SOAPBOX: Can the economy be Irish? #ESRCfestival

Dr Leslie Budd is Reader in Social Enterprise at The Open University. He was Special Economic Advisor to the former Committee for Enterprise Trade and Investment (CETI) at the Northern Ireland Assembly providing briefings, in particular on the impact of Brexit.

Graham Brownlow and I will examine the question: Can the economy be Irish? next week at a free session as part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science in Belfast.

The Irish are great storytellers, illuminated through the centuries by Beckett, Yeats, O’Brien, Shaw, Wilde, Binchy, Enright and Joyce to name a few of the many. The great English lexicographer, Samuel Johnson, said that narrative is the superior form of knowledge, whilst the German philosopher, Hegel, stated that knowledge proceeds through conversation. Yet in the face of the impact of Brexit on the whole of Ireland as the only story in town does economics lack these two basic elements to create knowledge?

Part of the answer lies in the academic discipline’s desperate attempt to be viewed as a science by reducing its methods to that of physics. In combination with ‘bad’ mathematics, this physics envy has produced a desiccated form of investigation in which a contextual narrative of society, polity and culture is almost absent.

As George Shackle, the Cambridge economist, observed: to be an economist one has to be an anthropologist, political scientist, mathematician, philosopher, and sociologist with an interest in economics. It is these characteristics that are vital in creating a narrative and conversation about Brexit.

The treatment of Brexit as an event that follows on from the EU Referendum vote in June 2016 rather than as a process has generated opposing views. One is that the UK will regain an imagined Arcadian Imperium past (one that never existed) outside the EU. The other is, that without EU membership, the UK’s economy will go to hell in a handcart.

Neither encompasses a consistent narrative and it could be argued that the current state of negotiations between the Westminster government and the EU is equivalent to the Game of Thrones.

This medieval storytelling epic has metaphorical utility for Northern Ireland. It has become a global production system, with filming and production activities across various European locales, including Northern Ireland.

Underpinning this regionally distributed system is a set of Global Value Chains (GVCs): the basis of trade in modern economies. These include associated activities such as culture, leisure and tourism as well associated business and financial services.

It follows that a thorough underlying narrative is an imperative in trying to understand the economic implications of this global brand possibly retreating from Ireland following Brexit. A similar argument can be made for the crucial agri-food sector, whose production criss-crosses the Irish border and the rest of the UK.

Brexit appears to be a de-globalising project and Graham Brownlow and I will pick up and examine the question: Can the economy be Irish? next week at the ESRC Festival of Social Science in Belfast.

In order to explore the complexities of the GVCs that underpin this sector, we need to go beyond its contribution to output, investment and employment. An economic narrative that includes the importance of this cross-border sector to the sense of rural culture and the very notion of Irishness is missing in assessing the impact of Brexit on the island of Ireland. Moreover, such a narrative enables greater insight into the thorny issue of the border question.

As a senior rural affairs spokesperson quipped, “Irish cows don’t respect borders”, but this seemingly trivial remark is actually important in seeking more imaginative solutions to the border question to which conventional economic analysis cannot contribute.

Ireland is unique case in respect of Brexit and future relations with the EU. The Good Friday Agreement, that ended internecine conflict, incorporates socio-economics rights for all citizens in the island of Ireland that are not available to citizens in the rest of the UK. These are fundamental resources in any system that promotes economic citizenship for all.

This is part of the story that needs to be told in any economic appraisal of the impact of Brexit as an ongoing process in the longer term. The combination of a Shackle-type framework, within a storytelling framework that the Irish have made famous, seems to be an absolute necessity in addressing the greatest challenge Europe has faced in nearly seventy years. It would also contribute to sense making within conventional economics that it currently appears to lack.

You can register online to attend Leslie’s talk on Can the economy be Irish? which he will deliver along with Dr Graham Brownlow from Queen’s University on Wednesday 6 November at 6pm in the Sunflower Bar as part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science. There will be live music from sean-nós singer Doimnic Mac Giolla Bhríde to illustrate parts of the talk.

Find out more about the festival and upcoming events in Slugger’s preview post.

This is a guest slot to give a platform for new writers either as a one off, or a prelude to becoming part of the regular Slugger team.

