Civil servants are fighting back against unrealistic ministersby Ian Dunt / August 23, 2017 / Leave a comment
Brexit is as vast and intractable a problem as Britain has faced in the modern era, but ultimately it is just a battle in a larger war. The war is a very familiar one to anyone who knows the politics and psychology of the British: are we going to be like Europe or America?
Once you get past the talk of trade, regulations, arbitration and the rest, you arrive at a very simple choice: will we take up EU or US standards? We won’t take up independent ones. We’re too small. Ultimately, we’ll do what either the US or Europe wants.
If our final deal with the EU—in or out of the single market—involves accepting their standards, there is a very substantial limit to the kind of deal we can do with the US. The EU has very high standards on chemical safety and data protection, for instance. If we agree to abide by them, we can trade more easily with the continent. But that would restrict the ease with which US firms can access our market and make us less attractive to Washington. If, on the other hand, we do a deal with the US—say by allowing chlorinated chicken and hormone-injected beef into our market—the Europeans will throw up barriers to stop them getting in.