The Leave Option

With Vote Leave apparently spiralling into irrelevancy, perhaps we can now move past the problematising of the Brexit proposition by that ghastly campaign.

Just by means of a recap, Matthew Elliott is on the record as saying, “If the government gets a two-tier Europe, we’re very much in”, and, in spite of being given numerous opportunities to retract that statement, he has neglected to do so. Furthermore, a two-tier EU is precisely what David Cameron envisions when he talks about a “British model of membership”. So, presumably, Elliott would campaign for Britain to remain in the EU should the Prime Minister successfully pull a myxomatosis-ridden rabbit out of his ratty old hat.

Likewise, Dominic Cummings’ assertion that Article 50 of the TEU is not the “only route out” is either an invitation for Britain to void its treaty responsibilities—creating legal chaos—or an open admission that he and Vote Leave are not seriously campaigning for Britain to leave the EU. The later possibility looks to be the more likely of the two when one factors in Daniel Hannan’s repeated insistence that a “vote to leave” would prompt the offer of “proper concessions” and an “associate membership” role for Britain in a two-tier EU.

So, there you have it, the Vote Leave con exposed, the Elliott-Cummings-Hannan nexus laid bare. The fact that no legacy journalist has the wit to tell this story should tell you something very important about the legacy media.

Indeed, in spite of the fact that the proposition on the ballot paper will be “leave” and the two big campaign groups are called Leave.EU and Vote Leave, the press pack still insists upon referring to the referendum as a contest between an “In” and an “Out” campaign. Little wonder that small technicalities, such as the fact that Vote Leave (in its present form) is not campaigning for Britain to leave the EU, but only for a “vote to leave” as a means to secure “proper concession” and “associate membership”, should escape their attention.

Among those of us who are following the mainstream debate—opposed to the witterings of disingenuous and incurious hacks—the disintegration of Vote Leave should provide an opportunity for Brexiteers to have a proper house clean. There must now be absolute clarity regarding the fact that a vote to leave the EU will—in good time—result in an Article 50 notification and a negotiation to agree a new relationship with the EU based upon trade and intergovernmental co-operation—and that as a means to assure economic and job security in the short- to medium-term Britain should seek to participate in the Single Market via the EFTA/EEA.

In the event of a vote to leave the European Union, the British civil service will aim to accomplish the task in hand through whatever means causes least disruption. That means a negotiated exit via Article 50 beginning with an application to join the EFTA/EEA. This sequence is not a matter for debate; this is how the British government will respond to a vote to leave the European Union.

Fortunately, this option suits Brexiteers very well indeed, especially when one factors in the idea that, as part of the Flexcit plan, this is merely Britain’s first step into a much wider world, with measures for greater global engagement and democratic reform proceeding in stages thereafter.

To that end, it is also worth noting that most of the problems critics raise with the EFTA/EEA option are false. The EEA acquis (body of law) is roughly 21 percent of “EU law” and the overwhelming majority of that is technical standards for trade which are agreed at a global level where all independent countries—but not EU Member States—have full self-representation and a right of reservation that compels a law-making approach based upon consensus building.

Crucially, EFTA/EEA member countries are not subordinate to EU institutions, such as the European Commission, or subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

Given that this is the option that the British government will plumb for in the event of a leave vote, Brexiteers will be doing themselves a very big favour once they accept and start to promote this pragmatic course of action. The anti-Brexit campaign, which wants to scare people into acceptance of the absurd premise that it is in your interests for spending and policy priorities to be determined by institutions that are not accountable to any national electorate, has no legitimate answer to the Leave Option.

A Massive Power Grab


As I noted in my previous post, the “remain” campaign is not so much pro-EU as anti-Brexit.

That would be understandable were the “remainers” defending a static status quo that has served us well, but, as even the British legacy media is beginning to acknowledge, there is no status quo when it comes to Britain’s EU membership.

To that end, Britain Stronger in Europe (BSE) does not even attempt to explain the benefits associated with supranational governance (whatever those may be) or EU representation in international forums. Instead, it makes repeated assertions about the nasty consequences that would result from Britain’s EU withdrawal.

Trade and international co-operation would be put in jeopardy and Britain would become an international pariah, apparently. Of course, were the EU to behave in such a capricious manner—flaunting treaty obligations and international conventions—the negative consequences for the EU would be far more significant than anything facing Britain.

The fact that the “remainers” feel able to make these glib assertions and expect to be taken seriously also speaks to the notion that British europhiles do not think very highly of the EU. Why would the need for EU “reform” be conceded so readily if Britain’s relationship with EU institutions was as hunky dory as BSE and British Influence claim?

