Playing Catch-Up

This recently published Guardian article describes how “Britain could retain access to the European single market and considerably more national sovereignty if it joins the European Free Trade Association (Efta)”. That is, according to the President of the EFTA Court.

The article notes that EFTA/EEA member countries participate in “decision-shaping” procedures, which have a considerable influence on EU rules at an early stage in the legislative process. The article also alights upon the fact that the EFTA Court is a separate entity to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and that, unlike the ECJ, the EFTA Court is not superior to national courts.

There is more.

However, the focus of this post is not the fact that several years after published Flexcit, and still more years after The Bruges Group published a pamphlet about The Norway Option, elements of the legacy news-media are beginning to reflect on the realities of EFTA and the EEA agreement.

The mistakes and omissions in the Guardian piece are arguably even more important.

Here I would remind readers that the Guardian is a commercial product, which attracts an audience, and thereby advertisers, at least partly on the basis of a brand that makes allusions to accuracy and open-mindedness. This is not the Sun or the Express or the Mirror. The Guardian is not a “comic”. The Guardian is a “broadsheet”; a so-called “quality newspaper”.

The article’s fourth paragraph reads as follows:

Efta currently consists of Norway, Lichtenstein, Switzerland and Iceland. Together with the EU member states they form a trading zone called the European Economic Area.

Obviously this is incorrect. The European Economic Area (EEA) agreement does not include Switzerland and terms like “trading zone” are best avoided in this context, if only because they do not really mean anything.

You know that, I know that, why then does the “Diplomatic Editor” of a national daily newspaper not know that?

Errors of this kind are regrettable at the best of times. But, for a senior journalist to be struggling with basic definitions nearly 18 months after the Tories won a general election on the back of a promise to hold an “In/Out” referendum—and six months after an historic vote for Britain to leave the European Union—is unforgivable.

This is not a small matter. People who know this subject do not make these kinds of mistakes. Understanding the differences between the EU, the EEA and EFTA is foundational.

There are complex issues to be resolved as part of leaving the EU. There is no time to waste hand-holding lazy hacks who have not put in the work. It is time to jettison the dead weight.

This was our referendum and our Brexit. We need to make the effort to inform ourselves and map a route to an acceptable destination. The current crop of politicians and the legacy press do not have what it takes.

In The Absence Of Planning

…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… 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”.

I wrote those words in October 2015. Now, look at where we find ourselves, in November 2016, having voted to leave the EU.

The idea of “transitional arrangements” is finally being mooted amongst the think-tank crowd. Charles Grant of the Centre for European Reform and Anand Menon of UK in a Changing Europe have both put forward alternative proposals which purport to solve the problems associated with the two-year negotiating window granted under the terms of Article 50 (TEU).

Open Britain just hosted an event at which Nick Clegg, Anna Soubry and Chuka Umunna called for Britain to remain in the Single Market—and Remain-minded think-tank, British Influence, is proposing to instigate legal proceedings to determine whether leaving the EU necessarily means leaving the EEA (Single Market) as a matter of course.

If that all sounds oddly familiar, there is a reason for that, though I can understand why you may not be able to shake the idea that there is something very wrong with the picture being described.

This blog has long supported Dr Richard North’s proposal for a staged approach to EU exit, encompassing mutually beneficial relations with our European allies and domestic reform to revivify our faulting democracy.

To that end, Phase One of the Flexcit plan outlines how Britain could leave the EU within the two-year Article 50 timeline without suffering undue perturbation in terms of trade. First amongst three linked fallback positions is the idea of rejoining EFTA so as to participate in the EFTA pillar of the EEA agreement. This would immediately remove the European Commission and the European Court of Justice from Britain’s national life, and return policy control over trade, aid, agriculture, fisheries, justice & home affairs, foreign affairs and defence to the UK parliament.

The one thing that recommends the EEA exit route (sub-optimal as it may be) above all other transitional arrangements is that it involves leaving the EU first. Of course a transition is only acceptable provided there is a destination mapped out. The only circumstances under which an apparently necessary interim deal would be acceptable to Brexiteers (this one included) is under the proviso that it leads on to further disentanglement in the future.

The later stages of the Flexcit plan start to discuss these issues, taking us well beyond the bounds of the current legacy debate. The cleverness of what is labelled “Stage Three” of the Flexcit plan derives from the fact that the processes Britain could use to decouple the administration of the Single Market from the EU are already in tow. The WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade is extant. International standards form the basis of a very large proportion of the EEA acquis; the scope for deviation from those standards when shaping associated regulation is limited. The EU is already in the process of losing control of the Single Market.

The comparative “safe harbour” of the EFTA/EEA arrangement would also grant Britain time to enhance its policy-making capabilities. The evidence of the referendum campaigns and the debate that has followed indicate that there is a lot of learning to be done before Britain is ready to act as an independent force in the world.

