Why am I banging on about packing bags at the supermarket? Don't worry, I've not started a blog on well-known constrained search problems in computer science. It turns out that packing a bag at the supermarket is a similar problem to signing multiple trade deals after you've just had a dizzy turn and exited the biggest trading block on the planet. Let's look at this in a bit more detail.
Signing a really huge trade deal with your closest trading partners involves the biggest gain but also comes with the largest cost. The gain, of course, is that more trade means more profit. What about the cost? The cost here is specifically the set of compromises that are required to overcome technical barriers to trade. Imagine two countries A and B enter a trade deal but hit a bit of a deadlock on paint additives. Maybe country A has very strict rules, while country B is happy to poison its population and contaminate the countryside. To proceed with the negotiations one side or the other will need to compromise. They might do that by using their willingness to compromise on one issue so that they force the outcome they want on another. This kind of horse trading leads to each side making a profit gain through increased trade but at the expense of legislative compromise. It stands to reason that countries will only be prepared to make significant compromises when the trade deal is a huge prize. The European Single Market is such a trading relationship. After all, it involves singing up to all sorts of directives and regulations (compromise cost) in return for frictionless trading with some of the wealthiest countries on the planet (financial gain). The UK Government, in all its wisdom, has decided that the cost of compromise that comes with EEA membership outweighs all the obvious gains.
What did we do wrong? Of course, we didn't pack the largest trade deal in first and then sort out all the tiddlers later. Why didn't the UK-EU trade deal fit in the bag? Forgive my computer science joke but there wasn't enough phase space. Ha ha ha ha. Ha ha ha ha. Oh dear, that is a terrible joke that will only appeal to other losers with a STEM mindset. There are all sorts of reasons why the UK-EU deal didn't fit in the bag but let's just focus on one to illustrate the way in which each trade deal forces constraints on all subsequent trade deals. A US-UK trade deal might result in the UK making compromises on the list of paint additives that may be sold in UK stores. This will become a problem if the UK subsequently tries to sign a trade deal with the EU that expressly forbids the sale of those paint additives. The UK can't simultaneously ban and allow paint additives so it has to choose one deal over the other. There's no way around the simple fact that two items can't occupy the same physical space in the shopping bag.
|Life is a lot easier if all items are the same size.|
|They keep "Amateur Trade Deal" on the top shelf these days.|
This can all be avoided by voting Yes in the next indyref,
PS Next post will be the start of a short series about Scotland in EU. Can it get any more exciting?