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Brexit is all for the best – James Cryer

Wednesday, 29 June 2016
By James Cryer

It has little or nothing to do with the printing industry in Australia and NZ, but Brexit is top topic for public bar and coffee table talk. Who better than the industry’s gadlfy, James Cryer, to give a definitive – if fairly lengthy encouragement – to those who want to see Britannia rule again.

Do not be in any doubt: Britain has made the right decision. Not since Henny Penny claimed the sky was falling in has there been so much blatant scare-mongering and mis-truths about the so-called negative effects of Britain’s withdrawal.

Let’s start with a premise: all so-called free-trade agreements or common markets are a false dawn. For every so-called benefit, e.g. a guaranteed market because you can trade with your neighbour, there are equal or worse negatives, e.g. you’re denied the right to buy from someone else, who may have a better, cheaper product.

The idea, however, of a free-trade zone is very seductive – so much so we all fall for it. Anything with the word free in it momentarily deadens the brain’s analytical powers and we just accept what comes next in blind faith. (I’m tempted to try the phrase ‘free love’ to test this assertion, but you get my point.) Whoever dreamed up the phrase ‘free-trade zone’ should be given a prize for ‘Most Misleading Term’, as a better description would be ‘restricted-trade zone’.

The idea of asking countries to sign their life away and give preferential treatment to another country – not because it makes better tractors, but because it shares its borders with you, is perhaps the most idiotic perversion of free-market economics that one can think of. And yet grown-up, adult countries – like Britain and Australia fall for it every time.

We’ve just been conned into signing-up to join the Pan-Pacific Free-trade zone. Great if you want to ship more Ozzie apricots to mainland China, who would probably have bought them anyway, if they’re any good! But now we discover China is shipping in plane-loads of illiterate Chinese workers to build infrastructure here, and is allowed to take away local jobs. Why? Because it says they must enjoy ‘reciprocal rights’ under our new free-trade agreement!

The EU has about 27 members and needed a complex free-trade agreement to make them all trade harmoniously together. America has 50 members, called states, and they seem to quite happy to trade and compete among themselves without forming alliances and expensive, blood-sucking bureaucracies!

So let’s agree – all free-trade zones by whatever name are a con. If Country ‘A’ builds better tractors, or even just good ones, people will beat a path to their door. This highlights the problem. Life has become so unnecessarily complex there are now two layers or levels of markets. The primary or physical one, and the secondary or financial one. Unfortunately all the rich guys these days don’t actually make anything, they simply manipulate financial markets, currency exchange-rates, bank rates, venture capital/private equity, CFDs and a host of other financial instruments, all based on speculation but which contribute nothing to the real economy. Most of us have no clues about things like ‘dark pools’ but they’re all just a form of legalised – the likes of which George Soros, not forgetting Gordon Gekko, turned into an art-form.

It is these to people, that a huge trading bloc represents a giant money-making machine – just look at the obscene diplomatic/financial-regulatory-compliance/merchant-banking bureaucracies that have sprung up like cancerous lesions all round Brussells and The Hague. They are happy to tell other countries how they should manage their financial affairs, how to produce products which conformed to arbitrary Euro-friendly rules, where, and to whom, to sell your apples or beef or cheese –  recall the famous sausage case – and probably at what price and on what terms. To me, this sounds more like a return to Russia’s command economy of the 1920s than an enlightened, open market economy of the 21st Century.

There is probably an army of pen-pushers in Belgium who have done nothing of value all their lives – but who have grown fat and rich and corrupt on the levies and taxes and royalties that Britain has been forced to pay for the last 40-odd years. For what? For being told that you must buy from this bunch of countries, that you can’t buy from another country, that you must allow cheap immigrants from Bulgaria or Romania to enter your country and leach off your welfare systems, because Britain – of all the EU countries, offers the most desirable lifestyle and English – which is the passport to international acceptance.

I don’t hear Switzerland hammering at the gates to be let in, or railing at the injustice of not being a member! When we were there, we didn’t see too many signs of starvation or poverty or despair or the sky falling in, that surely would be the fate that would befall anyone who wasn’t in the EU.

