Unbelievably, British negotiators have agreed that they will remain within the EU’s tariff walls, and contract out their trade policy to Brussels, unless and until the EU side is satisfied that there don’t need to be physical checks at the Irish border. To be clear, the issue is not whether there will be infrastructure on the British side of the line — it was obvious from the beginning that that wouldn’t happen. The issue is whether the EU reckons that it doesn’t need any checks on its side either.
Why should the EU ever admit to reaching such a conclusion? What could be better, from its point of view, than hanging on to Britain as a non-voting member? As long as the U.K. is gripped in the clamp of its customs union, EU exporters will enjoy privileged access to the world’s fifth-largest economy. They won’t need to worry about world competition. Ford cars imported into Britain will still be subject to the EU’s 10 percent tariff. Beef from Oklahoma and Nebraska will still be kept out on grounds of the bogus health scare about growth hormones.
“As the Brexit agreement stands,” Trump said, “the U.K. may not be able to trade with the U.S.”. What he means, of course, is not that we couldn’t trade, but that we wouldn’t be able to sign a trade deal. Tragically, he’s right.