Schrodinger's Customs Union | Autonomy Scotland

Schrodinger’s Customs Union


Schrodinger’s Customs Union is a famous thought experiment in the world of politics.

Schrodinger’s scenario was designed to highlight what he perceived as a logical fallacy in the thinking of those who wanted to leave the European Customs Union. This was that they simultaneously wanted to leave the European Customs Union because they perceived that it damaged their prosperity but at the same time they realised that their prosperity depended on having as few barriers to trade with the EU as possible.

The thought experiment involved imagining a perfectly good Customs Union and putting it in isolation with a Brexiteer for 14 months. Schrodinger theorised that, even if the Brexiteer did nothing to the Customs Union and even if the Customs Union remained identical, it would be impossible for an observer to know if the Customs Union was alive or dead until the Brexiteer and the Customs Union emerged from isolation.

This, Schrodinger theorised, was because the consequences to the Brexiteer of the Customs Union being either alive or dead, were simultaneously disastrous. If the Customs Union were dead and barriers to trade were erected, then the country would suffer economically and the Brexiteer would lose the support of those who voted to leave the EU. If the Customs Union were alive and tariff free trade continued, then the Brexiteer would also lose support for not fulfilling the will of the people.

Therefore, Schrodinger hypothesised that the Customs Union could exist in both states until such time as the Brexiteer came into contact with reality and was forced to tell the observer which state it was actually in.

This philosophical puzzle has baffled the great minds for years but until recently the thought experiment was purely hypothetical. However, one of the few positive things to have developed from the UK’s decision to leave the EU has been the opportunity to observe a real world version of Schrodinger’s Customs Union.

Today, after 14 months of being isolated from the real world, David Davis has emerged to announce that the Customs Union is in fact dead. However, as our economy will collapse without it, Davis has proposed that we keep it alive on life support as an interim solution in order to give businesses time to adjust to the more costly and convoluted system that will eventually replace it.

This finding is not without its critics. Key figures within the EU have long disputed the idea that the Customs Union can exist in two states. They believe that the Customs Union can only be alive or dead and if it has died it cannot continue to be utilised. They believe that the results of the David Davis experiment are merely an illusion caused by his own psychological defence mechanisms. They argue that the phenomena have emerged from a subconscious desire within the Brexiteers to shield themselves from the reality of the potentially catastrophic, self-inflicted quandary they are in.

In the coming months, the debate will continue, and we may eventually get some clarity on the matter.

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