The Norway Option

What follows is a script for how Owen Paterson could have responded to Evan Davis’ questions on Newsnight recently. I do not claim for one second that this is what I would have said or that I could do a better job doing what he does, but Mr Paterson’s performance has garnered a less than enthusiastic response. This was the first real opportunity that the “leave” side has had to let the Prime Minister know that we are here and unfortunately it was squandered because the leaders of the ‘Vote Leave’ and ‘Leave.EU’ campaigns ducked the fight. I have heard the interview described by Brexiteers as everything from “painful to watch” to “a non-score draw”. I incline more towards the former, but I find it interesting that not everybody saw it as the disaster that the “remains” would like to imply.

Transcript:

Question (Q): You’ve been listening to the whole caboodle of options and things, which is your favourite?

Answer (A): The Norway Option would be an excellent interim solution to the…

Q: An excellent solution. But the Prime Minister said…

A: Evan, you really must let me finish. You were very patient listening to your other guests, now please allow me the same courtesy. As I was saying, the Norway Option stands head and shoulders above the other suggestions as an interim solution to achieve an orderly withdrawal from the political arrangements of the EU within the two years granted under the terms of the Article 50 process. That would mean not leaving the Single Market, thereby assuring regulatory continuity and job security, which is so important for people and businesses, as well as giving us our full seat on the world governing bodies that increasingly set the terms for trade.

Q: What about our previous speaker from Norway, who talked about not being able to influence EU decision-making?

A: Well, your last speaker was being extremely modest and, if I may say so, not a little coy about the very large influence that Norway exerts on global bodies when it comes to setting the terms for trade with which the Single Market has to comply. Now, as I said when I was on your programme before, and I make no apology for saying it again, Norway exports 3 billion euros worth of fish every year and is the Chair – the Chair – of the Codex Alimentarius committee which decides world rules on fish. Britain, the fifth largest economy in the world, proud, global trading nation currently accepts the ‘common position’, which is inevitably a compromise—some of the countries on the continent do not even border the sea for goodness sake—agreed between the 28 EU Member States. Norway, by contrast, has full self-representation at the global level and that is where Britain needs to be.

Q: The Prime Minister actually set out five questions which he thought were very important today and I wonder if we could just go through them because they are useful. Would the UK still be obliged to follow EU rules on free movement of people. In your view if we’re out would free movement apply?

A: Under the terms of the EEA agreement, the four freedoms, so that is goods, services, capital and people, would all apply, but what you need to understand is that decoupling Britain from the EU in order to rejoin the rest of the world is not a one-time event, but a process. It was a process that took us into the EU, it will be a process that takes us out of the EU. That is not to say that there are not things that could be done in the short term—there are things that this government could be doing now—to address concerns about high levels of immigration. But, those are largely domestic and global. The sub-regional EU is both too big and too small for a member country with the ambitions of the United Kingdom. We should be engaging with partners around the world, trading, co-operating, scientific research, whatever it may be, to address the challenges and embrace the opportunities that will advance the interests of a modern 21st century economy like our own.

Q: Would the UK still be forced to pay an EU subscription fee like Norway and Switzerland?

A: The fee is one of the incidentals in this debate. Norway currently pays in roughly half as much as Britain per head of GDP. If there are fees to be paid in the interim, as we progress towards a longer-term arrangement then we will pay them, but I must just say, I think that the Prime Minister is taking the British people for a bunch of hopeless ninnies if he thinks that any of them are going to be swayed to remain in the European Union by the prospect of a couple of extra quid in their wallet or their purse. We are talking about the fate of the nation and whether we will play an active role in shaping the process of economic globalisation or allow ourselves to be subjugated to a supranational treaty union that is anti-democratic and fundamentally unsuited to this country—and he wants to have a squabble over pennies and cents. Get a grip man. National independence and Britain’s future place in the world are worth infinitely more than some piddling fee!