  • Korhomme

    There is a really alarming thread on Twitter:

    https://twitter.com/jonlis1/status/927551446186450944

    Point 29 et seq are about NI:

    https://twitter.com/jonlis1/status/927551446186450944

  • Salmondnet

    “One is that the UK will regain an imagined Arcadian Imperium past (one that never existed) outside the EU.”
    Tendentious nonsense. That is simply how those who oppose Brexit like to paint those who support It ( when not describing them as “little Englanders”, which implies the exact opposite).
    With that sentence the author betrays his own opinions and prejudices. It Is hardly worth reading further.
    Actually the UK just wants to regain the elementary political and economic freedoms enjoyed by almost all the 120 plus nations who are not members of the EU.

  • Korhomme

    You are, I think, referencing the thread on Twitter that I posted.

    Economic freedoms are limited today; it takes two to trade. How many of the 120 other nations who are not ‘members of the EU’ does it take to replicate the trade with the EU (in which there are 27 others, and 53 agreements with other nations).

    The imperial past was based on colonialism; and the idea of colonialism was to extract whatever wealth that country had and bring it to GB/UK. Is that not obvious from the history of Ireland?

    If you will not read further, what does that say of the mentality of the Brexiter?

  • Sean Danaher

    A bit off topic Korhomme but the thread rings very true. Let’s hope sanity prevails
    As is in the case of NI the area in which I currently live, the NE of England could be particularly badly hir

  • Neiltoo

    I’m pretty sure that Salmondnet was referencing the above article from which he quoted.

  • Korhomme

    Yes, could be; my bad.

  • Korhomme

    It was the “Irish cows don’t respect borders” point that suggested the reference to this Twitter thread; and that cattle and dairy are so important to the economy in NI.

  • Sean Danaher

    Can you point me to a reliable economic study as to why Brexit is a good idea for NI after all your largest party seems to support it? I am really struggling here

  • Korhomme

    No. I’m not aware of any reliable study which shows that Brexit would be a ‘good thing’ for NI; I do try to read comprehensively, and try to avoid ‘conformation bias’.

    The DUP went for Brexit, it’s alleged, because — like Boris — they expected to lose, and could therefore bitch about how badly they were done by. And now both are hoist by their own petards.

  • John

    An excellent example of DUPs’ total inability to plan ahead.

  • Old Mortality

    Almost any kind of radical change or reform, if it doesn’t involve enlarged state handouts, is regarded as being ‘bad’ for NI. However, ‘bad’ in the sense of painful can be a necessary to the creation of better. In this context, and being very cynical of ‘studys’,which are all to often the product of mediocre academics, I have no idea whether Brexit will be ‘bad’ or good for NI.

  • Damien Mullan

    How was Monetarism sold to Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and the North of England.

    Lets beat the inflation bug, but unfortunately folks there’s no time to allow heavy industry adjust.

    It’s the old Tory motto, “if it’s not hurting, it’s not working”, as said by Chancellor John Major in the late 80’s.

    Those regions have never truly recovered. They epitomize the low wage retail economy.

  • Damien Mullan

    In a way Brexit opens up an interesting dichotomy, one which if the British think will prise Ireland away from the EU, they will ultimately be thoroughly disappointed.

    It’s that of the past and the future.

    An economic relationship with Britain primarily oriented around the domestic agri-food sector and its labour intensive production. This represents the past. Although the Irish agri-food sector has grown more international and diversified over the past four decades of EU membership, the traditional sector’s primary end market remains Great Britain. It will be this sector which will suffer most from Brexit, deal or no deal, and the one most anxiously worrying Irish politicians and businesses.

    The other is the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) oriented sectors, those in Information Technology, Pharmaceuticals, Bio-Pharma, Finance & Insurance, these sectors prise above all else in their Irish operations the ease of access to the EU Single Market and the seamlessness of trading within a single Customs Union. It has been the growth in Ireland’s ability to attractive FDI over the past three decades, that has given rise to the starkest economic and statistical comparisons made of Ireland over the succeeding decades. This represents the future. Though the domestic agri-food sector is employment intensive, these are often low wage, and consequentially in-comparison with other export driven sectors, make up a considerably lower proportion of income earned, of GDP, than those in the modern sector.

    This is well understood in Ireland. And explains why there was such a strident and aggressive bi-partisan front across the Dail, bar PBP and Sinn Fein, when the EU Commission made their judgment against Apple in 2016. Fine Gael, Fianna Fail, Independent Alliance, and Stephen Donnelly, siting at the time as an independent deputy, all attack the EU Commission on the grounds of jurisdictional overreach. For they all know, that as a geographically peripheral island nation on Europe’s western extremities, that export access to the markets of the European continent, on the same basis as those nations on the continent, is the only logical explanation for the multiplier effect on Irish growth and prosperity over the last several decades, and consequentially, continued EU membership is the surest vehicle to sustain and lure further FDI.

