Thursday, 19 October 2017

The Spectator is an affront to decency

Liam Halligan is a practised liar but this latest piece in the Spectator has to be worthy of some sort of prize. He rolls out all the classic canards, none of which stand up to close scrutiny. We are used to this. This is conscious and deliberate dishonesty from the Brexit ultras - and no matter how flimsy the foundations, they continue to repeat the same lies.

Halligan asks "If trading under WTO rules is so bad, how does the UK already sell the majority of its exports beyond the EU, largely under such rules?". The simple answer is that it doesn't. All of our external trade relations are through EU trade agreements.

We should also note that UK-EU trade is on a wholly different level to everyone else in the world. For instance, how many ro-ro ferries are there plying the Atlantic, delivering perishable goods for immediate consumption and JIT components for retail sale and to supply manufacturing plants?

This kind of trade is only made possible by way of having no formalities at the borders. This is how goods arrive at their destination only a few hours after dispatch. This is not just a question of conformity to standards. Even fully compliant products shipped from the United States are subject to lengthy and sometimes intrusive border controls. Fortunately, with the longer shipping time, document checks can be made while the goods are still in transit, but it is still the case that trade with the US and other distant partners is in containerised or bulk cargo.

The nature of our trade with the EU though is the vast bulk (well over 70 percent) is in driver-accompanied loads. It's through the Channel tunnel or by short sea shipping, with no customs formalities of any nature. That trade was built up after we joined the EEC, and is basically a child of the Single Market. The trade relies on speed of throughput at the ports. There are not the facilities or infrastructure to deal with border checks. It couldn't survive the uncertainties of a rigorously policed border where lorries are routinely delayed by hours and can be held for days.

Time and again have we been over this and to adequately dismantle every claim in Halligan's article would take all night. But then that is all part of the strategy. The time and effort required to refute bullshit is a magnitude larger than it takes to produce it. What is new, though, is a particular twist of language - a distortion of reality.
Once the drama of Brexit is over, beyond March 2019 and any subsequent transition, WTO rules can be used as a ‘platform’ to cut an FTA with the EU under less time pressure, making a better deal more likely. While some UK firms worry that WTO rules will hurt ‘complex supply chains’ across the EU, most manufacturing components are zero-rated so would not attract any tariffs. Our EU deficit also means, under WTO rules, that the UK pays less in export tariffs than it receives, creating several billion pounds in net revenues for the Exchequer each year. The surplus could be used to compensate sectors like cars and agriculture, where tariffs on UK exports are likely to be higher.

‘No deal’ — trading with the EU with no FTA — is an entirely coherent position. It is very different from just ‘walking away’, which means failing to settle administrative issues such as mutual recognition agreements on exports. No one is advocating such an approach. It is unthinkable that existing and uncontroversial EU protocols granted to countless other non-EU members would not apply to Britain. For Brussels to deny such rights would breach WTO and EU treaties, while incensing EU businesses and voters by threatening billions of euros of profit and countless EU jobs.
As is typical with the Brexit ultras, in order to push their poison they have to redefine language. In Halligan's mind,"no deal" means no formal FTA but a successful completion of separation talks with an implementation period. The embedded lie here is that mutual recognition agreements are part of the exit settlement. Categorically they are not. These would have to be part of a formal post exit FTA. There are no default privileges and those granted to other countries are inside the formal agreements, not as part of WTO rules. The absence of which is what interrupts supply chains. Whether tariffs are payable is entirely secondary.

Halligan then blithely asserts that "When it comes to lurid scare stories about planes not flying, Europe’s ‘Open Skies’ agreement applies to many non-EU nations and those outside the single market. The UK boasts a huge aviation industry, with numerous EU-based airlines using our airports. That gives us much leverage". It is true that non-EU countries participate in the EU aviation market, but not without a formal agreement. Having no deal with the EU most certainly means the UK loses all of its participation. Aircraft will be grounded.

What we are looking at here is a sustained campaign of political lying that far exceeds any claims written on a bus. This isn't an innocent misconception of how things work. This is a deliberate re-framing of issues and redefining of language in order to turn cat into dog. That is what makes The Spectator complicit in steering the UK toward an economic calamity. This is not mere opinion. They are engaged in propaganda. Nobody with integrity could have published this.

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