Regarding the UK’s post-EU prospects, Boris Johnson has been reaching new heights of pseudo-Churchillian grandiosity. But I was taken by this remark, reported by the Guardian:
Johnson says Liam Fox and his team cannot “ink in” trade deals with other countries now. But they can agree them in pencil.
He’s bluffing isn’t he? He really hasn’t got a clue what he is talking about, has he?
Compare his words with those of former EU ambassador, Sir Ivan Rogers:
Serious multilateral negotiating experience is in short supply in Whitehall, and that is not the case in the [European] commission or in the council…Contrary to the beliefs of some, free trade does not just happen … Increasing market access to other markets and consumer choice in our own, depends on the deals, multilateral, plurilateral and bilateral, that we strike.
43 years of EU membership has left us with a complete dearth of trade negotiators. More, it has left us without a national trade negotiating culture. This will obviously cause problems when we try to negotiate but it has already put us in a terribly dangerous position. Politicians like Theresa May are making decisions without the visceral awareness of trade negotiation which is necessary to inform those decisions. Instead, imbued with high-octane bovine scatological confidence, they are taking grave risks with our country’s future.
The second reason we are heading for a disaster is due to the complexity of modern supply chains. Again, over 43 years, British-based companies have been able to build up complex cross-border supply chains. One such enterprise, with which I am familiar, has hundreds of thousands of goods units criss-crossing EU borders every day. The idea that we are risking customs inspections on such transactions is the stuff of nightmares. Ask anyone who has ever tried to expedite goods through customs. I recall some computer equipment being held up in one country’s customs for over a year. Delays of days and weeks are routine. You simply cannot run efficient modern supply chains with such delays.
The basic problem in our collective UK post-EU thinking is this. We think we are the centre of the world. We still remember most of the globe coloured pink on the map. The world speaks our language. Time starts at Greenwich. The world revolves around us.
Except, of course, it doesn’t. There are 7.5 billion people in the world. The U.K has 63 million people. Post-EU, in the world trade stakes, we won’t even figure as also-rans.
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