I have had the idea described back to me in the following terms: First the UK must leave the EU in one piece (an EEA type deal) then the UK must discover/rediscover the art of democratic self-governance and become a fully independent, sovereign nation-state. The second cannot happen without the first and the first is contingent upon the second.

Crucially, the matter of “parliamentary sovereignty”, about which we have heard so much over recent weeks, will need to be properly addressed. It was parliamentary sovereignty that allowed MPs to take Britain into the EU without our consent and to keep us there for the next 43 years, signing one integrating treaty after another. Most of the MPs now in Parliament have no idea what Britain’s role in the EU is supposed to be or even why we ended up in the EU in the first place. The ignorance our elected officials display on a daily basis is truly staggering. Yet, even the low-grade standard of debate surrounding the topic of Brexit makes for a night and day contrast with the absence of discussion that accompanied new EU treaties and policies. The oleaginous, Peter Hain, even had the gall to describe the Treaty of Lisbon (the rebranded EU Constitutional Treaty) as a “tidying-up exercise”.

If this is how we have come to expect our MPs to behave, we are going to have to learn to hold them (and ourselves) to a much higher standard.

Perhaps we could begin with this, written by Kwasi Kwarteng MP, who campaigned to “leave” in the recent referendum. To say that his article is full of errors is an understatement. Frankly, it is an embarrassment. But, that is sadly what I have come to expect of the Tory “eurosceptics”, not one of which had the guts to call out the farcical Vote Leave campaign for attempting to corrupt the honourable cause of national independence and democratic self-government.

At this crucial juncture, as the debate begins to shift to the topic of “transitional arrangements” and what form they should take, the people and groups associated with the Vote Leave campaign are ceding the ground to ineffectual Remainers. Rather than insisting that any interim deal can only be acceptable if it involves, first of all, leaving the EU, and second of all, an alternative destination, the “Tory 60” are instead making non-proposals for unilateral withdrawal and trade on WTO terms. The alternative to a transition deal that takes us out of the EU is a “transition deal” that does not. What side are Tory “eurosceptics” on?

Losing The Plot

The go-to correspondent for reports from the SJW safe space, Sam Hooper, recently published his take on the “post-truth/post-fact” idiom which the political and media establishments in the UK and the USA have pushed since the pro-Brexit referendum victory in Britain and the election of Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, across the Atlantic. The venerable Pete North offers his thoughts on the matter here.

For my part, I find it extraordinary to see politicians and pundits, who still struggle to distinguish between the Single Market and the EU Customs Union, scolding members of the public and the alternative media for challenging the dominance of the increasingly lazy and feckless legacy media old-guard. In spite of being written out of the story (in Britain, in particular), bloggers, YouTubers and other grass roots campaigners undoubtedly played a major role (maybe even a definitive role) in swinging the referendum result towards Brexit.

To that end, this short clip of James O’Brien speaking on LBC distils the deadly combination of arrogance and ignorance which has come to define what some people still mistakenly refer to as the “mainstream” media. O’Brien begins, “What is it, the ten-minute hate? The three-minute hate? What is it in Nineteen Eighty-Four?”

Pause for just a moment. The fact that O’Brien cannot even recall that Orwell’s Oceania has a daily two-minute hate is a tad—I was tempted to say, “ironic”, but I think I shall settle on pathetic. James, if you’re going to lecture other people about publishing inaccurate content it helps if you do some research and get your facts right. Onward.

The amazing thing about Nineteen Eighty-Four is that Orwell presumed that when the totalitarian era began—and he, of course, saw the beginnings of it in Stalin’s Russia—he presumed that the media which just pumps out lies to a completely complacent public, he presumed that media would be built by the government.

At this point, one does begin to wonder if James O’Brien has ever read Nineteen Eighty-Four. Orwell did not make presumptions about the “totalitarian era” because he did not need to. The book was called, Nineteen Fourty-Eight, until his publisher said that was too controversial. As well as describing Communist tyranny, Nineteen Eighty-Four was a satire on the Hampstead “liberals” and “socialists” Orwell had known and grown to despise; the people of whom Orwell wrote:

Sometimes I look at a Socialist—the intellectual, tract-writing type of Socialist, with his pullover, his fuzzy hair, and his Marxian quotation—and wonder what the devil his motive really is. It is often difficult to believe that it is a love of anybody, especially of the working class, from whom he is of all people the furthest removed.

Back to O’Brien:

He presumed that the manipulative, dishonest media would be created by the manipulative, dishonest politicians. Even George Orwell did not foresee a world in which the population, the punters, the voters would create their own manipulative, dishonest media. Even George Orwell did not foresee how mad things have got in 2016, where an election has been pretty much decided on the other side of the Atlantic, and arguably a referendum has been decided here, based on absolute lies, disseminated by man-made media not government-made media. It was not the state-sponsored, if you will, media that pumped out nonsense.