    A price maybe paid, but if Brexiters believe that it includes Ireland sheering off the principle assets of her recent prosperity, they will be resoundingly disappointed. Even Irish framers and agri-food producers, have prospects for their children which may include opportunities for employment and livelihoods outside of those sectors, especially so if they feel higher incomes can be achieved, they may despair at the loss of trade and the financial implications, but they will also be disinclined, much like the population as a whole, to see damage done to those economic sectors which draw in income for the country, income that supports so much in the way of the country’s public spending and upkeep.

    Don’t bet on any Irish turkeys voting for Christmas, unlike their counterparts across the Irish Sea.

  • lizmcneill

    Their ability to shoot themselves in the foot is amazing.

  • lizmcneill

    NI has few natural resources apart from farmland (I don’t think tearing the place up for peat and lignite is going to be viable as renewables continue to get cheaper), has an undereducated and underskilled population, many of the private sector SMEs it does possess are dependent on free cross-border trade to keep going, it already struggles to attract and keep FDI in comparison with the south, and its geographical disadvantages are only going to increase in the event of a hard Brexit/border. How do we create better out of that mess?

  • Roger

    Don’t agree with all this.
    UKNI is a well educated place with good universities.
    Oddly enough, trade between UKNI and Ireland is small relative to where one would expect it to be. I believe that’s because of UKNI’s private sector being so small.

  • John

    Who would have thought that it would be the DUP that would actually deliver a united Ireland. As things stand the UK, Brussels and Dublin do not want a “hard border” in Ireland. If there is no border with the EU in Ireland then we will all go through customs when we get off the plane or boat in the UK. So in effect our Arlene and company will have, on her watch presided over the accomplishing of a borderless (united) Ireland. Well done Arlene and well done Michelle for simply saying nothing.

  • Zorin001

    Problem is that you can find equally skilled labour in other parts of the EU (or India) that is cheaper by far and more productive per man hour. It’s particularly stark in the IT industry where NI is constantly having to fight for its place against Poland and India for jobs and foreign investment.

  • Neiltoo

    Avoiding confirmation bias may be harder than you think.
    If you look at who you follow on Twitter for example, is it really set up to point you to all sides of any issue?
    Social media is changing entire societies faster than would have been thought possible.

    https://reaction.life/social-media-may-not-good-democracy/

  • Sean Danaher

    Indeed Damien,
    I know some of the Unionists dream of Irexit but it is not based on any form of reality. Brexit is in fact increasing satisfaction with the EU in Ireland. Nearly everyone I talk to in the South thinks Brexit is crazy and even it it were a good idea lead by a spectacularly incompetent team. The opinion polls support this:

    “Almost 90 per cent of people agree that Ireland should remain as part
    of the EU, while 87 per cent believe that Ireland has benefited from
    being a member of the EU. This EU support is even greater than
    immediately after the Brexit referendum when four out of five people
    (83%) believed that Ireland should remain a part of the EU despite the
    UK’s vote to leave”.
    http://www.europeanmovement.ie/em-irelandred-c-poll-2017-irelands-commitment-to-eu-membership-undiminished-by-brexit/

  • SeaanUiNeill

    So it’s the Michael Gove put down: “ I think people in this country have had enough of experts”…..

    I’d feel that studies need to be assessed on what I hey are saying, rather than because they are studies as such. And the causality of the experts requires assessment on what the studies say, rather than simply because they are experts!

  • Sean Danaher

    I think Leslie is absolutely right. Economists seem to look at Physics as the way forward but like some of my weaker students seem to be tied up in the elegance and difficulty of the mathematics when they should be questioning their basic assumptions and what goes into their models. In many respects modern economics more resembles a religion rather than a science. More human factors are needed and the neo-classical consumer/ utility model overly simplistic. Sounds like a fascinating talk.

  • murdockp

    Irish independent ran a brilliant take on our ability to tell a story backed by literally nothing. Have a read. It’s called ‘craic will save the world’

    https://amp.independent.ie/opinion/columnists/brendan-oconnor/the-craic-will-save-the-world-36290590.html

    On a more serious note much of northern Ireland is built on non existent foundations which brexit will cruely expose. Unionists in particular still believe we are a global player and have an arrogance about brexit which is disturbing.