Okay, so I may have got a little carried away with the final answer, but you get the idea. There is much more interesting information to be found about the Norway Option at the following sources:

White Wednesday: The Norway Option – Some Bookmarks (an invaluable compendium)

The Bruges Group: The Norway Option by Dr Richard North

Pete North: The Norway Option is Still a Go

The Sceptic Isle: David Cameron’s Fear of the “Norway Option”

Mr Brexit: The Facts About the Norway Option

The Boiling Frog: EEA Ruled by Fax? Iceland Said No

EURferendum.com: Driving us Over the Edge of the Cliff

Disclaimer: Of course I know that the interview would have gone differently if different answers were provided. This is simply an exercise to demonstrate that the Norway Option is a perfectly defensible interim solution, given the political and environmental conditions that constrain the process of EU exit.

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The Ministry of Truth

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Right, I’m angry. I just caught up with the execrable BBC Newsnight programme of yesterday evening. During the day, the Prime Minister—the real leader of the “remains”—made his first major invervention in the Brexit debate, declaring that “no options are off the table when it comes to our membership of the EU” but “I would guide very strongly against” adopting what is referred to, for the sake of short-hand, as the Norway Option—outside of the EU but participating in the Single Market via the EFTA/EEA. This evidently contradictory statement may make some kind of sense in the Newspeak world that politicians inhabit, but as far as those of us who prefer to deal with what is humbly called reality are concerned, it is nonsensical to declare that you do not rule anything out and then “very strongly [guide] against” a particular course of action. Of course, none of the press pack picked up on this because he’s the PM, innit.

The fact that neither of the established “leave” campaigns had even so much as mentioned the Norway Option, prior to the last couple of days—when both ‘Leave.EU’ and ‘Vote Leave’ idiotically repudiated it; running away from a fight that could be so easily won given the right messages and an effective delivery strategy—may provide a clue as to the real target of this opening gambit. The Flexcit plan features the Norway Option as one of three equally plausible alternatives for providing regulatory stability in the short to medium term as part of a six-stage process for phased withdrawal from the supranational political and economic structures of the European Union.

Unfortunately, no representatives from the ‘Referendum Planning Group’ were booked to make the case for a Brexit scenario that recognises both the political imperitives and the environmental constraints that will necessarily shape this vastly important decision. With that in mind, if Owen Paterson desires to be in the least bit effective during the EU referendum debate, he has to get out from under the feet of the ‘Vote Leave’ crowd. In contrast with his previous performance on Newsnight when he dealt with an obnoxious Evan Davis, who consistently interrupted and would not allow him to finish his sentences, with calm authority and in the process managed to communicate important information about the role of the “global bodies” that he last night referred to roughly fifteen times without ever naming one, this time Paterson was left floundering. On his previous appearance, Paterson was simple, clear and persuasive, informing Davis, in a headmasterly fashion, about the need to re-engage with the rest of the world by playing a full role in the world governing bodies that shape so much international regulation. “Look, I did DEFRA…”, he reflected, before then proceeding to describe the work of the OIE, IPPC and Codex, and the way in which Britain is denied full self-representation on these bodies, as well as many, many more, as a consequence of our EU membership. Last night, he started to talk about fish, but just as the word “Codex” appeared to be on the tip of his tongue, he referred only to “global bodies” once again.

That said, I am disinclined to be too harsh on the man. I cannot imagine performing in such a fraught environment. To put the “interview”—for it was not really anything of the sort—into context, Paterson’s appearance was preceded by the softest of softball interviews with a pro-EU politician from Norway, during which the fact that the overwhelming majority of Norwegians oppose EU membership for Norway was dismissed as a trivial matter. Naturally, the guest was invited to conclude with the obligatory assertion that of course Britain should remain within the EU. Davis spoke softly, he was polite, he allowed his guest to answer every question without challenge and no follow-up questions were asked. This was followed by a pair of talking heads with a representative from Switzerland and another from Singapore (yes, Singapore!) which included information that was so incidental to the realities of the Brexit debate that one wonders why else it was featured if not to blow a lot of smoke in peoples’ eyes. For the record, BBC researchers, ASEAN is nothing like the EU.

