Of Course We’ve Got To Pay The Brexit Bill Before Agreeing Upon Trade

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Politics is the art of manipulating what people believe, not the science of according with reality. A useful little example of which from my native Britain right now. I must insist that I am biased on this subject of Brexit, I was press secretary to Ukip, the party arguing that Britain should leave the EU, stood as a candidate for the European Parliament for them. “Objective” is not my middle name here.

However, this is an interesting little example of my baser point, politics is the manipulation of beliefs. For we’ve what is a statement of the blindingly obvious being presented as some new and gross problem upon that bumpy road to our exit into freedom and liberty. We’re being told that there is a bill to pay upon exit from the EU. This is true, there is, even if the size is arguable. We’re also told that there might be a trade deal, there might not be. This is also true. But we’re then told, in shocked tones, that Parliament will vote upon the bill to be paid before the trade deal is apparent.

The correct answer here is “So?” But that’s not how it is being reported nor played. For example, we cannot vote on paying the bill until we know what we’ll get in return. Well, we’ll get to leave once we’ve paid the bill which is the point of paying it. Trade deals aren’t contingent upon paying it. Well, OK, if we stiff the EU then they’ll not look kindly upon us, certainly, but there’s no legal connection between the two.

The correct arrangement being that we’ve been a member of a club for some decades now. We have a certain intertwining of finances to pay for certain things, some scientific cooperation, the cash stuffed into the maws of farmers and so on. There are budgets, a cycle for deciding upon them. We’re leaving before the end of that current cycle and we have previously promised that we’ll pay up to the end of that planned period. Sure, we owe some money simply because we’ve previously said we’ll pay it.

We’re civilised people, we don’t welsh on our debts, that’s that then. There is, other than just not annoying the foreigners, no connection at all between this discharge of our promises and whatever a future trade deal is. Even the European Union itself has made this point – the bill is the bill whatever subsequently happens.

So why this shock, horror! at the idea that the bill must be agreed before the trade deal is known? Because the vast majority of the British establishment is against the idea of leaving the EU. Thus anything that can be painted as increasing the risk or expense of leaving will be so shaded. Or as we might put it, politics as normal.

Reality is that there’s no connection between the financial exit bill and any trade deal. Stories of how appalling it is that we must agree one before the other is just manipulation of beliefs, not a reference to that reality. You know, just politics.

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