Ken Clarke: On the Wrong Side of History

Ken Clarke picture

More than a decade ago, Ken Clarke and his fellow €urophiles were warning us that unless we joined the €uro, our economy would be wrecked.  Financial services would move en masse to Frankfurt.  Foreign investors would shun us.  We should be left behind.  But he was wrong.  It is the €urozone which is wrecked, with record unemployment, and some southern European countries facing poverty and despair on a scale unseen since the thirties.

But Ken, like the Bourbons of old, has learned nothing and forgotten nothing.  He pops up in the lead story in Tuesday’s Telegraph insisting that “Quitting the EU would wreck the economy”.  OK Ken.  Just like not joining the €uro?

But Ken does raise one important point which we shall hear more and more, and will have to address.  The EU has negotiated free trade deals with many countries, and is currently negotiating many more.   One of the most important is T-TIP, the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership. This (if completed) will be simply the biggest international trade deal that the world has ever seen (OK, you could argue about the Uruguay Round), and will be a clear net benefit to the USA, and to the EU, including Britain.

Where will Britain be when we leave the EU?  Will we lose the benefit of all those deals?  I think the short answer is this: that it will be hugely to the economic advantage of everyone concerned if a newly independent UK is grandfathered in to these deals on the same terms.  I see no percentage for any trading partner in re-opening these extensive and complex trade deals.  And there would be potential downsides for companies and national economies in any uncertainty that was created around the UK’s status.

More than that: I suspect that the UK would already have negotiated free trade deals, perhaps years ago, with the USA, and with Canada, India, Singapore and other Commonwealth countries, if we hadn’t handed over our trade policy to Brussels in 1973.

Nor is it clear that T-TIP will go ahead.  Already the French have lived up to their stereotype as the continent’s arch-protectionists, demanding the exclusion of audio-visual markets to protect “French culture”.  (Note to Hollande: if French culture and movies were that good, they wouldn’t need protection.  You already have the protection of a minority language).  This is to be the up-front price of French acceptance of the EU’s opening negotiating mandate.

With audio-visual excluded, the Americans may demand the exclusion of public procurement, or aviation, or whatever.  The whole thing could yet break down, which would be very damaging.  Again, we might well be better off negotiating on our own account.

But I really want to challenge one point in Ken’s Telegraph article.  He rightly says that the British are “intrepid, relentlessly outward-facing adventurers”, but adds “not isolationist John Bulls”.  Wrong comparison, Ken.  You should have said “Not inward-looking, self-referential, protectionist Europeans”.

He cites, without comment or justification, the lazy old €urophile canard that outside the EU, the UK “would be forced to trade by EU rules which it has no say in setting” (not that we have much say now).  If challenged, he would no doubt make the clichéd Norway comparison.  But the EU is not Norway.  We are a top-ten global trading nation, somewhere in size between Canada and the USA.  Do Canada and the USA “trade by EU rules?”.  Does Japan?  Or Korea (with which the EU has a free trade deal)?  Of course not.  And nor should we.

As the EU’s largest trading partner (which we will be after independence), we shall trade on very favourable terms indeed.

I shall be writing to Ken to ask why he keeps making this nonsense comparison.  If he replies, I shall share his thoughts with you.  And I only ask because I want to know.

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10 Responses to Ken Clarke: On the Wrong Side of History

  1. As a fellow Whisky Sot, I would suggest to Ken Clarke that he retires gracefully from the scene and keeps his trap shut! Also, as an Old Fool I recognise another Old Fool, albeit that I have more years under my belt than he has!

  2. Sally McNamara says:

    The falkland island papers recently unveiled also showed that ken advised thatcher not to retake them. He also wants to release more criminals. Has he ever been right?!

    Sally McNamara

  3. Anne says:

    A message for Ken Clarke. As we have been denied the promised REFERENDUM on the EU, we-the people are going to use the coming General Election in 2015 as our REFERENDUM on an “in” or “out” of the EU and only vote for those Political Paqrties or Organisations that actually DO want out of the European Union-forever. So Guys and Gals, we are indeed having our Referendum in 2015 only it will be called the General Election. It matters not if the one you vote for has never Governed this Country before according to its Common Law Constitution, becuase no British Government has done THAT since before 1972.

  4. Ian Dempster says:

    As I understand that we are already in the EEA, and the new agreement, if it happens includes the EEA, we are already covered. As long as when we quit the EUSSR we remain a member of the EEA, we should have very little to worry us. Richard North at EU referendum has already gone into this in great detail.


  5. Bellevue says:

    I think you meant to say ….’but the UK is not Norway’. Or maybe I am wrong.
    I am pretty sure that this US/EU trade deal will not happen. The french are already talking about veto-ing the whole thing…… just wait until agriculture comes into the picture!!!! Tractors on motorways, anyone???
    And how is that Canada/EU trade deal coming along…….?

  6. Mon Dieu , Bellevue !. Hush your mouth , talking about the agriculture policy ! You know the French farmers swimming pools are built with idiots ( ie, British ) money ! Forget the tractors ~ riots on the streets of France will be the order of the day . EU not protectionist ? They’re having a laugh ( at our expense as usual ) .

    Jim Hutchinson .

  7. Duncan says:

    The EUphiles are little Englanders. They say that UK is weak and can only flourish inside the EU.
    I am a Great Britainer which is why I vote UKIP.

  8. Pete Hodge says:

    Every day we read more rubbish coming from Brussels and EUphiles. What have they got against Britain? They really do not like themselves very much, do they? Europe is a trading block in decline whilst the rest of the world is growing. Why bother about a failing market? That will only drag our economy down. We need to go where the growth is, and be a part of the great worldwide (except the EU) economic recovery.

  9. IAN PAYNE says:

    I always remember sending the decision letter from his office, telling me that I had not been accepted as a magistrate, back to Ken’s office all ripped up, when he was JUSTICE MINISTER. What a wonderful feeling that was and I have never forgotten it either. Of course I got the usual diatribe reply back from his office about the decision process being this, that and the other, etc. That went into the shredder file in my study and it was a joy seeing it go down into the shredder within milli-seconds!

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