Then and only then, the general audience, who might legitimately expect context and critical thinking from the national broadcaster, thoroughly confused, was Owen Paterson introduced. A few immediate observations on the tricky subject of bias, which is often difficult to pin down because it is as much to do with subtlety and framing as overt statements. But I think the following details are suggestive. Davis’ tone was much more sharp. Just compare the way in which he addressed Paterson to his cooing intonation only moments before during the segment featuring the pro-EU politician. He interupted, a lot. He did not interrupt any of the previous speakers. Not once. He contradicted Paterson, a lot. Likewise. Of course, this is the sort of thing that a politician worth their salt should be able to handle, but when you have a reasonable amount of knowledge about a subject and some bozo starts asking irrelevant and silly questions, I can see how it is possible to get thrown off course.

Moreover, when a politician cuts ties with his strongest researcher and intellectual anchor, there is bound to be a bit of a wobble. The BBC were never going to play fair, but I confess to being rather naive regarding the range and effectiveness of the techniques that were deployed even at this early stage of the debate. I fully accept Pete North’s excellent point regarding the idea that most media misrepresentation arises from structural ignorance rather than political partisanship, but last night’s Newsnight programme was not that. Last night’s Newsnight programme was a rout by a few very capable propagandists, hoping to take out someone who was, until now, shaping up to be a major figure for the “leave” campaign. Not necessarily defeated, but certainly wounded, for the time being, Mr Paterson should think very carefully about whether this sort of ritual humilation is something that he would like to suffer for the next two years. The crowd with which he is now running do not have the first idea about how to provide the support that he needs.

Cameron In Iceland

The Pinocchio Prime Minister is today in Iceland, where he is most likely making representations on behalf of chief string-puller, Jean-Claude Junker, to the Prime Ministers of Iceland and Norway. Part of the plan to keep Britain in the EU involves a proposal to draw EEA states closer into the union via what is being called “associate membership”—although the name may still change—and who better to pull the wool over everybody’s eyes than Britain’s own PR puff meister Dodgy Dave Cameron?

Owen Paterson has the PM’s number on this one:

Do you think it is mere coincidence that the PM has travelled to Iceland to “push his case for changes to the UK’s relationship with the EU”? I think not.

The notion that second-class membership in a two-tier treaty union is a British initiative (although there is a twist to that) is absurd at best. The government has long argued that Britain needs to be in “Europe” (they mean the EU) in order have a seat at the “top table” of EU decision-making, which, given that membership of Kerneuropa (‘core Europe’ or sometimes just ‘the inner core’) would mean joining the euro currency, is never going to happen.

The “associate membership” idea, in its current incarnation, is laid out in the Bertelsmann/Spinelli report, A Fundamental Law for the European Union, which is effectively a draft treaty. The EU intention to fire the starting gun on treaty change is detailed in The Five Presidents’s Report and Jean-Claude Junker said as much during his most recent State of the Union address when he called for a White Paper to be published in Spring 2017—an event that the BBC reported as a “statement on immigration”.

The partisan BBC is once again puffing the Prime Minister’s non-existent case for “reform”—there are no negotiations—reporting that “A number 10 source said Norway accepts some EU rules with little say in the decisions made in Brussels”. This is a slight retrenchment from the outright lie of the “remains” that Norway has “no say”, easily debunked by The Sceptic Isle. But this is still a long way short of an honest assessment of Norway and Iceland’s relationship with the EU.

The fact of the matter is that the world has moved on considerably since the 1950s and the EU’s inflexible and anti-democratic structures are poorly suited to the governance of a modern democratic nation-state that wishes to engage fully with the rest of the world. “Unlike the UK, Norway has no votes in the European Council, no votes in the EU’s Council of Ministers, no MEPs or votes in the European Parliament, and no European Commissioner to help,” the source said. Frankly, who cares? Norway has consultative arrangements in EU decisions that relate to the Single Market, which contrary to what many sources say, are substantial—not to mention a veto.

