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Saturday 13 August 2016

Dan Hannan’s Brexit Reality

Following the referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU, many in and around the Out campaign have gone quiet, especially as the questions as to how departure from the club is going to be achieved have been asked more frequently, and especially following the realisation that the ministers charged with accomplishing the task are not exactly clued up on the matter in hand, or taken particularly seriously by their foreign contemporaries.
But there is still the happy warrior that is Dan, Dan The Oratory Man, cheerfully dodging all the pesky questions and instead answering his own. For Hannan, there would be only good news, and positive feelings, as he took to Twitter to tell “Affronted pro-EU media are doing their best to talk us into a slump, but economic activity has risen since the vote”. Very good, the construction sector has just entered recession.
This did not trouble Hannan: he would invoke the power of ritual incantation. “A surprising number of British people on Twitter *want* the country to fail outside the EU, so as to be able to say ‘I told you so’”. Talking the market up didn’t work in 1929. Talking the economy or the currency down won’t have any effect now. But on he went.
It was the broadcasters’ fault: “Count how many times the BBC and Sky News introduce positive economic data with the phrase ‘despite Brexit’”. I can’t remember one example of that. But I do know that trade agreements take several years to negotiate, so when Hannan glibly tells “There'll be a UK-India Free Trade Agreement in place quicker than you can say ‘masala bond’”, he’s talking out of the back of his neck.
And when he says “Britain chose a more global and mercantile future outside the protectionist EU. Yet broadcasters still try to portray the vote as nativist”, he’s just rambling. Like those voters in Sunderland “chose a more global and mercantile future”. Yeah, right. What Dan will not answer, though, is the reality. We have ministers who have had to be taken aside and reminded that Britain cannot do trace deals with individual EU member states. Norway objects to the idea of Britain getting “Norway status”.
As Henry Porter has observed, “the E.U. takes 39.4 percent of the U.K.’s service exports, which is more than the next nine trading partners - the U.S., Switzerland, Japan, China, Canada, Russia, India, Hong Kong, and Brazil - combined (38.4 percent). If Britain were to lose access to the single market, or British-based banks were stopped from trading freely in Europe through the ‘passporting’ arrangements with the E.U., it would take very little to end the City of London’s reign as the de facto financial capital of Europe”.
David Hannay, who was part of the British team when we joined what was then the EEC, and who was later ambassador to the UN, asked this question on tariffs (part of any trade deal): “The technicalities of constructing a new U.K. tariff, for which neither [the pro-Brexit trade minister] Liam Fox nor the officials advising him have any relevant experience, will themselves be pretty daunting. Tariff rates will need to be set for thousands of tariff positions and sub-positions. Should these be higher than those set in the E.U.’s Common External Tariff, in which case we will either have to cut tariffs on [other] products to compensate all our W.T.O. trading partners or suffer higher retaliatory tariffs from them? Or should the tariffs be set lower, in which case U.K. manufacturers will have to face up to more competition and less protection? Or should they be set at the same level as now, in which case one wonders what all the fuss was about in the first place?

Hannay goes on to observe “Did the Brexiteers explain all this to the electorates and say which solutions they favoured? Of course they did not - they did not even agree on which ones they favoured. They just peddled half-truths and outright untruths about the sunlit prospects for Britain’s trade relationships outside the EU”.

Daniel Hannan merely skirts around the issues, failing to engage with the problems which he knows are there, that will have to be answered, and which require a more serious application of intellectual vigour than spouting platitudes about “freedom”, our “global future”, and the continuing use of that ritual incantation.

After Parliament reconvenes after the Summer break, and the pundits return to the airwaves, the questions will keep on coming. Unless the likes of Hannan are going to step up to the plate and answer them, their reputations stand to be permanently tarnished.

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