Saturday, 7 January 2017

We will pay a high price for Tory arrogance

My least read post of the year thus far will be the least read of all time. I am not surprised. This week I am struggling to make sense of EU public procurement regulations. What we find is another example of the "double coffin lid" where you punch through one set of regulations only to find there is another set to take its place. EU procurement regulations are based largely on the WTO Government Procurement Agreement where the baseline agreement forms the foundation for all other intergovernmental agreements in this sector. It's boring as all hell.

Should we leave the single market then we are effectively compelled to use a more basic version of the rules which could potentially close down a number of inter-EU investment opportunities. That means we do need a more sophisticated arrangement between the UK and the EU. In this it helps to look at that which already exists. Here for an example is the Swiss procurement agreement with the EU. Just a cursory glance tells you that it is layered on top of the WTO rules but sets out specific limits not mentioned by the WTO agreement.

If we adopt the EEA then there is no need to open this up for negotiation because there are already provisions similar to that which already exists but with a number of country specific opt outs. If we don't opt for the EEA then we will have to negotiate a new deal on inter-EU procurement along with the three hundred other areas of concern covered by the EU agreement. This we do not want. It is the very opposite of a "clean Brexit".

In their infinite wisdom, the Toryboys think that we can get a better deal than the EEA having bought into much of the mythology surrounding it. Politically it now looks increasingly untouchable. Unless Mrs May is prepared to defy the politics of the situation we are about to embark on a very long and very messy process that we could have avoided.

Worse still, they are about to discover that without replacement policies they are up a certain creek. This means we will need something very close to the EEA so we will end up reinventing the wheel at enormous cost while the uncertainty quietly erodes business confidence. Were it not for Iraq it would be the unforced political blunder of the century so far.

We have heard only vague hat tips to reality from David Davis who thinks we could pay for single market access. But this is to completely misunderstand what the single market is. You don't pay for access. It is a participatory system. You are either part of that system and you enjoy the trade benefits of it or you are not, in which case you accept the conditions of entry and the higher administrative costs of doing so. Payments to the EU are not an entry fee like a tariff. It is the cost of particpation and upkeep of the various systems that make it function.

We are told that Canada does not pay for market access. That much is true but it does spend a lot on customs administration - more so with the USA as their nearest neighbour. It's not a membership fee, rather it is a cost of doing business. This much is not understood by tories who think the only thing that matters is an agreement on tariffs and all the rest doesn't matter because reasons.

Increasingly tories are becoming as blind and aggressive as their equally ignorant Ukip counterparts who believe we should be prepared to "walk away from the table" as though negotiations are like bartering with an Arab trader for a carpet - in the assumption that there are other sellers in the market. It completely ignores the fact that we must have a framework for future relations with the EU and there is no baseline system other than the EEA which can adequately replace a forty year long integrated relationship with our neighbours.

I really could weep at the stupidity of it all. My assumption during the referendum was that at some point the adults would have to step in but it rather appears that the Toryboys are purging anyone with an opinion they don't like. Such is the zealotry of the Tory right. I was never under any illusions about Brexit. There was always going to be a price to pay but it looks like the bovine stupidity and arrogance of Tories will ensure we pay a far higher price than ever we needed to. This is one thing the left are correct about. There is no ignorance quite like Tory ignorance. It is unwavering in its certitude.

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