Tuesday, 2 February 2021

Have Labour exposed the cunning plan behind membership of CPTPP?


When General de Gaulle (twice) vetoed the UK’s application to join what was then the Common Market, he suggested that the UK was not ready to join the rest of Europe, and also expressed concerns that the UK might be a wrecking member rather than a constructive one. Perhaps he was perceptive after all. The Brexit project has never been just about leaving the EU – it was always the hope of the Brexiteers that the UK’s exit would start a rush to the door as other countries realised that they too could have all the benefits with none of the costs (as they fondly imagined was going to be the case). Having a successful trading bloc like the EU on our doorstep without being a member never made economic sense; the logic of Brexit was from the outset about destroying the institution rather than merely leaving it.

Their target is not just the EU; they also seem to be determined to shatter the unity of other successful trading blocs. It recently emerged that the UK has been accused of using its size to bully Ghana into signing a trade agreement which would oblige that country to break its obligations to the other 14 members of the Economic Community of West African States. Well, they did promise to be buccaneering (aka behave like pirates) and to assert the UK’s might in the world.

At first sight, therefore, the decision to apply to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) seems to be at odds with this general aversion to anything other than bilateral deals with single states. Apparently, there’s nothing in the Pacific Partnership which actually requires any physical presence in the area (although as it happens part of the UK’s territory is actually in the Pacific in the shape of the Pitcairn Islands – 18 square miles and a population of 43 at the last count, so the UK could qualify anyway). Leaving a large trading bloc on our doorstep to join a smaller one on the other side of the world does not look like the most obvious way to proceed, but I wonder, though, whether the Labour Party have, albeit accidentally, hit the nail on the head in terms of a Brexiteer-style rationale for the move. Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry has questioned whether joining the TPP will enable the UK to veto any future application for membership from China; blocking other people from membership looks like UK exceptionalism at its ‘best’. The desire to tell others with whom they may trade seems to be deeply embedded in the UK mindset, among some members on both sides of the House of Commons.

De Gaulle was probably right about perfidious Albion.

1 comment:

Jonathan said...

The tactic is called "aktivnye meropriyatiya" (destabilization). This is the long-standing policy of Russia to weaken blocs like the EU and NATO, very simply so they don't attack Russia as Napoleon and Hitler did. Completely understandable on one level. The funny thing is that Britain has also done this for centuries - over Europe. Britain had three assets of varying power: Navy (big), Army (small)and Money (lots of it). So the tactics were to use money to sow dissent amongst European states, using the gold to help one state ie strengthen it vis a vis another state. So the UK survived on the basis of tensions (balanced) between Prussia and France say. Personally, I dislike the idea of built-in tension even if balanced. Its unstable. I prefer harmony based on cooperation - the EU. But we don't make UK policy, do we?