Monday, 3 July 2017

Suella Fernandes: The poison in the well

Suella Fernandes, writing in the Telegraph, gives us her insights into post Brexit trade. It's the usual hackneyed Brexiteer dribble about the single market being protectionist and freezing out poorer countries. This blog has touched on this countless times and I cannot bring myself to go over it again. The fact is that it doesn't matter. Many of the criticisms levelled at the single market are about right but criticism of itself is useless unless you have a better idea and a credible means of getting there.

Of the EU, Fernandes says "An inherent lack of legitimacy and accountability in the EU have diminished the potency of UK politics. And this has had a destructive effect on our politicians having any sense of clear vision or inspiration. That lack of imagination has led itself to an exaggerated sense of powerlessness dulling down politics through a spiral of technocratic and administrative decisions. Whether we are talking about trade, immigration, our courts or agriculture, in all regards, the EU has killed off innovation in politics".

There is not a single word of that I disagree with. Every Brexit campaigner sees this with crystal clarity - and can see why the current political crisis is very much a product of our EU membership. This is why, despite reservations, I would still vote to leave every single time.

Fernandes says "As the new Chairman of the European Research Group, I am passionate about making the uplifting case for Brexit: that of opportunity, freedom and prosperity, in which many of my colleagues in the Conservative Parliamentary Party believe. Brexit is a chance to reignite that ability to inspire and enthrall". "Politics needs to be less about mechanistic procedures and more about The Big Vision. Less about systemic management and more about creating on a grand scale with radical thinking. More like Disraeli, Churchill or Thatcher who designed stirring blueprints of society. Brexit must not become a bean-counting exercise, which it could. We are not dividing up the estate after a bereavement. This is a birth and a chance for new beginnings; not a death".

Again, no problems there, but anyone can promise the world. What really matters is not what you can promise - not the vision you can paint, but how you intend to achieve it. The practical politician offers the vision, and then tells his followers how he intends to fulfil it. This accursed woman is just offering empty words. Lacking any subject knowledge (ironic for a chair of a research group) she reaches for the scriptures of her ultra Brexiteer colleagues.
Our trade potential is ready to blossom. We have a real chance to activate a new era of global growth through free trade. By negotiating a new broad free trade agreement with the EU; leading the way with a ‘prosperity zone’, as reflected by the Legatum Institute’s Special Trade Commission, with countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Singapore that believe in open trade, competition on merit and property rights protection; and building new economic partnerships with Commonwealth, African, Caribbean and Pacific countries to open up channels for agricultural products, the UK can be a beacon of free trade and fair trade.
This stuff has been debunked before. This is a zombie proposal that won't die no matter how many times it is mercilessly gunned down. You cannot waltz out of a comprehensive relationship after forty years and expect that the rest of the world has remained in stasis and is eager to pick up where we left off. It just doesn't work like that. The EU is our biggest single customer and any new agreements we sign must be carefully assessed as to how they impact our most important relationship.

And this is the beef I have with the ultra Brexiteers. Trade is complex discipline where nobody is a free agent and every action has consequences. Lofty visions collapse under the slightest scrutiny and absolutely nobody in the business takes the snake oil of Legatum Institute seriously. Legatum is a bandit operation on the hunt for consultancy fees, aided and abetted by their parliamentary sponsor, Steve Baker. If we had a competent and inquisitive media they would be all over him. It's bent as bent gets.

Frankly, these people are dangerous. These people would have us carve up our existing trade relationship with the EU in a hurry on the back of some cockameme assertions in pursuit of the flimsiest of visions that simply do not hold water. That is actually cheating - it is political dishonesty at the highest level. You raise expectations and put yourself on a plinth, without the first idea of what it is you are really after - much less how you can deliver it.

This is ultimately where our media is failing. They should by now be on top of the issues and taking the likes of Fernandes to pieces. Instead they are still struggling with basic terminology, and like Fernandes, barely aware of what any of these concepts mean.

In that regard, it is not Brexit that is destructive, rather it is the ignorance of our politico-media classes. We are told this week that Brexit has caused a suspension of investment in the UK automotive sector. It didn't have to be that way. The uncertainty could have been eliminated from the get go with a coherent plan to preserve present levels of market access. Instead we got the vague, thin gruel "cake and eat it" stuff in May's Lancaster House speech. This is an entirely self-inflicted wound and the Tories are entirely responsible for it.

Meanwhile, having resisted the obvious for what is now years, the consensus elsewhere is finally catching up to what we have known all along. Brexit is a process, not an event, and preserving the single market is the only practical means of doing it. And yet, for all that, even at this late hour we are having to fight the ignoramuses on the Tory right in a battle for what is now a matter of national survival. Such is the extent of our political dysfunction.

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