by Chris Proctor
So, you’re thinking of buying a car and there’s two salesrooms next to each other.
One garage says it wants to trade with you because it thinks you’re all in the same club; hopefully you can agree something beneficial to everyone. Besides, you’re neighbours so if you don’t get a fair deal, news gets around. There’s all kinds of reasons you can trust them.
The salesman next door turns away at your approach and lowers his trousers. His inverted head, reddened by effort, gapes through his outstretched legs. ‘You know who I care about? Me,’ he announces. ‘In my own interests I would tie you up like a kipper before trotting you through a mangle and mincing your entrails. To me, you don’t even make zero on a good day.’
Hmmm, you think. I wonder which vendor I should choose?
This is the choice we have about making our main trading partner the European Union or the United States. And, to be fair to Trump - although why we should do that is beyond me - at least he’s open about it. He said the other day that if it’s in US interests, he’d not only take the money from our pockets, drop us in the dirt and skip past on the non-Samaritan side, he’s quite prepared to assist in the destruction of our entire planet.
That is strict. Harsh even. But at least we know where he stands, which allows us to make a rational decision. And in the circumstances, only a demented lunatic of the first water would seek out the US as our foremost trading partner.
Oh, hi, Boris!
Last week Trump explained in very straightforward terms why he is pulling his country out of the Paris Climate Accord. He says it offers the US no advantages; so he wants nothing to do with it; it is toxic.
Speaking of ‘toxic’, the Paris agreement imposes a responsibility on countries to take a few measures to reduce global warming. It’s as radical as a Home Counties vicar at the parish council: it wants to keep the increase in average global temperature below 2% above pre-industrial levels. This isn’t exactly ‘back to living in unheated caves eating only broccoli stuff. It’s about the mildest of gestures we could make if we’d like to keep the planet habitable for a while longer.
I think even Donald would think this to be no bad thing. But I may be wrong.
Anyway, the point is, he’s not interested in any trade deal that doesn’t involve gains for the US. He only wants an agreement where he wins and we lose.
Boris seems to think that is fine. Which is worrying. I can’t see the attraction in having a mate who wouldn’t think twice about turning me over and burning down my house. I can picture Trump smiling to himself as he recites that nursery rhyme about the lady-bird flying home to blazing domiciles and missing infants, but replacing the insects with us.
This isn’t even to do with politics. It’s about having a deep-rooted suspicion of the US at the best of times: and multiplying that by infinity and beyond when they’ve got Trump at the helm.
I can see why UK voters don’t care for the European Parliament: if offers sham democracy that gives the whole concept a bad name: its members are unaccountable; its executive is appointed by patronage; and besides, I instinctively react against troughs where Mandelson’s snout’s been. Certainly, there are leftist reasons for voting Leave: but there is no excuse for paying a lot of money to get rid of a car you’re not keen on in order to swap it for one you thoroughly dislike.
We were asked on 23 June 2016, ‘Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?’. We weren’t asked, ‘Do you loathe the idea of an economic and political union in Europe to the extent that you would happily kick yourself in the wallets, refuse to trade with your closest neighbours, introduce a stack of bureaucracy to hinder commerce and embrace Fat Don?’ Yet that’s where we seem to be.
I happen to think the European Union has done what all capitalist enterprises can’t prevent themselves from doing: it has overextended itself: it can’t help growing bigger, to the extent that some time it will collapse into itself like every other empire that’s ever existed. When it does go the way of the Congress System, the Ottoman Empire and the Carolingians, I won’t worry too much. I’ll just hum a Freddy Mercury tune.
But when it happens, I don’t want to be left as residue of a Trump masterplan to kick me in the privates, clear out my bank account and leave me with a motor as dependable as Jo Swinson with an expense form.
Chris Proctor has been head of communications at ASLEF and the Communication Workers Union, written for the Sunday Times, The Guardian, the New Statesman and Tribune, and is a columnist for the NUJ’s magazine The Journalist.