Some of those among the anti-Brexit community even go so far as to say that Britain should be “punished” for leaving the EU. With respect to which, only somebody who feels loyalty to the EU, rather than to their own country, could imagine that argument having any purchase among the British electorate. The British have a tendency to grin and bear a lot, but start to make direct threats against people’s well-being and watch as even the mild-mannered middle classes resolve to become ballot box revolutionaries.

Secondly, there is a peculiar counter-logic at work in thinking that EU exit is so unattractive that a post-Brexit Britain should be “punished” to deter other departures.

Finally, as much as I criticise the British legacy media for being largely useless and all too often manipulative, it seems only right to give a little bit of credit when one of its denizens makes a worthwhile observation. The person in question is Faisal Islam, Political Editor for Sky News, who notes that it is not only the “remainers” who are lining up a fear campaign—based upon economic uncertainty—but also the big “leave” campaigns, which are beginning to promote their own brand of fear—based upon EU freedom of movement and Britain’s unpopular immigration policy.

I would guide very strongly against following either of the big campaigns down that particular path. There is an important debate to be had about immigration, but EU (actually EEA or Single Market) freedom of movement is not the problem that Nigel Farage would have people think. Mr Farage, who used to talk about immigration as only one of a subset of policy issues, has led his party down a back alley and arrived at a dead end by making immigration his number one priority. The “leave” campaigns should not do the same.

The real Brexit prize is self-governance.

Leaving the EU is not about immigration control, it is about policy control.

A Brexit campaign centred on the issue of self-governance is a campaign with something for everybody.

To alight upon the issue of trade, once again, surrendering Britain’s power to conduct international trade talks and to have an independent voice and right of reservation on international standards-setting bodies does not enhance Britain’s power, it enhances the EU’s power at Britain’s expense—and that is an argument which can be had across the board. Just name a policy area.

The argument that europhiles make about EU membership giving Britain more “clout” is a classic Orwellian inversion. The opposite is the case. Britain’s EU membership gives the EU more “clout”. Britain’s EU withdrawal would reduce the EU’s standing and enhance Britain’s. Blogging colleague Paul Reynolds expands upon this idea over at The EU Question.

We are all too used to stories about the latest “EU power grab”. Leaving the EU is the opportunity for a massive power grab by the British electorate. Little wonder the politicians are worried.

The Anti-Brexit Campaign

I don’t know about you, but I am beginning to wonder when the Britain Stronger in Europe (BSE) campaign, British Influence, the Tory Party, the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats, the Green Party, and not forgetting the Prime Minister and his mainly pro-EU Cabinet, are going to start promoting the “benefits” associated with supranational governance and the subordination of British institutions to the European Union.

There is a lot of talk about trade with the EU, as if that would end the moment that Britain submits an Article 50 notification. There is some talk about security, as if international co-operation is entirely dependent upon EU representatives speaking on behalf of Britain and the rest of Europe in global forums. But there is precious little about the driving aim and fundamental purpose of the European Union to subordinate the historic nations of Europe to a supranational tier of governance that will eventually become their interface to the rest of the world.

There is some vague talk from the likes of Nick Clegg about EU membership increasing Britain’s “clout” in intergovernmental activities like trade talks, but the assertion is completely counter-inductive. Britain surrendering the power to conduct trade talks does not give Britain more clout, it gives the EU more clout—and it should go without saying that the EU does not talk on behalf of Britain but on behalf of the EU. If pro-EU campaigners care to argue why empowering Brussels benefits Britain, I would like to hear their arguments.

For the time being, however, we have to put up with people telling us that trade and international co-operation are not possible without EU membership, despite the fact that of 193 UN Member States only 28 are members of an organisation called the European Union. Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Kenya, Nigeria, Chad, Togo, Brazil, Jamaica, etc. are all independent countries. Yet we are supposed to believe that Britain and the British people are incapable or unworthy of independent self-government? Really?

The domestic forces that support Britain’s EU membership are not even trying to make the pro-EU case. For that, you need to listen to the likes of the former Prime Minister of Belgium, Guy Verhofstadt, who is commendably open about EU plans and the fact that remaining means being under the European Commission and subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. The “remainers” are not making a positive pro-EU case; they are just spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt about Brexit. Do you ever wonder why?

A Paradigm Problem

In 1962, Thomas Kuhn published a book called, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, in which he popularised the term “paradigm shift”. A paradigm is a coherent worldview, and a paradigm shift is an event that occurs when a particular view of the world is challenged and then, eventually, changed. A paradigm shift is not about “reform” of the existing system, but “fundamental change” to a new order of things. In other words, a revolution.

These thoughts mirror the premises of a recent blog post in which Pete North challenged his readers to “embrace uncertainty”.

