Tuesday 20 March 2018

Historic and toxic Tory ideology weakens UK's bargaining hand

Conservatives have a history of splits over trade policy - Brexit is just the latest, writes Blair Horan

'Conservatives have a history of splits over trade policy'. Photo: Getty Images
'Conservatives have a history of splits over trade policy'. Photo: Getty Images

Blair Horan

The UK Conservative party has a history of divisions over trade policy - so a split, which could lead to a second referendum, cannot be ruled out.

The weakness of the UK's negotiating position has been brutally exposed in the negotiations to date. Next up, a shattering of the illusion that the UK can have a bold and ambitious trade agreement that mirrors existing single market access, without the obligations of membership.

Both post-war Labour and Conservative governments stood apart from 'Europe', because sovereignty and the empire were prioritised. The UK's preference was for a free-trade agreement in Europe, similar to the later NAFTA deal agreed between the US, Mexico and Canada. However, the six countries in the European Coal and Steel Community chose instead to create a unified continental scale market, which economically is closer to the US federal model. This structure requires a much greater pooling of sovereignty, which in Britain is viewed as a loss of sovereignty.

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