Vince on Government’s “absurd” Japan trade plans

Vince Cable has said that Theresa May’s visit to Japan has descended into farce before it has even begun. This was after the government briefed that a post-Brexit Britain would seek a trade deal with Japan based on the existing EU-Japan deal.

He put a reality check on the government’s spin:

Theresa May’s trip to Japan to gain a trade deal was already of questionable value because there can be no fresh agreements with other countries until we leave the EU.

But this staggering statement by the government just adds a whole new level of absurdity to their negotiating strategy. It is now saying that the best trade deal we can possibly hope for with Japan post-Brexit is the trade deal we already have as a member of the EU.

The likes of Liam Fox were promising a new dawn of improved trade deals but this clearly shows that even the government now recognises that the best possible deal we can get with one of the world’s largest economies is the deal negotiated by the EU.

The government is set on leaving the single market and customs union without the faintest idea of what our future trading relationships would be in a post Brexit-world, except that there will be more red tape.

The government, realising it won’t land a bespoke deal with Japan in advance of Brexit, has already had similar feedback from India. The government should not be surprised if it is also rebuffed by China.

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37 Comments

  • We need to send in the clowns to sort this out. I’m sure if Bozo and David “Benny Hill” Davies turned up with Fox in tow, the Japanese would soon see sense. Nah they wouldn’t, but the Brexiteers can dream.

  • Peter Martin 30th Aug '17 - 9:55am

    ……there can be no fresh agreements with other countries until we leave the EU

    Why not? Even if the agreement doesn’t come into force until the day after we leave? Is this enforcable under WTO rules? If it isn’t then we should challenge the EU on the legality of their stance. What are they going to do – throw us out?

    While we are a member of the EU then, of course, we stick to EU rules except if we suspect they are making them up as they go along.

  • A deal “based on the existing EU-Japan deal” isn’t necessarily the same as that deal, it could have improvements to that base. Though I wouldn’t trust our present Government to achieve any – nor do they have the capacity to renegotiate the hundreds of trade agreements we already have through the EU.

  • I always thought trade was mostly governed by desirability of the goods, commonality of standards, whether or not they can be insured during transit and cost. Hence the notion of a trade deal is less important than whether or not the goods conform to certain standards at the right price.
    Personally, I suspect that the more vocal 28thstaters are still in full “the sky is falling, the Gods are angered” mode.

  • What have we to say about the Korean situation? Seems very little if anything at all. Meanwhile it appears to go from bad to worse.

  • Glen,
    Your lack of understanding of trade explains a lot. A common failing of brave Brexiteers their grasp of reality is tenuous, they just believe we are special and the world will do what ever we want, bless if only it was true.

  • Frankie.
    I think you’re the one who does not understand trade. And also why do you keep using one N in a name that plainly has two.
    Beyond that I’m not getting into another argument with you, because you just project things onto people you do not know and use so many mixed metaphors you would keep Steve Pinker in lecture material for years.

  • On Korea, for once, I’m a little Englander. For goodness sake keep well out of it.

    As for Trump proving his virility it ought to be a solitary activity.

  • David Raw 30th Aug ’17 – 11:45am…………As for Trump proving his virility it ought to be a solitary activity………..

    Thanks for that thought, David…. The picture it evokes will keep me awake at nights..

  • Arnold Kiel 30th Aug '17 - 2:09pm

    This is a more general theme: all the Government’s Brexit position papers describe goals for which there is already a readily available (and practically tested) blueprint. It’s called EU.

  • David Raw,

    “On Korea, for once, I’m a little Englander. For goodness sake keep well out of it.” How? We are a permanent member of the UN security council and will have to be involved in developing any further sanctions and trying to bring about a return to talks.

    China and Russia typically only view a test of a long-range missile or a nuclear weapon as a trigger for further possible sanctions. It seems firing a missile over Japanese territory does not meet this criteria.