The idea reflects Khun’s notion that knowledge and understanding do not advance via the progressive accumulation of accepted facts and theories, but from periods of revolution, during which “anomalies” are recognised and new paradigms are constructed. Uncertainty creates the opportunity to move the debate beyond the mere “puzzle-solving” activities of the previous generation, to change the entire game.

Leaving the EU presents Britain and the rest of the world with such an opportunity. The positive energy that would accompany Britain’s affirmation that independent self-government and equal co-operation will be the means through which our domestic and foreign affairs are to be ordered in the 21st century would provide a beacon to all of the nations and peoples of the world still struggling for the kinds of freedoms and representation that we so foolishly take for granted and for which we seem so reluctant to fight, even when “fighting” means writing a letter or a blog post or even just starting a conversation.

To see a group of establishment selfservatives attempting to choke off that possibility for hope and renewal is something far worse than a scandal. To see the legacy media ignore and misrepresent the struggle to prevent the “leave” campaign being used as a vehicle to further their own squalid little ends is a disgrace.

However, it is not for the Westminster bubble-dwellers and others who are trapped in an exhausted and soon to be extinguished paradigm that I write; it is for those who are capable of listening to, understanding and making use of new information. The journos have their narrative: the “eurosceptics” are “squabbling” or “in-fighting” or “bickering”, as usual. What our media does not understand is that there is a point of principle at stake. A very important point of principle.

Vote Leave is not campaigning for Britain to leave the EU.

I am aware that must sound strange. But the assertion is based wholly on statements made by Vote Leave spokespersons, all of which are publicly available and readily verifiable.

The group is campaigning only for a “vote to leave” which the Tory Party can then use as a means to secure “proper concessions” and “associate membership” in a two-tier EU. Those are the words of Vote Leave Director, Daniel Hannan MEP, spoken plainly and matter of factly during an interview with Andrew Neil on the BBC Daily Politics programme. And, just this evening, The Telegraph published an article by Vote Leave adjunct Allister Heath in which he urges Tory politicians to support the “leave” proposition on the basis that: “you really can back Leave even if your real aim is to negotiate a much looser relationship rather than secede fully.”

It is as simple and as profound as that. Vote Leave is not campaigning for Britain to leave the EU—and in what will be a hard fought campaign in which kind, warm-hearted and generous people will expend their time, their energy and their money to support a cause in which they truly believe, the continuance of The Great Deception is something that should not be allowed to stand and must be challenged.

Working For The Other Side

The outcome of a vote for Britain to “leave” the European Union (EU) must be Britain’s negotiated EU exit (or ‘Brexit’) via Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), Brexit being so defined as Britain’s withdrawal from EU Treaties, Institutions and Representation.

The fact that this even needs saying is a serious reflection on the lengths to which the Vote Leave campaign has so far gone in problematising the idea of Brexit.

The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism

Brexit bloggers have expressed numerous concerns about the Vote Leave campaign, with much of the best work being done by The Boiling Frog and Mr Brexit.

This blog featured its first such piece in September 2015—prior to the official launch of Vote Leave—in which it was noted that, in June 2015, then CEO of Business for Britain, Matthew Elliott, told a reporter for the London Evening Standard: “If the Government gets a two-tier Europe, we’re very much in”.

To that end, it should be noted that Business for Britain and Matthew Elliott both have a long record of support for the “reform” of Britain’s relationship with the EU. Indeed, until as recently as October 2015, following Mr Elliott’s departure from Business for Britain to become CEO of Vote Leave Ltd, the Business for Britain website contained an “About Us” section that stated:

Business for Britain exists to give a voice to the large, but often silent, majority among Britain’s business community who want to see fundamental changes made to the terms of our EU membership.

Got that? “[F]undamental changes… to the terms of [Britain’s] EU membership”.

Under the heading, “Do you agree with us?”—also published in the “About Us” section of the Business for Britain website—the organisation asked (itself) a series of questions. One of these was: “You talk about renegotiation, but isn’t your campaign really about leaving the EU?” To which the following response was written (my emphasis):

What unites supporters of Business for Britain is an agreement that the status quo in our relationship is not working and that the Government is right to seek a new deal for the EU and the UK’s terms of membership. Instead of pushing the debate to the extreme corners of In vs Out, we should be having a sensible discussion about what is right and what is wrong in our current arrangements. Resisting renegotiation and denying people a say will push public sentiment further towards Out and fast-track an EU exit.

Characterising those who advocate that Britain leave the EU as “extreme” and asserting that “sensible discussion” be limited to “what is right and what is wrong in our current arrangements” is hardly consistent with the putative aim of leading the “leave” campaign in an EU referendum. Even Matthew Elliott’s introduction to Business for Britain’s report, Change or Go: How Britain would gain influence and prosper outside an unreformed EU, is focused on “[setting] out what changes should be sought from renegotiation”.

