Agriculture a difficult issue in US-UK trade negotiations; what a surprise

London’s Financial Times reports on a struggle within Britain’s cabinet on how much to cut farm tariffs in any US-UK trade deal.  It’s not the most edifying reporting – and the economics are even more questionable.

Of course, there’s always artificiality in the briefing of intra-government squabbles.  Political slogans predominate and reporters struggle to present the real views of ministers who can be incapable of understanding, let alone articulating, the underlying economic arguments.  But here the gap between presentation and reality is truly remarkable. Continue reading “Agriculture a difficult issue in US-UK trade negotiations; what a surprise”

A US-UK trade agreement seems likely; a great one, less so

Remember Ed Balls?  He was British PM Gordon Brown’s economic guru and a candidate for the leadership of the Labour party, before losing his seat in the 2015 election and heading to Harvard.

He’s written a paper on the prospects for a post-Brexit US-UK free trade agreement.  It’s worth reading, not so much for the conclusions, but for its insight into the analysis of Brexit’s more thoughtful critics.

He thinks both Trump and Boris have strong incentives to strike a deal before the US election.  But it’s highly likely to be aspirational, rather than substantive. Continue reading “A US-UK trade agreement seems likely; a great one, less so”

Italy’s woes are another blow to the European project (as currently constituted)

Italy has been particularly badly hit by Covid.  And recent reports suggest that there is a great deal of anger at the failure of the EU to provide more aid.

Nor is Italy well placed to deal with the economic fallout.  As Financial Times commentator Wolfgang Munchau points out, its high levels of public debt could well be headed to Greek-style levels.

“As of the end of last year, Italy’s public sector debt was 136 per cent of gross domestic product. Over the previous decade, it had increased by 30 percentage points. If you assume that what the IMF calls the Great Lockdown leaves Italian GDP 10 per cent lower than in 2019, and if outstanding debt increases by 20 per cent, then its debt-to-GDP ratio balloons to 180 per cent.” Continue reading “Italy’s woes are another blow to the European project (as currently constituted)”

Brexit: The Empire strikes back

Barely a week ago, we reported on suggestions in a minor UK periodical that the British government was not planning to extend the year-end deadline in the current EU trade talks.

It looks like they might have a subscription to The Spectator in Brussels, judging by statements from Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator (reported here in the Financial Times). Continue reading “Brexit: The Empire strikes back”

Brexit and Covid-19 – the connection is tenuous, really

Perhaps the only benefit of Covid-19 is that it seems to have scrubbed Brexit almost entirely from the media lexicon.  A generation of pundits must retool or face redundancy.

However, the issue of what new trading (and political) relationship can be negotiated between the UK and EU before the end of the year has not gone away. 

Some have been saying that a process delay is necessary.  But such arguments tend to issue from inveterate remainers and lose credibility as a result.

Now we have commentator James Forsyth saying in The Spectator that he believes the British government has decided not to request an extension to the current Brexit transition period. Continue reading “Brexit and Covid-19 – the connection is tenuous, really”

Post-Brexit trade negotiations: Let the Games begin

Timothy Garton Ash has been one of Britain’s more impressive public intellectuals.  He launched his career with his coruscating critiques of Soviet policy in Eastern Europe.  Latterly he’s gone astray in the Brexit debate.  But in a world with ‘remainers’ in denial, he is well placed to provide a blast of reality.

So his piece in the Guardian kicks off: “Hard though it is to accept, as patriots we must wish Brexit a (partial) success”. Continue reading “Post-Brexit trade negotiations: Let the Games begin”

Withdrawal agreement – done; Brexit – happening; now for the EU – UK trade deal …

As Britain ticks closer to its formal departure from the European Union on 31 January, attention is focusing on negotiations for a trade and economic treaty.

Britain’s PM, Boris Johnson, has said a deal has to be done before transitional arrangements expire at the end of 2020. European leaders are equally insistent that the deadline is impractical – unless of course the UK falls into close alignment with the EU’s rules and policies.

But the indications are that Johnson is serious, both in relation to the deadline and also the need for the UK to follow a divergent policy path. Continue reading “Withdrawal agreement – done; Brexit – happening; now for the EU – UK trade deal …”