In fairness, Europe is such a mix of ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ that it’s almost impossible to produce a level-playing ground that does not drag the better-performing economies down to the lowest-common denominator. We’ve seen that with the Eurozone and the misguided idea of locking Greece and Portugal in with the likes of France and Germany – it had to result in tears. By taking away the idea of allowing a country’s currency to reflect if it was doing well or not, a fixed exchange-rate virtually became a reward for bad behaviour. It’d be like buying a new house for a bunch of tenants who had destroyed the first one.

But it’s against this conflicted backdrop that Britain – probably against its better judgement [Prime Minister Edward Heath made the call in 1973 _ed] – got suckered into joining the EU. If it had been with the top-tier countries only; Germany, France, Sweden and Denmark,  it may have worked, bolstered by all enjoying similar standards of living and lifestyles. But someone got too greedy, or unrealistic or just plain stupid, by thinking you could throw the gates open to virtually every tin-pot principality that happens to share its borders with you.

That’s as silly as saying our kids should only marry people who live in our street! What happened to the fundamental idea of if you want to join our club, you must attain certain minimum standards first! That would have given the EU some cache, some status, something to make other countries become better economic managers before they could join. That way you really would have strong bargaining power to act as an economic bloc, if you wished to.

But at the end of the day, I keep coming back to ‘What are/were the benefits of EU membership?’ I can’t see any. All I see is that member countries could not buy agricultural products from South America or cars from Asia, or beer from Oz, or butter from NZ – we better not forget our Kiwi cousins – unless there was a higher import duty.

Well, at least now Britain can start smart shopping globally – she can deal with whomever she wants, to get the best deal from whomever she chooses! When you think about it, it’s a crazy premise to use border proximity, which could mean we share a river, rather than cultural similarity. It could be argued the UK has more in common with NZ than Romania, but she was forced to trade with the latter and not the former, because one was closer. Hasn’t the EU heard about the internet – it’s easier to buy stuff from anywhere – not just from your neighbour. This is crazy stuff – as someone said, the EU was a 1950s attempt to solve a 1940s problem. I’d go one further and say forming alliances are a uniquely European thing, which may have worked during the height of the Austro-Hungarian Empire but which are hardly relevant in the 21st Century!

Some doomsdayers are seeing this as England pulling the covers up and hiding from global realities, retreating behind a wall of denial. Not at all; I think she’ll get a kick-start of confidence that will scare the living daylights out of silly old France and Holland who must already be thinking: what were we thinking of when we signed our life away – and their sovereignty over border-control – and the ability to manage the harmonious blend of their population.

If you could put a cost on social disruption and disintegration and dysfunctionality creeping in to Western European countries, this whole EU has been a monstrously bad idea that has probably set back British society rather than enhanced it. The genius’s who draw up the EU plans never foresaw that once you create a common realm it attracts the disadvantaged and less well off, who naturally gravitate to wealthier states where they can get a free ride; access to better food, clothing, education, health care, etc. – a sort of arbitrage where there is a momentary imbalance that can be exploited.

But when they conceived the EU what nobody seemed to understand was that there’s an island plonked just off the coast that was a glittering prize – a light burning more more brightly than Germany or even France. The UK, home of the world’s most desirable language, a virtual passport to earning money. When you add that to Britain’s other – generous housing, health and social welfare – you turn England into a virtual flashing beacon on the horizon, saying, in effect trample across Europe, just do whatever it takes: end-goal the UK!

You should never have signed on the dotted line! You signed your own death warrant.

Control over one’s borders is a fraught topic because it’s easy to be turned into a racist argument. And certainly the shooting of a politician doesn’t help. But wanting to preserve one’s own society is a perfectly valid response, every country does it. We should all be humane and allow genuine refugees and other immigrants into our countries. But as soon as we feel we’ve lost control,  some primeval response kicks in, possibly based in the instinct to defend our own cave from the other caveman! ‘I got here first – now p–s off!’ Yes, it’s crude, unseemly, possibly un-Christian and maybe even unfair –where’s the fairness in ‘I got here first?’ – but it’s deeply ingrained in our human psyche and any politician who ignores it will suffer accordingly. Think David Cameron.