    I wonder will poots and co (the brexit champagne celebrants?/) hand back their gold plated pensions if they are wrong on brexit?

  • Korhomme

    I did say I tried to avoid confirmation bias, but I didn’t say i succeeded. There are lots more such fallacies.

    https://twitter.com/drjuliashaw/status/918803231626670080

    I rarely use Facebook; I’ve seen, as your linked article notes, the idea of targeted advertising. I do look at Twitter, but I’m aware that what I see isn’t wholly neutral. I read various blogs.

    I am not going to read a newspaper that describes High Court judges as ‘enemies of the people’: I do find it difficult to get factual information, rather than rhetoric, about the positives of Brexit. Much seems to be based on hope and expectation rather than experience; unsurprising, as no other country has left the EU. I do not see how ‘no deal’ can be a sensible aim.

  • Neiltoo

    I wasn’t criticising, sorry if it sounded that way.
    The problem with Brexit is that one side has mostly economic arguments and the other mostly less tangible ones.
    It is surely possible for one to do what one believes to be right while admitting that it isn’t the best option economically.

  • Korhomme

    No worries!

    Can you point to a (any) source of reliable information on why Brexit will be a success?

  • lizmcneill
  • lizmcneill

    That argument works at a national level for something like foreign aid. What’s the moral or ethical argument for Brexit being “right”?

  • lizmcneill

    Not according to NISRA: ” The value of human capital in 2015 in Northern Ireland was £0.42 trillion (UK overall: £19.9 trillion). This equates to £362k per head of working age population in NI, compared with £487k per head of working age population in the UK overall.”

    “In 2016, 15.8% of Northern Ireland residents aged 16 to 64 had no qualifications, compared with 8.1% of all UK residents.”

    https://www.nisra.gov.uk/wellbeing-education-and-skills

  • Sean Danaher

    Cant find one of the favourite NI ones “Whataboutery”?

  • runnymede

    We could enter some of this for Pseuds corner next week?

  • Georgie Best

    The UK is speaking with forked tongue as usual.
    Brokenshire rules out NI being in the SIngle Market
    http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-41880770

  • Korhomme

    LOL! But perhaps someone would take the idea up.

  • Korhomme

    Another series of thoughts related to biases.

    We’re told that attention spans are less than they used to be — I think that this is so. With this we have the move from broadsheet to tabloid-sized papers, and short messages or gobbets on Twitter and Facebook; and the rise of the ‘soundbite’. The only soundbite I can remember easily from the referendum is ‘Vote leave and take back control’.

    This, I think, also relates to Daniel Kahneman’s ‘Thinking fast and slow’. Most of the time, we don’t have to think things through, we simple ‘know’ what, for example a door* is. So used are we to fast thinking, that when we use if for complex or novel problems we are so often misled. I’d guess much of the pre-referendum stuff was presented as if it were suited to fast thinking, when it really wasn’t.

    *I chose ‘door’ deliberately. The psychologists did an experiment years ago. People were put in a room, and probably given a task which they thought was the object of the exercise, though it wasn’t. They then had to leave the room though a door. The psychologists had put the door handle on the same side as the hinges, so when the subjects tried to open it, they couldn’t. They had to stop to think the problem out; they had been misled by fast thinking.

  • Korhomme

    How much of the difference is due to emigration, I wonder.

  • Sean Danaher

    I could also add that where there is a widespread cultural admiration for Britain this does not extend to the belief it is well governed. If you remove London and the Home Counties only Cheshire and the Aberdeen region are above the European average in terms of incomes. Much of the UK is locked into a low wage low productivity economy. The South has no wish to follow

  • Neiltoo

    Reliable? No. As it hasn’t happened yet I guess that would be difficult to come by. Everything is supposition.
    If I had to have reliable information on whether or not anything that I want to do would or would not succeed I can’t imagine I would do much.
    For that matter, if you take any major human achievement which has been of benefit to civilisation I doubt anyone had reliable information about its success beforehand.

    You are asking for tangible proof before the fact and I can’t see how that is possible.

    Can you give me reliable information as to whether the EU will be a success down the road?

    I have approached the entire problem from the other end. I find the whole notion of the EU dangerous. It is causing more problems than it solves. The single currency is a house of cards and I don’t see it ending well.

