Colm McCarthy writes , as usual, a very good column in the Sunday Independent. In essence it reminds us that post Brexit we have few allies in the EU. Whats missing is the conclusion as to what we can do, perhaps because not even Colm can figure that one out. Theres one thing we shouldn’t do however.
One reading of the argument is that we should follow Britain out the EU door. After all it remains our largest market for agricultural goods and for services, and the USA is our largest source of FDI. With the Apple Tax ruling signalling potential open warfare over tax issues between the EU and the USA might it not be good to get out now and stick with those that have an intrinsic interest in our wellbeing.
That might be the case, if we could be sure of two things. First that the USA and the UK have such an interest and second if we could be sure that the benefits would outweigh the costs.
Take the first. The UK does, so long as it shares a land border with us, have an intrinsic interest in our wellbeing. But it is a remote and minimalist interest. So long as we are not actively destabilizing their polity and so long as we remain a useful export market (the size approx of the West Midlands- West Yorkshire conurbations) then sure, yeah. The USA has no such interest. Colm warns against sentiment over cold logical self interest in determination of national policies, but sentiment is all that holds the USA to us. Such sentiment was of bugger all use for decades, bar a few parcels from the cousins in america. Of greater use was US FDI, which in and of itself was not the miracle we have been led to believe. But that FDI is here for two reasons we are led to believe. First, as a bridgehead into the EU market which will remain the developed worlds largest single integrated market post Brexit. Second, tax. Tax is of course in the gunsights of the EU, and has been for ages.
Every analysis of Brexit suggests that it will be an administrative and legal nightmare to leave, even were it to lead to great things. Juxtaposed in the Independent is a piece by Dan O’Brien on the maltese near miss with leaving the EU. Read that and then think of us. Why would we leave a market of 450m for one of 50m? It makes no sense.
Yes, a Brexit will be messy. Yes, its going to hurt us, the more so as we give two fingers and show ill disguised contempt to the same EU whom we will need onside post Brexit. No, thats no reason to leave. Instead of roaring abuse at the Commission we should engage in a cold hard rational debate on what sort of economy, never mind society, we wish to see in 2066, and how to get there. Instead we have a government that might fall because a junior minister doesnt believe in medical experts.