    Theresa May called on China to put more pressure on North Korea, saying Beijing had a key role to play. Replying, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said some “relevant sides” were only selectively carrying out the U.N. resolutions by pushing hard on sanctions yet neglecting to push for a return to talks.

  • Richard Underhill 30th Aug '17 - 4:53pm

    Vince Cable was in Eastbourne today, with Stephen Lloyd of course, for a question and answer session and the local party is better off by £647.38 minus the cost of a seminar room in a hotel. All our questions answered. He sent a friendly message to Caroline Lucas and was rewarded with Green help in Twickenham. Good, let’s keep up the environmental agenda, not just on Heathrow (and Gatwick).

  • The Brexit Bremming don’t want anything getting in the way of a cliff to jump off. Their ‘brave’ words about the many opportunities that would come after we left the EU look increasingly vacuous, and the arguments that Brexit supporters use to justify their beliefs appear more and more incredible. They begin to sound like climate change deniers. David Davis, aka Mrs May’s “Brexit Bulldog” can only negotiate a deal far worse than we have now, so I hope those who voted out will be happy to pay the cost. On the positive side, Labours call to stay in the single market and customs union through transition and maybe beyond mean they are sidling to the Liberal Democrat position. Also, I would not be surprised that, already, if we held a confirmatory referendum, a significant majority would vote for the status quo. We are winning the arguments every day. We just need to drive through.

  • There is no “existing EU-Japan deal”. There is only an agreement to reach an agreement…

    ‘EU and Japan reach agreement in principle on Economic Partnership Agreement’ [July 2017]:
    https://ec.europa.eu/ireland/news/eu-and-japan-reach-agreement-in-principle-on-economic-partnership-agreement_en

    Based on today’s agreement in principle, negotiators from both sides will continue their work to resolve all the remaining technical issues and conclude a final text of the agreement by the end of the year. Then, the Commission will proceed to the legal verification and translation of the agreement into all EU official languages, and will consequently submit it for the approval of EU Member States and the European Parliament.

    John Redwood has more details…

    ‘In search of trade deals’ [July 2017]:
    https://johnredwoodsdiary.com/2017/07/09/in-search-of-trade-deals/

    If you read some of the smaller print about the Agreement, you see that so far it is fairly narrow, with plenty of remaining issues to sort out. It does not unfortunately look likely that there will be an EU/Japan deal signed and operating by March 2019. They have not, for example worked out how any disputes will be resolved. Japan favours existing arbitration. The EU wants the ECJ involved. Sound familiar?

  • But Jeff the EU will have a deal sooner than we do, and our deal will be what ever the EU agree with Japan. What a clever Brexit plan we don’t need trade negotiators, just sign us up to what ever the EU agree. Saves a shedfull of money, not so hot on taking back control, we will become the EU’s tag along. Sign a trade deal with us and the UK will tag a long like a good little pet. Has Brexit brought us to this, it appears it has.

  • David Wright 30th Aug ’17 – 10:11am:
    A deal “based on the existing EU-Japan deal” isn’t necessarily the same as that deal, it could have improvements to that base.

    Indeed, EU deals, such as CETA, will be the basis for deeper and more comprehensive bilateral FTAs tailored to our mutual trading opportunities…

    ‘Canada Seeks to Avoid Brexit Cliff-Edge With Trade Talks’ [March 2017]:
    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-03-22/canada-seeks-to-avoid-brexit-cliff-edge-with-trade-deal-talks

    The government is pushing for its trade deal with Europe to be ratified by Britain before it leaves the European Union to secure the crucial agreement. It also has its eye on deeper relations with the U.K. once Brexit is complete.

    Canada wants to preserve any preferential access that businesses or investors currently have, High Commissioner to the U.K. Janice Charette said in an interview from her office overlooking Trafalgar Square on March 20. “That’s the idea of avoiding some kind of a cliff-edge,” she said. Also, “we’ll be interested in seeing what we can do to enhance the bilateral arrangement” after the U.K. is out.

