Europe’s false step on tech

You’ve got to hand it to the EU’s leadership.  They are planning to welcome a Joe Biden victory with a proposal for renewed and refreshed co-operation – preferably on Europe’s terms.  

It is billed as a “once-in-a-generation” offer for the US to join the EU’s many committees and after the usual excruciating discussion, agree to adopt its approach in areas like digital regulation, competition policy, security and post-Covid action. 

No doubt a Biden administration will find something to like in the European menu.  But not as much as the Europeans might hope.

Continue reading “Europe’s false step on tech”

Innovation works very well indeed

Matt Ridley – former science editor of The Economist and prolific popular science writer – has tackled a slippery subject in his book How Innovation Works’. He succeeds in painting a vibrant and at times counter intuitive picture of this process. One that policy makers and public alike can usefully ponder.

A major contribution is demystification.  He trashes the model of a tortured genius locked in the lab. Innovation comes from lots of people, competing or in concert, working by trial and error, sharing or stealing knowledge. It occurs when the conditions are right, because it bubbles out of the accumulation and testing of knowledge (hence the prevalence of simultaneous invention from calculus to light bulbs). ‘Ideas having sex’ is his metaphor of choice. And this tends to happen where innovators can gather and experiment free of restrictions.   

Continue reading “Innovation works very well indeed”

It isn’t hard cheese if the EU gets its way with GIs, chef insists – but dairy exporters are likely to disagree

Kiwi cheese-makers will be wondering which advice they should take from chef Simon Gault.

This week he was saying they should stop trying to imitate brie and gouda and focus on producing uniquely New Zealand styles.

His advice was given to people watching a webinar arranged by the European Union Delegation to New Zealand, an outfit committed to promoting the EU’s increasing use of geographical indications to protect European products.

In June last year, however, Gault  was singing the praises of NZ French-style cheeses. 

In particular, he was enthusing about a French-style camembert made in the Nelson region.

So you don’t have to go to France to buy a cheese, he advised.

“ Bastille day is coming up – let’s buy NZ French cheese” Continue reading “It isn’t hard cheese if the EU gets its way with GIs, chef insists – but dairy exporters are likely to disagree”

Brexit ho – is a deal in sight?

On again, off again.  Then, after British PM Boris Johnson’s statement that there was no point in continuing negotiations without movement from the EU, there are signals that a trade and economic deal might be possible in the next few weeks.

We shall see.  But it’s a good moment to pay tribute to the skill of the negotiators and their principals.

Continue reading “Brexit ho – is a deal in sight?”

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”

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 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”