Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Paper Laws

Bad joke of the day (nine year olds and under)
Q. What's the difference between unlawful and illegal.
A. Unlawful is contravening the law, illegal is a sick bird.

No, it wasn't worth it, but that joke got into my head as I was penning this piece in response to a piece by Iain Murray to withdrawal from the EU. To cut a long argument short he argues that the trump card of the Europhiles against withdrawal from the EU is that the EU will cut off a large amount of trade with Europe - and we do a lot of trade with the EU. Well this won't happen because it's illegal under World Trade Organisation rules.

Of course, Europe raising trade barriers beyone what they charge on other countries would be illegal (they're about as high as they can be now) but that won't stop them. States only obey inconvenient international law if they are (a) forced to or (b) stupid.

To take a topical example America and Britain are at the very least going to tie themselves in knots to justify going to war on Iraq without a proper Security Council resolution. Now I am one invasion-sceptic who thinks that security council resolutions don't matter, so it is not an antiwar point, but an invasion against Iraq without an unvetoed majority will to most people appear illegal.

Now there's the crux, "will appear to most people". The proper term for an unenforcable law is merely "an opinion". And that's what any antiwar argument that centers its objections on the procedures of the UN will be, an opinion.

To get back to the trade point, any perceived illegality of European trading practices will be simply an opinion unless that point of law is enforced. This enforcement will probably be crippling trade sanctions against Europe by America. This in turn will involve America turning decisively away from its British policy of three generations, namely placing Britain in Europe. To be polite that is uncertain.

I dearly wish for Britain to be free of the Belgian Empire, but we will have to be realistic with the public - we will lose European markets partly down to European spite but the long term benefits of a less rigid economy and lower overall tarrifs will outweigh the temporary economic dislocation (or more accurately the correction of a thirty year long governmentally imposed economic dislocation).


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