Moreover, Norway, Iceland, Lichtenstein, Costa Rica, Barbados, Chad, Benin, Suriname, Western Sahara and Australia (among others) have full self-representation on the world governing bodies where the overwhelming majority of international regulations originate. David Cameron, perhaps unknowingly, already conceded the point in his Bloomberg speech when he said that “our ability to help set [Single Market] rules is the principal reason for our membership of the EU.”

As the EU (and Britain) are both signatories to the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade, our ability to help set Single Market rules is a principle reason to leave the EU and embrace a new relationship based on intergovernmental co-operation. The overwhelming majority of Single Market rules are technical standards for trade that apply globally. The EU role in the Single Market involves little more than putting its “stamp” on international regulations agreed between national governments at Codex in Rome, the United Nations Economic Commision for Europe (UNECE) in Geneva, the International Maritime Organisation in London, and so on.

The fact that the Prime Minister, the BBC and the establishment campaign—‘Vote Leave, Get Control’—all oppose the idea tells you much of what you need to know about the efficacy of accepting an interim “off-the-shelf” agreement to assure regulatory continuity and stability as part of a phased withdrawal. Flexcit tells you the rest.

Note: The BBC article from which I quoted has been ammended so that instead of “A number 10 source said Norway accepts some EU rules with little say in the decisions made in Brussels” that sentence now reads “But Downing Street says it still has to abide by most EU rules but has little say over how they are created.” 28/10/2015 13:15

The Man Without A Plan

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Dominic Cummings was on Twitter yesterday, proudly flaunting his arrogance and his ignorance for all comers, declaring that:

“2/ The ‘Norway option’ is not @VoteLeave’s policy nor will it be because a) we can do much better than that & b) we plan to win referendum”

Adding:

“3/ Making ‘Norway option’ official policy wd be like placing whole fate of campaign on one suboptimal fixed fortification = v bad strategy”

What is often referred to, for the sake of shorthand more than anything, as “the Norway Option” is not in fact “a fixed position”, but an interim solution to the problem of agreeing suitable trading arrangements with the EU during the brief two-year window of an Article 50 exit negotiation. For a man who claims to have read Flexcit to come to such a facile conclusion demonstrates that either he was not being honest or he failed to understand it. Flexcit also details several, equally credible, fallback positions that would ensure British trade is not disrupted.

The other enormous benefit of what I will call “the Norway Option” is that it neutralises all of the europhile fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) regarding access to the Single Market and provides necessary assurance to voters that the country’s economic well being will be protected even as we disengage from the political structures of the European Union. The only people losing their jobs in the event of a Brexit scenario that adopts the Flexcit plan would be British eurocrats and euro politicians like the increasingly desperate and flailing Dan Hannan, who has repeatedly stated that he supports what Cummings calls Cameron’s associate membership “con” (congratulations for catching up) even as he continues to claim that he is committed to the “leave” side of the referendum debate. It is all too evident from Hannan’s recent public statements—not to mention his overly sensitive response to any kind of challenge—that he is a Whinger rather than a Leaver. Fortunately for us, he is also yesterday’s man, a sinking ship.

Not that Hannan is the only example of Cummings and the ‘Vote Leave, Get Reform’ campaign failing to deliver a clear and coherent message. On Friday, the ‘Vote Leave, Get Reboot’ newsletter deigned to inform us that “arguments concerning regulation are more complex than the media suggests”—thanks for catching up—and that many EU regulations “actually come from global bodies”. However, only the day before, the “leader” of ‘Conservatives for Britain’—a ‘Vote Leave, Get What You’re Told’ affiliate—was saying the opposite. If prominent spokesmen like Dan Hannan and Lord Lawson are not on message and are instead allowed to trot out the same old Tory Party garbage that has littered the EU debate for 20+ years, where exactly is the organisation and co-ordination of the ‘Vote Leave, Get Reform’ campaign supposed to be coming from? If the “campaign manager”, that is Cummings, is not managing the campaign then how else does he spend his time?

