Richard North, 11/05/2016  

I'm bringing forward the publication schedule, as the video clips are up on YouTube and can be accessed from there. Uptake has been very encouraging as Part I has already topped 1,500.

This part opens with me discussing the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) – the redundancy notice for the EU. This is the instrument which requires contracting parties – of which the EU is one – to adopt international standards in preference their own, effectively moving the Single Market legislation up to global level.

To understand the importance of this, one has to understand what the Single Market is, which is why I'm labouring the point so much. As a body of law, it binds the nations which subscribe to it into a trading network, permitting unimpeded trade. And this is happening on a global scale, gradually superseding the EU's limited regional arrangements.

This global market has many advantages, not least that it is intergovernmental rather than supranational. As importantly, it is multilateral – comprising inclusive agreements which are open to anyone who wants to join them, without strings and without political baggage.

With this process happening anyway and the systems already in place, an independent UK is ideally positioned to accelerate the process. Once the WTO's Trade Facilitation Agreement has been ratified by enough members and enters into force, it will be another powerful tool, in time rendering the EU's market completely redundant.

Progressively, therefore, we expect to see the EU's book of rules become less and less important in our trading arrangements, leading at some point in the future to the complete abolition of the EEA. The transition should be smooth, with the overarching role of UNECE as regional trade coordinator being a logical outcome.

The important thing here is that this scenario is far more attractive than any free trade agreement that might be negotiated with the EU, while the focus on multilateralism relieves us from the tiresome and doubtless unrewarding process of replacing all the trade deals currently in force through the EU.

Perversely, if we ever needed any confirmation that multilateralism is the best route, we can call in aid Cecilia Malmström, the current EU Commissioner for Trade. In a speech just over a week ago in Geneva, she told her audience that "we need to think of multilateral solutions as our first best option".

Far from being an obstacle in our endeavours, the EU is a potential ally. The UK, with Efta, as an equal partner with the EU, working cooperatively to enhance multilateral trading arrangements is an option which would benefit the entire world.

Any such option frees us to rebuild our own policies, free from direct interference from Brussels, work which will take us many years. Policies on fishing, farming, environment, transport and foreign affairs will all have to be painstakingly reconstructed.

This, in my presentation brings us to global trade. With UNECE in place and a commitment to multilateralism, we are already travelling in the right direction. Few people seem to realise that progress in reducing the costs of international trade has stalled. With the emergence of non-tariff barriers, the gains of tariff reductions since the GATT have been wiped out.

The trade agreements so beloved of the leave fraternity, about which they talk so much and know so little, are the administrative equivalent of the dinosaur. These are 19th and 20th Century solutions. We need to move into the 21st Century – for which I offer eight key points, all spelt out in Flexcit. Britain can provide the leadership to take us there.

As we see from White Wedenesday, without him saying so specifically, is the paucity of ambition of the likes of Gove. Their narrow perspective keeps them locked into outworn and outdated ideas.

Years of study, and the free exchange of information that makes this blog so valuable, though, has led us to a far greater understanding of global systems and institutions. So while the general narrative remains bogged down, we are learning of such arcane details as WP.6, the International Model of Regulation and Common Regulatory Objectives. It's a whole new world out there – and we really do need to be part of it.

In all, we're offering an eight-point programme for kick-starting global trade, and then with our six demands for The Harrogate Agenda, numbers bring the presentation to a close. Still to come is the Q&A session, the filmed discussion between myself and Booker, and then the vox pop.

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