Another notion closely allied is that of ‘sovereignty’, the idea that what goes on inside one’s own borders is not  being manipulated by some faceless outsiders. Rightly or wrongly – and sovereignty is only a benign form of the more insidious nationalism – pollies tread into dangerous territory when they sell off their own country’s right to make their own determinations as to how they run their own country. I can’t imagine America giving away any concessions that allowed a foreign country, or bunch of faceless bureaucrats, to interfere in their own daily lives. That was where Britain made its gravest error, which has now been rectified!

Where to from here? I believe England should take a bow at being the first country to have the guts to say ‘We’ve had enough!’ The sky won’t fall in, your  Underground will continue to work like clockwork, your beer will still be flat and tasteless, your politicians will continue to be as stupid as ours, but you’ve gained self-respect, a new sense of purpose. Let’s be honest, you’ve impressed the backside out of half of Europe who secretly envy you thumbing your nose at a bunch of un-elected apparatchiks making ludicrous decisions.

Britain – and Scotland take note – you should be thankful you weren’t caught up in the Eurozone currency disaster and didn’t have to bail out the profligate PIGS (Portugal, Italy, Greece, Spain!).

In conclusion, one of the take-home lessons we’ve learned from all this is that we don’t really have democracy in Westminster or in Canberra or Washington. We have a very flawed system of representation, that doesn’t really represent the true wishes of the people. Switzerland may come closer with its referendums, which are the purest form of democracy. There is now a strong case that our Westminster system should allow more referendums on such critical issues as this. Sadly, it sends the message that the people have a better feel for running the country than their elected pollies who seem driven by self-interest.

Anyway there’s always silver lining behind every cloud: at last bloody Poms will be able to drink decent beer from Oz, lap up tasty butter from NZ and guzzle the world’s best whisk – it was an international judging panel – Nant, from Tasmania. So bring on the revolution  – go the Poms, you’ve shown the world you can act assertively,  you’ve kicked sand in the face of the bully.

It’s all upside from here.

4 Responses to “Brexit is all for the best – James Cryer”

  1. June 29, 2016 at 12:31 pm,

    FairGo
    said:

    A good argument in places but one thing overlooked is that uniting Europe economically and quasi-politically has prevented a repeat of atrocious wars that have occurred in the past 100 years. Even Gorbachev, when he tore the Berlin wall down, when asked by a die-hard Stalinist ‘why are you doing this?’ replied ‘I am creating one happy European family.’
    For peace, there have to be trade-offs and some of them are unpalatable. Britain (and the Commonwealth nations) has rescued Europe from totalitarianism several times in history – Napoleon, The Kaiser, Fascists, Communism (cold war) and even Bosnia. Hopefully this will never be needed again – so long as Europe stays united in some form or other, changes and strives to root out the corruption and fat cats. And that is why the dodgy Brexit referendum was a fiasco.

  2. June 29, 2016 at 6:50 pm,

    Someone
    said:

    Perhaps James had better look a little deeper into the EU and also it might be best to correct a few of his obvious mistakes.
    Let’s start with Britannia rule the waves. This is Empire nonsense and the date when Britannia stopped ruling the waves is a date for you the reader can personally select. Me? I pick the Suez Crisis when the US told Britannia to depart and they did with their tail between their legs. There is no longer opportunities for invading India James. The UK’s “greatness” relies on it being a major financial centre in Europe. It is great danger of losing that financial centre if there is a flight of capital.

    Before starting I have looked hard for the point that James has made as being denied the right to buy a cheaper product and am unable to find it anywhere. The individual nations as far as I can ascertain cannot reject product, under the regulations, from another member state. If that product fails to sell why would a business bother with a loss making venture anyway? On my last visit to the UK there were as many cheap Knick knacks as there in any other nation. My memory of shopping in Tescos was the surprise at how much cheap African produce was.

    As to the UE free trade agreement itself it has made the UK a more wealthy country than it would have been pining for a long lost empire and closing its doors. Let’s look at the figures shall we. I have found them from my own research into what Industry associations in the UK have used to promote the prosperity that membership of the EU has given the UK. The EU is 23% of the global economy.
    This is access to a $16.6 trillion a year Single Market of 500m people. With that the ability to freely buy and sell products within that market. What that means for example is that a printing company can quote and win printing within any part of the Union.

