Sovereignty: a fig leaf for failure

We often publish Twitter threads for the benefit of those not on the platform but there’s another reason, too: these threads are brilliant, pithy summations of complex situations typically misrepresented in the mainstream media. This thread debunks the government’s sovereignty fig leaf and we are delighted to make it available to a wider audience.

Plenty of talk this morning about how UK sovereignty is what is stopping an EU deal, that the EU want to impinge on this.

Sorry, the argument is totally bogus. It is a combination of EU hatred and cakeism dressed up in respectable clothing.

How do we define sovereignty in trade deals? Complex question, so let’s just look at this government. It believes in trade deals and membership of the WTO. These contain binding rules. Therefore for this government sovereignty and binding rules are compatible.

Therefore sovereignty in terms of trade rules for this government is a relative concept either in content or partner terms. So when they say the EU proposals go too far is that because of what is proposed, or who it is proposed with?

We haven’t been told the detail. But with regard to the level playing field it is suggested that no country could sign up to a situation where not following the rules leads to tariffs being imposed. However we agree to this in the WTO and FTAs. So that is untrue.

Fish is a slightly different matter, and it is being said that the EU proposal would deny the UK control of our waters. But definitionally that can’t be true. We’re showing our control through the discussion. We don’t have to do a deal.

And in fact this is true of the trade deal with the EU as a whole. There does not have to be a deal. If there is not, then WTO terms. We have both signed up to these a long time ago. Apparently sanctions under the WTO aren’t breaches of sovereignty.

So why do we even want a trade deal with the EU? To avoid tariffs, get more haulage permits, have greater rights to provide services, that sort of thing? This sounds then like a transaction, where we have to choose the price we’re prepared to pay.

Neither the EU or UK has to do this deal. It is a choice. So why is this choice a matter of sovereignty? Just say no.

Unless, perhaps, you think you are entitled to a special deal without paying a price? Or that the other side is wrong?

We are back to cake. Back to the belief that the EU ‘should’ give us a special deal. And anger that they won’t. This isn’t about sovereignty. It is about a failure to agree commercial terms. It doesn’t matter if the EU is right or wrong. It is whether you can do the deal.

And, just perhaps, the idea that the EU is not the body that the UK ‘should’ be dealing with. That it is illegitimate, not being a country but a bloc. That should be brought down.

Well tough. Countries want trade deals with the EU and hate the experience. Live with it.

So let’s not indulge the sovereignty myth with regard to an EU deal. If it isn’t sovereignty when it is a deal with Japan it isn’t when it is with the EU. This is about the terms of preferential trade. They strike a hard bargain. Crying sovereignty = failure. Do better.

PS the classic sovereignty myth. You wonder if the real problem is that they don’t see us as ‘more’ sovereign than their member states. But ultimately, do the deal or don’t. Don’t whinge about the price.

PPS of course if we see an EU deal as just a case of the price worth paying that does set up an uncomfortable time for government if they got that wrong. Far better for them to convince us economic losses were about sovereignty not a poor decision…

PPPS. Shorter. Pithier. True.

Originally tweeted by David Henig (@DavidHenigUK) on 10/12/2020.