Brutal Realities

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Take that, United Kingd…

Ah here.

Bad news for the ‘Global Britain’ Brexiters (FT)

16 thoughts on “Brutal Realities

    1. Bodger

      The UK House of Commons is back from its Easter break this week and again locks horns over the Brexit deal. While MPs were away from Westminster, there was another bit of bad news for those “Global Britain” Brexiters who big up the transatlantic alliance and the prospect of exports to the US as a replacement for trade with the EU.

      Nancy Pelosi, Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives, and as a rule not a person to be trifled with, came to London to tell them that there would be no US-UK trade deal after Brexit if the re-erection of a border across Ireland threatened the Good Friday Agreement.

      The MPs from the hard-Brexit European Research Group who apparently attempted to argue that the Irish border was a concocted issue designed to give the EU negotiating leverage over the UK did not get a warm reception. The pro-Ireland tendency on Capitol Hill has always been strong, particularly among Democrats. It now includes many Republicans too.

      The State Department has traditionally been more sympathetic to the UK, but under Donald Trump it has been denuded of staff and sidelined — and in any case it is Congress that will get the final say on a trade deal. Self-proclaimed transatlanticist British politicians are discovering to their apparent surprise that, in much of Washington as within the EU, Ireland matters more than the UK does.

      More generally, the episode highlights the unpredictable relationship between the US’s foreign policy goals and its stance on trade deals. The conventional view used to be that the two were mutually reinforcing. The North American Free Trade Agreement, for example, was sold as an agreement with not just a large economy but with a neighbour reorienting itself politically towards the US. Similarly, when the US embarked on a campaign of agreeing bilateral trade deals in the 2000s, it rapidly signed up political allies including Oman and Jordan.

      More recently, though, the link has become less clear, especially in the minds of the US Congress. Geopolitically, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, for example, was a no-brainer. It encircled China by pulling several of the big economies in the region into the US orbit and promised to attract more once it had launched. When Hillary Clinton was secretary of state and rediscovering “economic statecraft”, or the fusion of economic and security policy, she lauded TPP as one of the US’s main vehicles of influence in Asia.

      When standing for president, though, Mrs Clinton repudiated it in its present form as insufficiently protective of American companies and American workers. And even before Mr Trump withdrew the US from TPP, the agreement was struggling in Congress for workaday mercantilist reasons including insufficient protection for pharmaceutical IPR and the carve-out of tobacco companies from the pact’s investor-state provisions.

      In other words, the strategic importance of the deal weighed comparatively lightly in the balance compared with its perceived impact on American jobs and growth. Congress has learnt the lesson of Nafta, which became unpopular among the US public because it was blamed for hollowing out manufacturing. Foreign policy is abstract; the perceived effect on jobs and growth is real.

      In other words, if the UK can make it worth the US’s while economically — and at least put forward a half-plausible case about the Good Friday Agreement — the Ireland-related objections might just about be overcome. Unfortunately, the UK is a sufficiently small economy (its GDP is one-fifth of the EU27) that its main interest to the US will not mainly be as an export market but a foothold for the US’s model of regulation in Europe. If the UK is willing to sign up to the full list of US demands — chlorine-washed chicken, GMOs and the like — it might have a non-zero chance of pushing a deal through Congress. But the likelihood that such a deal would go through the House of Commons, at least without a severe public backlash, is low.

      The Global Britain types who want a meaningful US-UK deal need to get past both the hard-nosed mercantilism (plus foreign policy opposition) of the US Congress on one hand and UK public opinion on the other. Placating both Ms Pelosi and the worried British consumer will be a fiendishly difficult task.

      1. Rob_G

        That was considerate of you, but you really shouldn’t reproduce another publication’s entire article verbatim, you will end up running afoul of copyright laws.

          1. johnny

            -get laid or something smoke a spliff,you accuse Eoin of being boring, sweet jesus i’d truly rather watch paint dry that put up with your whinny moany old a*s.

          2. millie st murderlark

            Is he whining?

            No. Whining is what my kid did last night, this morning, and most likely will do this evening.

            It sounds a little like this:
            “But Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaam. (deep breath) Whhhhhhyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy?
            UGHHHHHHHHH”

  1. Jake38

    At their first meeting, when Tony Blair mentioned the “special relationship” to Bill Clinton, the latter informed him that the US had “special relationships” with 4 countries.

    China, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Ireland.

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