    […]

    Canada’s deal with Europe is set to boost trade with the EU by about a quarter, according to government estimates. The U.K. is Canada’s biggest partner within the bloc, and Charette sees further opportunities.

    “If you look at just one-to-one, the area of financial services is huge for the U.K., and that will be of interest for Canada” for going “beyond what is in the CETA agreement today,” Charette said.

  • Little Jackie Paper 30th Aug '17 - 10:15pm

    The answer is clear – EEA IN EU OUT.

    Probably where we should have been for at least 15 years.

  • Little Jackie Paper 30th Aug '17 - 10:42pm

    Vince’s comments, whilst certainly true do overlook one of the serious problems with the trade deals we’ve increasingly seen. As we saw with TTIP these contain far-reaching provisions that have had only the most minimal brush with voters. Some might argue that is fair enough – a point I take to some extent.

    There is however a difference between technical discussions on product standards and policy laundering. That’s the big problem here. Once you’ve signed up and opted in you’ve pretty much had your chips. If Cameron had signed up to the glory of TTIP and a future elected, say, Corbyn government wanted out then there’s a problem. These EU deals are binding on future governments essentially forever. It is limiting the scope of all future elections to change course. There is a real constitutional deficit. Now I do realise that many are comfortable with this, and that’s fine. But let’s not pretend that there isn’t a serious point of principle here.

    The answer, for now, is Norway – http://ec.europa.eu/trade/policy/countries-and-regions/countries/norway/index_en.htm

  • Denis Loretto 31st Aug '17 - 9:52am

    We may be forced towards a Norway-type answer but let’s not pretend that is satisfactory – particularly having no say on future changes in rules to which we would be committed. The truth is that it is becoming clearer every day that the only really satisfactory outcome is for the UK to remain in the EU and by all means seek allies to argue for improvements in the status quo. The first stage must be building a majority in the Commons to amend the withdrawal bill but ultimately only a new referendum can deliver what is required.

  • David Evershed 31st Aug '17 - 3:50pm

    1. There is not yet a trade deal between the EU and Japan. Details have yet to be negotiated.

    2. There is nothing to stop the UK doing the preparatory work for the terms of a trade deal with Japan now, even though the UK can not sign an agreement until it has left the EU.

  • Japan is one of the UK’s most important trading partners. Recent trade figures show It buys over £10.5 billion of UK goods and we buy £9.6bn worth of Japanese goods and services. One of the few countries we enjoy a trade surplus with.

    Japan is the fourth-largest overseas investor in the UK. There are around 1,100 Japanese-owned businesses in the UK, accounting for some 140,000 jobs. As well as the car making giants, other businesses like Pilkington Glass are Japanese owned. Hitachi built the javelin trains used on the high-speed rail link from London to the Channel tunnel at its site in Co Durham, which is currently producing new inter-city high-speed trains for the Great Western and East Coast Mainlines.

    Several of the major Japanese financial institutions have their European operations based in the City. Japan, with its patient investment for the long term and promotion of technical excellence, is a crucial trading partner for the UK and one whose views our politicians must take seriously as the Brexit negotiations develop.

  • David Evershed
    On 6 July 2017 the European Union and Japan reached an agreement in principle on the main elements of the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement.

  • Why asks David cant we have a trade deal, a plantif cry much heard from Brexiteers when they encounter facts that they can’t understand. In this case we can’t have a trade deal because Japan like the rest of us don’t know what Brexit means and secondly their priority is getting a deal with the EU, why risk that by dealing with us first.

  • David Pocock 1st Sep '17 - 11:47am

    Regarding Korea I don’t think we can be little England. For a start if it goes hot then article 5 likely will be triggered and we would be obliged to act. Possibly against china.

    Even if that does not happen which would be a surprise then we would sit and watch as hundreds of thousands of south Koreans and Japanese civilians are shelled and nuked by nk. Watching allies fight is hardly something we can be proud of.

