as an example of a situation in which it was not yet clear whether a tariff needed to be paid.

The sweets are manufactured and packaged in Germany and then shipped to the UK – no tariffs are payable because of the trade deal.

They are then taken from the M&S warehouses and exported to stores in the Republic of Ireland, which is part of the EU.

Now, this is the complicated bit. Because they have left the EU and not been processed enough to count as being made in the UK, it may be that a tariff needs to be paid to get them back into the EU, despite them having been made in the EU in the first place.

If they had been unpacked and put on a cupcake, for example, there would be no tariff because they would have been transformed, but just storing them in the UK is not enough.

Lions with flamethrowers for the lot of them.

A prize of ginger beer all round

Will be on offer to the first spotter:

The cost of shipping goods from Europe to the UK has risen sharply this year, raising the prospect of higher prices for French cheese, German sausages and other imports together worth tens of billions of pounds.

The average cost of transporting a lorryload of goods to Britain from Germany was 26 per cent higher in the first week of 2021 compared with the average for the third quarter of last year, according to Transporeon, which tracks freight flows.

What we’re looking for is the first idiot to say that the cost of German imports has risen by 26% rather than the cost of importing from Germany. A special secret handshake is also on offer for the first spot of an editor stupid enough to print said mistake.

Not so much Brexit as the EU

Dutch TV news has aired footage of customs officers confiscating ham sandwiches from drivers arriving by ferry from the UK under post-Brexit rules banning personal imports of meat and dairy products into the EU.

Officials wearing high-visibility jackets are shown explaining to startled car and lorry drivers at the Hook of Holland ferry terminal that since Brexit, “you are no longer allowed to bring certain foods to Europe, like meat, fruit, vegetables, fish, that kind of stuff.”

To a bemused driver with several sandwiches wrapped in tin foil who asked if he could maybe surrender the meat and keep just the bread, one customs officer replied: “No, everything will be confiscated. Welcome to Brexit, sir, I’m sorry.”

Sure, we can say that Brexit has meant that we’re now subject to these rules. But the rules predate Brexit. This is actually how we – and the EU – have been treating 6.5 billion people these past 40 years and more.

That is, the more we’re subject to pettifogging stupidity the more we should realise what the project actually is – pettifogging bureaucracy.

Death by solidarity

Germany has come in for criticism over a bilateral vaccine deal with Pfizer/Biontech to secure an extra 30 million doses of its vaccine at a time when talks between Brussels and the pharma firms were still ongoing.

Berlin ordered the extra doses of the vaccine back in September at a time when it was trumpeting the virtues of a common EU purchasing strategy during its role as rotating president of the European Union.

Well, y’know, national government doing stuff for the nation. But this is tsk, tsk, stuff in the eyes of the EU:

The terms of the EU’s vaccine strategy, published in June, state that the 27 member states agree “not to launch their own procedures for advance purchase of that vaccine with the same manufacturers.”

The pact was supposed to be an act of solidarity towards smaller members with weaker purchasing power.

Well, there’s not one single EU government that doesn’t have the fiscal ability to purchase vaccines for their own population.

But now look at what the demand is. Power over life and death – for that’s what a vaccine is – must be given to the centre for reasons of “solidarity”. And no cheating! Even if the centre is incompetent or, as actually happened, driven by the French insistence not to buy more non-Frog vaccine even when the Frog vaccine will be a year late.

Death by solidarity that is. Because the European Project is far more important than a few tens of thousands of deaths.

The aim of the EU is to stop Germany invading France. Again. Macron’s insistence upon the Sanofi vaccine makes this more or less likely?

Jonathan Freedland is deluded

They picture the young Brit who will now need a hard-to-get visa to work as, say, a holiday rep in Italy or chef in Portugal,

Umm, why would a young Brit want to work here as a chef?

Sure, the food’s just fine even if not haute in any particular manner. But the pay, compared to British, is shite.

I can imagine coming to work as a cook for the sunshine and beaches and all that. But chef?

There’s a solution here

Brexit is “not something to celebrate”, Ireland’s foreign minister Simon Coveney declared after the UK formally severed ties with the EU, as he warned of trading disruptions due to fresh red tape.

In stark contrast to Boris Johnson’s buoyant characterisation of the country’s future following the end of the transition period at 11pm on Thursday, Coveney painted the UK’s departure as a source of regret.

Calling it the end of an era, Coveney said trade across the Irish Sea would be “disrupted by an awful lot more checks and declarations, and bureaucracy and paperwork, and cost and delays”.

Err, why not reduce the costs and delays by reducing the checks, declarations, bureaucracy and paperwork?

Well, yes, quite so

The Guardian’s view of Brexit:

All of these are iterations of a deeper truth: that we shall never cease to be Europeans and will never cease to engage with Europe.

In his novel The Stone Raft, the Portuguese writer José Saramago imagines the Iberian peninsula breaking physically away from Europe at the Pyrenees and drifting across the world’s oceans in a fruitless search for a new home. Today, Britain can feel a bit like a metaphorical stone raft too. Except that the real Britain will remain anchored in perpetuity across the Channel from the European continent, its peoples, economies and cultures, of which we shall always be part – and to which we hope one day, in some way, to return.

The gross error here is to assume that it’s necessary to be in political union with a place – country, group of them, whatever – in order to cooperate, trade, deal with, get on with them.

It isn’t.

Therefore this bleating about leaving Europe is just wrong. We’ve left one, specific – and terrible – political structure, that’s all.

Note the implication of this

Lorry drivers will be banned from taking a ham and cheese sandwich or other meat and dairy products from the UK into the EU from 1 January, even if it is just to eat while driving, UK government officials have said.

Personal imports of certain products of animal origin will be prohibited from 11pm on 31 December, a ban which will also apply to tourists travelling to the EU.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs advised transport representatives of the ban this week and gave the specific example in its updated guidance of an ordinary sandwich.

“From 1 January 2021 you will not be able to bring POAO (products of animal origin) such as those containing meat or dairy (eg a ham and cheese sandwich) into the EU,” the official guidance states.

These are the rules that already apply to the Romania/Moldova border, the Ukraine/Poland one.

The entire might of the governance of 500 million people is applied to stopping a lorry driver bringing in a ham sandwich.

Aren’t we lucky we’re leaving such a system?

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.