To Answer Willy Hutton’s Question – We’ll Take That Sovereign, Independent, Brexit Please

Given that we were actually asked this question – would you like to be in the European Union or not? – and we gave an answer to it – no! – Willy Hutton does ask us a fairly simple question. To which, as ever, the answer is the opposite to the one Willy Hutton wants. Yes, we do want to leave the European Union.

But let’s grant Will the honour – rare I know but let’s go with it – of taking him seriously for a moment.

Leave our shores and Brexit appears even more hopelessly strange – and the people perpetrating it even more peculiar – than they do when you are at home. In Asia, where I have spent the past week, figures such as Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg are seen as curiosities with views that are openly risible. Of course it’s stupid to leave the world’s biggest trading bloc and make your now lonely future dependent upon the kindness of unforgiving strangers. Can’t they see that? No country has ever done what Britain is attempting because it is so obviously crazed. Trade agreements are a carefully balanced mutual opening of partners’ markets with a hard-to-work-through calculus of gains and losses that takes years – even decades – to negotiate. Brexiters promised that Britain would be different and that unravelling a 45-year-old web of deep relationships would be quick and effortless, with Britain “holding all the cards”. All palpably false.

OK, the world’s full of trading blocs, you’ve got to have some economic heft to get what you want, to be able to promote your own interests. Alright, for the sake of argument, we accept that statement.

So, Britain is around the fifth largest economy in the world. The EU as a whole is the second. Game to Willy there, eh? Except, of course, we’re not the whole of the EU are we? And thus the EU takes some portion of our interests to heart but not all of them. In fact, there are 27 other members. Their interests count too in those smoke filled rooms and backstabbing corridors.

So let us ask the question the correct way. What is, in this world of trading blocs determined by economic heft, going to best promote our own interests? Being the whole of the 5th largest economic heft or being 1/28th of the second largest? To ask the question properly is to answer it, isn’t it? We’ll take the sovereign, independent, Brexit please Willy.

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Rhoda Klapp
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Rhoda Klapp

Will never asks any questions that can be answered in a way to blow off his finely tuned fantasy of how the world works.

TD
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TD

The arithmetic doesn’t look correct. The UK can’t be the 5th largest economy but only 1/28th of the second largest economy because that means that all other members of the European Union are of equal size. Assuming the UK does pull out Europe might drop a peg from #2.

Now, possibly the UK only has a 1/28th voice.

Rhoda Klapp
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Rhoda Klapp

The EU is not an economy. The top four are the US, China, Germany and Japan, not necessarily in that order. Sometimes the UK is fifth (although with fewer people than anyone above us) and sometimes France is, depending on the exchange rate and other factors. Will Hutton is still an idiot no matter what the order is.

thammond
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thammond

The UK’s economy is the same size as the combined economies of the 19 smallest members. The question is, in negotiating these trade deals, what sort of weight do our wishes have?

Andrew Carey
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Andrew Carey

Round numbers but the UK’s trade breaks down as follows:
74% – with the UK
14% – with non-EU
12% – EU ( excluding ourselves )
Yet people who believe we should be in an organisation that has payments to owners of more than 5ha of land as its primary fiscal purpose get away with saying that the EU is our largest trading partner.

Chester Draws
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Chester Draws

No country has ever done what Britain is attempting

Not true. All the Baltics etc left COMECON (and it fell apart as a result). They didn’t have to, because pretty much all the states were losing their communist governments, so it could have continued as a union of (more or less) democratic states.

COMECON fell apart because being out, despite the loss of traditional economic ties, was better than being in.

thammond
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thammond

Hutton damns himself with his own argument. If it takes “decades” to reach these complex agreements there is no point to them, because you have lost decades of benefits – better just to declare unilateral free trade and get half (ish) of the benefits for those decades rather than none.

And seriously, does he think that after say twenty years the things you agreed on in Year One are still relevant? Like so many Remainers, he lives in a bubbke where nobody challenges the insanity of this stuff.

Quentin Vole
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Quentin Vole

If it takes “decades” to reach these complex agreements there is no point to them

Of course. But you’re assuming the point of them is to make us all better off, when really it’s just an excuse for well-paid, well-educated people to spend their careers arguing over nice points of law in very agreeable hotels in exotic destinations. What’s not to like (if you’re on the gravy train)?

Rhoda Klapp
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Rhoda Klapp

It takes five minutes to do a free trade deal. A couple of sentences and some signatures. What takes years is the fiddles and special interest exceptions and lobbyists inclusions and so on. The things that make it less free.

TD
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TD

The special interests, of course, might pay the “gravy train riders” quite well. Outright bribes are risky, but hardly unknown, but there are other ways – lucrative jobs with the special interests after you leave government, essentially swapping one gravy train for another. Too many government types do believe it to be a part of their portfolio to select winners and losers among the their citizenry. Leave it to the market and the wrong ones might win.