    I have said this here before but I can’t understand how anyone espousing nationalism (of any sort, Irish or otherwise) can be enthusiastic about the EU.

    My opinions of the EU may be laughable to some but they are strongly held and therefore I believe that what is in the best interests of the UK is to leave the EU. Where I living in a UI (which I am not against in principal) I would argue that Ireland would be better outside the EU.

    What price would you put on a nations independence, on its freedom?

    The whole economic argument doesn’t interest me that much for 2 reasons.
    1. Economics is not a science in terms of right and wrong answers
    2. I don’t want to sell my ideals for a more affluent lifestyle. ( I’m not suggesting that those for the EU are doing that, they are not, because they don’t see it the way it’s detractors do.)

  • Neiltoo

    I’m not very eloquent about such things but I tried to explain it in my response to Korhomme above.

  • Korhomme

    You seem to be saying that Brexit is a leap in the dark, a leap of faith. (Remain is more or less a known thing.)

    The UK government may or may not have these 58 ‘impact assessments’ — you might think that this is something that should have been done before the referendum. Of course, such assessments can only be guides which ought to give a range of possibilities; still, better than nothing.

    I appreciate what you say about the EU, that it’s seen to be going for a totally unified Europe. This certainly, at present, seems a step too far, politically and economically. Nationalism has been rising for some time, even if I don’t fully understand the nature of ‘my country right or wrong’ which often underpins it. The Euro is a good idea but badly implemented; the lack of a Europe-wide fiscal policy, the notion that one monetary policy fits all is premature. Such actions have worked elsewhere, but in economies which were more integrated.

    What is with this ‘independence’? Today, unless you are in N Korea countries are very globalised. I don’t say that this is a good or a bad thing, simply that it is so. Imagining a future without reference on neighbours seems a very limiting philosophy. And it’s not ‘freedom’ or taking back ‘control’ either; these ideas belong to the height of the imperial past, when GB could require any country to do as GB required — send a gunboat may be a cliche, but there is truth in it.

    Freedom? Freedom from what? We are all bound by conventions, by requirements, by the need to trade with others.

    The ‘dismal science’ doesn’t get a good press today, and with good reason; the all-encompassing theory is neo-liberalism to which has been added the minimal state, less government and the idea that privatisation is mostly/usually better. It may be if you make widgets, but not so if you want services such as education, roads, infrastructure; as these can’t make a profit easily — they are ‘altruistic’ — then you are chasing something that doesn’t exist.

    I might add that those who can be expected to gain the most from Brexit are the 0.1%, those with capital; the rest of us will simply be used to their ends.

  • lizmcneill

    To me, the rise of nationalism is more of a threat than anything the EU has been doing.

    I’m not thinking of the economic argument as people being less affluent that they would be if we stayed; I’m thinking about it as people being in greater poverty.

  • Sean Danaher

    I up-voted you to thank you for trying to articulate your case. I think it is very difficult; any form of flag waving or narrow nationalism leaves me cold.

    I don’t have much faith in neoclassical/neoliberal economics either and the euro has been cart before the horse. The Republic unlike the UK has suffered because of the way it was initially constructed. It may or may not been a bridge too far.

    I think national sovereignty needs to be shared in the 21st cent and the UK is simply too small a fish to make it. I think Nationalism in the 20th century sense is an illusion; a beautiful mirage or optical illusion which turns to dust under that harsh light of day. I fear that paradoxically the UK will have far less independence post Brexit and will be vastly diminished.

    But then again you may be right, if Brexit does lead to greater sovereignty it may be a trade off worth making even if the UK becomes considerably poorer.

  • lizmcneill

    Sovereignty to do what? What can the UK do outside the EU that it can’t in, and is that something good for the majority of its citizens, or only those in power pushing for a hard Brexit?

  • Neiltoo

    How is that working out for the Greeks?
    The EUs ‘one size fits all’ works fine for France & Germany, not so much for the periphery.

  • Zorin001

    Anecdotally I would say a significant amount, but i’d like to see a decent study about it should one exist.

  • Sean Danaher

    Liz

    its an interesting question and one I have been struggling with.
    There seems to be an increasing divergence between perception and reality.
    “Whilst Parliament has remained sovereign throughout our membership of the EU, it has not always felt like that.”
    White Paper, Exit From Europe, Feb 2017 – page 13.

