Sunday, 4 November 2018

And still they know nothing

Yvette Cooper on Ridge on Sunday sees fit to share her wisdom with us. Says Cooper "I think being in a customs union is really important. Personally I think it should be a front stop not just a backstop because I think this is good for Yorkshire manufacturing. It's about manufacturing jobs and trade".

Really? Assuming there is an FTA following Article 50 talks, tariffs are eliminated and we can expect at least a 50% Rules of Origin threshold. Applying this may lead to manufacturers sourcing more internally. More sophisticated manufacturers will find ways to mitigate others will either pay a negligible tariff.

Most of this will be handled electronically and there is already commercial software available to assist with the calculation. Provided we can come to a sensible agreement on customs cooperation there is no reason why business is entitled to a customs union nor does it solve anything that makes it worth giving up a major component of our trade policy. In most respects the major headache is the red tape, but international exporters will be familiar with this process anyway.

To date there has been no serious analysis of who would be affected but we can safely assume it's a minority of companies and the tariffs are largely absorbed by currency fluctuations anyway. The real headache, as regular readers know is certifying goods for sale which is of varying complexity depending on the sector. This, though, is absolutely nothing to do with the customs union and outside of the single market it is those checks that will ultimately have the more significant cost implications for manufactures.

Put simply Cooper has no idea what a customs union would actually solve. She is bluffing. She is not alone in not knowing what she is talking about. This is a common misconception in the Westminster bubble which is impervious to external inputs and even the executive has not grasped the issues which is presumably why we are drifting toward a customs union. Should we agree to a customs union we will have seriously hobbled our independent trade policy while doing next to nothing to eliminate customs formalities at the border.

Cooper then goes on to complain that this still seems to be about the withdrawal agreement and the temporary arrangements but not about the long term plan. She has evidently failed to grasp the function and sequencing of Article 50 talks. Certainly it would help to have a better idea of what we are roughly aiming at but if it isn't the EEA then it is only going to be an FTA with rudimentary alignment on standards and regulations.

Being that Sophie Ridge is a vacuous know-nothing blonde, hired largely because she is telegenic, she is not remotely equipped to challenge Cooper on her profound issue illiteracy meaning that viewers are none the wiser and, as is usual, any TV Brexit debate is time-wasting chatter from deep within the bubble. It's not just the women letting the side down though. Were we to flip channels we would see bickering between the equally moronic Brendan O'Neill and Owen Jones who, for all the difference it makes, are essentially the same person.

The only function TV Brexit debate serves is to remind us how utterly clueless our media is, still massively behind the curve, and incapable of interrogating similarly vacuous politicians who at this point should know substantially more than they do. Not only have they failed to acquire any knowledge collectively they have no idea where to even look for it.

There was a time when I opposed Theresa May's notion that no deal is better than a bad deal, assuming there wasn't a worse deal than no deal, but May seems to be going out of her way to prove me wrong. Were we to end up in a customs union we would still be subject to most of the third country controls (a point made repeatedly by Barnier), but not actually in control of a major part of trade policy when the vote in 2016 was very much about deciding who and what comes into the country and on what terms.

A competent opposition should by now be running rings around the Tories at this point, but in the end they will share with the media much of the blame for our predicament. They have failed in their basic obligation to get to grips with the issues and by their own indolence have allowed the Tories to make a massive pigs ear of it. Had we a functioning opposition and even a halfway informed media, there would be an obvious alternative on the table. Instead it falls to the wreckers like Nick Boles who has now demolished the EEA option for the foreseeable future.

At the beginning of this process, my working assumption was that May would eventually be boxed in by reality, with a majority remain House of Commons able to push her into the Efta option. I did not anticipate the fragmentation and deep state of decay. What we've seen instead is guesswork and infighting based on half understood notions completely ignoring expert testimony on committee and elsewhere. With the media in a similar state of dysfunction it has been allowed to drift into the danger zone. If we do go over the cliff then it will be their collective responsibility.

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