Opinions on Brexit differ, obviously, that's why the resort to a referendum to find out what the majority actually though on the subject - for purists, a plurality if you prefer. Opinions on trade differ too but that's a clearer subject upon which there is an objectively right answer. It's the combination of the two subjects by Will Hutton which does rather puzzle us:
The poverty, inequalities and hopelessness that propelled the Brexit vote – seven out of the 10 poorest areas in northern Europe are in England, and all voted for Brexit – must be decisively addressed. Britain must simultaneously recommit to full EU membership as its benefits and the colossal costs of exit become ever clearer, and stand solidly with Europe as dark and menacing forces stalk the globe – not least an imminent transatlantic trade war and the wider threats of Donald Trump.
It's that trade war bit that puzzles. Sure, Donald Trump is shouting that he's going to tax Americans by making their purchases of certain European goods more expensive. The EU's reaction has been to threaten to make purchases by Europeans of certain American goods more expensive by the application of tariffs. That is, the damaging to us part of the trade war is being imposed by our own, by the EU upon the European citizenry.
This is not sensible, as Jagdish Bhagwati points out:
This is an elementary economics error. As Joan Robinson, one of the most prominent economists of this century and a member of the Cambridge School, famously said, if your trading partner throws rocks into his harbor, that is no reason to throw rocks into your own. It may sound "fair" to do so, but it is downright silly, even self-destructive.
So Will Hutton's point is that, in order to combat the damage of a transatlantic trade war, we must be full and forever members of the organisation - the European Union - which is imposing the downright silly, even self-destructive, bits of that transatlantic trade war?
Oh well, Will Hutton will be Will Hutton but there's little reason for the rest of us to pay attention.