    Richard Barfield’s Brexit Fact Base (latest release October) is well worth looking at: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B9KyWRO_9pfzaFRnbzRSWEpZTnM/view

    There is a good discussion on sovereignty and lots of other section but it runs to 190 pages.

    My own feeling is that nothing will be good for the majority of UK citizens. The power-brokers behind Brexit hate the entire post war settlement and would like to return to a more 19th century based economy. They want a bonfire of red tape of workers rights, environmental safeguards and anything that constrains business. They are determined to shrink the state but need to do it by stealth. They detest the NHS above all as it a major block in their “Private sector good”, “Public sector bad” mentality but need to starve it of funds slowly so it falls apart and be privatised.

  • Sean Danaher

    Korhomme
    Daniel Kahneman’s ‘Thinking fast and slow’ is one of my favourite books. When I was putting together the Psychology section for Recommended Reading on Progressive Pulse it was the first on the list. http://www.progressivepulse.org/suggested-reading/#psychology

  • Korhomme

    Interesting list on the website; I’ve got some, by no means all of them. It was ‘The Spirit Level’ which first drew me in to inequality. There is now an updated, 2018 edition of ‘Brexit What the hell happens now?’

  • Sean Danaher

    Thanks I will look at the New Edition of Ian Dunt’s book. Feel free to contact me if you have any other suggestions. I also have a recent analysis “Ireland as Cyprus rather than Germany” which might be of interest http://www.progressivepulse.org/brexit/ireland-as-cyprus-rather-than-germany/

  • Sean Danaher

    There is of course a very extensive series of documents; The “Balance of Competencies” reports commissioned by the coalition government https://www.gov.uk/government/news/final-reports-in-review-of-eu-balance-of-competences-published
    These consist of 32 reports and thousands of pages.

    There is of course the EU’s own impact assessment. I will post a link if interested. (If I post more than one link my posts usually gets binned).

  • Korhomme

    Thanks for the link. I’m reading Ian Dunt’s 2018 version at present — so far, little different from the first edition.

    And then, perhaps, there will be the 58 sectoral analyses. If they exist, that is, if they ever existed…

    Enough to keep me going!

  • Sean Danaher

    Very sensible I will just paste the main conclusions of the EU Economic Assessment Report then!

    Our main finding is that the available studies largely agree that Brexit will inflict losses on
    both sides. All studies agree that the losses will be considerably larger for the UK than for
    the EU27. Only in very pessimistic scenarios would the losses for the EU27 reach a significant size.

    It is very difficult to determine which of the several different scenarios discussed above are
    still politically feasible after Prime Minister May ruled out the EEA. However, the available
    evidence suggest that the additional losses that would result from a bad or uncooperative outcome would be borne mostly by the UK.

  • Neiltoo

    Nationalism is certainly a threat to the EU. It has become a dirty word in many circles, unfairly in my opinion.
    The following is a quote from Daniel Hannan in the Washington Examiner

    Various ideologies have from time to time claimed to be bigger than the nation-state: Jacobinism, fascism, communism, Islamism. All despised national sovereignty and territorial jurisdiction. All sought to replicate themselves around the globe. All caused untold misery. All were eventually checked by nation-states which, being rooted in genuine affinities, served as secure vessels of freedom.

    He has much more to say on the subject in the rest of the article:
    http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/lets-hear-it-for-nationalism/article/2635478

  • Neiltoo

    I think national sovereignty needs to be shared in the 21st cent and the UK is simply too small a fish to make it.

    If the 5th largest economy in the world is too small a fish what hope is there for the other 188?

  • Sean Danaher

    Hi Neiltoo
    The 5th largest economy in the world is India which overtook both France and the UK recently. But I presume you mean the UK.

    No country runs by WTO rules alone though I understand Mauritania comes closest. This article is worth a look
    https://medium.com/@MrWeeble/who-actually-trades-solely-under-wto-rules-1b6127ce33c6

    Small countries group together in blocks such as Mercosur, EAC, OCEAN etc.

  • Neiltoo

    Point taken but by the time a list is in print the reality has often changed. The top ten change places but the ten remain fairly constant. A quick search brought up a number of different rankings including this:
    http://statisticstimes.com/economy/countries-by-projected-gdp.php
    which uses IMF projected 2017 gdp to rank the U.K. 5th, regardless, my point is the same.
    I was entirely in favour of the EEC. It morphed, dishonestly in my opinion, into something entirely different. The intended end result of which is rarely discussed in the mass media.
    Thanks for the link, I’ll take a look.

