Thursday, 18 February 2016

Brexit: The naked lies of Nick Herbert


Writing for City AM, Nick Herbert lays it on thick on how "Brexit is a giant leap into the dark". We'll make this a quick fisking because the man isn't worth much of our time. It's worth doing because he touches on all the classic europhile memes and taking this apart will save us all a lot of effort in the future. We'll skip the hackneyed preamble and go straight for the substance.
Some want us to be like Norway or Switzerland, yet this would mean paying into the EU, accepting free movement, and having regulation imposed with no say – so when they promise that leaving would end these things, it’s a completely false prospectus.
Meh. The "Norway has no say" meme. This is already tiresome. Just four little words requires volumes of refutation, which is why they so enjoy telling this particular lie.

A recent EFTA report shows that more than 90 percent of the laws of the single market include policy areas covered by UN or other global bodies. Norway has more influence in drafting laws originating from these sources than Britain, which often has to accept the "common position" agreed within the EU without the right of veto.

Much of modern law is made at an international level, along with tradings rules. They are made by UNECE, Codex Alimentarius, WTO, ILO, IMO, UNEP and a whole host of bodies few have ever heard of, where the EU takes our seat and negotiates on our behalf. Norway is fully engaged in the process before it gets anywhere near the EU. They are at the top tables with full rights of veto.

While the BBC will pick the most europhile Norwegian (ex) minister they can find to interview with regard to Norwegian influence, they have yet to ask Anne Tvinnereim, a Norwegian minister, who flatly denies the assertion that Norway has no influence. Moving on:
Others pin their hopes on the mirage of a free trade agreement that isn’t on offer and which the EU would have little incentive to grant. The most misguided go so far as to say we should just accept trade barriers, despite the costs to business and consumers.
This would be the much vaunted WTO option put about by Ruth Lea and David Campbell Bannerman. It's insane. The EU has a common external tariff it must apply to all non- EEA members. If we match it in reciprocation, under non-discrimination rules, we have to impose tariffs on all our other trading partners. That creates havoc, so we end up not imposing tariffs on the EU while they impose tariffs on us. In this Nick Herbert doesn't realise how right he is. But this does not help his case. 

We could negotiate a "free trade deal" but a simple agreement on tariffs doesn't even begin to settle issues surrounding non-tariff barriers and if we wanted a comprehensive deal then the EU would have conditions tilted in its own favour. Moreover, the likelihood of such being concluded inside two years are nil. And so, given how unrealistic, impractical and damaging it would be for both sides, we can categorically take it out of the equation. If we leave the EU, that is simply not going to happen no matter how much the hardliners stamp their feet. 

And so that means we will in all likelihood be looking at existing legal instruments, and for the sake of expediency, it would be an EEA based settlement. Politically and practically, there is just no other way to do it as eureferendum.com explains.

So while Nick Herbert is right in that eurosceptics cannot agree on the alternative, their bickering does not change the facts. What we will get is the Norway Option because that's the only thing that can work.

This then firmly puts Herbert's assertion that "Brexit is a giant leap into the dark" firmly in the bin. We do know what Brexit looks like, and since the basic regulatory framework does not change and there are no tariffs - that bins the rest of Herbert's scaremongering. Put simply, Brexit is not a leap into the dark. Moving on:
If we leave the EU, we’d have to do 35 new trade deals involving more than 80 countries all at the same time and within a two year timeframe, on top of a deal with the EU – an impossible task. We would be likely to end up with worse arrangements than we have now. From driving a deal as part of a trading bloc of over 500m people, we’d be on our own as a country with a tenth of that number.
As regards existing trade deals, the UK will be in no worse position outside the EU than it will be in. It can rely on the legal presumption of continuity (Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties) to ensure that it will continue to trade with third countries on the same basis as it did before it left.

And no, we wouldn't be out on our own. Nobody is. Nobody goes to the top tables without first having joined ad-hoc alliances or associations. Outside of the EU we have a choice of many fluid alliances and associations rather than being compelled to vote for the common EU position every single time. That's real trading agility right there. One of the most compelling reasons for leaving the EU. Herbert goes on.
Nor could we expect a better deal with the EU itself. The idea that our European partners would give us a free lunch when we had just walked out of their club is naive. The UK is the market for just over 5 per cent of exports from the EU. The share of their economy which they export to us is far lower than the share of our economy which we export to them. We would be less powerful in any deal, not more.
Much has been spoken of the "better deal fallacy" and though hard liners are not going to get what they expect or demand, we can expect and equitable deal. But as we have established, we're not leaving the EEA so who sells what to whom, and in what quantities is wholly irrelevant. 
We would not even be present at the top table to negotiate a new arrangement. A Brexit deal would have to be done within two years, during which we would forfeit our seat on the EU Council, putting Britain at an appalling disadvantage. As they say in Brussels, “if you’re not at the table you’re on the menu.”
This is dishonesty on stilts. This is a liberal interpretation of Article 50, which Herbert either hasn't read or hasn't understood. For his benefit, here is an explainer. As we point, Para 2 of Article 50 actually requires the Union to "negotiate and conclude an agreement with that [withdrawing] State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union".

Para 3, inter alia permits an extension of the negotiating period – which must be agreed unanimously and then Para 4 tells us that the discussions between the Member States on the negotiations cannot be attended by the departing states. This is not a block exclusion. In all other discussions and processes other than those directly involving the negotiations, the departing Member State participates fully in the business of the European Union. Moving on:
Exclusion from the Single Market poses a clear and present danger to the City. Financial services need to be recognised by the EU to be sold there. Not only would British banks be restricted from selling to the EU, but international banks would be incentivised to move their European operations out of this country. Earlier this week, the chief executive of HSBC warned that 1,000 jobs in its investment bank would move to Paris if we vote to leave.
As we have already established Brexit does not mean exclusion from the single market, nor is that even likely. Even in his following paragraph he ladles on the conflation between the EU and the single market, so brazenly that we have to conclude that this isn't just run of the mill stupidity from a bubble dwelling politician. These are deliberate lies in the hope that nobody will notice.

That is what makes these politicians so utterly hated. That they think they can tell us such massive lies over something so fundamentally critical and expect that we wouldn't notice. They are contemptible. As to the notion that HSBC will relocate staff to Paris because it would be more business friendly... pull the other one. They are bluffing for wholly political reasons. 

What you can see from all this is that it's the idleness of Herbert's eurosceptic Tory colleagues who are letting our side down by not understanding the fundamentals - polluting the debate with their own incomprehension. The refusal to adopt a credible Brexit plan is clearly the weak spot which Herbert is exploiting with ease. In this, the likes of Bannerman, Hannan and Lea have given liars like Herbert an open goal. 

While Nick Herbert is a liar, he is right in saying the Leave campaign is a mess with no real idea what it wants or how to get it, but the practicalities and realities mean that we are not going to leave the single market thus his arguments do not withstand scrutiny - those which are not outright lies that is. 

Moreover, Herbert does not actually set out a case for being in the EU. He just problematises Brexit. That's fine as that few have suggested the process is straightforward, but it's wholly nihilistic to say that we should not do something just because things could get a bit tricky. 

There are seriously good reasons for leaving the EU and even a bluntly honest appraisal of the case for Brexit makes it worthwhile still. Moreover, nothing Herbert says has not been addressed by the leading Brexit plan in circulation and Herbert makes no mention of it. It's not that he's not aware of it. He just doesn't want you to know about it. He's a liar, see.  

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