Regrettable as it may be and unwelcome as this message will be to some, the evidence to date suggests that ‘Vote Leave, Get Control’ does not have what it takes to win the EU referendum campaign for the “leave” side. Indeed, the evidence suggests that the opposite is true. I am not saying that Elliott and Cummings are controlled opposition, but their efforts are what controlled opposition would look like. If we are really serious about wanting to leave the EU, then we are going to have to look beyond these two Tory patsies.

We need people who will confront and defeat the lies of the “remains”, not run away at the first sign of conflict. The Invisible Man and The Man Without A Plan are not going to get the job done. In contrast, the lead author of the Flexcit plan, Dr Richard North, has the knowledge and experience to mount an effective campaign and secure the permanent EU exit all Brexiteers seek. As ever, if you want to leave the EU and you’ve got what it takes, make yourself known.

A Revolution In Public Policy-Making

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I have twice used the phrase a revolution to public policy-making (here and here) to describe Dr Richard North’s and Robert Ould’s plan for how Britain should leave the European Union. This post is an initial attempt to explain that assertion and to describe how Britain’s EU exit can be secured, with minimal disruption, via a structured process known as Flexcit.

The essence of the Flexcit plan is to assure economic and political stability during Britain’s EU exit, with a focus on progressively achieving greater global engagement and enhanced democratic control. Neither of the established “leave” campaigns has yet produced a similar document and it is infeasible to imagine either ‘Leave.EU’ or ‘Vote Leave, Take Control’ devising a suitable alternative prior to the poll without adopting Flexcit, which, given Dr North’s and Mr Ould’s involvement in the ‘Referendum Planning Group’, would undoutedly require the authors’ consent.

This need not have been the case. Flexcit started life as a 2,500 word submission to the IEA Brexit competition in 2013 with Dr North providing the core ideas which contributors to the EUReferendum.com forum were then invited to criticise and comment on. To the shame of the IEA, the “contest” ended in farce, but the intellectual architecture devised at the time forms the basis for what is now called Flexcit. The name change from Brexit to Flexcit reflects the fact that leaving the EU will be a phased transition involving flexible response and continuous development—40 years of political and economic integration will not and should not be undone over night—to be accomplished in six clearly-defined stages.

The composition process described above will no doubt sound familiar to anybody with a working knowledge of the computer industry, where open-source software, such as the Linux operating system (OS), has existed alongside proprietary offerings for decades. The really innovative idea at the heart of the Linux project, says open-source historian, Eric S. Raymond, was not making the source code freely available to everybody—that was commonplace—it was the open and collaborative developmental model adopted by lead Linux programmer Linus Torvalds.

Raymond uses the metaphor of The Cathederal and the Bazaar to illustrate the difference between the old-fashioned, top-down heirachical approach of yesteryear and the innovative, open and collaborative approach that created Linux (and now Flexcit). The assumption that software development and especially complex software development necessarily needs strong central-planning was discredited by the Linux approach. Variants of the Linux kernel have the largest installed base of any OS in the world, supporting everything from smartphones (Android OS is a Linux variant) to servers and supercomputers.

Not to say that the open and collaborative approach of The Bazaar is without structure. Far from it. The communication channels on a typical open-source project centre around the project core—a single developer is common, and one to three is typical—and a halo of “testers” and other contributors (sometimes numbering in the thousands). This reduction in the communication and collaboration overhead is what gave rise to Torvalds’ dictum: “given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow”. Hence, the confidence that all those who witnessed Flexcit develop (a process that is still ongoing) have in the core ideas and detailed specifics of the plan.

The wonder is that these tried and tested methods had not been applied to policy-making—certainly not with respect to a Brexit plan—by any other group prior to the EUReferendum.com initiative. The document itself is a dense but highly readable 419 pages or there is the condensed version which is just 44 pages. Simplifying to the point of crassness, the plan centres on the idea that Britain should repatriate the entire EU acquis (body of EU law) and negotiate an “off-the-shelf” agreement to ensure regulatory continuity and access to the Single Market in the short term, thereby nulifying every europhile argument that favours further participation in the unwanted and unnecessary EU political integration process. More posts on the generalities and specifics of the Flexcit plan will undoubtedly follow over the coming weeks and months.

