Brexit: what would help save Britain? Join the single market
WELCOME to Brexit: the reality show. To recap: In 2016, business partners Boris Johnson and Michael Gove persuaded the public to support their highly unusual idea: to turn away from Britain’s biggest trading partner and instead seek trade deals with other big ones. savings.
Many Britons have invested.
Now, five years later, we’re joining them to see how they’re doing – and oh my gosh, things haven’t quite gone according to plan.
(Unfortunately, there is no switch on this one.)
In 2016, Michael Gove promised big post-Brexit trade deals. Here it is two months before the referendum: “The EU has failed to secure trade deals with the huge economies of India, China and America. Outside the EU, we can make these agreements.
And here is Boris Johnson: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. I think there is a huge opportunity. Make free trade agreements, believe in us.
Britain believed. So what has happened since?
Well, now let’s see.
Talks with India are expected to start at some point.
The British government is not seeking a trade deal with China.
And the United States, the holy grail of post-Brexit agreements? It does not happen. Not postponed, not delayed, but not happening. Barack Obama warned the British in 2016 that they would be at the back of the pack for a trade deal, but it’s even worse than that. Joe Biden this week didn’t even commit to a tentative deal.
Democratic Representative Brendan Boyle, a member of the Congressional Ways and Means Committee that oversees trade deals, told the BBC that the US priorities are trade with China and “our biggest trading partners, Canada. and Mexico “.
READ MORE: Vaccine passports are not a slide into fascism
These seemingly take precedence over talks with a dumb Northern European state that made the utterly unforced error of abandoning its own biggest trading partner (I’m paraphrasing).
The government’s approach to the Northern Ireland Protocol made matters worse. It turns out that one cannot walk on the international scene without consequences.
The British government, having dipped its nose into a large plate of reality, is now talking about “incremental” changes in trade relations with the United States or perhaps trying to join the deal America is making with it. Canada and Mexico (although it seems to have been dreamed of on the Amtrak all the way to Washington; no one seems to know about it in Congress.)
Even if Britain somehow joins the deal, economists estimate it would increase GDP by less than 0.1% and likely force the UK to agree to food standards and lower agricultural fields.
Meanwhile, the Americans are in serious talks with another important global player on expanding and deepening bilateral trade and developing compatible standards: the European Union.
The irony is too painful.
America ended its ban on British lamb, but it was Mr Johnson’s only trade victory over Washington (there was an earlier victory over single malt tariffs which were suspended, although this is not related to trade negotiations). So we can put that on the chimney alongside the much-vaunted Australian trade deal, which places no obligation on Australia, with its mega-farms and love of fossil fuels, to meet UK standards for animal or environmental welfare. British farmers fear being undermined and the “slow, withered death of family farms”.
READ MORE: Scottish and English have so much in common
We also have a new deal with Japan, but economists believe it is no more beneficial to the UK than the EU’s deal with Japan, with some estimates suggesting it may be worth less.
The UK has asked to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but is far from concluding a deal.
The government seems confident it can get away with it because people are fed up with Brexit. And people are fed up with Brexit. But people are also fed up with overly promising politicians. We were told that such riches await us – such riches! – if we were bold enough to seize them.
But what has happened so far tells a different story.
Brexit has been a major cause of labor shortages in food manufacturing, truck driving, hospitality and the healthcare sector. The rise in the prices of consumer goods is being fueled in part by the Brexit bureaucracy. There was a ‘catastrophic’ £ 2 billion worth of food and drink exports to the EU in the first half of 2021 compared to the first half of 2019, according to the Food and Drink Federation. The government’s protocol on Northern Ireland has caused serious problems which have yet to be resolved.
It would be better if we had never taken this route: that’s what the British public think. In 53 out of 56 polls since January 2020, excluding don’t know, most people said leaving the EU was a bad idea.
A new referendum may not be in sight, but it is not necessarily all or nothing. There is a third way: a closer relationship with Europe.
Being in the single market would mean the free movement of goods, capital, services and people, which would significantly reduce these labor shortages. It would be a boon to businesses by removing tariffs and reducing non-tariff barriers. This would force Britain to maintain common standards with the EU, which were popular anyway. Britain should pay into Europe’s coffers, but members of the single market can strike trade deals and avoid common agriculture and fisheries policies.
In the meantime, being in the customs union would resolve a lot of the tensions on Northern Ireland and allow immigration control, but not tariffs.
Britain therefore has options. These options require compromises, but look at how far we have given up on leaving the EU. Any new trade deal is likely to be just as controversial as our relationship with Europe – if at all.
Getting closer to Europe is favored by the Liberal Democrats, the Greens and the SNP (independence would be a healthier proposition if Britain had closer relations with Europe). It would require Labor buy-in to have any hope of becoming a reality and Labor is currently reluctant to reopen this wound.
But times are changing. Benefit cuts and rising costs are expected to hit low-income families this winter, forcing some to reassess their support for the Conservatives. Small parties are expected to start arguing for a change in Britain’s relations with Europe, in the interest of hard-pressed households, and in time Labor will be able to support the idea.
Our new relationship with Europe is not set in Grampian granite. It can be changed “gradually”.
Brexit may have hit the UK economy, but we don’t have to live with it.
Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald.