Tag Archives: trade

28 November 2018 – today’s press releases (part 1)

Another sizeable batch today, although one of my colleagues has asked me to hold one back until tomorrow. Indeed, we’ve had so many that I’m breaking them up into two posts…

  • Tory failure to prepare for Brexit risks empty shops & disruption at ports
  • Lib Dems secure key concessions on counter-terror laws
  • Chancellor’s comments show May’s cabinet in chaos
  • Cable: PM must stop threatening the country with no-deal Brexit
  • Cable: UK could be worse off than Government impact assessments say

Tory failure to prepare for Brexit risks empty shops & disruption at ports

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran has slammed the Tories for “refusing to provide information …

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LibLink: Miriam Gonzalez Durantez: How to beat the ticking Brexit clock: let British business leaders do the talking

There are few people in this country who have as much experience in negotiating international trade deals as Miriam Gonzalez Durantez.  In her Made in Spain book published last year, she drops casually into a recipe that she came across guacamole when she helped to negotiate the EU-Mexico trade agreement.

She’s written in the Guardian about the many dangerous mistakes that the Government is making in its approach to the EU negotiations.

She has some scary observations about who is influencing these proceedings:

British business leaders were asked to share the table with the Legatum Institute, a thinktank with unparalleled access to Davis and Theresa May and that seems to have been at the origin of some of the preposterous positions on Brexit taken by the government so far. Its inexplicable presence at that table was the clearest signal that the government has not changed its views on Brexit after the general election even one tiny little bit.

The institute has established a special commission on trade that consists of more than 20 people with different “trade” backgrounds. It is run by a British American director. The Legatum member who has just been nominated the UK’s new chief trade negotiation adviser is a New Zealander. The funding of the institute comes from a foundation that is part of a Dubai-based private investment group. So much for the UK “taking back control”.

The Government invited 33 business leaders to a discussion with this organisation recently. She goes on to show how this institute may have influenced the Government’s comments on things like “frictionless” access to the single market.

Miriam goes on to describe exactly why such an approach is completely unrealistic:

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Brake: May and Farage’s claim of an easy post-Brexit trade deal left in tatters

So, for long enough, the Brexiteers have been telling us that the EU would be pretty much begging us for a trade deal and we’d easily get one within two years.

Theresa May said last month that the deal could be done in two years , despite all sorts of evidence to the contrary.

Paul Nuttall said that it would all be so easy.

Well, in a sobering reality check, the European Court of Justice, who make the rules on this stuff, said today that all EU governments and national parliaments would have to agree such a deal. Remember how the Canadian EU deal was held up by a regional parliament in Belgium?

Tom Brake said:

Theresa May and Nigel Farage’s claims of an easy trade deal with the EU after Brexit have been left in tatters.

People don’t have to accept a bad Brexit deal that will mean fewer jobs, higher prices and less money for public services.

The Liberal Democrats want you to have your choice over your future.

You should have your say on the Brexit deal in a referendum, and if you don’t like the deal you should be able to reject it and choose to remain in Europe.

None of this is a surprise to the Liberal Democrat team. Their competent, credible and authoratitve statements have proven time and time again to be correct and Nick Clegg’s Brexit Challenge papers provide a comprehensive and accurate analysis of the complexities of all aspects of the risky course we are being dragged on by an incompetent government that hasn’t got a clue what it’s doing.

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No deal, no way

There isn’t going to be a free trade deal before we leave the EU.  Theresa May was advised as much by the civil service back in November when it became clear that there is no-where near enough time to negotiate a deal.  In any case it is not in the EU’s political interests to come to an agreement until after we’ve actually left the club so as not to encourage further euro-scepticism on the continent.

Ending free movement will not reduce migration to the tens of thousands.  The government will still have no control of the number of people leaving the country, nor the skills and experience they take with them.  In any case migration in the UK is driven by economics and the government will be in no position to risk a labour shortage and consequent rise in wages and fall in tax receipts.  Economics will take priority above migration, as it has done for each of the last seven years.

Britain is not going to become a low tax, low regulation global trading hub outside the EU.  Any such moves would be classed as fiscal and regulatory ‘dumping’ and would lead to retaliatory measures not just from the EU but the US as well.  That would cripple the global supply chain that underpins our most successful industries.   In any case the government is already spending £50 billion more than its earning, even after 7 years of austerity, and with billions more needed for education, the NHS and infrastructure investment slashing taxes is the last thing on the agenda.