To anybody who wants to whinge about the “complexity” of the content, I can only suggest that you grow up. This is an EU exit plan not a tawdry list of aspirations. To anybody not intimiated by the opportunity to take charge their own country—really take charge, not like the ‘Vote Leave, Take Control’ patsies—if you’ve got what it takes, you’re needed.

Following The Script

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Now that one of the legacy flock (baa!) has wandered from the herd and noted what wiser heads observed some months ago—namely, that there are no EU negotiations—the braying of The Sunday Telegraph looks particularly absurd. Those who still expect informed commentary from these sources should regard this as a learning opportunity: the role of the legacy media is not to inform, educate and entertain—as per the famous formulation of Lord Reith—but to support the legacy institutions that for the past 40 years have perpetrated The Great Deception.

That such organs of supine conformity and compliance should now be complicit in The Cameron Deception will surprise no one who has a mind to think.

The following sentence tells you all that you need to know about the worth of this report:

However, reports casting doubt on the progress of his negotiations, and recent polls showing the “Out” campaign gaining momentum, appear to have forced Mr Cameron to take a tougher line.

First of all, there is no reason to pay even the slightest bit of attention to anybody who still refers to the campaign to leave the EU as the “Out” campaign. The recommendation of the Electoral Commission that the form of the question be changed to “leave/remain”, for the sake of “clarity”, happened months ago. The idea that the campaign is “gaining momentum” since the entry of the journo’s favoured candidate to lead the “leave” campaign—‘Vote Leave, Get Control’—is equally fanciful. Most importantly, the phrase “casting doubt on the progress of [Cameron’s] negotiations” really is a very bad joke. There are no negotiations!

None of this matters to The Telegraph Group, however. The unreality of its reporters is of a piece with the favoured “narrative” being pushed by No. 10. Supposed strategist, George Osborne, would like to cast David Cameron in the role of Beowulf confronting Grendel’s Mother or Perseus cutting off the head of the Gorgon, Medusa. The fact that Cameron is more akin to Pinocchio performing “I’ve Got No Strings” lest Junker chop him into firewood is apparent to those who take their cues from reality, but, such is the “prestige” of the legacy media, there is still a great deal of work to be done to communicate this message to sufficient numbers of perceptive people.

The effectiveness of the Cameron/Osborne ploy depends to a very large degree upon the lack of insight and the absense of inquisitiveness among the legacy hacks. As per Aneurin Bevan’s assessment of the need for a British press censor: “You don’t need to muzzle sheep”. The Cameron Deception may be transparent to those in the know, but the extent of the uphill struggle that we face is partially illustrated in the graphic above.

In accordance with the legacy media “framing”—absent the “there are no negotiations” option—the most appropriate answer is actually the top one—Cameron will “make history”—currently polling three percent. The fact that recent theatricals have those who follow the legacy narrative believing that Cameron will return with “nothing” is an important part of the script. The Monster and the Thrilling Escape From Death demands that the hero must first fail in order that his final victory may be that much more glorious. I expect the standard issue line that “the negotiations are going badly” to be repeated ad nauseum so I will say again, there are no negotiations.

What there is instead is a new treaty that will offer Britain “associate status” or “a market-only relationship” or “looser membership”—there are any number of ways in which what is a very old idea could be dressed up and made to appear funky and new—that will relegate Britain to second-class country status within a two-tier EU in which the eurozone dominates and Britain is still excluded from the world governing bodies that are part of the governing structures of all modern independent nation-states.

The better option, the one that for all of the press attention, nobody in the bubble is yet taking seriously, is to leave the EU and reassert our heartfelt commitment to national independence, democratic governance and intergovernmental co-operation as the proper means for organising our own affairs. In so doing, Britain will reacquire full self-representation at the global level—above the sub-regional EU—and real influence in the forums that matter. Parliamentary oversight and a national veto will mean that politicians have to account to the electorate and take responsibility for the laws that are made in this country.

