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 EUReferendum.com 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.