The polite term for what O’Brien is doing here is “selection bias”. As much as the Vote Leave campaign told tedious, needless and destructive lies, which we in The Leave Alliance called out at every turn and at considerable volume throughout the referendum campaign, the state-supported Remain campaign was no better.

One of the most oft-repeated lies of the Remain campaign was that Norway, a country outside the EU yet inside the Single Market, has “no say” over Single Market rules. This assertion was repeated ad nauseum on BSE literature, on the BBC and by no less a figure than the Prime Minister when speaking to the House of Commons. The essence of the lie is in the use of the word “no”, which denotes a nullity, whereas the fact of the matter is that Norway is an active participant in what is known as the “decision-shaping” process and has full self-representation on global standards-setting bodies.

While the infamous £350 million lie was called out on so many occasions very few people could have been in any doubt that the figure was at best disputed, the “no say” lie, which was repeated with almost equal frequency by the Remainers, was never scrutinised by the BBC or even the government-backed Vote Leave campaign.

There is a phrase among the revolutionaries in the world of Winston Smith, “If there is hope, it lies in the proles”. Citizen-led media is ultimately the only kind that is worthwhile. If the legacy media absents itself from that role, other people will take over.

Once people start making their own media, the next thing you know they’ll be making their own government; of the people, by the people and for the people.

“Our Sovereign Parliament”

The legacy media coverage of the High Court decision to refer the judgement of the British people to the politicians elected to serve the British people emphasises one phrase in particular: “parliamentary sovereignty”.

This is interesting for several reasons. The campaign to leave the EU was not about “restoring” parliamentary sovereignty. Restoring—perhaps one should say, “taking back control”—of parliamentary sovereignty doesn’t make sense because parliamentary sovereignty was never lost. Parliamentary sovereignty was the means by which “British democracy” was made to serve the European Union (and its predecessors) these past 43 years.

The Brexit vote was an exercise in direct democracy—an unmediated expression of the will of the British people.

The political, academic and legacy media establishment, which dismissed as marginal obsessives those people who noted the extent of the economic, political and judicial integration to which the country was subject, are only now beginning to discuss the fact that, according to one report doing the rounds, “the Brexit process will test the UK’s constitutional and legal frameworks and bureaucratic capacities to their limits – and possibly beyond.”

That is about as clear an admission as we are ever likely to get that we were right and they were wrong. Establishment academics, politicians and journalists have been misleading people about the most important issue in British politics for the last four decades—and, in all seriousness, I think that a sincere apology is in order. Those people on the other side of the debate who argued that the EU is only a “trade bloc” (still a persistent refrain) or that the British state is not that integrated into the EU, and that therefore there is little to worry about, should take a long hard look in the mirror.

If the extent of the entanglement that is beginning to be described had been understood and communicated to people at the outset, there is no way that the British people would have given positive assent to UK participation in the EU political and judicial integration process. Parliament, on the other hand, assented to treaty after treaty which handed more and more policy-making power to the EU.

In closing, I think it is also worth noting that, in her statement outside the court room, Gina Miller called for a “proper debate in our sovereign parliament”. Note the use of the word “our”. Where else do we see that?

We had the debate, we made the decision, we don’t need our elected officials to assent to our democratic will.

The Lion And The Unicorn


The only way to wrest power away from our ruling elite is to take it. Voting to leave the European Union begins the process.

David Cameron has given us the means. Simply by putting an “X” on a piece of paper we can assert our sovereignty.

The box that no one is supposed to put an “X” in—the one that David Cameron wishes he had never put on the ballot—is a box that you may never see again outside a museum.

That box is your sole right to take power over your government.

That power normally only exists over the United Kingdom government. It does not exist for the European Union. No matter who you vote for in a general election, the European Union remains.

This one time you can participate in that most British of political processes—a ballot box revolution; an orderly transfer of power which removes the supremacy of the European Commission and the European Court of Justice from our national life.

Long before this campaign started, just after the Conservative Party’s unexpected election win, Alistair Campbell said on Question Time, “even having the debate is dangerous”. He was right. Democratic and accountable government are the best defence we know of against the hubristic and maladroit.

The absence of democracy across a wide range of policy areas is a feature of the European Union and it has an enormously detrimental affect upon the quality of our public life.

British voters cannot elect a government that can make changes at an EU level because the European Union is above the nation. The supranational character of the European Union excludes British voters from the process.

Do you want our parliament to be able to make laws concerning the areas of policy our politicians have given away to the European Union? If you do then you must instruct our politicians to return our governing power to the British parliament.

You can only do that by voting to leave the European Union.

