13 August 2019
Cogito Ergo Non Serviam
John Bolton, the US National Security Adviser, has stated that Britain will be first in line for a US trade deal after a no-deal Brexit. He claimed that he and the president were "leavers before there were leavers." Mr. Bolton suggested that the two nations could negotiate sector-by-sector. This betrays a gross ignorance of World Trade Organization rules. Mr. Bolton is not good at national security, and he really should stay away from trade, about which is clearly knows less.
Mr. Bolton stated after a meeting with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, "Britain's success in successfully exiting the European Union is a statement about democratic rule and constitutional government that's important for Britain, but it's important for the United States too." He also supported a no-deal Brexit. The reason for this is simple, It will be far easier to make an agreement with the UK that has no Brussels rules in the way.
He did go too far, however, when he claimed that there would be wide-spread, bipartisan support in Washington for a UK-US deal. A UK that leaves without a deal that addresses the Irish border is going to have no hope of getting a deal if the House of Representatives has anything to say about it.
In addition, he readily overlooks the incredible damage a no-deal departure from the EU would do to the British economy. By crashing out, Britain will risk a significant contraction of its economy, and it will be large enough to undermine social stability, if some analysts are correct. While talk of shortages (especially of food and medicines) is likely over-blown, when normal distribution patterns are upset, short-term shortages are almost inevitable.
The biggest problem is his willingness to address US-UK trade in a modular, sector-by-sector way. That violates WTO rules, which state that such agreements must address "substantially all the trade." There isn't a precise definition of the term, but diplomats work on the idea that 90% meets the standard. Perhaps, 85% might qualify, or 80%, but if one is negotiating one sector at a time, it clearly isn't substantially all. That, therefore, opens up the whole matter to lawsuits. The US and UK could simply ignore those challenges, but the independent judiciaries in both countries might have something to say about the matter.
While the Brexiteers in the new cabinet are thrilled to bits, other voices in the UK are wiser about this whole concept. Former Labour foreign secretary Jack Straw told BBC Radio 4's "Today" program, "This is a highly transactional administration . . . you don't get something for nothing." He also called Mr Bolton "dangerously bellicose," which he is.
The Trump administration will use the trade negotiations to force concessions elsewhere, such as the UK's continued support for the Iran nuclear deal, from which the US has withdrawn, or the current ban on doing business with China's Huawei. The no-deal Brexit scenario actually weakens Britain's hand in negotiating with the Trump administration.
The US-UK relationship is not as important to the world as it was in the 1940s, but it remains a cornerstone of global stability. A trade deal between the two makes sense, and this journal favors one in principle. A Britain that has crashed out of the EU, however, is a weaker Britain, and the trade arrangement will be more one-sided as a result in favor of the Americans. In the long-run, unequal treaties lead to resentment and a weakening of ties.
Britain in Europe, and America supporting that, offers the West a stronger alliance in furtherance of freedom, democracy and prosperity. Mr. Bolton's intervention yesterday was completely consistent with his previous actions over the years. It was both unhelpful and counter-productive.
© Copyright 2019 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Ubuntu Linux.