Polly Toynbee is more than a little uncomfortable with the idea of Brexit and she makes that known often enough. She has also laid out usefully enough a decision that has to be taken. We do actually need to work out what it is that we’re going to do about tariffs and trade. While in the EU that’s something solely decided by Brussels. Outside we’ve got to make up our own minds.
We also do have to make up our minds for something must indeed be done. There is no do nothing option:
He talks of companies that long ago ordered shipments of sugar and other faraway goods, with no idea if tariffs will be sky-high or zero when they arrive after 29 March. If zero, much of British food, farming and agriculture will collapse under cheap imports; if on WTO rules, they face hefty tariffs on processed food, cereals and meat.
So, which should we choose? Should we tax ourselves lots and lots - have high tariffs - for the temerity of eating that foreign muck? And thereby save Farmer Giles. Or should we partake of the very best the world has to offer at the finest prices and leave no-longer-Farmer Giles to fend for himself?
The country has, roughly enough, 65 million people. The National Farmers’ Union has some 30,000 farming members. A simple and utilitarian calculation says ditch the tariffs and benefit the majority, doesn’t it?
So, that’s what we should do. Return to what we were for most of the century after the repeal of the Corn Laws, a unilaterally free trading nation. The one arrangement that benefits all of us as consumers.
We can thank Polly for laying out the problem for us so clearly even as she’s unlikely to enjoy the answer.