We The People


Do we wish to be a self-confident, self-governing, free trading nation-state which looks out to the rest of the world as Britain or do we wish to remain subordinate to a supranational EU government which passes decisions over our heads and excludes the people from the democratic process? That really would be a retreat from the world.

The EU is ultimately about one thing. Power. Who has power and in whose interests is that power exercised? The same is true of this referendum.

Will we the people return power to democratic institutions which are accountable to us and therefore capable of reform? Or will we assent to politicians who want to empower the EU to keep power away from the people?

During the course of this referendum, the Prime Minister, most of his ministers and a majority of the MPs in Parliament have set themselves up in opposition to the people. This has not been anything like a “free and fair referendum”. In order for that to have happened, the government would have needed to either fall silent or produce evidence-based reports for both of the two possible outcomes. Instead, Remain-minded politicians have used the machinery of government to produce tax-payer funded propaganda.

In spite of the stacked deck with which David Cameron and George Osborne are playing, we Leavers have more than held our own. Cameron started with a treasury report. Then he put the IMF on the table. That was followed by the OECD and The Bank of England. The President of the United States of America even waded into the debate with Cameron looking on approvingly as he threatened not to do a deal with a post-exit Britain.

How can we few, we happy few, possibly compete with that?

Well, the fact of the matter is that we have, for one main reason, which has nothing to do with the politicians or any of the nonsense we have heard from the designated campaign. Cameron is not playing games against any one of us, he is playing against all of us, and when we the British people speak the politicians will have no option but to listen.

The eyes of the world are upon us. Think about that.

The entire course of enlightened human history is at our backs. The fight for democratic and accountable government is something for which people around the world have laid down their lives. We need only put a cross on a ballot paper. There is nothing to be afraid of. There is no challenge that we the people of the United Kingdom cannot face together.

The start of a process of democratic revival and renewal begins with an assertion of sovereignty and the demand that Parliament return policy-making power to institutions which are accountable to us. If you wish to live in an independent Britain that is self-confident, self-governing, with our minds open to the world and looking forward to the adventures still to come, we must vote to leave the European Union.

A Matter Of Trust

Prior to the start of the referendum campaign Prime Minister, David Cameron, told the House of Commons that: “My argument is not going to be, in any way, that Britain couldn’t succeed outside the European Union. Of course we could. We’re a great country”. The implication is obvious. Leaving the EU is a reasonable option that would not spell disaster for Britain. Although the Prime Minister would prefer that Britain remain in the EU, the choice is yours.

Since the start of the campaign period, however, Cameron and Osborne (arguably even more so) have not argued a positive case for EU governance but have instead issued a series of increasingly hysterical “projections” culminating in threats of a “punishment budget” from Osborne and Cameron’s utterly bizarre insistence that should Britain vote to leave the EU—rather than planning a serious transition from EU Member State to independent self-government—he would “immediately” invoke Article 50 and take Britain out of the Single Market at the point of EU exit.

That would be an extraordinary act of economic vandalism. The fact of the matter is that a vote to leave the EU would signal the start of a parliamentary process. Nothing more. Vote Leave has no mandate to govern and David Cameron is in the midst of a referendum campaign which he is desperate to win. Foolish prognostications about what would happen after a vote to leave the EU can be safely shelved. The most likely outcome in the event of a leave vote is an EEA type transition adapted for the unique circumstances in which Britain finds itself—a kind of “British option”, if you like.

On The Road Again

On Sunday morning the politicians returned to campaigning. A naive person might have expected a calmer more respectful debate. George Osborne’s call for “less baseless assertion and inflammatory rhetoric and more reasoned argument and facts” on the Robert Peston programme hinted in that direction but was accompanied by an article in The Sunday Telegraph written by David Cameron in which he described leaving the EU as “an abject and self-imposed humiliation for a proud and important country like ours”.

There is nothing quite like a Prime Minister who believes in Britain… and David Cameron is nothing like a Prime Minister who believes in Britain. These cynical liars have shamed the great offices of state we have so carelessly allowed them to occupy.

On top of that, the Stronger In and associated social media accounts started to publicise this image.

This marks a new low in the quite extraordinarily low-grade debate that politicians and the legacy media have indulged in.

In contrast, the debate that I have witnessed among ordinary voters has been of an entirely different order. For the most part, civil engagement and a genuine exchange of views has been taking place. Far more so than is typical at the average general election. People understand that this vote really counts.

There is, however, one aspect of that Remain campaign graphic to which I would draw people’s attention and invite them to reflect. The flag is that of the United Kingdom—our country—not that of the EU, a supranational organisation used by politicians to pass decision-making power and policy control over the heads of the British people to unaccountable institutions which do not have to listen to us.

