Some good news for Bombardier today with the announcement that Airbus has taken a majority stake in its business. Whilst it won’t be plain sailing ahead it is a step forward in the aerospace battles for contracts which are increasingly polarised between a small handful of super-players. The arch-rival, Boeing, are already complaining and trying to invoke a sort of anti trust law that prohibits non-American companies trying to circumvent tariff barriers by assembling part of their products in the US - something Airbus have the means to do - and again barring imports that would compete with their own products. There is little doubt that the Trump administration will support Boeing in this and reinforce the protectionist stance that America has decided to take. The battle will no doubt go on but I hope that we will hold firm and reject the sales pitches of Boeing and other American producers - after all, we do have choices elsewhere.
American policy, always bizarre under Trump, in enforcing a protectionist position runs the risk of alienating its world allies. If the only way to be an ally of America is to be almost forced to buy its products then that has short-term benefit to American companies but a longer-term swing away from any sense of loyalty or reliance upon the US. Even Trump himself has declared that the US will not police the world (what a dreadful thought in certain respects) without a price tag being linked to it. If that price tag is to bar competitive products from entering the country then that signifies a very distinct change in the Western spheres relationship with the US. Angela Merkel summed it up nicely when referencing the NATO obligations of its members when she said that Europe should no longer look to America to defend it - that is now our own obligation. And the same is true of trade, Mr Trump.
I wonder what was on the menu for that cosy meeting and dinner between Mrs May and Jean-Claude Juncker last night ? It seems there was agreement on ‘more acceleration’ being needed in the Brexit negotiations. But what does that simple phrase mean ? It is, in truth, as empty and meaningless as any of the other empty and meaningless statements emerging over Brexit positions and really is not a satisfactory report on the substance of the discussions. Clearly, there’ll be stuff in there that shouldn’t be revealed to the public just yet (although with those two players that thought fills me with some dread) but there should have been a stronger, more informative response than this. Unless, of course, no further progress was made.
So what are the implications ? If there was some progress as yet I revealed, then what was the price tag associated with it ? Mrs May’s offer of €20 billion to be taken as our divorce settlement from the EU was never seen as anywhere near sufficient in European eyes, so has she upped that figure to what the EU demand...anything between €50-100 billion ? She certainly didn’t look all that pleased with herself as she departed the meeting and we may reasonably suspect that she has agreed on more British concessions to get the discussions moving again. We’ll need to see what Downing Street reveals but I sense that something of that nature has occurred.
This theory is supported by the coincident statements made by Mark Drakeford, the obscure Finance Secretary at the Treasury that no deal in the Brexit negotiations would be a catastrophic disaster for Britain both economically and socially. Again, no explanation or detail behind this, just a further rather subversive dig to reinforce our concerns that a deal of some sort has to be achieved. Is this part of a continuance of Project Fear I wonder ? It seems more than just a coincidence that the government has meetings with Juncker and at the same time projects further warnings into the equation about a deal being struck. So we might speculate (dangerous, I know) that this Treasury announcement was designed to fuel the fear of a no deal outcome and by association add support to any concessions Mrs May might have given to Juncker. A little out on a limb, I admit, and perhaps a tad on the conspiracy theory side of the fence but it seems a possibility that the one was measured to reflect the actions of the other. In the absence of any previous progress and the ever shortening time-scale left to achieve agreement, it is worrying that we are now possibly at the point of conceding our weakness politically and economically and agreeing unconditionally to the EU’s agenda. That that state of affairs has been mainly brought about by bad preparation, weak leadership and poor negotiating skill will be craftily swept under the carpet.
I truly hope that my theory is nothing more than that, but I do have a disquiet nagging away that we have somehow had to concede more than we have gained. And when Juncker is involved there is a significant trust question always lurking in the background. If concessions have been made and a trade deal is not forthcoming (a satisfactory trade deal at that) then we will have fallen squarely into a nice hole that has been prepared by the EU. However, on this occasion I am trusting in being completely wrong !