Given the media frenzy of self-congratulation that Theresa May has managed to avoid her demise by agreeing a deal to move onto more substantive talks, many people will have missed that just as Britain is discussing how best to walk away from its partners, the EU and Japan have agreed terms for a free trade deal set to create the world’s biggest open economic area of 800 million people. A quick Internet search will confirm this.
Although subject to ratification by member states and the EU Parliament, the deal – the largest of its kind to be negotiated by the EU – is expected to liberalise almost all trade with Japan, which is still the world’s third largest economy, and is being seen as a challenge to the protectionism championed by President Trump.
Anyone can do as I did and read online a joint statement by European Commission President Juncker and Japanese Prime Minister Abe stating that the deal had ‘strategic importance’ beyond its economic value and ‘sending a clear signal to the world that the EU and Japan are committed to keeping the world economy working on the basis of free, open and fair markets with clear and transparent rules fighting the temptation of protectionism’.
Shame that we might not benefit from it, isn’t it, given that there is virtually no chance that we will get a better deal negotiating on our own?
The assumption that good ship Britannia will be rescued by the current incumbent of the White House is also misplaced. The US Congress decides trade deals, not the President, whose power is limited to vetoing deals he doesn’t like but not pushing through those that he alone favours.
Rather than leading us to the Promised Land of economic milk and honey the arrogant assumptions, indeed downright lies, of leading Brexiteers could well give us the economic equivalent of forty years wandering in the wilderness.
Even the best of deals will not be the equivalent of what we have now, so a high price to pay because a combination of Tory toffs and leftie militants sold us a pig in a poke.
I accept that, unlike me, most people in this country don’t want the political project many EU members advocate, but neither did we vote on June 23 last year to leave the Single Market and the Customs Union.
We should be offered a second referendum to allow these issues to be fully debated, with associate EU membership being a valid option.