In the end, the choice that we have to make comes down to a matter of trust. Who do you trust to make better decisions about your life and the way in which your country is governed? You and your fellow citizens? Or an international establishment with a vested interest in taking power away from ordinary people? Goldman Sachs? JP Morgan? Morgan Stanley? Do those sound like institutions which have your interests at heart—all have given money to the campaign to keep Britain in the EU.

Look again at the table above.

You are most certainly not alone in holding leading politicians in the same contempt that they have evinced towards us. Aware that his credibility is shot the Prime Minister now condescends people further by saying “all” the experts are on his side and that we should listen to those experts.

This silly rhetoric rings so hollow. Democracy is about government by and for the people not by and for the experts and I would not want it any other way. Indeed, leaving the EU means taking decisions as a country rather than meekly accepting policies agreed in Brussels and imposed from above.

That is why voting to leave the EU is a vote for real change, that is why people who currently occupy positions of power in this country and elsewhere mostly oppose Britain leaving the EU. Leaving the EU would mean British politicians being held to account by we the people.

Talk to your family, talk to your friends. Listen to what they have to say. The politicians and the press want to manipulate you. Those whom you trust want what is best for you. Find out what they are thinking. Don’t vote based on fear. Vote for what you think is right.

Thinking For Ourselves


The Guardian today carries this slightly equivocal anti-Brexit piece written by Andrew Graham. The thesis is one that we have heard a hundred different variants on during the course of the campaign: leaving the EU would diminish British influence in the world.

This is so obviously untrue that refuting it seems almost unnecessary. The EU benefits from Parliament passing policy-making power—and a degree of responsibility for the nation’s international representation—over the heads of the British people to supranational institutions which are not in any real sense of the word democratic.

The upside for all of us of Britain’s national governance being mediated through the EU rather than through politicians who we can hold to account in our democratically elected national parliament is far less clear.

I would put it to you that the trade-offs Britain makes in terms of the autonomy, agility and accountability of our domestic politics are not worth the candle. National democracy is designed to be self-correcting whereas EU governance is designed to remove policy-making power and democratic safeguards from traditional nation-states.

The article begins reasonably enough.

Almost everyone agrees that the EU is not working well. It is also true that on almost any scenario, whether we are in or out, this region will remain our biggest and closest market. Whether it thrives or not is, or should be, of fundamental interest to us. All that matters is whether it thrives more or less by the UK being out or in.

In fact, an earlier post of mine, in which I argue almost the opposite case to Andrew Graham, begins with a similar rejoinder:

The EU is in a pretty bad way. Leavers and Remainers agree on that much, I think.

So, we do indeed agree on that much it seems. Where we begin to disagree is when Mr Graham says, “All that matters is whether it [the EU] thrives more or less by the UK being out or in”. Certainly the rest of Europe doing well is in Britain’s interests, but the suggestion that “all that matters” is the success or otherwise of the EU neglects to address the enormous political question with which the United Kingdom is faced: independent self-governance or supranational subordination?

Should Britain and the British people have the power to hold policy-makers to account in democratic elections which can change the government and with that the direction of the country every four to five years (now every five years under the Fixed Term Parliament Act) or should we accept the authority of a supranational government in which Britain is a constituent part but no longer the supreme law-making authority in the British Isles?

Returning to the case that Mr Graham makes. He continues:

For some, the only way to reform the EU is to break it up by our exit. The optimism of such a view is impressive. History is hardly littered with good examples of destruction leading smoothly to regeneration. Fine, perhaps, for the rich and powerful, who can, and will, ride out the many bumps along the way. But if you have few resources to fall back on and/or need to work, it is a risk you might prefer to avoid.

Once again, I agree with most of that. However, I do not foresee the break-up of the EU if Britain leaves. This report in The Telegraph indicates that “senior diplomatic sources” are increasingly resigned to the prospect of Britain leaving the EU, but they are not prepared to offer further concessions.

This is the kind of pragmatic attitude that one would expect from an official; a far cry from the politicians and journalists who dominate debate in the increasingly disconnected legacy media. The rest of the EU would regard Britain leaving with some regret but Britain’s EU membership has been fractious ever since Edward Heath lied in order to take Britain into what was then the European Economic Community (EEC).

The Telegraph report goes on to say that increasingly EU officials are insisting that the union will emerge stronger than before if its most reluctant member does choose to withdraw following next week’s vote. The commitment of the other EU Member States to “ever closer union” is and always was far more firm than that of Britain, due in no small part to The Great Deception which generations of British politicians have perpetuated.

The EU is not a trade bloc, it is a government, but still the “remain” camp almost exclusively argues its case on the basis of economics and not politics. The few areas of policy which the “remain” side will promote concern workers rights and environmental protections which are associated with the EU simply because that is the legislative and regulatory portal through which Britain accesses those particular global conventions. Outside of the EU, Britain would still be one of the primary framers of those rules-based frameworks, but it would be for Parliament to decide how said provisions would be coded into law.

