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Apportioning blame December 13, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Odd piece on Brexit by Tom McGurk in the SBP. McGurk has always been an enthusiast of same, and indeed an Irexit, and has regularly said as much. But it’s difficult – for me, at least – not to get the sense he’s confusing cause and effect and blame in all this. And one has to wonder did he have advance knowledge of the findings of the House of Lords Committee Report on Brexit for his thoughts run along similar lines to it in places. Though already Michael Noonan has dismissed their call for a bilateral deal as unfeasible.

And then there’s another aspect entirely. He references how the EU ‘took’ €184bn worth of fish out of Irish waters when the net contribution from the EU was €41bn. To him this is a sign that ‘our political class got a major negotiation utterly wrong’. There’s an element of truth in that. And yet another element is that we were at the time entirely unable to capitalise on our fisheries, that our agriculture sector then and now massively outweighed that potential sector, employed vastly greater numbers and was a much more immediate concern for the state. There’s a broader point that participation in the EEC/EC/EU was always going to involved trade offs to some degree. Of course given the nature of the state and the EEC/EC/EU that was never going to be optimal, to put it mildly, but it’s not quite the catastrophe he appears to be believe.

As to Brexit he accepts that this is a situation to cause ‘alarm’, but he says:

…given that there is a real possibility that we could end up with a Brexit deal hugely damaging to our interests – and since we cannot directly negotiate it and can potentially be outvoted when the time time comes of the EU to finalise it – it is important that we should be looking at the worst case scenario.

But of course is hugely damaging to our interest. Any deal even marginally different to the status quo ante is going to be damaging. That’s built into Brexit, and what he seems to ignore is that this was very much a British grown issue.

Moreover what he also seems to ignore is that if EU membership curtails some of our sovereignty, which of course to some extent it does, so does following the UK to exit do likewise. Either instance will require us to give away sovereignty because that is what it is like for smaller nations in their dealings with larger ones and that is precisely what it is if we reify one relationship over another under what is effectively duress. And it is particularly so in the context of aligning to all intents and purposes with Britain – a Britain where sovereignty in regard to devolution is so strikingly conflicted now.

He suggests that we could ‘wait for the morning after Brexit, when we may discover that the deal has hugely damaged our trade and our relationship with Britain and imposed a hard border’. But again who is doing the damage here? And what of the imposition, if we follow Britain of a hard border with the EU?

His supposed way out of this, a ‘Plan B’ is essentially that we would follow Norway and Switzerland into some sort of halfway house outside the EU or threaten to do so. For him this ‘maintains sovereignty and extensive trading relations with the EU’. Of course he doesn’t mention that that relationship requires acceptance by those states of EU legislation, and free movement of peoples, etc. Is that a better position than full membership – i.e. one where we have some input? And further is that a guaranteed way to avoid a hard border on the island? How hard are the borders between Switzerland and the rest of the world outside the EU? That’s not exactly a trick question, but Switzerland is encircled by EU member states.

And what happens if we do put it up to the EU, which, lest he forget, still comprises a hugely significant market for our goods and services – not to mention imports to us? He’s still banging on about corporation tax (in relation to the US and UK cutting theres – fair enough, though he doesn’t seem to consider how it is that we’ve managed to retain control of that – for better and worse – given his supposed thesis that as EU members we’ve been powerless). But would we be a more attractive destination business wise outside rather than inside the EU – given our anglophone tendencies, etc, etc?

Of course, on one level he’s correct. It may be that some sort of halfway house is necessary to shore up what is left. But his thesis is overly rose-tinted. It will come with swinging costs and negatives. And again, for all that he complains about qualified majority voting, and how we are somehow dependent upon “decisions made by people we hardly know and didn’t elect” – presumably in the EU, how is that not even more true of Farage, and May and Hammond? Fundamentally it is as if he cannot see that processes driven by the UK or forces within it in all this are arguably more intrusive of and damaging to our sovereignty than those of the EU.


1. DOCR - December 13, 2016

The 184 billion debit to 41 billion credit meme which Tom presents as incontrovertible truth isn’t that. It has lots of adherents, but because of its attractiveness rather than its accuracy.


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