In spite of numerous opportunities being offered to retract his earlier statements about wanting Britain to be in a two-tier EU, the Vote Leave CEO has neglected to do so.

A System of Rhetoric

When six Tory MPs came out in favour of the Vote Leave campaign, I wrote a post in which I attempted to demystify the system of rhetoric that is used (almost) universally by Tory MPs when discussing the matter of Britain’s EU membership. The so-called “leavers” and the “remainers” alike will talk about a “new relationship” for Britain and “fundamental change” in a “reformed EU”.

The article that James Cleverly wrote for Conservative Home about his “coming out for out”, asserts that: “We need new relationships and, without that fundamental change in the EU, the only way that will be possible is for the UK to leave.” This, you will note, is not an unequivocal statement of support for the idea of Britain leaving the EU.

Likewise, the article that Chris Grayling wrote for The Daily Telegraph, which was given the hysterical headline, “Chris Grayling calls EU ‘disastrous’ for Britain in clearest signal yet he plans to back Leave campaign” and trailed as Grayling becoming the first Cabinet Minister to break from the herd. When you read the words as written, the reality is much less dramatic:

I am someone who believes that simply staying in the EU with our current terms of membership unchanged would be disastrous for Britain. That’s why I have always believed that it is imperative that his renegotiation takes place and delivers as much potential change as possible.

You know who else does not think that Britain should remain in the EU on current terms? David Cameron! As he said in his Chatham House speech: “if Britain’s concerns were to be met with a deaf ear… then we will have to think again about whether this European Union is right for us. As I have said before – I rule nothing out.”

Of course, Tory Cabinet Minister supports Tory government policy to “renegotiate” a “new relationship” to keep Britain in a “reformed EU” is not a very snappy headline, but it is much more accurate.

A Cummings Plan

Returning to the subject of the Vote Leave campaign, the latest wheeze of Campaign Manager, Dominic Cummings, is to problematise the subject of Brexit by suggesting that there is another “route out” of the EU other than Article 50. The issue of a negotiated exit via Article 50 was settled a long time ago among Brexiteers and while the idea of a negotiated exit—that is all Article 50 specifies—may puzzle some of the lesser minds among our national legacy media there is no reason for a “leave” campaign to foster uncertainty regarding this issue.

Then I watched Daniel Hannan interviewed on The Daily Politics, during which he said that a vote to leave the EU need not mean leaving the EU but could instead be merely a prelude to the offer of “proper concessions”, and the meaning of Mr Cummings’ intervention became clear—there is no need to invoke Article 50 if your aim is not to leave the EU.

I could scarcely believe my ears when Mr Hannan also started talking about “associate membership”.

The “associate membership” idea was first floated in 2006 by former Liberal Democrat MEP and arch EU federalist, Andrew Duff, as a means to “park” Britain in the lower-tier of a two-tier EU so as to allow further integration among eurozone countries while keeping Britain in the EU.

Mr Hannan has argued in the past that it is when we “vote to leave that associate status will be put on the table” and now it seems that he has gone the whole hog and adopted the euro-federalist term as his own.

The “associate membership” proposal is strikingly similar to the “two-tier EU” idea that broke cover in the British media over the weekend and which some of us have been writing about for months—and which David Cameron supports.

Voting to Leave the European Union is not about securing “concessions” or agreeing an alternative form of “associate membership”, it is about withdrawal from EU Institutions, Treaties and Representation. There is no reason to concern oneself with securing “concessions” if the aim of your campaign is to leave the EU.

Vote Leave, Take What The Tories Decide To Give You

We now find ourselves in an extraordinarily peculiar situation, with the Vote Leave group saying almost exactly what David Cameron is saying.

Mr Hannan/Vote Leave: “Brussels never takes ‘No’ for an answer… at least, not the first time” therefore a vote to leave would be a mere prelude to the offer of “real concessions” and an “associate membership” role for Britain in a (by implication) two-tier EU with the “supremacy of Parliament” restored.

Mr Cameron/The Tory Party: We will “renegotiate” a “new relationship” for Britain in a “reformed EU” and a new “British model of membership” that will see Britain leading the “outer-tier” of a “two-tier EU” and an amendment to the ECA 1972 that affirms the “supremacy of Parliament” over EU law.

There is a group of so-called Tory “leavers” on one side of the debate and a group of Tory “remainers” on the other side of the debate, but both are ultimately aiming to achieve the same objective. Their respective “plans” fit together hand-in-glove. Heads we win, tails you lose. The Tories have decided that whatever the outcome—“leave” or “remain”—the vote can be manipulated to keep Britain in the second-tier of a two-tier EU.