Staying with the Telegraph article, the reports of “daily calls between European capitals discussing contingency plans for a Brexit” offer further positive signs that the EU is taking this matter seriously and that a managed transition is in the offing. The quoted source continues:

“[Post-Brexit t]he EU will have found an identity and will have moved forward, deepending in key areas like monetary union and defence”

Precisely the areas of policy in which the UK is not involved and is not likely to be. “The source dismissed Britain as ‘not a player’ in core areas of the EU and said that people in Brussels now believe it will ‘be better to have a reluctant player outside the tent'”. Indeed, relations between Britain and the EU have been strained—largely owing to the deception and self-deception of British MPs and cabinet ministers regarding the fundamental nature of the EU project—for a very long time.

To that end, I sometimes find myself agreeing with statements made by EU officials which other Brexiteers highlight as ‘scare stories’.

Do not get me wrong, some of the statements made by EU officials opposing democracy and the nation-state are truly beyond the pale, but others are simple statements of fact. For instance, the infamous Jean-Claude Junker comment that: “There can be no democratic choice against the EU treaties”. All he is really saying here is that EU Member States are legally bound to uphold the agreement that they have signed. In other words, if you assent to be an EU Member State then the supreme law-making authority in your country is the EU—the European Commission is the executive, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union are the legislature, and the European Court of Justice is the judiciary.

To detour for a moment, that comment is particularly apposite in the case of Britain because it is part of Britain’s political culture to abide by the agreements which we sign. If the agreement is not working in our interest or is not working to advance the public good then we should end the agreement in an orderly fashion. The fact that doing so in the case of the EU is so problematical—made more so by the Prime Minister and the Chancellor’s refusal to engage in rational debate—is again indicative of its unique character in the realm of international affairs.

This is a key reason why the ongoing humbug about “reform” must now stop. Britain and the other EU Member States have a fundamentally different perspective on what the EU is and what the EU should be. Hammering the point home, The Telegraph source says: “Everyone tells us we have given Britain too much, bent the rules too far, they ask us ‘how can you still look at yourself in the mirror’; there is an opt-out for ever closer union and a migration benefits brake.”

This is so far removed from what even “remain” campaigners in the UK, who are now once again proposing that Britain should stay in the EU in order to fight for yet more “reform”, had hoped that the Prime Minister would achieve that there is no way to square that circle. The better option is to abandon the unreality of “reform” and accept that EU structures are not suited to Britain and that they never will be.

Trading and co-operating together does not require common government and nobody can deny it. It is highly irresponsible for the Prime Minister of all people, who one might hope would stand at least a little bit above the fray, to have gone from saying that of course Britain could succeed outside the EU to saying that leaving the EU and the Single Market would “put a bomb under our economy”.

But now, even at this late stage in the campaign, I must turn my ire on Vote Leave. Dominic Cummings’ refusal to recognise the need for transitional arrangements which would safeguard the British economy at the point of exit was entirely needless. A phased transition which recognises the political reality of a “fork in the road” for the eurozone would have made for a much firmer base for a Brexit campaign. Credible reassurance and an alternative vision should have been the Vote Leave watch words.

Not that I personally think—and time may tell on this, when the histories and post-referendum analyses come to be written—Vote Leave has necessarily been a particularly important actor in the rise in support for a “leave” vote. My view is of a piece with that of John Mann, who said on the BBC Daily Politics: “There’s the Vote Leave vs Remain battle and then there’s the real debate in the country”. We shall see, I suppose.

This all throws into sharp relief the next section of The Guardian article: “The alternative view is that the UK could, and should, play its full role as a key leader in reforming the EU.” Frankly, this is absurd. Britain is not in the euro nor Schengen. The idea of Britain “leading” from the periphery is a complete non-starter. It is not a case of “selling ourselves short” to recognise that the EU centres around the eurozone and that outside of that there is no good reason—indeed there are considerable downsides—associated with continuing with an arrangement that takes policy control away from Westminster and Whitehall and substitutes our independent voice and vote at the global level for a “common position” decided by the EU-28 and inevitably dominated by the eurozone core.

Without responsibility for trade, fisheries and agriculture in particular and with a diminished responsibility for foreign and defence policy, which is now partially administered and agreed at EU level, Britain has lost something of the reflex for thinking in terms of our global role.

Outside of the EU, however, joined-up policy-making—which is not possible while Britain has to accept the EU “common position” in trade talks, on global standards-setting bodies and increasingly at the UN—would allow Britain to innovate and introduce new ideas which represent the best that the British people have to offer the world.

Contra David Cameron and George Osborne’s outrageous scare stories, news has been leaking out about civil service plans to leave the EU in a controlled manner. These have even found their way into the legacy press; most notably perhaps on BBC Newsnight.

