The few remaining people who still think leaving the EU was a good idea are now hailing the UK’s decision to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) as the jewel in the crown of Brexit.
Not because they believe that this Indo-Pacific trade bloc is a brilliant partnership to be in. Not because they think the Pacific region is the growing centre of the
world economy. But because, they claim, joining it makes rejoining the EU virtually impossible.
Of course, they are completely wrong once again.
Is the CPTPP something that will get Britain booming again, after turning its back on its biggest trading partner and closest neighbour because of a pack of lies sold by a proven liar?
Not really. Donald Trump pulled the USA out of the partnership, and nor is China a member – in fact, the CPTPP has been set up as a bulwark against China. Not only that but the UK already has trade deals with seven of the other 11 members already, including Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and Singapore.
So, it is hard to see what of real significance this deal really adds to the UK’s balance sheet.
In fact, the government’s own economic assessment is that membership of the CPTPP could increase the size of the British economy by a staggering 0.08%, which puts the whole farcical presentation of this deal as the main benefit of Brexit in context. The cost of Brexit to the British economy is 4% minimum, so this new deal will compensate for 1/50th of the economic damage of Brexit.
Or, to put it another way, just another 50 deals like this one and we will have made up for the damage that Brexit has done and is doing to the British economy.
The main reason that this deal does so little for the British economy is, of course, gravity. It is one of the few givens of international economics that countries trade with their close neighbours more than with distant countries.
The UK has torn up the best possible trade deal with its most important market, the EU and instead signed a much weaker, less comprehensive deal with smaller economies on the other side of the world, many of which it already has trade deals with.
But you don’t have to look very far to see that economics has very little to do with the adulation that this deal brings from the Brexit ultras.
They think it makes rejoining the EU impossible. First, because it encourages a reduction in regulations that could mean the UK would drift further away from EU standards for goods and second, because the UK would be unable to rejoin the EU’s customs union while still a member of the CPTPP.
This is a bizarre claim because if we as a sovereign independent nation join the CPTTP, we can presumably leave any time we want. Just like we decided to leave the EU. If we want to adopt or copy EU regulations, we can do that too, if we want.
Unless of course, unlike the EU, the CPTPP is a permanent supranational government, that it is impossible to leave, and joining is a permanent loss of sovereignty, with members forever under the yoke of a foreign power? That joining removes the UK’s ability to act in its own best interests and instead means it is governed by a trading block on the other side of the world.
A very strange argument for the Brexit backers to make, you might think.
The truth is that the Brexit ultras don’t believe any of this guff. The fact is that they have so little faith in their project that they are seeking to sabotage any possible return to the EU, and even in that they have failed.
The UK can sign its own trade deals and be part of the single market like Norway and it could at any time leave the CPTPP and rejoin the EU.
Everything else is just another bag of inflated Brexit wind.