The europhiles offer national stagnation and international irrelevance while the Brexiteers propose that Britain take this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to correct an historic error by embracing real global influence and the power to determine our own political destiny. Those are the options. Are we really going to allow a bunch of Tory charlatans and their tame media to pull the wool over our eyes?

Are You One Of Cameron’s Useful Idiots?

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Over the past few days, Mr Brexit has been peppering Dominic Cummings’ Twitter account with questions asking whether ‘Vote Leave, Take Control’ would support continuing British membership in a “reformed EU”. The propositions on the ballot paper are “leave” and “remain”, I hear you cry—the choice is perfectly clear!

Nice as it is to know that the message is getting through, I have no option but to upset some you by saying, it is not quite as simple as that. “But you said…”! I know. I know what I said. Remember when your biology teacher told you that organic cells are comprised of a membrane, nucleus and cytoplasm. Or when your physics teacher said that atoms are the smallest particles in the universe. They were telling the truth, but they were not telling you all of it.

Vote Leave, Get “Reformed EU”?

There are two reasons why this matters. First of all, CEO and co-owner (with Dominic Cummings) of Vote Leave Ltd., Matthew Elliott, has a long record of support for “renegotiation” and “reform” of Britain’s relationship with the EU. This was the position that he advanced for several years as CEO of Business for Britain, which, in July 2015, published a report called, Change or Go: How Britain would gain influence and prosper outside an unreformed EU, introduced by Mr Elliott as “[setting] out what changes should be sought from renegotiation”. The Business for Britain website contains several references to “negotiation”, “renegotiation” and “reform”, but, until very recently, the only references on the website to “leaving” the EU were in the context of a Q&A script which asserted that the organisation was fundamentally committed to “renegotiating” a new relationship for Britain with the EU in order that Britain could “remain” within a “reformed EU”.

As recently as June 2015, Matthew Elliott was reported in the Evening Standard as saying: “If the Government gets a two-tier Europe, we’re very much in”. Given that this is precisely what informed Brexit commentators expect the Prime Minister to deliver, this raises very serious questions about the suitability of Matthew Elliott and his joint property— ‘Vote Leave, Take Control’—for the role of official “leave” campaign. Tory peer, Lord Lawson, who leads another ‘Vote Leave, Take Control’ affiliate, Conservatives for Britain, has, similarly, never expressed an unequivocal commitment to achieving Britain’s EU exit, saying instead that his support for Brexit is conditional upon the Prime Minister returning from negotiations without a suitable new deal. Whatever else one might say about these men, those who take what Business for Britain describes as “the perfectly legitimate position of waiting to see what the Government manages to negotiate with the EU before deciding which way they will vote” have no place running the “leave” campaign.

Such people will be welcome to join once they have assessed Mr Cameron’s offer against the alternative, but those who lead the campaign must be committed to leaving the EU on principle. There are no such doubts about senior figures within the “remain” campaign. The “leave” campaign must demand the same standard. There is no conceivable way in which a campaign that is led by figures who refuse to rule out remaining within a “reformed EU” can “adequately represent those campaigning for the [‘leave’] outcome”.

Vote Leave, Get “Reboot”?

Secondly, the conduct of the campaign will not only have an enormous bearing upon the final result but also upon the political environment and incentives that exist post-referendum. In that sense, how we win matters just as much as winning. A campaign that leads on cost-cutting and immigration, which does not recognise that David Cameron is likely to return from Brussels with a “reform” package that will appear substantial, will not win the debate. Even worse, without a coherent exit plan outlining how Britain would leave the EU, a vote to leave could all too easily become an excuse for yet more “renegotiation” and “reform”.

In fairness to Mr Cummings, I am of the opinion that he has adequately answered Mr Brexit’s question—or, at least, the main thrust of it. It is not the answer that one may have hoped for from a man in his position, but his view is quite clear.

