Sunday, 2 July 2017

Britain looks outward

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From the Washington Post a year ago:
Britain isn’t having a Trump moment, turning in on itself in a fit of protectionist and nativist pique. Rather, the vote for Brexit was about liberty and free trade—and about trying to manage globalization better than the EU has been doing from Brussels.
The Brexit campaign started as a cry for liberty, perhaps articulated most clearly by Michael Gove, the British justice secretary (and, on this issue, the most prominent dissenter in Mr. Cameron’s cabinet). Mr. Gove offered practical examples of the problems of EU membership. As a minister, he said, he deals constantly with edicts and regulations framed at the European level—rules that he doesn’t want and can’t change. These were rules that no one in Britain asked for, rules promulgated by officials whose names Brits don’t know, people whom they never elected and cannot remove from office. Yet they become the law of the land. Much of what we think of as British democracy, Mr. Gove argued, is now no such thing.
This is undoubtedly true. Undoubtedly this is the main issue. Immigration is probably the second most important issue. Theresa May, who did not understand economics or foreign policy when she became prime Minister and saw things in Home Office terms probably overestimated the importance of regaining control of immigration, though this is very important.

But now that we know that Theresa May, who seemed capable, did not know what she was doing perhaps an interim period in the EEA (if they will have us) while we negotiate trade agreements with foreign countries might make sense. But trade agreements and tariffs are not the big issue. We had free trade with the world despite tariff barriers raised against us by others for ninety years after the repeal of the corn Laws in 1846 and flourished. We were never very protectionist after 1846 until we joined the EEC in 1973 which was then and is now a protectionist cartel. What does matter, very much are borders and harmonising regulations on goods and services.

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