Vote Leave is currently campaigning for “concessions” and an “associate membership” position, so, in terms, is pro-EU membership—as part of a second-tier—and to that end cannot “adequately represent those campaigning for the [‘leave’] outcome”.

Know Your Place

More than a few people appear to labour under the misapprehension that had Dr Richard North phrased his critique of Fraser Nelson’s abject misrepresentation of the facts regarding Article 50 more “moderately” Mr Nelson would have admitted to making a mistake (we all do it) and sought to correct his misapprehension in a future column or in the pages of The Spectator magazine.

One of the people encouraging others to believe this fantasy is Mr Fraser Nelson, who responded to a follow-up piece written by Pete North about Mr Nelson’s equally mistaken assertions regarding the Norway Option with a tweet saying, “insults tend to be the hallmark of a troll, as opposed to someone genuinely interested in debate.” This is particularly amusing in the context of Mr Nelson’s celebrity appearance on the comment thread where he claimed to be an “admirer” of Dr North’s work before reasserting his original misrepresentation of the Article 50 exit clause and then flouncing off without responding to any of the commenters who engaged with the substance of what he had written.

We still await his rebuttal and we will continue to wait, for the purpose of Mr Nelson’s visit to was not to communicate nor “debate” with his peers; it was to project dominance over his inferiors. To that extent, Mr Nelson is a prisoner of his own narrow-minded worldview; his inability to listen means that he is unable to learn and consequently he ends up making himself look like a right tit (technical term).

Big, powerful men like Mr Nelson do not expect to be challenged and do not take kindly to those who do. “How dare you address your betters in that tone of voice?” The lower orders are supposed to doff their caps and say, “Yessir”.

Dr North’s article prompted a response precisely because it was a direct attack upon the source of Mr Nelson’s legitimacy, the perception that Mr Nelson has knowledge and experience above that of his average reader, and an equal commitment to accuracy and intellectual integrity, which justifies why he writes for prestigious newspapers and journals. Once the illusion of superiority is broken, there is no going back.

Hence, it is not “proper” for the lower orders to question members of the “elite”. A subordinate who does not exhibit due deference to his superiors is someone who does not “know his place”, which, I would like to think, is still the preponderance of the British voting public.

Indeed, once one starts to investigate and engage with political issues—the EU being perhaps the best case in point—what is striking is just how little “prestigious” sources of news and opinion seem to know, let alone understand.

Many of the people who write for the legacy news-media are strikingly ignorant and neglect to do proper research, while others are more involved in promoting their own narrow agendas than they are in keeping people informed and up-to-date.

Besides, when it comes to the matter of the EU referendum, all of the oiks have the same say as the politicians and the legacy journos. As Alastair Campbell said on Question Time in May 2015, “even having the debate is dangerous”. The implication being that if we have the debate there is the chance that people might engage in fruitful communication with their peers, rather than acquiescing to the dominance-submission paradigm that sustains the likes of Fraser Nelson.

Once the power to decide Britain’s EU membership is in the hands of the people rather than British politicians and their toadies in the legacy media, who have told so many lies intended to scare people away from even considering the idea of EU withdrawal, they may just decide to do something that would really put the frighteners into the British elite—vote to leave the European Union.

An Excess Of FUD

Possibly the stupidest shibboleth that has so far emerged during the EU referendum debate is the notion that British negotiators will not be “in the room” when our post-Brexit relationship is negotiated.

This is particularly perplexing in the sense that Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) is not a secret nor a mystery. Indeed, Article 50 is one of the most clearly worded and immediately comprehensible pieces of writing in what is an otherwise arcane treaty document. Article 50 is also commendably short.

There it is (above). Written in plain English. Easy to read. If you would like to know more about the context then I recommend reading The Boiling Frog’s indispensable explanation and the (even more in depth) summary on LeaveHQ.

However, if you have made it this far into the blog then you really don’t need to do anything other than read the text in order to understand it.

Yet, there are some among the legacy press pack who are apparently unable to understand the conventional meaning of words. Beginning in October 2015 with a front page story in the Independent on Sunday, which I wrote about at the time, the canard that there is something “frightening” or “vindictive” or “illogical” about the TEU exit clause has been allowed to calcify.

The focus of anxiety centres on paragraph 4, which is all too often quoted out of context and absent the necessary qualifier at the start of the sentence. The full clause reads as follows (my emphasis): “4. For the purposes of paragraphs 2 and 3, the member of the European Council or of the Council representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in the discussions of the European Council or Council or in decisions concerning it.”