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Dominic Cummings, co-owner of Vote Leave Ltd., unlike his business partner, will at least say without equivocation that people should vote to leave the EU regardless of what kind of a “deal” David Cameron presents to the electorate. This is a necessary, but not sufficient pre-condition for leading the “leave” campaign. The other vital component is a coherent and workable exit plan that describes how Britain would leave the EU.

voteleaveforareboot

Campaigners on both sides of the debate are currently casting around in the dark uncertain what “leave” even means. The “remain” campaign say that this is a major problem for the “leave” campaign—and they are not wrong in the case of the established groups. Cummings, on the other hand, attempts to “finesse” his own ignorance into a point of pride. The assertion that “nobody knows” what will happen or how the EU would respond to Britain voting to leave is banal in the extreme. Like so many things about the man, at first glance, it has an air of cleverness, but the consequences of campaigning without a clear vision for how Britain should leave the EU would be wholly unnecessary and avoidable confusion and doubt.

It is simply false for “the remains” to say that no such plan exists and Cummings has no excuse for not making that fact more widely known. However, all of the bubble-dwellers are being left behind. The “new institutions” about which Cummings likes to write—but which he conspicuously fails to support—are already here and have been making the play for quite some time.

How matters just as much as what

The definitive EU exit plan for Britain—Flexcit—is a “living document” hosted by EUReferendum.com that has evolved over months of hard work and decades of research, based upon the active contribution of dozens of volunteers, guided by the vast experience and expertise of its principal author, Dr Richard North. The need for flexible adaptation and continuous response is intrinsic to the way in which the document was written and the manner in which it will carry on changing as new realities make themselves apparent. The fact that Cummings fails to recognise that this represents nothing less than a revolution in public policy-making—who needs the EU or even Whitehall when motivated individuals can do the job through voluntary collaboration over the Internet?—demonstrates that he is among those being left behind.

Moreover, Flexcit is not only about what happens after the vote—of course, we cannot know what is likely to occur in two years time, that is hardly a great insight—it has an even more important role to play in, first of all, winning the intellectual argument for the “leave” side and, laterly, holding the politicians to account with regard to the exit settlement that the British people will accept following an Article 50 negotiation. Flexcit renders all the usual europhile arguments obsolete, recognising that the world has moved on considerably since the original EU structures—still at the heart of the union—were first conceived in the early 1920s. World governing bodies, where every nation-state other than those that agree to be represented by the EU has full self-representation, “hand down” regulations (some of which become laws) for enforcement in our country via the sub-regional EU, which seeks increasingly to replace our independent voice—and that of the other EU Member States—in the forums that really matter. Why, if we do not accept the principle of “ever closer [political] union”, as the Prime Minister asserts, remain within a union in which we want no part, when we could deal directly with our global partners on these world governing bodies and help to shape the regulations that emerge in ways that suit our interests? British membership in the supranational EU impacts everything from the quality of our governance to the accountability of those who govern.

The scope of these global bodies, rarely if ever mentioned by our moronic, personality-fixated legacy media is vast. We should not be turning our back on the rest of the world, enclosed in “little Europe” at a time when the need for more voices to get involved in the debate, investigating, adding their point of view, contributing ideas and innovations, is greater than ever. The best that Britain has to offer has come from being open to the future, not resiling from the global stage, so that pushy know-nothings can climb to the top of the greasy pole and boss us all about while accountability and oversight are further neglected.

If we are to unravel The Great Deception and “take control”, accepting hand-me-downs from the likes of Elliott and Cummings, who deign to “inform” us about the global dimension of EU regulation—without reference to the original source of said research—long after the real work was done and published online for all to access and contribute towards and contradict and enhance, we are not going to get the job done. The EU referendum is not about people “at the top” telling us what they think is best. The EU referendum is about all of us and how and by whom we consent to be governed. If you want to be ineffective, stay as you are—retweet ‘Vote Leave, Take Control’ and carry on whinging about how wretched and subservient we all have become. If instead you want to make a difference then make yourself known and get involved.

With a clear strategy and the determination to see our plan through to the end, we can leave the EU and rejoin the rest of the world, trading, co-operating and governing our own country in a way that suits our interests. That means not just raising the level of debate but broadening it too. None of us have all of the answers, but together we can work it out. Cutting the Gordian knot is in our power, if we have the courage to use it.