Richard North, 10/07/2017  

Brexit: trying to make sense of the world On 6 July, the European Commission published a press release stating that the EU and Japan had reached agreement in principle on Economic Partnership Agreement.

This was accompanied by an explanatory note, offering the summary of the agreement, alongside this disclaimer:
The negotiations between EU and Japan on Economic Partnership Agreement are not concluded yet, therefore the published texts should be considered provisional and not final. In particular, the provisions which appear in brackets are still under negotiations. However, in view of the growing public interest in the negotiations, the texts are published at this stage of the negotiations. The texts are published for information purposes only and are without prejudice to the final outcome of the agreement between the EU and Japan. Any such texts become binding upon the Parties under international law only after completion by each Party of its internal legal procedures necessary for the entry into force of the Agreement, and after the final texts are submitted and approved by the legislators.
From this, two things should be very clear. First, the EU hasn't signed a trade deal with Japan. Secondly, the EU has not claimed it has signed a trade deal with Japan.

Strangely, even the Daily Telegraph understand this, headlining its report, "EU and Japan promise to commit to free trade deal", with scribe Tim Wallace writing: "Japan and the EU have reached a “political agreement” on a free trade deal in a sign that both parties will commit to negotiating an agreement to reduce barriers between the two".

Turning now to the dross in yesterday's Sunday Telegraph view (prop. Allister Heath), however, we see written": "Last week the EU excitedly announced a trade deal with Japan, but all that was actually unveiled was an agreement to talk".

That is a pretty good indicator of the degree of respect for that truth that the paper holds. But then it adds:
Speaking to the BBC, the Japanese ambassador to the UK said that it took more than four years to nail down the principles of an EU deal and will take yet more time to hammer out the detail. It is conceivable that a deal between Tokyo and London, which the ambassador implied ought to be straightforward, could be concluded before one with Brussels. Switzerland took just two years to do this, which underscores an important fact: bilateral trade deals are a lot easier than multilateral ones.
But in this, the art of lying flourishes to an extraordinary extent. For sure, the starting point for the Swiss-Japan free trade agreement was in January 2007, and the agreement was signed on 19 February 2009, together with an implementing agreement.

But what is rather germane to note is that, while the EU's last three major treaties (South Korea, Ukraine and Canada) have each been in excess of a thousand pages, the Swiss-Japan treaty was a mere 119 pages. The implementing treaty was a further 24. Furthermore, the agreements were the fruition of "bilateral economic consultations between the Japanese and Swiss governments" which have been held "on a regular basis" since 1995.

That has the Sunday Telegraph effectively lying by omission – putting it in John Mills territory when he made similar claims about the Norwegian free trade agreement – only this was with the EEC, taking only two years. That, however, was 113 pages.

In other words, we get "Humpty Dumpty" facts. They mean what people want them to mean. When it is important that the UK does a deal with the EU quickly, it can be done in two years because, in 1993, Norway signed a deal in two years.

When it is important that the UK does free trade deal with Japan quickly. It can be done quickly because in 2009, Japan signed a deal in two years (on the back of talks starting in 1995).

And those are just brief observations. I wasn't going to write anything at all for overnight - I'm too tired. This, then, is a starter for ten. Pete will pick up some more threads tomorrow, when we'll both continue trying to make sense of world. I'll do Booker and Grenfell as well.

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