EU standing up to Trump shows the power of the Single Market
I have noticed a few news stories in the last week that should really make anyone think twice about the wisdom of leaving the Single Market.
The first revolves around Donald Trump’s tariff posturing.
The only robust response from any world leader was from the EU’s Jean-Claude Juncker, who told reporters on Friday that he,
will not sit idly while our industry is hit with unfair measures that put thousands of European jobs at risk.
Juncker was able to threaten Trump back with retaliatory tariffs because the EU Single Market is so big that such a move could really hurt the US economy.
Theresa May, on the other hand, called Trump for a friendly chat about the threat. Within hours of that conversation, Trump was tweeting this:
We are on the losing side of almost all trade deals. Our friends and enemies have taken advantage of the U.S. for many years. Our Steel and Aluminum industries are dead. Sorry, it’s time for a change! MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!
Friendship will only get you so far it seems when you don’t have the economic power to turn up the heat on your friends if they start acting like idiots.
This protectionism from Trump, and this paranoia about the perceived unfairness of trade deals, comes at a time when the UK is commencing trade talks with America.
In this context, many rightfully worry about the UK lowering standards and regulations as well as opening up treasured institutions like the NHS to foreign companies.
This week we have seen glimpses of where things could potentially end up. A report in the Financial Times, detailed how the US is trying to negotiate a poorer deal for UK airlines.
The US is offering Britain a worse “Open Skies” deal after Brexit than it had as an EU member, in a negotiating stance that would badly hit the transatlantic operating rights of British Airways and Virgin Atlantic.
British and American negotiators secretly met in January for the first formal talks on a new air services deal, aiming to fill the gap created when Britain falls out of the EU-US open skies treaty after Brexit, according to people familiar with talks.
The talks were cut short after US negotiators offered only a standard bilateral agreement. These typically require airlines to be majority owned and controlled by parties from their country of origin.
Such limits would be problematic for British carriers as they have large foreign shareholdings. Under existing arrangements, UK-based airlines are covered by the “Open Skies” treaty that requires them to be majority EU owned.
And there was also a report about how US lobbyists have been urging the UK to drop protected status for food brands such as Cornish pasties and Scottish Whisky. Which adds to the fears already stoked by Ted McKinney, under-secretary for trade at the US Department of Agriculture, who has already urged the UK to drop many EU regulations.
Many Brexiteers seem to think that trade with the US could boom post-Brexit.
However, it is hard to see how this is going to work in our favour given our reduced negotiating strength combined with a US president hellbent on being unreasonable.
Especially when you consider the fact that UK negotiating talent is going to be stretched to the max in the coming years. We will be negotiating trade deals with half the world and each country or organisation will all have different priorities and rules they will want us to bend to. That’s a lot of balls for the Civil Service to juggle.
In recent months we have also witnessed the strength of the EU. They have been bossing the Brexit negotiations, they have slapped substantial fines on massive global corporations like Google, they have threatened the US with retaliatory tariffs and have concluded several lucrative trade negotiations. The UK, as part of the EU, has added to this strength but recent events signal that this power will soon be diminished.