If you would like to know more about how Britain should and would disengage from EU political union and reorient our relationship with the rest of the EU so that it better suits both Britain and our continental partners, then please dig into the archive on this blog and click-through to the read material produced by the other Leave Alliance bloggers listed in the sidebar.

This is your choice. Get as informed as you can and make what you think is the right choice.

Here are a few selected posts:

What is the EU? — The EU Is A Government

Why we should leave — The EU Is Anti-Democratic

No future “reform” — Remainers Want To Bury Dave’s Dodgy Deal

An important point of information — The EU Is Not The Single Market

Managing the risks — Running Towards Risk

A gradual transition (a process not an event) — A Transition Plan

Rebuilding the policy framework — Self-Governance And Global Engagement

No quick fix — On Immigration

An international perspective — Thinking Beyond The Bubble

A better way to do trade — The Future Is Multilateral Not Supranational

A positive vision — Rediscovering Our Global Voice

The heart of the matter — A Point Of Principle

A Point Of Principle


It is generally accepted that Britain could succeed outside the EU. Polling data indicates that most people think that over the longer-term Britain would be better off outside the EU. It is only over the short-term that people expect a bit of a wobble. In other words, it is the transition that concerns people.

Indeed, the consensus runs so deep that the Prime Minister, who has since taken to embarrassing himself with silly scare stories which nobody could believe, told the House of Commons earlier this year that: “My argument is not going to be, in any way, that Britain couldn’t succeed outside the European Union. Of couse we could. We’re a great country”.

That magnanimity has been well and truly lost in the heat of referendum battle—I am not sure debate is the right word as no real exchange of ideas is occurring. The Remain side will not recognise that the project which they insist upon promoting in terms of economics is wholly political and that leaving or remaining in the EU is about who governs Britain. Should the United Kingdom be a self-governing democracy or should the United Kingdom be subordinate to a supranational government based in Brussels? That is the question.

The real argument therefore concerns democracy and self-determination, not money nor workers rights. Britain has a proud history of support for working people—rights that were hard-won and are now so ingrained that they are taken for granted. Sure, there are debates around the margins, but it is only in the fervor of a referendum campaign that anybody could argue that entire tranches of policy could be surrendered without any form of defiance. The idea is laughable.

Now, however, the government, in the form of Chancellor George Osborne—supported by former Chancellor Alistair Darling—are resorting to outright threats and intimidation. I do not know anybody committed to leaving the EU who does not acknowledge that there is likely to be some kind of turbulence on the financial markets if the British people hold their nerve and vote for the freedom for which their forebears fought. That has been factored in and is a price that is well worth paying. This goes way beyond that.

George Osborne is now claiming that a vote to leave the EU “would mean less money. Billions less” and that he would raise taxes and cut spending as a result. This is not congruent with the Remain line that leaving the EU would be a “leap in the dark”. When did that change? Or did it? Are voters supposed to think that leaving the EU is economically uncertain or certainly disastrous?

The result is confusion and that I think is the purpose of “Project Fear”. It is not to scare people, as such, it is to bewilder and befuddle. With all of the competing information in the ether how can you possibly trust your own judgement and decide on such an important matter for yourself?

The purpose of The Leave Alliance bloggers throughout this referendum campaign has been to bring some much needed clarity to proceedings—to narrow the plausibility scope with respect to how Britain could leave the EU—in order that the decision facing people may be made comprehensible. Of course there are uncertainties and one has doubts, but that does not mean that you are helpless, a child alone in need of adult supervision and entirely beholden to “experts”.

Ultimately, the decision in this referendum is simple. Either you vote for democracy and accountable government or you submit to people who would bully and cajole you into voting for something else.

To that end, I fear that the lead for “leave” is soft. The Vote Leave campaign is not making the kinds of reassuring noises that people need to hear. We cannot know what “leave” looks like but we can make credible proposals for how Britain could leave the EU with minimal disruption. I have done so and the other Leave Alliance bloggers have done so several times.

Broadly speaking the safe route out of the EU involves seeking to rejoin EFTA in order to use the EEA agreement as a transitional step on the road to something far better—as outlined in the Flexcit plan—a genuine European free trade area. But the Vote Leave campaign is such that the more visionary aspects of what Britain’s future could be outside the moribund EU have of necessity been neglected so as to emphasise the importance of taking that first step on the road to an independent Britain.

I know at least one person who would be voting to leave the EU were Michael Gove making the arguments that I have put to him about an EEA transition. Credible proposals for managing the Brexit transition could make all the difference at this stage. But I can only reach so many.

I have never been in any doubt that I would vote for Britain to leave the European Union on the 23rd June. It was never about the money and I have never needed reassurance about the economy—never in human history has people having more freedom led to less prosperity. Whatever number George Osborne plucks out of the air, democracy and accountable government are worth that price.

