Much ado about TTIP, but will it ever be signed?

Opposition to the planned EU-US trade deal known as TTIP – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – is coming from a number of different quarters. Our Chairman, Edward Spalton, was one of many people to receive an e-mail from the on-line campaigning organisation “38 Degrees” soliciting financial support for its anti-TTIP campaign. The left-of–centre Campaign Against Euro-Federalism is also a staunch opponent In a recent newsletter, it claimed that TTIP would be “a means for the transnational corporations to rule with secret courts and to override national governments and parliaments.” In other words, TTIP is far from being just a simple free trade agreement. “TTIP will force all Europeans to take Greece’s medicine” claimed a headline on the Politicos website, while concerns have been expressed that TTIP would result in the privatisation of the National Health Service. One UKIP MEP claims to have received over 10,000 e-mails from ordinary members of the public concerned about the implications of the deal. Even if some of the wilder claims have no basis in fact, the strong support for TTIP from the big multinationals suggests that they will be the biggest beneficiaries from the proposals to harmonise regulation across the Atlantic and that small businesses and ordinary people will see little benefit.

A sense of perspective is required here. Will TTIP ever happen? Comprehensive free trade agreements between two different countries are being increasingly superseded by wider agreements on standards under the auspices of various international bodies, such as UNECE, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe and ISO, the International Organisation for Standardisation (and interestingly, an independent, non-governmental organisation). Agreements negotiated under these bodies tend to cover only a limited range of items, but they take a lot less time than a full Free Trade agreement. It is therefore misleading for some eurosceptics to emphasise that Iceland and Switzerland have Free Trade agreements with China whereas the EU does not, for the EU has signed a number of Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) with China, which facilitate trade. Individual MoUs, like agreements negotiated by UNECE or ISO, are limited in scope, but if enough are signed, they are a good substitute for a full-blown Free Trade agreement and are far easier to agree.

So TTIP is not the only way whereby trade between the EU and the USA might be liberalised. Indeed, its very complexity means that hopes of signing the deal by the end of the year look unlikely to happen. In fact, a number of informed observers including Dr Richard North and the Bruges Group’s Robert Oulds are dubious that it will ever be completed. President Barack Obama is keen to see an agreement signed, as are number of senior figures in the EU, but given how long it has taken to negotiate other free trade deals, can such a complex deal, covering so many areas of standardisation and their monitoring, be finalised in just a few months? Can it overcome the opposition from trade unions, genuine free marketeers and some important political figures in the USA?

One thing is clear. David Cameron chose to cite TTIP as an example of the benefits the UK enjoys by being a member of the European Union. He claimed that the UK would be the biggest European beneficiary of a free trade deal with the USA. The reality is that if we left the EU, we would still be able to trade with the US. We might be able to “piggy back” onto TTIP, although we may decide we would not wish to do so. We may find our own request for free trade negotiations pushed to one side in Washington if TTIP is in the final stages of negotiation when we withdraw, but it could well be possible for us to enjoy a better trading relationship less geared up to the interests of the big multinationals and less prone to interference by lobbyists if we left. One thing is certain:- if Cameron tries to use TTIP as a reason for voting to stay within the EU when the referendum takes place, he may well find this tactic will misfire badly.

Photo by The British Library

Britain’s global leadership – the positive future for a UK outside the EU

The Bruges Group firmly believes that we need to reframe the debate to focus on the positives that Britain poses, in particular our excellent global links, higher education, to the City of London and technical brilliance in manufacturing. The UK, when freed from the restraints of the EU, has numerous attributes. Quite simply we do not have to be governed by Brussels to secure our prosperity, in fact far from it. This research, by Ewen Stewart, makes the positive case for independence.

• Inside the EU we are punching below our weight and should do better. Self-belief coupled with a hard analysis of the nexus of power and strategic advantage will lead to this being addressed but that can only be so once we are outside of the EU.

• The Eurocentric orientation of the UK is misplaced. Emerging markets, by 2018 are expected to account for 45% of world GDP and the European Union’s share will have declined from 34.1% to 20.2%, with the Eurozone representing an even smaller 14.6%. China’s share is predicted to surpass the entire Eurozone by 2018.

