Brian Monteith: It's Ukip vs SFA and CBI in wacky race to obscurity
The race to see who can become the most irrelevant public body in 2018 is now well under way, and we have some early runners and riders in the employers' organisation, the CBI, and the political party, Ukip. Which one makes the biggest fool of itself remains to be seen, as the SFA is coming up fast on the outside after failing to make Michael O'Neill an attractive enough offer to become Scotland football manager.
The CBI, mistakenly thought of as the voice of private business, was the first to show it is out of touch when it made a call for the UK to stay in the EU’s Customs Union.
The problem with the Customs Union is that it is a barrier to open trade – forcing tariffs, and quotas upon companies from outside the EU which are then reciprocated against EU businesses trying to export to those countries. The way to make everyone more prosperous is to remove those tariffs and quotas so more business can be done, so that prices fall and so that the tide of trade lifts everyone’s boats.
It’s shameful that Germany makes more profit from processing coffee and Belgium more money from processing cocoa than the developing countries do from growing the raw products. How? Simple, the EU Customs Union slaps heavy taxes on processed coffee and cocoa coming from outside its borders but keeps the taxes on the raw materials low. This distorts the open market by making it attractive to import raw materials to process in Germany and Belgium, but punitively expensive to try and process them in Africa or South America.
The result is poorer farmers and mass unemployment in the developing countries, which encourages the mass movement of economic migrants to try and get inside the Customs Union. By opening up trade we can export our expertise, and all the goods and services we make – that tend to be highly specialised or technically advantageous – and import the foods and products that poorer countries wish to sell that would bring down our cost of living. The EU Customs Union is believed to make our grocery bills 17 per cent more expensive than they need be.
It is vital that when we leave the EU we are able to open up the markets with countries such as Australia, South Korea and Japan – all of them outside the Customs Union.
The CBI has form for being on the wrong end of the argument many times. It backed the appeasement of Hitler in the 30s, supported a prices and incomes policy in the 70s, backed us joining the European Exchange Rate Mechanism in the 80s, then said we should join the euro in the 90s.
Giving the CBI a run for its money in daftness is UKIP, whose ruling national executive has called on its latest leader Henry Bolton to resign over political ineptness and scandal.
It was back in 1991 that Scotsman Alan Sked founded the Anti-Federalist League in opposition to the EU’s move away from just a trading club and towards a pan-European state. In 1993 it changed its name to the United Kingdom Independence Party and Sked ran it until 1997 when he went back into academia. Under Nigel Farage, Ukip made all the running on the issue of leaving the EU, never winning a Westminster seat, but costing the Tories enough votes to stop them beating Labour. The result was Cameron offering an EU referendum where the country took its chance to escape.
There is no point to Ukip any more, it was a movement, not a party, and job done, its leaders change with regularity as a result. It should now go quietly and will not be missed.
Can the SFA better these two examples? On past form the answer is yes, and it still has the rest of the year to do it.