Either our ministers are stupid or we are – you decide
Grownups expect little children to believe in Father Christmas. Yet confidently holding the same expectation with teenagers should give grounds for concern. Someone there is stupid: the children if the parents’ expectation is justified; the parents themselves if it isn’t.
Dave’s recent pronouncements extrapolate the same logic onto foreign trade, with us cast in the role of children who are either little or retarded. First HMG proudly announces that in the last three months, for the first time since the 70s, 51 percent of our exports have gone outside the EU. According to our triumphant spivocrats, this bears testimony to their sage and tireless toil in the service of the British economy.
Leading the way are the exports of Rolls Royce and Bentley motorcars, with Scotch whisky, especially single malts, also doing well. Upon hearing this news we’re supposed to rejoice and toss our hats up in the air. Well, I hope you’ll forgive me if mine stays perched on my pate.
First, Rolls Royce and Bentleys are no longer British cars in any other than the purely sentimental sense. The company that makes them is jointly owned by Volkswagen and BMW, meaning that, whatever the cars’ final destination, all the profits go to Germany.
True enough, British workers at Goodwood and Crew keep themselves fed and clothed by tightening the bolts at the Rolls and Bentley assembly lines. Yet their relationship with their German owners is exactly that of colonial fruit pickers and, say, Del Monte Foods. This sort of thing was envisaged by the leaders of the Third Reich – Europe providing the coupons for the Germans to clip. So the Fourth Reich is being built on a solid historical foundation.
Our spivocrats do acrobatic contortions patting themselves on the back, but it’s not their wise policy that has shifted some of Rolls and Bentley exports to Asia and America. In case they haven’t noticed, Europe is going through what can only politely be called a recession. Among other things, this means that fewer people there can nowadays afford Rolls Royce and Bentley cars, which tend to be jolly expensive. It takes championship-calibre sleight of hand to offer any other explanation.
The same goes for single malts that typically cost around £30 a bottle at the low end. This is undeniably an indigenous British product, and so it’ll remain until Scotland has declared her increased dependence on the EU, otherwise known as her independence from Britain. Yet here too our spivocrats should suspend their self-congratulations.
Generally speaking, economic disasters are good for distilleries, for people try to drown their sorrows in booze. What kind of booze is a different matter, and it stands to reason that a newly impoverished Italian would rather spend a tenner on cheap grappa than five times as much on Lagavulin. The newly enriched Chinese, on the other hand, can’t get enough of the stuff, even though they can’t handle it.
But let’s pretend for a second that our intellectual age got frozen at a distant point in the past. Good little children, we’re prepared to believe what our elders are telling us: it’s thanks to their sagacity that our exports are becoming less Eurocentric. Now what?
How does this tally with their assurances that, unless we’re ruled by a Fourth Reich gauleiter, we’ll starve? Surely, the glad tidings suggest that a new trend is under way? Perhaps we don’t depend on the EU all that much after all, Dave? Perhaps we can even leave it, or at least be allowed to decide whether we want to or not? Ask such questions again and you’ll be grounded for a month, you naughty brat.
‘Britain’s interest – trading a vast share of our GDP – is to be in those [EU] markets,’ says Dave. ‘Not just buying, selling, investing, receiving investment, but also helping to write the rules. If we were outside, we wouldn’t be able to do that.’
That’s arrant nonsense. The rules of foreign trade have always been established by enforceable mutual interests, not by clueless bureaucrats getting together to decide how much they can claim in tax-free income, expenses and pensions.
It’s in the EU’s interests to do business with us because they enjoy a positive trade balance with the UK. This means that a lot of their jobs depend on trade with Britain, and they wouldn’t want to jeopardise those, particularly at a time like this. And should they, in a fit of pique, decide to do so anyway, we’d have a full arsenal of retaliatory weapons at our disposal: protectionism begets protectionism, sanctions beget sanctions. That’s how the real world works, Dave.
At the same time as they come up with such lame arguments, Dave and his jolly friends, increasingly detested by their own party, are dropping vague hints at some future referendum. Considering that at least a third of the Tory parliamentary party, and twice as big a proportion at the grass roots, are in open rebellion on the issue, Dave’s motivation is clear. But, while he and Hague are mouthing 100-quid ‘re’ words like ‘realignment’, ‘reassessment’ and ‘repatriation of powers’, their underlings put in their own penny’s worth.
The other day Europe Minister David Lidington wrote, or rather published, an article in Le Monde in which he unequivocally ruled out a referendum on Europe now or in the future. The choice of the publication is curious for a so-called Tory: first, Le Monde is French and second, it’s considerably to the left even of The Guardian. But the stratagem is transparent: Dave makes reassuring noises to mollify the real Tories, while his junior ministers tell the EU to ignore such noises. It’s just our domestic politics, Angie and François, don’t worry. Otherwise, it’s business as usual.
How stupid do they think we are? How stupid do we think they are? Or rather how corrupt, how self-serving, how dishonest? You know the answers.