    Finally if we do not make strong signals that we would act against nk then it is succour for nk leadership.

  • David Pocock 1st Sep ’17 – 11:47am…………….Regarding Korea I don’t think we can be little England. For a start if it goes hot then article 5 likely will be triggered and we would be obliged to act. Possibly against china……………Even if that does not happen which would be a surprise then we would sit and watch as hundreds of thousands of south Koreans and Japanese civilians are shelled and nuked by nk. Watching allies fight is hardly something we can be proud of…………….Finally if we do not make strong signals that we would act against nk then it is succour for nk leadership………

    Do you have any idea of the ramifications of the above? What is the alternative to watching? Would we throw more nukes into the region? Would we hope that China/Russia escalate the situation and do the same to us?

    WW3 is worth avoiding at any, and I repeat ANY, cost…

  • @ expats The voice of sanity yet again in what appears to be an increasingly crazy world (and indeed, one sometimes wonders, political party ?).

    Can Mr Pocock please elaborate on what he thinks the cost would be if we got involved in a nuclear war with North Korea and/or China, and if he, for one, would volunteer himself or his family to take part in such a conflict ?

    I will be forever thankful that Harold Wilson politely told the USA where to stick it when the UK was asked to participate in the Vietnam War.

    As Asquith finally conceded in a conventional war a hundred years ago – it was Armageddon.

  • David Raw 1st Sep ’17 – 12:56pm…………[email protected] expats The voice of sanity yet again in what appears to be an increasingly crazy world (and indeed, one sometimes wonders, political party ?)…………..

    Thankfully there are still a few (sadly fewer than a couple of years ago) whose posts reflect what I consider the Liberal (dem) party once stood for…

    Mutual admiration over..

    I cannot believe that anyone could consider signing up to entering, what would quickly become a nuclear war in the far east…
    Before making a ‘no more talking’ threat Trump should look at the history of N. Korea….During the early 1950s N. Korea suffered the heaviest ‘carpet bombing’ of any nation before or since (many times that of Germany, Japan or Vietnam)…Their civilian population was almost obliterated, all their cities were reduced to rubble, their farmland was flooded due to their irrigation dams being destroyed, etc.
    …They regard the USA as their bogeyman; that is in their psyche and, as long as the USA reinforces that belief, the population will suffer state sponsored starvation and hardship to have the military means, as they see it, to defend themselves…These missile tests and rhetoric are as much for home consumption as for world attention…

    However, Kim knows that he will be ‘dead’ if he attacks S. Korea even conventionally because the US will engage in a first strike nuclear attack fearing the same from N. Korea…..

    What is more worrying, to me at least, is that Trump seems to believe that, if he acts first, he and his country are a long, long way away from the fallout from any escalation….

    The BIG unknown is, “would China stand by if nukes were used on her doorstep”? A gamble I hope will never be taken…

  • Expata,

    I don’t think you can make assumptions about N. Korea like “…They regard the USA as their bogeyman; that is in their psyche and, as long as the USA reinforces that belief, the population will suffer state sponsored starvation and hardship to have the military means, as they see it, to defend themselves…”.

    There are small numbers of refugees that have managed to escape to the West (there is a little enclave in SW London) and this is certainly not in their pscyhe.

    N. Korea is ultimately a state in the grip of a strange personality cult enforced by a ruthless cadre of apparatchiks. They are reliant on trade with China and clandestine business interests in SE Asia to fund the lifestyles of the ruling clique and military program. Only China can bring about a resolution of the crisis. It cannot be a military solution, but will probably necessitate a regime change that is acceptable to the Chinese i.e. replacing Kim Jung Un in the traditinal way with a leader more amenable to doing what China tells him to do.

  • Joe Bourke 1st Sep ’17 – 2:20pm…Expata………….I don’t think you can make assumptions about N. Korea like “…They regard the USA as their bogeyman; that is in their psyche and, as long as the USA reinforces that belief, the population will suffer state sponsored starvation and hardship to have the military means, as they see it, to defend themselves…”.

