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.

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