Clear? The representatives of the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in meetings or discussions concerning the negotiation with it—“it” being a reference to the withdrawing Member State and paragraphs 2 and 3 being references to the negotiations and the possibility for extending the time allowed for negotiations.

Stated simply, the withdrawing Member State cannot sit on both sides of the negotiating table. One wonders if those who take issue with this clause would expect EU representatives to sit in on meetings between the British negotiators. Imagine Steve Jobs negotiating with Rupert Murdoch to add News Corp’s media content to Apple’s iTunes platform. Would one expect a News Corp representative to be present in the Apple boardroom when the negotiations are discussed? Or would the two groups discuss matters separately and then come together at the negotiating table?

Any individual or institution capable of making such a fundamental error and misleading the public with the insinuation that Article 50 is anything other than an ordinary exit clause is in no position to inform voters about the respective merits or demerits of the “remain” or “leave” propositions in toto.

The current list of shame regarding Article 50 howlers is as follows:

  • The Independent on Sunday: front page story declaring, “Brexit: We’d Have No Say On The Terms—EU rules insist other member states would dictate UK’s new deal after 2017, campaigners warn”.
  • Tim Farron – leader of the Liberal Democrats: quoted in the Independent on Sunday article lending authority to incorrect assertions regarding Article 50.
  • Bronwen Maddox – journalist and editor of Prospect magazine: wrote an article for Prospect in which she asserts, “Clause 4 says that after a country has decided to leave, the other EU members will decide the terms—and the country leaving cannot be in the room in those discussions. Repeat: we’d have no say at all on the terms on which we’d deal with the EU from then on, and no opportunity to reconsider.” Oddly, the short article features the full Article 50 text, so anybody with a mind to can immediately cross-reference her assertions with the text itself and see for themselves that she is wrong.
  • Prospect Magazine: not only did the magazine publish the original article by Bronwen Maddox, even after multiple explanations being provided, the publisher continued to promote the story without any public recognition that a mistake had been made.
  • Vicky Ford – Tory MEP for the the East of England: issued a series of tweets declaring that Article 50 is a “negotiators nightmare”. This one says, “If we do vote to leave then we lose all voice in negotiating our terms”, which is not true.
  • Stephen Kinnock – Labour MP for Aberavon – tweeted that, “Art 50 excludes us from the room. Is that really in our national interest?”
  • Fraser Nelson – journalist and editor of The Spectator: wrote a column for The Daily Telegraph in which he asserts ex nihilo that it is “illogical and vindictive” that the withdrawing member state “cannot be in the room when other EU members discuss the terms of its departure”.
  • Will Straw – failed Labour Party parliamentary candidate for the constituency of Rossendale and Darwen: responded to Dominic Cummings’ tweet about Article 50 saying, “Leave means Leave. No messing about with 2nd chances. Art 50 triggered so EU chooses our future, not us.” In a way it goes without saying that a leading voice within the “remain” campaign should be a cretinous know-nothing who does not even understand what an embarrassment he is for his own side and for the country as a whole, but I honestly would rather that were not the case. An open debate about Britain’s future as a country or Britain’s future as a region within a supranational entity would provide the necessary clarity and perspective for the British public to make an informed decision about whether we should “remain” in or “leave” the European Union.

I shall add to this list as more politicians and political commentators make their ignorance apparent. I should be extremely happy if no further names need to be added to the list. If there are others that you come across, inform me in the comments.

A Pragmatic Approach

British europhiles don’t think very highly of the EU, do they?

Liberal Democrat MEP, Catherine Bearder, recently said to a House of Lords select committee: “My concern is that if we vote to leave that the deal we’d be given would be such that no one else would want to leave. We would bear the brunt of the angry other 27 EU countries”.

If this is not just baseless fear-mongering (bad enough) and Ms Bearder is serious about what she says, then one has to ask an even more serious question: Why would an elected representative support such a capricious, anti-democratic organisation? The thought that the EU would respond to an expression of sovereign will with “angry” reprisals casts the EU in an extraordinarily bad light—and would be reason enough for Britain to disengage from such a grouping.

This pragmatic analysis from LeaveHQ sets the record straight.

Ms Bearder and her europhile associates may be that petty and small-minded but the EU is a rules-based organisation that is bound by treaty and convention to negotiate in good faith with international partners. There should be no great difficulty agreeing a mutually acceptable Brexit deal—though the discussions will be complex and highly technical—provided that both sides are willing to compromise.

Compromise for the EU would assure Britain’s trouble-free exit from political union, without adding to the ongoing crises in the eurozone or compounding the migrant crisis—both created and facilitated by EU policy. Compromise for Britain would assure trouble-free access to and participation in the Single Market as part of a phased withdrawal that recovers national independence and policy control in stages.

