It seems like good news that on 14th June this year, Liam Fox finally grasped that WTO terms for our nation outside of the EU would be a terrible mistake. He has stated this in slightly less precise terminology, presumably because he would rather not admit that after nearly 3 years he has only just understood what many of us spotted a long time ago. His comment was “The WTO now faces one of the biggest tests since its establishment and, with all its functions under strain, it could become an existential crisis.” Now to be fair the time it has taken for him to get to grips with this could be argued to have taken a great deal less time than 1085 days as it was as late as 3rd December 2018 that Mr Fox stated:
“Today I sent to the secretariat of the WTO the UK schedule for services. This is a necessary part of our leaving the EU and it marks a major milestone in regaining the full authority that comes with an independent seat [on the WTO]. This schedule replicates our current obligations as far as possible. We see this as a technical exercise that will provide continuity for business and, in future, we will work with other members on an ambitious agenda to liberalise international trade in services even further. In the long run, the biggest benefits of our independent trade policy will come from updating and improving the rules-based international system that governs global trade. The UK will play a pivotal role at the WTO and we will do so as a powerful and unabashed defender of free trade.”
However, although this was only just over six months ago in fact it was back almost a year ago that according to the Department for International Trade “The UK’s goods schedule was submitted on 24 July and the 3 month certification period has now finished. Whilst some members still have reservations about some of our proposals, this will not affect businesses’ ability to trade and it will not stop the UK from striking new trade agreements.”
So just under 11 months since his Department submitted a goods schedule, the penny has dropped and the reality of the limitations of the WTO has finally been grasped by the man who back in late September 2016 stated:
“Through the WTO the UK has helped pushed through the trade facilitation agreement which, once implemented, could add over £70bn to the global economy annually, of which £1bn will come to the UK. As a newly independent WTO member outside the EU, we will continue to fight for trade liberalisation as well as potentially helping developing markets trade their way out of poverty by giving them preferential access to our markets. The UK is a full and founding member of the WTO, though we have chosen to be represented by the EU in recent years. As we establish our independent position post-Brexit, we will carry the standard of free and open trade as a badge of honour.”
Of course at that stage it was clear to me that unless there was a way of trading outside of the world, that the global economy is limited by the number of nations and the financial arrangements within the world. However perhaps that simply indicates my own limited understanding of life!