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Shadow-boxing against a “no deal” Brexit is counter-productive


Theresa May’s letter stated that H.M. Government seeks “a deep and special partnership” with “a bold and ambitious Free Trade Agreement” that covers financial services, where we “have to align with rules agreed by institutions of which we are no longer a part”, and “manage the evolution of our regulatory frameworks to maintain a fair and open trading environment”.

The closest model would seem to be the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements (DCFTAs) that the EU has already negotiated with Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia, and has offered to Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt and Jordan. Since all these jurisdictions account for a smaller share of EU exports than the UK, (e.g. Ukraine’s share is 0.8% against the UK’s 8%), it is realistic to expect similar terms to be readily offered to the UK.

A “no deal” scenario on Brexit was never taken seriously by the EU institutions, and is not on the agenda.  Exiting with no agreement on terms of departure or successor trade deal at all would harm the UK’s prospects of securing favourable future trading arrangements not only with the EU, but also with other countries.  It would probably result in British GDP falling by something like £1,700 per household, thereby risking tainting the Conservative Party with economic mismanagement. Had Mrs May seriously sought or expected a “no deal’ scenario, she would not have wasted political capital and risked her credibility seeking to negotiate a new trade agreement alongside an exit deal; it would rather have been to her advantage to leave more quickly and suffer an economic shock in 2017, in the hope that the economy was reviving by the time of the next election. 

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That extra special relationship

The Anglo-American Special Relationship is becoming the EXTRA Special Relationship – and not for the right reasons.

The Special Relationship is based on a shared historic, legal, cultural, and philosophical root buttressed by military and political alliances, a shared outlook of the world and intelligence services which are joined at the hip and just about every other part of the political anatomy.

The Extra Special Relationship is based on a shared pariah status, siege mentality and Britain and America’s  common need for friends in an increasingly friendless world.  The Brexit vote has isolated the UK from its former partners in continental Europe. Trump’s style plus his anti-Islamic, anti-EU, anti-free trade, anti-Nato, anti-Chinese and pro-Russian and pro-Israeli rhetoric has done the same.

On top of that, Prime Minister Theresa May needs a big trade deal to show that Brexit can work to Britain’s advantage. Trump is offering a massive bribe—the trade deal.

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Opportunities? Brexiteers, please specify

The motives and backgrounds of leave-voters are by now sufficiently understood to conclude that many of them cannot afford to and would not have voted for becoming substantially and permanently poorer. Some may, but had it been widely understood that Brexit comes at a high economic price for everybody, the result would have been a different one.

Apparently, most leavers dismissed the economic arguments of remain, and instead of asking for better arguments from leave bought the “scaremongering”-claim (admittedly, leave was much better at creating slogans). And this continues: leave already claims victory on the economy after 6 months in which nothing (apart from a 15% devaluation of the country) has happened. Luckily, consumers so far remain complacent and keep spending.

I know the typical response I can expect from Brexiteers: unsubstantiated claims (“see the opportunities”, “champions of free trade”…), denial (“Q3 was good”), fluffy sovereignty-talk (“Brussels”), and pressure (“how dare you not respecting the will of the people?”). Is that all you have got?

May I challenge you to think a little harder? Specify trading opportunities the UK currently misses because of EU membership, which outweigh the losses from leaving the single market. In other words: How and when will you have replaced the benefits of preferential access to 27 EU member states and the EUs’ 53 third-country agreements with higher yielding UK-deals? How and when will you recover the transitional losses? Will the current generation of young people recover from the damage within their professionally active lifetime? No leave-campaigner has ever presented any such case. Can you?

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Tories trash trade and we’re getting a pounding

Our future trade relations are the major battleground in the Brexit process. Unfortunately the public debate on trade remains poor, fuelled by the Brexiteers’ misleading, if not self-delusional, narrative of how the global world trading system works.

Brexiteers tell us the EU is more dependent upon us because we import their cars, cheeses and wines so we shall secure a good deal. When Brexiteers are reminded about our large trade deficit, International Trade Minister Fox blames our “fat and lazy” businessmen. Brexiteers argue we shall be free to conclude our own trade deals. However, a free trade deal with the EU will afford less market access than what we enjoy now as part of the Single European Market. It is no wonder why business organisations have responded with an open letter asking the Government to ensure we retain full Single Market access.

