Wolfgang Münchau notes that there may be an opening for a U.K.-U.S. trade agreement after all:
Meanwhile, an important development is about to unfold that could prove a great opportunity for Britain: Germany’s Social Democrats, partners in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition government, are about to ditch support for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership — an agreement between the EU and the US. My understanding is that it is now in effect dead.
A German veto of TTIP would give the UK and the US a chance to negotiate their own bilateral version.
In this case, the UK could theoretically end up with a better position than before: with access to the EU single market and deeper economic integration with the US.
If German support for the T-TIP has collapsed, there won’t be any agreement. This latest news is consistent with the strong public skepticism and growing opposition to the T-TIP in Germany that I mentioned here more than a year ago. The German public has been concerned that European standards on health and the environment would be weakened too much as part of the deal, and that has turned them sharply against a trade partnership that once had majority backing. Opposition to T-TIP has only grown over the last year:
The survey, conducted by YouGov for the Bertelsmann Foundation, showed that only 17 percent of Germans believe the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is a good thing, down from 55 percent two years ago.
The Social Democrats’ leaders are belatedly acknowledging that shift and moving to align themselves with the more popular view. If the deal falls apart, it will be just the latest casualty of popular backlashes against the elite consensus.
The failure of the T-TIP is not a disaster and the significance of this shouldn’t be exaggerated, but it is worth noting that this would likely have happened even if Britain had voted to stay in the EU. One of the risks of leaving the EU was that it would mean that Britain would be cut out of any future U.S.-EU agreement, but now it appears there may be no agreement at all. For all the talk from the Obama administration about Britain having to go to the “back of the queue,” it now appears that the “queue” in question is about to get a lot shorter. Once Britain is out of the EU, it won’t be blocked from making its own deal with Washington, and it is conceivable that the U.K. could conclude a bilateral agreement with the U.S. before a deal with EU is completed.