Just another form of Protectionism

Dialogue with the Alter Ego on Britain’s EU separatism, first drafted on Jan. 10, published on Jan. 11, 2013

The Obama Administration has warned Britainthat it risks damaging its relationship with Washingtonif it abandons the European Union. Speaking on a visit to London, Philip Gordon, Assistant Secretary of State for Europeand Eurasia, said that the EU had “increasing weight” in the world and made plain that it would be wise for the UKto retain its influence in Brussels. The Times, Jan 9, 2013 ( see http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/politics/article3652418.ece

Question by Alter Ego of Noah denkt™ (AE): It has been widely reported now, that British Prime Minister Cameron is preparing himself to renegotiate a better membership deal for Britain when the EU begins talks on a new treaty to deepen political and economic co-operation in the Euro-zone. As far as is known at this point in time, his intention to repatriate some of the powers that early British governments had ceded to Brussels aims at exiting from the EU’s working-time directive, or at limiting Britain’s welfare obligations to EU migrants in the UK. Whatever the scope of his intentions may be though, a lot of people, including French President Hollande, UK business leaders such as Richard Branson and others are pretty worried about what Mr. Cameron might be up to. What is Noah denkt™’s position here?

Answer by Noah denkt™ (Nd): To be honest, we are really not too concerned about this. It seems to us as if the British separatism, just as much as the Catalan one, is just another bit of opportunistic reaction to the economic crisis which began with the bursting of the sub-prime bubble in 2007 and which continues with the Euro debt crisis to this day.

AE: But isn’t it true that both the Catalonia, as well as Britain have long harbored substantial doubts about their allegiance to Spain or the European Union respectively? And doesn’t it look quite possible that the current economic crisis may finally provide them with a golden opportunity to satisfy their long nourished aspirations?

Nd: Obviously, we do not know what the outcome of these separatist initiatives will be. We find it hard to believe though that a fundamental rearrangement of national and international relations in Europe is upon us.

AE: Why is that?

Nd: Because this is the last thing we need at this point in time. Instead, we should focus our energy on strengthening the European competitiveness. Because this is what ultimately enhances our prosperity. Anything else is just a waist of time.

AE: Now, Mr. Cameron would obviously argue that it is easier for Britain to strengthen its competitiveness when it isn’t hamstrung by socialist and interventionist policy directives from Brussels.

Nd: Britain’s economy will certainly flourish more if interventionist ideas in Europe can be kept at a minimum. That however can not be achieved by sidelining yourself in the European debate but rather by being an active participant in that. In other words, our world is so interconnected these days that it doesn’t even make sense to be protectionist when defending your own free-market stance.

AE: You cannot possibly be accused of being a protectionist when defending free trade policies? That is a contradiction in itself.

Nd:  But what other idea is behind Britain’s desire to distance itself from the EU than the objective to protect Britain’s economic interests? And how does that differ from other government’s attempt to shield off section’s of their local industry?

AE: Well, Britain’s interest is not to raise import duties or erect trade barriers? It merely tries to withdraw from certain obligations that actually hamper free trade.

Nd: You could put it that way. But you could also say that Britain is disrupting the spirit of benevolence and cooperation that ties to it other neighboring countries which, by the way, share to a large extent Britain’s own free trade convictions. Such behavior, however could easily lead to the erection of trade barriers in the future.

AE: Okay, let’s assume that you have a point here. But isn’t it still necessary to accept that there is quite a bit of emotional disconnect between people who are raised in a common law tradition and hence feel a sense of empowerment and those on the other side of the Channel who grow up in a top-down elitist realty and who therefore cannot develop this entrepreneurial can-do attitude when dealing with market disruptions?

Nd: Clearly, there is a substantial gap which is not easy to bridge. But there is nothing that reason, reasoning and enlightenment cannot achieve.






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