Framing the debate

The Guardian newspaper, of all places, is today home to an “encouraging” story for the pro-independence side of the referendum debate. The boss of JCB says that Britain’s “EU exit could lift the burden bureaucracy on UK businesses”.

However, the story is not actually the “gift” that it may at first appear to be for the “eurosceptic” camp. First of all, the pro-EU newspaper is setting up a false dichotomy between EU membership and the Single Market. This is something that we can expect to see repeated time after time by europhiles during the debate. No less a figure than the Prime Minister says that Britain should trade and co-operate with our continental European allies without participating in political union. But it is never mentioned that the only way to achieve this happy end is not “reform and renegotiation” but to leave the EU and rejoin EFTA.

The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) is an intergovernmental body founded by Britain, Denmark, Norway, Austria, Sweden, Switzerland and Portugal in the early 1960s, to facilitate cross-border trade and work towards the elimination of tariffs between member nations. There are no associated courts and no supranational executive to arbitrate disputes and act as the final decision-maker. The body was unlike the European Economic Community (EEC), the forerunner of the EU, in all of those important respects.

Leaving the EU would not mean an end to trade and co-operation with the remaining EU member states. Indeed, there is already a formal mechanism in place for co-operation with EFTA states, called the European Economic Area (EEA) agreement. These are arrangements that EU member states already accept, so there would be little trouble for Britain, which is outside the euro and already at the periphery of the EU “projet” to bid adieu to our colleagues in Brussels and say, hi, to our friends in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.

The British public need to understand that the EU is not the Single Market. The benefits that politicians associate with our EU membership are those that acrue from participation in the Single Market—and leaving the EU does not mean leaving the Single Market. Moreover, our power to influence Single Market rules will be increased outside the EU. Rather than a twelve percent qualified majority vote and the resulting imposition of rules that do not suit our interests, we will participate in decision-making at a global level and acquire equal status in setting Single Market rules via the EEA.

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Time for UKIP to exit stage left

The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), whatever good it may have done in the past, is a liability for the anti-EU side in the referendum debate. Nigel Farage’s decision to stand down, having failed to gain a Westminister seat, was already smelling a little odd when he threw in the rider that he would consider putting his name forward for the party leadership once again. But the decision of the party to reject his resignation and for Farage to decide to continue as leader after just three days out of the limelight is farcical.

This bespeaks an egoist who has abandoned reason. Even from his selfish point of view this is a bad move. Farage would have been better served becoming an “elder statesman” for his party. The kind of guy who gets invited onto Question Time and has occasional chats with Andrew Neil, but who is not involved in the everyday running of his party. Instead, Farage and the cultists who insisted that he remain in charge, has turned himself and his party into a joke.

The pro-independence campaign should have no time for this shallow, selfish man and his silly party. Ukipists should have listened to the sage advice of their only MP: “Ukip must not make the mistake made by the SNP in their recent referendum. We should not equate support for leaving the EU with support for our own party. Do that, and the European Commission in Brussels would be delighted”.

The fight for the political autonomy of our island nation is far bigger than trifles involving UKIP and Nigel Farage. I hope that this is the first and the last time that they even warrant mention on this blog. The need to convince a majority of the electorate that EU exit is in their country’s best interests means that we have many more important things to do.

The Mask Slips

Every so often a prominent member of the political class says something that they actually believe. The legacy media typically refer to such moments as “gaffes”, though various media agendas compete to determine which “gaffes” become “news”.

It is unlikely that the words spoken by Alastair Campbell on BBC Question Time to describe the prospect, let alone the actuality, of a referendum regarding Britain’s EU membership, will become “news”, so it is incumbent upon people such as myself to bring the matter to broader attention.

Unwittingly and unthinkingly, Campbell revealed what a substantial portion of the political class actually think about the views of the British electorate and its idealistic pretentious to be living in an open, free and fair democracy, when he said: “even having the debate is dangerous”.

In what sense is debate dangerous? Is debate not the very essence of democracy, and one of the essential chacteristics that distinguishes a free society from a totalitarian despotism? Campbell and his ilk regard views that differ from their own with utter contempt, and they lack even the self-awareness to understand just how closed-minded and authoritarian that makes them.

Not that it matters a great deal. David Cameron has promised the British people a say on the matter of their country’s EU membership, and it will not be for the likes of Campbell to decide whether a supranational treaty organisation—which serves the interests of politicians very well—should continue to play such a prominent role in the nation’s governance.

So it begins…

It would appear that Britain is going to have a referendum to decide whether the people wish to continue to assent to EU membership. Here are three positive benefits that a post-exit Britain is set to enjoy.

1. National sovereignty

The primary reason for leaving the EU is the detrimental impact that this institution has upon our powers of independent self-government. Many, many more issues than most people understand have “an EU dimension” and the incurious national media all too frequently allow British politicians to bamboozle the public regarding what is “imposed” by Brussels and what is merely expedient for the political class. Restoring sovereign democracy and national self-representation to these isles will re-engage the public and force politicians to discuss the “hard choices” that are an essential aspect of independent self-government.

2. Trade

The EU currently represents Britain at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), along with various other global standards-setting bodies, where important international agreements are made. This not only means that Britain has to accept the compromise position of the EU28, while sovereign nations like Norway and Iceland enjoy full self-representation in these fora, we are also legally barred from agreeing trade deals that would suit our interests but not necessarily those of other EU Member States.

3. Access to global ‘top tables’

International trade regulation is increasingly handled by intergovernmental panels, from which Britain is excluded by its EU membership. Our influence in the world will increase substantially when we leave the EU. There is much more to be said about this and it takes quite a bit of explanation to describe all the details but, surprising as it may sound, this is actually the case.

This list is far from exhaustive. Indeed, it is a mere taster of what is to come—a marker in the sand and a Declaration of Principles. Further benefits will be outlined in later posts, along with additional commentary, analysis and opinion.