• Nations that can address this extraordinary shift in global growth will capitalise most effectively on these new trade flows. The attractive European trade bloc, of the 1970’s does not look so attractive in this light, given the Eurozone’s inexorable decline of the share of global GDP. The UK is uniquely well placed to exploit these shifting trading patterns given its global links and its service and financial sector bias.

• Britain is uniquely positioned globally in terms of economic, cultural and soft and hard power assets. The UK is home to the world’s global language, the world’s most global city and many of the most notable global universities and research institutes. British legal ideas and the common law approach is admired the world over. It is the basis of our stability. These advantages would continue irrespective of our membership of the EU.

• British manufacturing remains comfortably within the top ten, in terms of output, globally. The UK is now a net exporter of motor cars with four out of every five cars produced in Britain exported. Britain is the world’s second most significant aerospace manufacturer, possesses two out of the top ten global pharmaceutical companies while also having strong positions in marine, defence systems, food, beverage and tobacco manufacture, off-shore engineering and high-end engineering and electronics. British design, be it in fashion or sports cars, continues to be world beating.

• The UK retains a key skills base and has developed a high-end, high-margin capability. Membership of the EU, with its cost pressures has almost certainly done more harm than good to this capability. Industry has little to fear from withdrawal.

• The UK is a world leader in sport, media and culture. Higher education is also a great strength with British universities ranked amongst the best in the world. This coupled with the growing strength of the English language and our traditional excellent global links gives the UK real influence in world affairs. This will not change once we are outside the EU.

• While the US is the pre-eminent power accounting for 39% of all global defence expenditure and an even greater technological lead the UK’s defence expenditure remains in the global top 4. Technologically too Britain’s forces, while numerically modest, are highly advanced. Technology generally trumps numbers. The UK is perhaps one of only 5 or 6 nations that can still project power across the globe.

• As the world’s 5th largest economy Britain will not be isolated by leaving the EU. On the contrary British power would, in some cases, be enhanced. For example we would swap our 12% EU voting weight at the World Trade Organisation for a 100% British vote.

• The UK is currently estimated to be a member of 96 different international governmental organisations so the loss of one such organisation, albeit a very important one, is unlikely to be damaging. To read the paper on-line, click on the link below:-

BritainsGlobalLeadership

Selling the dream – the case for leaving the EU now

We have it in our power to begin the world over again. (Thomas Paine, 1776, Common Sense)

A future outside full membership of the European Union opens up exciting possibilities unlike the existing increasingly sclerotic situation as the EU expands its role and territory. Ahead could be a new beginning that builds on the best of who and what we (the People) are, to build freedom, democracy, justice, prosperity and a peaceful country in an increasing competitive and dangerous world.

The positive case for leaving the EU could be made by focusing on Unique Selling Propositions (USPs), the major advantages not otherwise available. These USPs really stand out, are instantly memorable and, preferably are scalable in application with little or no change in terminology from personal circumstances, to the local community, and then to our country; as Tip O’Neill said ‘All politics is local’. USPs could come from identifying ‘Great Themes’, that are largely self-evident (or at least everyone can have a coherent view on) and can be expanded in detail as needed. These exist in perpetuity and take cognisance of our ‘bigger picture’ of wishes, needs, fears and circumstances in the light of current knowledge and invention. They are often mutually supportive and sometimes overlap each other. The following are some Great Themes with their associated USPs arising from leaving the EU.

