The BBC’s Thursday Brexit coverage focused on comments from Sir Ivan Rogers, Britain’s Ambassador to the European Union, who said an EU free trade deal with a 27-member-state bloc might take between five and ten years.
Yes, these negotiations might take between five or ten years.
They might also take five or ten months. Or five or ten centuries.
But while the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme, News Channel, and Daily Politics shows all claimed as news the truism that trade deals can take a few years to negotiate; the reality, if they cared to present it in context, is that it is free trade deals with the European Union that take longer than normal, bilateral agreements.
In part, this is precisely why we want out of the EU.
Take, in comparison, U.S. negotiations with other countries as a benchmark for trade deals.
It took four months to negotiate with Jordan, 14 months with Australia, 15 months with Israel, and 20 months with Canada.
On average, according to the Petersen Institute for International Economics, it took the United States just 18 months to hammer out trade deals.
But the United States has also had major problems negotiating a trade deal with one entity.
You guessed it! It’s the European Union.
The Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership — which looks dead in its tracks — was first proposed in the 1990s with the first negotiations taking place in 2013.
The 15th round of negotiations took place in New York City in October 2016, and while optimists think it can be concluded by 2018/19, most are now not so sure this deal can be hammered out at all.
The Commonwealth Exchange also found in 2014 that the time the European Union takes to negotiate a trade deal is extraordinarily longer than sovereign nations. It is even nearly three times slower than the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) which consists of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland.
The EU-Canada deal took seven years to complete, but it also put in place a framework which many believe would be best for a post-Brexit EU-UK relationship. This should speed things up, as should the fact that after decades of membership, Britain’s regulations are already mostly “harmonised” with the EU’s. That is always a sticking point, but won’t really apply to us. Finally, the fact that the UK would immediately become the EU’s largest export market upon Brexit should expedite the process.
The only possible slow down to this is politics, and that is basically what Sir Ivan is referring to.
But if the EU chooses to shoot itself and its member states in the foot in the name of obstinate behaviour, it would naturally lead to other nations considering the efficacy of their membership.
The intransigence and sluggishness of the European Union would be humorous were it not so detrimental for its member states which rely on trade with big markets. Especially those who have not yet fully made the transition from Soviet-style economies.
Instead of fearmongering about how a trade deal with the European Union takes a few more years than the global average, they should be investigating and reporting on why.
But they won’t. Because that would mean presenting the honest truth about how the European Union is not fit for purpose. And then the BBC wouldn’t get those lovely cheques any more.