Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Trade deals and misdirection

As I may have said already (bear with me - only two more months to go) I am fed up with the misdirection that is being used by both sides in the EU exit debate. A couple of days ago, Teresa May made an odd speech, supposedly about staying in the EU, but in practice almost entirely about the European Court of Human Rights. (Guess what. She doesn't like it.) Say after me, Teresa: 'The European Court of Human Rights has nothing to do with the EU.' And she knows that perfectly well.

However, the specific topic that has aroused my ire is the response to President Obama's comment at the weekend that it could take 10 years to negotiate a trade deal with the US if we leave the EU, a response that suggests that this means that transatlantic trade will collapse. This echoes similar dire warnings that leaving the EU will mean we can no longer trade with EU countries. Let's be clear here. This is balderdash.

We don't have a proper trade deal with the US at the moment. But guess what? We buy US goods and services - and they buy ours - all the time. We aren't talking about things getting worse with the US, simply sticking with the status quo for longer than if we stayed in the EU. If we do stay in the European Union we are likely to became part of the EU/US trade deal. And what is that trade deal? The horrendous and secretively negotiated TTIP, which threatens to open our markets to a flood of US products and services that don't meet our standards on, for instance, use of hormones in raising cattle, and makes it pretty well impossible to prevent US companies taking over some aspects of the NHS.

I don't doubt there will be some bumps in the road if we leave the EU - and it might not be the best idea. But the way the trade situation has been portrayed as going from wondrous perfection to vastly reduced trade really doesn't provide any reflection on the nature of reality.

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