US politicians – with a fondness for Ireland – warn UK about Brexit negotiations

As if the UK doesn’t have enough trouble negotiating Brexit with the European Union, it has now entered the US presidential election campaign.

Democrat candidate Joe Biden says there will be “no US-UK free trade agreement” if London tampers with the exit arrangements over Northern Ireland.  House speaker Democrat Nancy Pelosi and four congressmen also claim Brexit is posing dangers to the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement.

Northern Ireland is an article of faith for the Democrats. Former president Bill Clinton still claims the lion’s share for bringing the conflict to an end.  Ever since President John F Kennedy in the 1950s, there has been a strong bond with Ireland.

It became an act of authenticity with Democrats to claim some form of identity with Ireland. Ireland loved the Kennedys. At Galway Cathedral, there is a mosaic representation of Kennedy and Patrick Pearse, the leader of the 1916 rebellion, praying to an image of the risen Christ. Continue reading “US politicians – with a fondness for Ireland – warn UK about Brexit negotiations”

Breach-of-international-law row unlikely to deflect Boris Johnson’s trade negotiating strategy

Opponents of Brexit are finding it hard to pick winnable fights.  

The latest stoush: the UK’s withdrawal treaty gives the EU powers over the Northern Ireland market; the EU has suggested (should an FTA not be agreed) that these might be used to hinder the flow of goods to the province from the rest of the UK; so the British government intends to  take powers in its internal market bill to stop this.

Cue outrage at the possible breach of the withdrawal treaty and thus international law.

Continue reading “Breach-of-international-law row unlikely to deflect Boris Johnson’s trade negotiating strategy”

A clear UK position puts Brussels under pressure in the EU / UK trade negotiations

Early September, after the holidays, is when Brussels resumes business. Early on the agenda is whether the EU’s leadership abandons their negotiating strategy for a post-Brexit trade deal, as British PM Boris Johnson ups the pressure.

So far the EU’s negotiators have insisted that the UK must submit to unequal treatment in the relationship (for example, in regulatory policy, state support of industry and dispute resolution) if the UK is to retain some level of trade privilege above World Trade Organisation (WTO) minima.   

Continue reading “A clear UK position puts Brussels under pressure in the EU / UK trade negotiations”

A moment of truth for the EU in the post-Brexit trade talks

Covid, summer holidays and the usual foreign policy rows have overshadowed the EU/UK post-Brexit trade talks.  A pity because this looks like a – perhaps the – key moment, as the ever astute Wolfgang Munchau points out in the Financial Times.

The issue is the EU’s insistence that the UK conform with the EU’s state aid and competition policy – in broad terms, the regime whereby the authorities arbitrate and ensure consistency between the member states’ freedom of action in industry regulation, promotion and subsidy. Continue reading “A moment of truth for the EU in the post-Brexit trade talks”

Special pleading should not  obscure the direction of the UK’s post-Brexit negotiations

The UK car industry has run a good race in the post-Brexit lobbying stakes.  But Britain’s chemical industry looks to be making a late run, if recent coverage in the Financial Times is accurate.

The issue for the industry is the post-Brexit regulatory regime and how this is to be disengaged from the current European model.  The government plans to set up a UK agency to record the safety registrations for industrial chemicals. Continue reading “Special pleading should not  obscure the direction of the UK’s post-Brexit negotiations”

Britain’s Battle of Brexit has an internal dimension

One of the chores of the Brexit process is the repatriation of powers from Brussels to Westminster.  Simple as making a list you might say.  But one aspect – bringing home the state’s economic regulatory powers – is causing a spat.

When the UK joined the European Economic Community (as it then was) in 1973, these powers were held at the national level.  But since then, in addition to ceding further powers to Europe, the central government has devolved substantial retained powers to regional administrations in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.  And the local politicians – seeking to advance their localist and autonomist agenda – are clamouring for a share of the handback.

So Westminster’s mandarins and politicians have come up with a plan, with a refreshingly deep foundation in history, economics and – yes – politics. Continue reading “Britain’s Battle of Brexit has an internal dimension”

Europe (or the UK) changing tune in trade negotiations?

Something interesting at last in the negotiations between Britain and the EU on post-Brexit trade arrangements.

Without anyone claiming responsibility, a proposal is being floated that British exporters might retain tariff-free access to Europe’s markets, but with Europe retaining the right to re-impose tariffs if the UK changes its internal market rules.

The fact this idea has emerged suggests there is some movement. Continue reading “Europe (or the UK) changing tune in trade negotiations?”

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”

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”