From a political perspective it is as simple as that. A short-term compromise on the issue of freedom of movement as part of an interim solution and British civil servants and their colleagues in the Berlaymont spend the two-year negotiating period—specified under the terms of Article 50 of the TEU—picking over the kinds of arcana that need not preclude debate about the future direction of the country.

Making it clear that Brexiteers envision a phased approach to EU withdrawal—and communicating that message to the wider British public—also has the happy consequence of changing the focus of the referendum debate to the question of: Who governs Britain? Which is, after all, what we are really debating when we discuss the matter of Britain’s EU membership.

The Remainers

The Britain Stronger in Europe (BSE) campaign messed its collective trousers when Leave.EU announced that it is working on an EU exit plan.

There is, after all, nothing more likely to lead to the rapid and involuntary emptying of bowels among the anti-Brexit crowd than the thought of Brexiteers finally getting their house in order.

To be clear, the only people who think that Britain could withdraw from the European Union without a plan are the profoundly ignorant, the misinformed and the malign.

The Scottish nationalists produced a 700-page doorstop that nobody read and came unstuck on the issue of the currency. But, without a plan, nobody in Scotland would have even taken the independence proposal seriously.

The depth and the breadth of the political, economic and social integration that has occurred between Britain and the EU over the past 40 years is so much greater than most people understand. Talk about a “simple free-trade agreement” from anybody with any real knowledge of the EU role in Britain’s national policy-making framework is facile at best.

Why then are a vocal minority of UKIP supporters (active on Twitter) so opposed to the idea of a Brexit plan?

There are several possible reasons. The first and the dumbest is the fact that Leave.EU is working with Dr Richard North—the foremost expert on EU affairs in the eurosceptic community—to produce a Brexit plan. The second is the fact that the Flexcit plan (co-authored by Dr North and Robert Oulds of the Bruges Group) advocates a six-stage process for achieving Britain’s EU withdrawal involving an interim compromise on freedom of movement so as to facilitate a mutually acceptable trade deal between Britain and the EU immediately post exit. The fact that the second stage of the Flexcit plan centres on the means by which an independent Britain could use its new-found agility (outside the EU) to address the migration issue is something that these critics neglect to notice, choose to ignore or deliberately misrepresent.

Neither of these are credible reasons for opposing the idea of an EU exit plan or the Flexcit plan, specifically. To see comparatively high-profile figures like UKIP’s Suzanne Evans wading into the debate on the side of those who appear to advocate a “hard exit” rather than a pragmatic negotiated settlement does her and the cause of leaving the EU no credit.

The fact that this referendum is even taking place is evidence that there is widespread discontent regarding Britain’s relationship with the EU. The Prime Minister himself accepts that the status quo is not an option when he says that his aim is a “new relationship” for Britain in a “reformed EU”.

If the European Commission plan goes to schedule that will likely mean second-class membership in a two-tier EU—what Cameron calls his “British model of membership”—with all of the encumbrances associated with supranational governance and ever less say for Britain at the top tables of international law-making.

In other words, Mr Cameron has a terrible hand, which he has so far played rather well, in no small part due to the “leave” campaigns relying on all of the same tired old mantras that have failed to arrest—let alone reverse—even a single slither of EU integration: “control our borders”, “cut red-tape” and “save money”.

The “leave” campaigns could and should be doing so much better. 1) “control our borders”. There are more important and more effective means of reducing immigration than border control. What Britain needs is policy control—across the board—so that governments can respond rapidly to political problems, before they become crises. The supranational tier of governance—above the nation-state—limits the ability of national policy-makers to adapt administrative efforts to suit local conditions. 2) “cut red-tape”. The fact of the matter is that most of the “red-tape” old-fashioned eurosceptics associate with the EU originates in technical standards-setting bodies at the global level. Inside the EU, Britain adopts the compromise position of the EU28. British citizens, businesses and NGOs do not have the same influence as their equivalents in countries with an independent voice, veto and right of reservation. 3) “save money”. International co-operation costs money. End.

The “leave” campaign needs to ditch the eurosceptic baggage and embrace the dash and swagger of Brexiteers. That means presenting referendum voters with a bold 21st century vision for an independent Britain, engaged at the highest levels of global governance, representing the views of a democratically-minded electorate with a clear say in the national policy-making process and full international representation.

That means putting forward a plan to assure people that the proposition you support is serious and that due care and attention has been given to the associated complications. Frankly, anybody who opposes Britain’s phased EU withdrawal because it impacts their ability to have everything their own way all of the time (and immediately) might just as well join the “remainers”.

Making Plans For Brexit

The europhile notion that EU membership is all about access to markets is rapidly becoming untenable. This is in no small part because the “remainers” cannot promote the case for EU membership without first conceding that supranational governance plays a vital role in Britain’s national policy-making framework.

