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.