Polly Toynbee tells us that the very point of trade is one of the terrors of trade which must be avoided. Which is a rather interesting case of entirely mangling reality, isn't it?
The American farming industry insists any free trade deal must include agriculture – and Britain must allow in US chlorine-washed chicken, hormone-fed beef and genetically modified crops, all banned here and in the EU. The Telegraph reports Fox sources, backed by Boris Johnson, saying “the Americans have been eating it perfectly safely for years” and it’s 21% cheaper than our chicken. Trade is supposed to mean cheaper imports. But, with echoes of the old Corn Law wars, Gove and Leadsom jump to defend British farmers, expressing “serious concerns”. Not only will UK farmers lose market share, but lowering standards bars us from exporting our food to the EU. Fox dismissed food obsession as media trivia. Maybe the food is safe – but his eagerness to lower standards shows how a supplicant UK will take whatever terms a super-power desires.
It’s infuriating to watch Brexiteers only now finding out basic truths that “experts” told them years ago. Trade with New Zealand? That will wipe out our sheep farming.
If foreigners do the chicken thing better than we do (there is more on our work on this here) then we positively desire to be buying what they do better than we. If foreigners can farm better than we can, perhaps they have a greater or better original endowment of land for example, then we want them to take market share.
If our land isn't very good for sheep growing, as it also isn't for cocoa or banana growing (or even, as Adam Smith pointed out, grapes for Bourdeaux) then we absolutely do want them to be doing that and we to be doing something else.
Something else that we're less bad at, as David Ricardo pointed out 200 years and a couple of months back. Which is surely long enough for even Polly to get to grips with the basic concept?
That free trade with the world would mean we do less of certain things here in Britain is not a problem with free trade, is not a usurpation by free trade nor a perversity of free trade, it's the entire damn point of free trade itself.