Are There Any Credible Reasons To Remain?


The Remainers have had every opportunity to present referendum voters with a positive vision for Britain’s future inside the supranational EU. Yet, I have still not heard a single credible reason to accept that the EU should remain the supreme law-making authority in the British Isles. Everything offered either relates to the Single Market—which non-EU Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein participate in via the EFTA/EEA agreement—or awards credit for achievements that were hard-won by phlegmatic British people down the ages to the EU bureaucracy.

To that end the dismally negative Stronger In campaign has sought to suborn the British people’s battles for workers rights, our proud history of trades union membership, and solidarity between working people more generally; the fight for women’s rights, from the Suffragettes through to Barbara Castle and the Equal Pay Act 1970, and onward to today; as well as our deep seated commitment to environmental protection, and love of the countryside, given poetic form by Shelly, Byron and Wordsworth, and later legal form in the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949.

What we have witnessed in lieu of a positive future vision is witless abuse, scowling and condescension. Though the words may change, the message is always the same; know your place, the people that matter have already decided for you.

So, it came to be that I found myself reading yet another article written by Simon Tilford, this one petulantly titled, “If we leave the EU, other countries will think we’re a bunch of spoilt children. They’ll be right”. This, ladies and gentleman is what psychologists call “projection”.

Even the thought of Britain leaving the EU—there is still a lot of work to be done—is enough for many people among the Remain contingent to throw their toys out of the pram. Tilford’s article, like so many others, does not make the case for supranational EU government, it is just a litany of self-pity, ennui and despair.

If only everybody else were as “intelligent” or “enlightened” as he. Or could be made to be. Now there is a thought. Why ever address the grubby perspectives of the rabble when supranational institutions above the traditional nation-state can remove the electorate from the equation?

The heart of Tilford’s gripe is the refusal of us lowly plebs to recognise that common government is necessary to access and participate in the Single Market (only, it isn’t):

Although British Eurosceptics are determined to see things differently, the UK does extremely well out of the EU. Thanks to its negotiating skills and brinkmanship it enjoys special status: the country is a full member with unimpeded access to the single market – the most successful bit of the EU – but is not a member of the eurozone, which is without doubt the EU’s greatest failure. The rest of the eurozone has not foisted damaging policies on Britain, as they have on Italy and Greece. Nor is Britain a member of the Schengen passport-free area, though one would be hard put to know this from the hysterical coverage of the refugee crisis in the British press.

Once again we find a Remainer implying that the EU is a trading organisation rather than a government which makes policies for Britain and the other EU Member States— and increasingly seeks to override our independent representation at the international level.

This is also yet another example of a Remainer arguing that the best parts of Britain’s relationship with the EU are the areas in which Britain is less integrated than the other EU Member States. There is a certain logic to that if Tilford cared to follow it to its conclusion.

Remaining in the EU means more remote and less accountable decision-making and if there is a case for imposing a one-size-fits-all policy approach to a vast geographical area as large as the European continent then I have yet to hear it. Indeed, I have not heard anybody in the Remain camp even attempting to make that case.

No, it is all fear, lies and despair. Yet, sometimes in the same sentence as asserting that Britain is too small, too weak and too stupid to exercise the same level of independence as say Suriname, Barbados or Panama, let alone Australia, New Zealand or the USA, Remainers will also say that Britain leaving the EU would bring an end to Western civilisation and provoke a global recession. Where the hell do these people get off telling us that our arguments are not firmly based?

The fact is that Remainers refuse to engage with the best arguments that we have to offer, preferring to spar with the numpties at the heart of Vote Leave.

The rest of the article is yet more tedious and irrelevant allusions to “imperial nostalgia”, as if that means anything to anybody voting in 2016. This is just another rhetorical stick Tilford enjoys using against people with which he is unable to argue.

The article concludes: “The damage Brexit will inflict on the EU and on the broader Western international order will be seen by the EU and the US as an act of strategic vandalism, and the UK will not easily be forgiven for it. The country will rightly be seen as unserious and unreliable.” So here again we have Tilford more concerned about the “damage” that the people of Britain asserting their commitment to nation-state democracy would have upon another sovereign state and a supranational treaty organisation. I am not impressed and nor am I convinced. These petulant bully-boy tactics are really not good enough.

Most countries are not in the EU. The UK has only a limited role in the EU outside of the euro and outside of Schengen and none of the Remainers even attempt to argue otherwise. The purpose of the EU is political and judicial union. Those that wish to amalgamate should be left to do so. Britain will be a far better friend and ally to the EU working as a co-operative partner rather than as a subordinate sub-unit.

Serious countries are self-governing and that is what Britain needs to be.