The UK will not have the upper hand in trade negotiations because 44% of our trade is with the EU whereas we account for only 17% of EU trade. With only 2% of world GDP compared with the EU’s 22% of world GDP, it is no wonder why US Trade Representative Mike Froman stated in the Financial Times on 30th October 2015:

Washington is not particularly in the market for a trade agreement with a single nation like the UK … it is absolutely clear that Britain has a greater voice at the trade table being part of the EU (and) part of a larger economic entity.

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Three Freedoms: the campaigning priorities for Brexit

The upcoming Brexit negotiations will be difficult for Liberal Democrats to watch. The vast majority of us campaigned to remain, and even those who voted to leave will, I imagine, be nervous at the prospect of an authoritarian Tory leader, probably without a specific mandate from the electorate for her party to run these negotiations, having so much power over what Britain’s negotiating position is to be.

As a parliamentary party, our lack of numbers will make it hard for us to get our message across when we’re needed the most. This is a time we as members and supporters are perhaps needed more than usual; to directly protest, write letters, persuade our fellow citizens, and hold the government to account from outside Westminster in support of our representatives inside.
Creating unambiguous messages to send to government on such a complex problem with such diverse viewpoints is difficult, and much ink has been and, I’m sure, will continue to be spilt on the subject. Today I just want to outline an idea of one specific strategy we could take, which I’m dubbing the “three freedoms” principle, as an attempt to boil down the terrifying complexity of the EU negotiations to something rather punchier.

Essentially, my view is that in the negotiations (setting aside the upcoming struggles on eg working rights and environmental protection which are likely to devolve to Westminster) there are three key things to secure.

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What they don’t tell you about TTIP

Countless articles, emails and campaigns have expressed anger about TTIP. This is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which would cover over 800 million people in the EU and US, as well as helping determine the shape of future agreements the world over. There are numerous concerns – some entirely misguided, some merely exaggerated – and from reading the literature of campaign groups like 38 Degrees it might be hard to know whether there are any benefits at all from this trade deal. So supporters of free trade need to straightforwardly spell out some of TTIP’s advantages.

In particular, lost among the scaremongering and obscure debates has been the very foundation of TTIP: an abolition of almost all the remaining import and export tariffs between the US and EU. It’s true, as both supporters and opponents of TTIP say, that tariffs are only a part of the deal: harmonising regulations (without lowering standards) is now often more important. But when the entire process is under attack, the scrapping of tariffs should not be glossed over. I hope it’s not too insulting to suggest that many of those attacking TTIP or signing petitions (not to mention those who haven’t heard of TTIP) may have no idea that it includes the scrapping of import and export tariffs.

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Europe or the world? It’s a false choice.

“Do you agree that the UK should leave the EU and trade with the world?” That’s the question on the front page of the UKIP website, and presumably how they want to start framing the referendum debate once they launch their own No campaign later this week. “Out, and into the world,” as it was put in the 1970s.

But that’s a false choice. We don’t have to choose between Europe and the world. We can have both.

Let’s start by emphasising just how important the European marketplace is to British business. Last year, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics, the UK’s exports to the rest of the EU were worth £226bn – 12 times the value of the stuff we sold to China and 33 times what we sold to India. Between 2000 and 2014 the value of our exports to the rest of the EU rose by £80bn; the value of our exports to China rose by £16bn, and to India by just £4bn. China and India are important, growing markets with lots of potential, but let’s not forget just how important Europe is and will remain.

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Opinion: TTIP: a taxpayer funded safety net for the super-rich

Few things are more complicated and opaque than the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a trade deal being hammered out between the EU and the USA. It has been criticized by activists and journalists such as George Monbiot, but Vince Cable asserts there is nothing to worry about. Who is right?

When things get complicated, follow the money. Fortunately we now have a money bloodhound. The economist Thomas Piketty has spent a decade or more producing a huge scholarly work which reveals where the money is. His answer is simple: unless active measures are taken an ever larger proportion ends up in the hands of the already very rich. TTIP will make this even worse.

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Opinion: Towards an ethical trade policy

As a Liberal Democrat for almost all of my adult life, I am often  bemused that other citizens are yet to share my enthusiasm for our long held belief in a dynamic European Union.

The prevailing phenomena of Euroscepticism is not purely a UK problem. We only have to look at France and to a lesser extent Germany to see similar. Why?

