Jonathan Isaby is one of that cast of right-leaning pundit revolving door people, having been at Conservative Home, then head man at the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance, and now has fetched up at Brexit Central, which claims to be “Promoting a positive vision of Britain after Brexit”. So another of the Flat Earth brigade, then.
This unpromising resumé, though, does not stop Isaby from being a fully paid-up member of the Pundit Establishment, and in this role he has been touring the studios, telling anyone who will listen that all will be well after Brexit, even if there is no deal between the UK and the EU before the end of the Article 50 period next year.
The problem is that Isaby, and one suspects rather more of the Pundit Establishment, knows sweet Jack about at least one of the subjects on which he frequently pontificates, and it is a subject that has central importance to our economic wellbeing - because that subject is trade, along with trade deals, and tariffs.
The moment of reality for Isaby came yesterday when he debated trade with Jason Hunter, who is a former trade negotiator, on BBC Radio Kent. Many missed the exchange, but former BBC man Gavin Esler did not, and lost no time in telling “If this were not so sad it would be funny. Arch Brexiteer @isaby doesn’t understand the difference between import and export tariffs. After two years the Brexit Bunch don’t have a clue. Have a listen”.
He didn’t know the difference between import and export tariffs? Dead right he didn’t. And it got worse: Isaby also talked of “Trading with the EU on WTO terms, because that is indeed how we trade with other countries around the world”. But we don’t: through the EU, Britain enjoys free trade agreements with dozens of other countries, and there are other separate arrangements, for instance governing trade with the USA.
It got worse: Hunter pointed out that WTO rules meant the UK being a “third country”, with our exports attracting the highest tariffs. Isaby then let slip his ignorance by claiming we would be free to set our own tariff. Import tariffs are not the same as export ones. He then dug himself deeper when he claimed we could replicate EU-Japan and EU-Canada trade deals, only for Hunter to point out that those agreements make this a distant prospect.
Worse, Hunter pointed out that Isaby’s idea of lowering import tariffs would have a seriously detrimental effect on UK farming and manufacturing. Isaby, as befits a member of the Pundit Establishment, just droned on. He pretended Liam Fox was talking to all those countries with whom we enjoy FTAs via the EU right now. But this, too, was invention.
Hunter ended up brutally informing Isaby “The fact that you don’t know what you’re talking about doesn’t do you any favours”. And Jonathan Isaby is no better informed than scores of other pro-Brexit pundits. They are all making stuff up and depending, ultimately, on their being one-eyed men in the land of the blind. And that’s not good enough.
That’s the problem with all those clever people who talk loudly in restaurants. The front and the gob mask the ignorance and deceit. You have been warned.
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