Naa mate, you’re doing it all wrong…


That’s what I would say to Theresa May on her Brexit strategy.

Today we find ourselves living through a really bizarre phase in the Brexit process where the UK is like some character in a shockingly awful pantomime, along with characters such as Jean Claude Junker, Guy Verhofstadt, Michel Barnier and others. Both sides are shouting out to an audience of bemused ordinary folk who are wondering what on earth is going on. It’s like a WWI battle with entrenched enemies firing artillery guns at the other side hoping to be able to edge forward their front to eventual victory. Only with words as opposed anything pointy or explody.

We know it’s all for show as well, on both sides. Theresa ‘General Election’ May and the euro-Nazis going at each other all gobs blazing. Each side wants to score points against the other and we’re meant to think this is all part of doing a deal. The idea is that this international slagging match must happen or else neither side will be able to trade with the other ever again or that the ‘quality’ of trade will suffer without this argy bargy.

Ok Emmett, get to the point…

This is what I want to say about the ‘deal’ with the EU. Forget it, it’s nonsense.

I think following WTO rules would actually be preferable to a deal and here’s why. Doing a deal puts us in a position where we treat them as if they’re doing us a favour. So we’re grateful for any crumb of cooperation and Theresa is willing to concede in ways no brexiteer would ever dream of in order to strike a bargain and get something back in return. It’s a disaster and we’ve barely even started.

There are other sound reasons why we should prefer WTO rules as well. WTO rules permit members to raise disputes against each other. For example, if there is a sense one member is unfairly trading differently with different members of WTO then that could be an official dispute. If you offer one nation a good rate then you must offer it to all other WTO members. Only the EU have special dispensation to ignore this within the EU bloc. After leaving the EU the UK would lose that special dispensation and leave themselves open to dispute resolution actions by other WTO members. The EU would have to offer us the same deal they offer other WTO members and if we wanted to be good WTO members we would have to offer our best deals to all of WTO.

WTO also provides for evolving trading practices so there is a mechanism for constant refinement. If the rates aren’t good now then there is an official mechanism for evolution, it’s the point of the forum. With an EU deal we would have to engage in another spiteful drawn-out slagging match to change things agreed now in haste which might not work for us later on. Why would we prefer that?

And I’ve not even mentioned those Abbot-esq ‘shifting figures’ of a severance fee which various EU negotiators are proposing.

So for god’s sake, let’s stop this madness of a deal with the EU, it’s barmy. The pragmatic choice is to forget about a deal and operate within the WTO framework. In the long run it would be sensible thing to do and we could cut short the Article 50 process and be out by the end of the week.


  1. I’m hoping this article is satirical because otherwise the naivety is painful to read.

    For instance:
    ‘The EU would have to offer us the same deal they offer other WTO members’

    Yes, the WTO principle of non-discrimination in the absence of a Preferential Trade Agreement. So under those terms, we get to endure a array of tariff and non-tariff barriers. I’m not actually seeing anything in this article where you address that.

    For example, you don’t answer fundamental questions like how would our customs infrastructure cope with leaving the EEA and EUCU, when it is designed to deal with the friction-less system of electronic clearance that we have now.

    Other issues not directly related to trade, such as the Single European Sky, are not remotely addressed by a WTO exit.

    Domestic regulation would become a significant legal problem with a WTO exit. How exactly do we just magic up new regulatory agencies to replace the European Medicines Agency, etc. How do we cope with thousands of repatriated regulations which reference those same agencies and EU institutions. The government seems to believe they will have solved this with the Henry VIII powers of the Great Repeal Bill, but the magnitude of the task would be even larger with a no deal scenario.

  2. These are pre-referendum questions. That ship has sailed. We are going to have to cope outside of the ‘common’ European conveniences. I don’t think it’s a problem. The UK is a member of more than 90 bilateral organisations so already cooperates across borders and will continue to into the future.

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