As the Brexit negotiations continue to show that they are, for Theresa May and her embattled Government, a campaign turning out not necessarily to their advantage, so those who would oppose the EU to the ends of the earth have stepped up their own campaign, which consists mainly of lots of Vision And Boundless Hope And Optimism, together with plenty of Preventive Incantation when it all fouls up.
Showing the way forward in this endeavour, by making his own pointless gesture, is that occasional paragon of trust and honesty Dan, Dan the Oratory Man. Hannan has decided that if you’re going to pull a whopper, you might as well make it a spectacular one, and so has Tweeted to all his adoring followers “What made us the world's richest nation? We removed trade barriers and so put money into ordinary people's pockets”.
This is the most wilful misrepresentation of British economic history that has emerged since the last wilful Hannan episode. And some of the comments posted in response show why he is talking out of the back of his neck. “Nothing to do with robbing gold from half the world? Or shelling our way into trade networks? Facile, simplistic and wrong-headed rubbish” was the first serious riposte. And there was a lot more.
“Backing up drug dealers with gunboats and forcing opium on China? Free, that was” … “All under the guns of the British Army and Royal Navy” … “we reduced trade barriers at a time when we were the only significant industrial power. We are far from that now” were a few. And then came the telling “There were still plenty of internal tariffs within the Empire - particularly as far as colonial manufacturing was concerned”.
How free and fair was that? “We forced India to remove tariffs on UK made cloth, but kept tariffs on Indian cloth. Until Indian cloth industry went under”. Hannan is talking total guff about the supposed removal of trade barriers. Successive British Governments manipulated the rules of the game to their own advantage; some enriched themselves as a result. But the idea that this was free trade without barriers is nonsense.
Still, on he droned, about a meeting he opened in the City. “Alexander Downer: ‘Name one free-trading country that’s poor’. Jorge Quiroga calls on Britain to lead the world to liberalisation”. Haiti. Want some more? How about Armenia? Not to mention the occasional incidence of failed states here and there. And the USA is, overall, well-off, but is not free trading by any means (pace Bombardier).
Not going too well, was it? There was always the chance of a “look over there” moment, and Dan duly took it: “We finish with a visit to Gatcombe Park, where David Ricardo devised the mind-blowing idea of comparative advantage precisely 200 years ago”. When the Bank of England had not yet become a lender of last resort, modern transportation systems had yet to develop, and a purveyor of the Dismal Science whose work has since been succeeded by Marshall, Keynes and others. Yeah, right.
Daniel Hannan might not live the the real world. But the rest of us have to, thanks.