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This column is brought to you by the letter ‘B’ (for Brexit, sorry) and the number 270.


Arlen Pettitt's Latest Column for The Journal

Greetings! I am The Count!

This column is brought to you by the letter ‘B’ (for Brexit, sorry) and the number 270.

Beloved Sesame Street character The Count received a lot of airtime on social media this week, as well as – I assume – on all the major US cable news networks, as millions in the US and around the world struggled to count to the 270 electoral college votes needed to win the Presidency.

One of the more interesting parts of watching the results drift in over the course of the days following the vote was seeing politicians and pundits of all stripes receiving a crash course in their own country’s electoral processes.

Naturally, there was a huge amount of posturing and partisan bluster, but there were also some valuable lessons about voter demographics, mail-in ballots, and how a count works. Things that you’d expect people that close to the action to already know all about.

Back in the UK, the Brexit debate – itself never lacking posturing and partisan bluster – turned to tariffs as hopes of a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with the EU by the end of the year recede.

The continued stalemate in the negotiations caused Sir Bernard Jenkin, a prominent Conservative backbencher and chair of the House of Commons Liaison Committee to tweet: “the UK will reap £billions in import tariffs on EU exports to the UK if no FTA, for funding post-Brexit UK”.

This might be true, but conveniently omits that import tariffs are traditionally paid by the importer, meaning those billions will be reaped from UK manufacturers and consumers.

I’ll freely admit that tariffs are a complicated issue, as is the funding landscape in a post-Brexit UK – just ask anyone who has ever tried to find out anything about the Shared Prosperity Fund, which was announced in 2017 to replace EU funding and has remained mysteriously short on detail ever since.

But these issues – Brexit, Europe, elections, the economy, as with our health – are the kind of thing we all ought to be making an effort to understand as fully as we can, from our elected officials down to the man or woman on the Clapham omnibus.

Only with a shared understanding, without misrepresentation or omission, can we have proper productive debates about where we’re going as a nation.

We don’t need to make it difficult. We can start at the beginning and The Count can help: 1... 2... 3…