    But I do…I had experience of the same thing in the Republic of China in the late 1960s (work); the ‘Cultural Revolution’ was in full swing and everything was geared to the USA as THEIR bogeyman, albeit a ‘paper tiger’with the UK as their ‘running dog’… Children, and adults, would stop me in the street and give me badges and copies of the “Red Book’; even the Shanghai ferry put on children’s plays with Mao saving the world from the USA, etc….
    As for refugees…There were refugees from China but indoctrination from birth meant that the bulk of the people firmly believed the state propaganda…

    Replacing Kim; how and with whom? Such statements are meaningless; in China it took the natural death of Mao, with no immediate successor, to allow a gradual change over the following 50 years…..

  • nvelope2003 1st Sep '17 - 4:27pm

    For the past 70 years the Kim family have tried to bring the whole of Korea under their control and the slaughter of millions would be regarded by them and their allies as a price well worth paying. China will never agree to US control of the whole Korean peninsula any more than the US would allow the former Soviet Union to place missiles in Cuba. It suits them to maintain the present position. A more moderate or rational Korean leader might be willing to do some kind of deal with South Korea but with Kim Jong Un they have a leader who they can rely on because he has a personal interest in keeping things as they are. The North Korean economy is improving with growing imports of consumer goods for the better off while the South has problems like youth unemployment, issues with education and excessive working hours.

    There is no alternative but to leave things as they are until the Kim dynasty collapses or a more reasonable leader emerges. If the US were to go to the aid of South Korea China would support the North. It was the North which invaded the South in 1950, not the other way round as many seem to believe, and China came to their aid when it looked like they would be defeated. The Korean war was one of unparalleled horror. We should avoid any new war and so should the US. Their more rational leaders seem to be aware of this even if Trump does not. Nixon ordered the US military to bomb some enemy he had fallen out with but they did not and when he asked what had happened they said weather conditions were unsuitable. I hope they have a similar excuse if Trump tries anything silly.
    The present situation, though possibly unfortunate for the North Korean people, is better than any possible war and as said above their people have been indoctrinated into believing they are happy. Maybe they are – who knows ? People have different traditions and not everyone is happy with Western culture or political systems.

  • nvelope2003,

    I don’t think you can expect the Japanese or South Koreans to be content with leaving things as they are because the N. Korean people have been indoctrinated into believing they are happy. They have to be confident in the American security guarantee. If they lose confidence In the ability or willingness of the US to protect their populations from this latest incarnation of the Kim dynasty, they will have no choice but to develop an independent nuclear deterrent themselves. A highly unpalatable situation for Japan, as the only nation to have suffered a nuclear attack and who’s constitution limits its military to a self-defence capability only.

  • David Pocock 2nd Sep '17 - 8:11am

    David Raw and Expats – I have not advocated for war I have simply stated that if it goes hot we will be dragged in regardless and we also should not try and avoid our duty.

    The death toll will be so high I really hope that other solutions can be found, ultimately the longer we leave it the better the weapons Kim gets and the potential death toll will get higher and higher.

    Do nothing will not reap good results

  • Andrew Fitton 2nd Sep '17 - 9:29am

    Glenn

    I was keen to come back on your comments regarding trade deals. You may well know these points, you may well dispute them. But I am not satisfied that leaving your dismissal of the complexity or our likely success in trade deals is satisfactory.

    It is helpful to be able to sell ones goods at reduced duties. It is obviously good to be able to have an agreed set of standards. One does not want ones businesses from banking to backgammon makers to be tinkering with many standards for different markets so going to a big block with one set of standards is good. Standards between UK and EU are likely not to be allowed to vary much because it makes it very complicated for suppliers.

    A trading partner obviously wants to seek stable market access and a level playing field for businesses founded in its territory so both partners want rules around other aspects of trade and trade disputes. These can cover government procurement, take over rules, competition policy, intellectual property rights and visa rights. These then lead to needing a mechanism for dispute resolution such as the ECJ within the EU. Investor State Dispute Settlement provisions are now becoming common in free trade deals.