For this reason, it is equally unrealistic for Brexiteers to argue that 40 years of accumulated integration could or even should be undone overnight. Brexit means Britain’s withdrawal from EU Treaties, Institutions and Representation—not a penny more and not a penny less—as per the definition coined (eh? eh? … just me then) on The Red Cliffs of Dawlish blog.

This is important because it clarifies what Brexit is and what Brexit is not. Brexit is not “associate membership” or what David Cameron referred to in his Chatham House speech as “a British model of membership”. Brexit is Britain’s withdrawal from the EU. How to achieve that outcome in a manner that is both plausible and safe—and in so doing neutralise the europhile “fear” campaign—is something that Brexiteers should be able to address.

That is why some of us have been less than complementary about the efforts of Vote Leave. The absence of a credible Brexit plan is something that europhiles will seek to exploit to its fullest extent. Every thinking person expects there to be a plan of some kind or other, so it is injurious to the Vote Leave campaign that it has not yet produced or adopted one. The injunction that David Cameron is acting irresponsibly for not instructing his civil servants to draw up contingencies that can be enacted in the event of a “leave” vote may be valid as far as it goes, but, as former head of the civil service, Gus O’Donnell, said of his former colleagues on a recent BBC radio programme about Brexit: “I will be absolutely sure that they will be hoovering up all of the work that’s been done by the outside world”.

In other words, if anybody has got a Brexit plan, then let’s be having it!

The Scottish nationalists had a plan and there was no whinging from Alex Salmond that the British government had not drawn up a plan of its own. The idea would have been regarded as absurd and possibly even offensive. How could the Scottish nationalists, campaigning for an outcome opposed by the British government, accede to a plan devised and drafted in Whitehall?

Fortunately, the announcement that will be working with Leave.EU means that one of the big “leaver” groups has started to see sense on the necessity of assuring the “undecideds” that Brexit will not be a “leap into the dark”.

The Flexcit plan first and foremost recognises the reality that decoupling Britain from the political structures of the European Union is a process. UK Unleashed uses the phrase, “Brexit is not a light switch” to describe the need for Britain and the EU to agree an interim position on trade within the two-years guaranteed under the terms of the Article 50 process. To that end, the most efficacious means of achieving a risk-free Brexit is through continuity market membership via the EFTA/EEA agreement and continuing participation in co-operative programmes.

Flexcit is the means by which Brexit is achieved. The broader perspective that UK Unleashed and others are seeking to explain when they suggest thinking about Brexit as a process rather an event largely concerns regulatory continuity and the need for voters to compromise on the issue of free movement within the Single Market.

The issue of regulation is less contentious and probably easier to understand. For instance, the food safety regulations that are given legal precedence via Britain’s EU membership have no “British” equivalent on the statute book. For the most part, these measures are reasonable and while there may be opportunities for a tweak here and there they are doing the job that they were designed to do. An immediate rush to agree a new system of regulatory compliance at the moment of Brexit would add unnecessary complexity to the exit negotiations. Hence, the embrace of EEA or Single Market membership.

The issue of free movement within the Single Market is more contentious, but in order to agree a deal within the two-year window of the Article 50 negotiation, this is something that Brexiteers will have to accept. Outside the EU, Britain will have greater flexibility in addressing the immigration issue, which is not mainly centred on EEA migrants, many of whom are young people of working-age who live in Britain for a few years and then return to their country of origin or move elsewhere.

No one this side of sanity would argue that Britain should repeal all of its food safety legislation at the moment of Brexit, but, the “uncertainty” associated with agreeing a new system of visa controls would be an equal invitation for the “remainers” to paint the “leavers” as inward-looking and anti-enterprise. The opportunity to contrast the “leavers” vision of Britain as a global player, where democratic accountability is restored and strengthened, with the “remainers” vision of Britain as a mere region in a supranational entity, where national electorates have a vastly diminished say, would be lost.

The Flexcit plan recognises that the immigration and asylum (it is important that the two are not confused and are kept separate) issues should be a matter of high priority for Britain once we leave the EU. Making immigration a major part of the campaign and de facto arguing that Britain should leave the Single Market as well as the EU will increase the power of the europhile FUD and reduce the likelihood of the “moderate middle” voting for Brexit.

The Flexciteers are not interested in playing at leaving the EU or whinging about governance without taking back the power to do anything about it or strengthening the Tory’s hand in a faux “renegotiation”. The plan is to the leave the EU and, to that end, the choice is simple: A short-term compromise on the issue of free movement, Britain leaves the EU and we entrust the destiny of the country to the British people.