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.
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.
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.