    All these are sensible provisions. However they take years to negotiate because an innocent additional provision can have massive ramifications exposing industry sectors to difficult situations. A simple might be steel; China has spent years shoring up its raw materials imports, has cheaper labour than the UK and is allowed to be under catch up agreements under the Paris Treaty. What on earth would China be doing signing a FTA that did not allow it unfettered access to UK markets and would we ever be able to apply an anti dumping duty on China.

    Moreover whatever you are agreeing with one party you need to have in mind for the next. I the UK imports cheap components, services and materials from China to make goods in the UK, what incentive does (say) the USA have to take those goods if the terms offered to China by the UK are more generous than those agreed with the USA and China.

    I believe you have oversimplified trade agreements in your earlier post but this may be for reasons of brevity. I would welcome your comments.

  • David Pocock 2nd Sep ’17 – 8:11am……………David Raw and Expats – I have not advocated for war I have simply stated that if it goes hot we will be dragged in regardless and we also should not try and avoid our duty……..The death toll will be so high I really hope that other solutions can be found, ultimately the longer we leave it the better the weapons Kim gets and the potential death toll will get higher and higher….Do nothing will not reap good results….

    David, neither I nor David Raw believe you want war…What is worrying is your “we also should not try and avoid our duty”..So it is our ‘duty’ to get involved with a nuclear war on the other side of the world; why?

    As for doing something…What something?

    Doing nothing should be what the UK does..Any solution will come from those immediately involved…..Israel, Pakistan, India have had a nuclear capability for decades and I’m sure if in real danger of being militarily defeated would use them…The sensible option is not to push any nuclear power into a position where using them is seen as inevitable….

    I remain hopeful as long I read that “minutes after Trump said ‘talking is not the answer’ to tensions with Pyongyang, defence secretary James Mattis was asked if ‘talking’ was ruled out as a solution to the problem; his answer, “Diplomatic solutions never run out”…

  • nvelope2003 2nd Sep '17 - 4:30pm

    Joeburke: If the US makes it clear that any attack on South Korea, Japan or the US itself would be met by massive retaliation why would Kim Jong Un try to do it ?
    The problem seems to be interference in Korean affairs by the US although they seem to be backtracking by stating they have no wish for regime change so presumably they accept that they should leave things as they are.

    Speaking to South Koreans they seem to take all this in their stride as they have grown up with the endless propaganda from the North but there seems to be a feeling in the West that maybe this is different and Kim really plans to go to war. We went to war for Poland in 1939 but it did not do much good as Poland was destroyed by Hitler then handed over to Stalin in 1945. They had to free themselves which they did in 1989. All that slaughter for what ?

  • nvelope2003,

    “We went to war for Poland in 1939 but it did not do much good as Poland was destroyed by Hitler then handed over to Stalin in 1945. They had to free themselves which they did in 1989. All that slaughter for what ?”

    Precisely, the policy of appeasement in the 1930’s left Hitler to develop a war machine that took six years and countless lives to rid the world of; and that was before the development of nuclear weapons. Chamberlain’s “peace for our time” declaration lasted less than a year.

    Truman announced early in the Korean war (or Police Action as the UN called it) that he would “take whatever steps were necessary to win in Korea, including the use of nuclear weapons. When Truman replaced McArthur with General Matthew Ridgway, he was given “qualified authority” to use Atomic bombs if he felt he had to. Trump seems to be following the same playbook now, but it didn’t stop the Chinese then and I very much doubt if it will alter Kim Jung Un’s behaviour now.

    The UN cannot repeat the mistakes of the league of nations in the 1930’s. A way has to be found to pressure China to get the N. Koreans under control. If it takes regime change in N. Korea to a new communist leader with Chinese guarantees of security,; that is still a better outcome then North-East Asia going nuclear itself.

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