  • Sean Danaher

    No worries, India has been threatening to overtake for some years and some tables are still out of date. France and the UK tend to swap places regularly.

    I’ not sure where the EU will end up and I agree the mass media is very bad at discussing real issues. The EU does need reforming and I keep a close eye on Yanis Varoufakis’s Diem 25 initiative: https://diem25.org/

    My feeling is that the ultra federalists are loosing ground in the EU and things might work out quite well.

    I am far more worried about the UK, the power brokers behind Brexit want a totally deregulated UK aka Singapore. This will be great for the top 1% and the city of London but a disaster for the rUK in particular Wales and NI.

  • Korhomme

    I’ve just done a quick read through the second edition of Ian Dunt’s ‘Brexit: what the hell happens now?’

    It describes how Brexit will be achieved, but is understandably quite critical of much of what is happening.

    He’s critical of the ideas of ‘take back control’ and ‘sovereignty’, showing how they are largely imaginary.

    I don’t expect that you would agree with all that he says; nonetheless, I recommend the book to you if only for its factual, expert-based explanations of why what we are so often told isn’t correct.

  • Korhomme

    I’m increasingly drawn to the idea that the impetus for Brexit comes from the 1%, perhaps the 0.1%, who see it as a means of converting the UK into ‘Singapore on stilts’. They have jumped on the bandwagon of discontent with the EU, some of it justified, much of it misunderstood or deliberately distorted. And they are doing this entirely for their own ends, to make money — greed.

  • Korhomme

    Thanks. Ian Dunt says much the same thing.

  • Sean Danaher

    There is of course the view that this is all driven by the fact that the EU is clamping down very strongly on tax avoidance/evasion. The writing is on the wall so to speak in the EU. The UK talks the talk but absolutely does not walk the walk and many of the rich and powerful are in it up to their necks. I suspect it will be a mixture of factors. Many people voted for Brexit because of the £350M per week extra NHS funding.

  • Korhomme

    The tax evasion/avoidance problem requires international agreement, something unlikely at present. Unhappily, many tax havens are British overseas bits; the UK has a sort of control over them, but seems to turn a blind eye to problems.

    I’m still not wholly clear if there is a unifying reason why people voted for Brexit. The closest seems to be discontent with how things are and have been, and the responsibility for this has been laid with the EU. Immigration, seen as a ‘bad thing’ was certainly a factor, but rather oddly, a factor in places where there wasn’t always much immigration.

    I’d say that the problems of the north-east of England stem from the policies of the Thatcher government; heavy industry and coal mining closed; this might well have been inevitable rather than deliberate, but the problem was compounded by the failure to get much in the way of alternatives. Perhaps they were too far from the ‘bubble’ to be noticed. If it was the £350 million, this promise was very rapidly abandoned.

    Aaron Banks made an interesting comment to the effect that facts don’t win referendums (or elections); what works is an appeal to emotions. I think he has a point; much of the Brexit argument is emotional rather than factual (enough of experts!) and that in turn suggests a very poor level of understanding and analysis among the population, which then suggests that their schooling was inadequate. (Perhaps I’m overthinking and just biased.)

  • Neiltoo

    I will try to have a look at Ian Dunts book.
    I take your points re the notions of taking back control and sovereignty however everything, and I do mean everything, is about perception. The media, social and otherwise have changed the world we live in.
    People believe what they want to believe, only listening to the people they want to listen to. Debate has become meaningless, truth irrelevant.

  • Sean Danaher

    I did reply but marked as spam sadly but in general agree

  • Korhomme

    I was going to reply, but couldn’t find the comment, the one that references “Anna Karenena’. Disqus has some odd spam/deleting rules at times.

  • Sean Danaher

    Yes that was the one.

    Disqus can be deeply frustrating. It normal only marks my comments as spam when I have put considerable effort into writing one. I now never put more than one link or much html formatting, but am mystified by this one.

    There is another site (Microchip) which didn’t like “Dickens” apparently the “****ens” part was enough to trigger the spam filter!

    I have hunted for a guide and list of rules. But Disqus seems very secretive. Probably understandably so, as it would make it more vulnerable to genuine spam.

  • Korhomme

    I hope you find Dunt’s book interesting. It’s about the Brexit process but he explains a lot of the background.

    I had never heard of the Codex Alimentarius before I read his book