Win-Win Relationship with EU – Ability to work with the EU on terms that give us advantages (for example, of free trade with the EU and other countries) without the downside from ever closer political union; the EU can move ahead with fuller integration into a monolithic superstate without our truculent, unstable membership; less effects on us from any future EU meltdown, (economic or political instability), and the EU can ‘fix’ such problems unencumbered by us;

Freedom – Freedom to be ourselves, to live our lives as we choose and to decide what is best for us (put our interests first); Freedom to tackle major problems in our own ways and build better lives and a better country for everyone; Freedom from the EU’s abuses of power and exploitation, mistakes and excesses including waste, corruption, corporatism (government for the favoured few and Big Business), taxes, injustices, ‘one size fits all’ over-regulation, bureaucratic absolutism, and misconceived (madcap) ideologies and economics; Freedom to choose how we protect and defend ourselves, our country, way of life and heritage; Freedom to co-operate with others without EU interference; Freedom to set and enforce our own ethical standards of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ behaviour;

Democracy – Building government of the people, by the people, for the people at all levels of administration with a focus on bottom up local de-centralisation, rather than remote top down centralisation; building greater participation, democratic accountability and transparency; building a new dispensation, partnership or relationship between a more in-touch and accessible government and governed based on mutual respect, honesty and participation for the benefit of all;

Justice – The rule of our (national) laws based on our standards, heritage and judiciary; protection of our existing freedoms, for example, of speech, of conscience, of the Press, from arbitrary arrest and imprisonment, from fear; protection of our property and wealth from arbitrary, unaccountable confiscation; the advancement of social justice in ways acceptable to the People;

Prosperity – For all from free enterprise, better competitiveness, lower taxes and honest, prudent government; trade, co-operate and work with whoever we choose on mutually agreed terms; safeguard and develop our assets, resources, and enterprises free from the EU’s excesses; support science, innovative and small businesses and start-ups where the EU currently fails; improve public sector procurement practices to facilitate local enterprise;

Futureproofing – Ability to move quickly and appropriately, including allocation of resources; flexibility to develop and implement our own leading best practice; ability to adopt, adapt to our needs and improve best practice from wherever it is available (including on occasion from the EU when it suits us – anything good the EU does, we can do better);

Opportunity and momentum – Lifting the EU’s dead hand holding us back, creates momentum for change, to question how things are done and create opportunities; progress can now happen which before was inconceivable through individual contribution rather than via top-down diktat; the existing management of national decline by the government and EU bureaucrats can be reversed; birth of greater confidence and self-reliance leading to more achievements from individual, community, organisation and national levels (the ‘can do’ or ‘get up and go’ spirit reborn);

Ethical Standards – Remove the corrosive influence on our society of the EU’s poorer standards especially relating to freedom and individuality, democracy, corruption and honesty, waste, taxation, bureaucracy, compassion, property rights and rule of just law;

Inspire The World – As a sovereign nation and free people with our own identity we can be more visible than as a region of an homogenised superstate; our ways of doing things from freedom, through law, culture, heritage, humanity, research, to enterprise etc. can bring a beacon of hope to many;
Why do we need to accept second best or worse, when we can do much better ourselves to realise our dreams or ambitions at individual, community and national levels? Leaving behind a moribund EU is about a future of hope; about releasing the potential that is being repressed; about building on our best; about independence and placing our lives, our country and our future in our hands:

The coming hope, the future day,
When wrong to right shall bow,
And but a little courage, patriots!
To make that future—NOW!
(adapted from The Song of the Future, Ernest Jones, Chartist and poet)

Photo by Hernan Piñera

Mistaken Assumptions about the EU Referendum battle

1. Business supports staying in the EU. WRONG.
Many businessmen make speeches about the advantages of staying in the Single Market. It is perfectly possible to stay in the Single Market and leave the EU, as detailed in the FLEXCIT plan, supported by us. Businessmen do not make speeches about supporting any other part of the EU membership.

2. The referendum is about business. WRONG.
By staying in the Single Market there will be no change to jobs, investment or trade.

3. The referendum is about the UK’s trading arrangements. WRONG.
Staying in the Single Market means there will be no change to jobs, investment or trade. Deciding future trading arrangements will be done at a future date by the democratic discussion in an independent UK.

4. The alternatives are presented as staying in the EU as it is or leaving it for an unknown future. WRONG.
There is no option of staying in the EU as it is. The correct alternatives were put by Jacques Delors, in 2012:: “If the British cannot support the trend to more integration in Europe, we can remain friends
but on a different basis. I could imagine a form such as an European Economic Area or a Free
Trade Agreement.