In my view the failure is in not articulating the needs of and connecting with European citizens. People have felt marginalised by the closure of traditional industries and a sense of lack of power to change or alter what is happening to them in this brave new world. Far Right Parties have been quick to make the most of this.

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Opinion: TTIP: What could possibly go wrong?

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is an agreement currently being negotiated between the EU and the USA to allow for freer trade between the two. We received an upbeat assessment of its progress and potential from Nick Thornsby a couple of weeks ago. It is currently Liberal Democrat policy to support it, but I have serious reservations about whether we are doing either liberalism or democracy any favours in this instance.

A trade agreement that reduced barriers and increased access to markets, thus lowering prices for customers, and increasing quality would be a great thing. However, this is not …

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Liblink… Vince Cable: Europe is an anchor for British business

For centuries, Britain has developed economically through being an open, outward-looking country. Today, the economy has a high level of global integration. The UK is the world’s fifth largest exporter of goods and services, and we attract more foreign direct investment than any other European country.

…Vince Cable, writing in the Guardian.

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This week in Europe: 20-23 May

As attention turns towards next year’s European Parliamentary elections, Liberal Democrat MEP’s continue to work for jobs and growth, and against some of the more ludicrous bureaucratic excesses…

“EU must get tough on tax” says Sharon Bowles MEP
 
Ahead of yesterday’s EU Summit in Brussels, the European Parliament backed a common European strategy to combat tax fraud, evasion and havens.
 
UK Liberal Democrat MEP Sharon Bowles, who chairs the European Parliament’s Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, said:
 

It is totally unacceptable that corporate tax avoidance is now the norm in Europe, aided and abetted by aggressive tax planning and tax consultancy firms.
 
I have been fighting

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Clegg on UK and EU relationship with Africa: “more trade, fairer tax and greater business transparency”

Nick Clegg gave a speech at the Africa Jubilee Business Forum which celebrated the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Organisation for African Unity. Here are the highlights:

Political rights must go in tandem with economic growth

Everybody, of course, wants growth – the key decision is how you achieve it. More and more African countries face a choice between the economic models of authoritarian capitalism, on the one hand, and liberal democracy, on the other.

In countries like China, authoritarian capitalism argues the case for economic growth ahead of political freedoms. And it’s a seductive argument in view of surging growth

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Michael Moore MP’s Westminster Notes

Every week, Liberal Democrat Secretary of State for Scotland, Michael Moore MP, writes a column for newspapers in his Borders Constituency. Here is the latest edition. 

Green Deal

Despite the fact that we are now well into March, it seems that there is no let up in the cold snowy weather and I know that at this time energy bills remain a major concern to my constituents. To help people reduce these bills and cut down their energy use, the Government has taken action and introduced a scheme called the Green Deal. This enables people to improve the energy efficiency of their …

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Nick Clegg: “Turkish entry into the EU is a strategic necessity”

Nick Clegg is on a trade mission to Turkey today, and has announced £500m of business deals and £1m of funding for the Turkish Red Crescent in Syria.

He wrote this morning in Turkey’s Sabah newspaper, on the Turkish economy, trade between Turkey and the UK, visas for Turkish travellers, and the the response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria. You can read the article in Turkish over at Sabah; the English translation is below:

This summer for a few, glorious weeks the United Kingdom became the centre of the world as we hosted the London Olympic and Paralympic

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarMalcolm Todd 17th Dec - 1:19am
    Oh dear, Glenn. "Don't confuse my brain with actualy figures and evidence. The world is the shape I conveniently think it is. It just is."...
  • User AvatarGlenn 17th Dec - 1:12am
    Malcolm England really is teeny tiny. It just is. I'm not comparing it with anything beyond it being a small country.. If you split England...
  • User AvatarMalcolm Todd 17th Dec - 12:55am
    Glenn Don't be silly! England is nor "teeny tiny". Since you seem obsessed about comparing England with Germany: modern Germany, which is divided into sixteen...
  • User AvatarGlenn 17th Dec - 12:12am
    PS History and geographic area are more historically important than population size. Population's ebb an flow. The population of England is increasing mainly because it...
  • User AvatarGlenn 16th Dec - 11:31pm
    John Marriot You've said more or less the same thing twice. My point is that England is teeny tiny and dates back to 927EC,whilst Germany...
  • User AvatarJock Coats 16th Dec - 11:28pm
    @Richard Underhill 16th Dec '18 - 10:40am With respect, you are misconstruing the meaning of "land" in economics and therefore in the idea of "land...