    Membership with that market has seen trade increase from the UK by 50% since joining. In 2009 $207bn of the UK’s total of $293bn of exports to the rest of the EU27 was used as inputs to industries, rather than being consumed directly; and the UK imported $161bn of intermediates from the EU27 in 2009. Imported intermediates are important even to domestically-focused sectors: the health & social care sector used $19bn of imported intermediates principally of pharmaceuticals and other chemicals.

    In recent times 30 trade deals negotiated by the EU, including within the actual Single Market itself, has allowed business to have full access to what is expected to grow to be an eventual $24 trillion market. It is thought that if recent growth continues exponentially that the market itself will be $47 trillion. I read that “Investment flows across borders inside the EU have roughly doubled following the introduction of the Single Market. As the EU’s leading investment destination, the UK was a key beneficiary: the EU accounted for 47% of the UK’s stock of inward FDI at the end of 2011, with investments worth over $1.2 trillion.” Within that union there is a free flow of labour that can assist with skills shortages etc. Basically the sons and daughters of all citizens of the member nations can move as they see fit to chase work, business, trade etc . Interestingly the net contribution of The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is measly .4% of Gross Domestic Product. Defense alone costs the UK tax payer 2% of GDP.
    Now we get the raw figures out of the way the domestic attacks on Brussels Bureaucrats by the UK is propaganda. The list of Bent Banana stories are as far fetched as it to be idiotic to believe them. The 19,000 cabbage rules is one for example. There are only 1,900 words in the entire regulation and are in fact protection for the consumer from dumping of inferior product.
    The EU free trade zone is in fact protected by these regulations against China “shipping in plane-loads of illiterate Chinese workers” I use that line James has used against my better judgement. It is a xenophobic remark and not becoming of serious discussion. In fact James historical discussion give the game away as to his thoughts when he wanted the EU to be a club for rich nations only.

    As to Britain shopping globally and smarter the EU drives a hard bargain for its members when dealing externally. The deals negotiated are world’s best practice and Britain will not get better deals on its own due to sheer volume alone. To think otherwise is out of touch with the market. I am staggered that a trade magazine I read can think different.

    The fact of the matter is if that James had bothered to watch the UK in the last few days he would have watched the like of Boris Johnson act like a loser because the realization is that but for the sake of power politics he got what he never really believed in. For the sake of internal power politics within the Conservative and Unionist Party we have seen the UK fail to tell its citizens the truth as to what they voted for and that it is a poorer nation. The EU has its issues. Don’t all associations as we should all know but I would have thought that as much as we all feel frustration at the faults we perceive to actually make ourselves demonstrably poorer makes no sense.

    If I could be bothered I could add more refuting James but I am not wasting more time. I almost feel that this is an internet troll article such is its lack of nuance. And yes I am glad we are we and not them. What a mess of their own making.

  3. June 29, 2016 at 8:49 pm,

    Fred
    said:

    James, your view is luckily only your personal opinion and I have to say that you are ill informed about some topics you publish here.
    Let’s see how well Great Britain will do in future, as such thing still exists after Scotland and Northern Ireland declare independence, European and Japanese manufacturers close factories and move to East Europe, Banks move staff and assets to Frankfurt and the farmers don’t get any subsidies anymore.
    I guess you can then call your friend Boris in London and you two can recap on what just happened!

    BTW…
    America has 50 members BUT only one president!
    America is a nation that grew together, has basically one culture and speaks one language!
    How can you compare this to Europe?

    @FairGo
    Don’t glorify what Great Britain has done, as they haven’t done it alone and they were warmongers as well! The big two Wars were something Britain was willing to get into and they didn’t try to prevent them!
    Britain has, many times in history, many questions to answer about the things they have done, when raping Nations in the name of the Commonwealth.

  4. June 30, 2016 at 1:33 pm,

    Mark Stegman
    said:

    Perhaps a more ‘realistic’ and somewhat Machiavellian perspective could be found here…

    https://youtu.be/EkpS-yBj7gY

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