5. The referendum is about whether or not Cameron’s reforms are satisfactory. WRONG.
The referendum is about ‘remain in’ or ‘leave’ the European Union, not choosing between an ‘unreformed’ and ‘reformed’ European Union.

6. A ‘remain in’ vote proved to be a blank cheque in 1975.
The British government took a ‘remain in’ vote as authority to push through numerous further treaties, further integration and loss of independence. A new ‘remain in’ vote is another blank cheque.

7. The referendum is about British influence and sitting at the ‘top table’. WRONG.
The UK is not, and does not want to be, a member of the inner core of the EU either in the eurozone or the Schengen agreement on open borders. This lack of involvement has not diminished British influence because the EU long ceased to be the ‘top table’ and is nowadays more a transmission belt for regulation from global bodies.

8. It is safe to stay in the European Union. WRONG.
Staying in the EU means the UK is involved in the eurozone crisis and the refugee/migration crisis in the rest of the EU. These crises arise from the supranational nature of the EU and can be termed ‘existential’. It also means that the UK voters proclaiming they are not concerned about these
crises are willingly giving up their strong opportunity to change matters. The EU institutions will conclude they can move towards much faster integration.

Peer accuses CBI of ignoring the will of the people at the General Election

THE PRESS OFFICE OF                                                           

The Lord Stoddart of Swindon

(Independent Labour)                                                                                          

News Release

 

20th May 2015

Peer charges CBI with being “corporatist and anti-democratic”

The independent Labour Peer, Lord Stoddart of Swindon has strongly criticised Mike Rake the President of the Confederation of British Industry for his speech calling for the UK to remain in the EU, accusing the CBI of ignoring the General Election result and pursuing “corporatist and anti-democratic” policies.

Lord Stoddart said:  “I find it deeply worrying that the President of the CBI has learned nothing from the recent General Election results in which political parties with EU-sceptic credentials were overwhelmingly successful in comparison to those parties who still believe in EU membership; both in number of votes polled and in percentage terms.  In other words, the CBI wants to ignore the democratically expressed will of the people in pursuing its corporatist objectives.

“Sending lobbyists to Brussels rather than every capital in Europe might suit the big businesses represented by the CBI but SMEs, the lifeblood of our economy, are hugely disadvantaged.  We are seeing the results of this in the introduction of the EU’s heavy-handed new regulations that have forced small businesses which sell products online to register for VAT, even if they are well below the national threshold for VAT.  Many have simply abandoned online sales as a result.

“If the CBI wishes to continue to pursue its corporatist and anti-democratic policy on this issue, it needs to make clear precisely what the benefits are of staying in the EU and its approach to the problem that staying in the EU inevitably creates i.e. ever greater integration and much more red tape, which our country cannot afford.  We would all do well to remember that the CBI was one of the siren voices that led the campaign to scrap the pound and join the eurozone.  What a mess that would have landed us in!”

UK’s trade deficit in goods with the EU hits a record high

According to the Government’s Office of National Statistics, the trade deficit in goods with the other 27 member states of the EU reached £21.1 billion in the three months to February, a record high since comparable records began in 1998 and an increase of £1.5 billion on the previous three months.

The statistics provided further evidence of the growing reorientation of UK trade away from the EU.  The EU now accounts for 47.6% of UK goods exports – a figure that is probably overstated by 3-4% due to the “Rotterdam/ Antwerp effect” – the practise of recording goods shipped to these two large ports as exports to the EU even if they may well be then shipped on to a third country outside the EU.

Given that the demographics of the EU suggest a dimishing role for the EU as a a destination for UK exports and given that a tit-for-tat trade war would clearly hurt the other member states more than the UK because of the trade imbalance, these figures only strengthen the case for a new relationship between the UK and the EU where we can preserve our access to the Single Market while being free to strike our own trading relationships with the growing economies of the world.  For all its inadequacies as a long term relationship between the UK and the EU, a move to join Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland in the EEA and EFTA would clearly be beneficial for our country’s exporters.

(with thank to Open Europe’s daily briefing service)

Photo by John D F