The Start Of A Process

I suspect that there will be no shortage of people pointing out the inaccuracies and misrepresentations in the official government position on The process for withdrawing from the European Union.

The aim of this post is to do something slightly different.

David Cameron’s partisan co-option of the civil service is extremely troubling and sets a dangerous precedent. But that does not mean that the document is wholly without merit. Indeed, the position that the officials outline should draw a line under much of the silliness by campaigners for Leave and Remain.

First and perhaps best is the recognition that, as the Brexit blogs have been saying for months, EU withdrawal will be a process and not an event. The officials describe this important change of perspective, which really ought to neutralise any talk of a “sudden death Brexit”, thusly: “In short, a vote to leave the EU would be the start, not the end, of a process”. Quite right.

The document also puts to rest the ludicrous scaremongering of The Independent on Sunday, Tim Farron, Bronwen Maddox, Prospect Magazine, Fraser Nelson, Stephen Kinnock, Vicky Ford and Will Straw. To my way of thinking, none of these people have any legitimacy in respect of the EU referendum, owing to their absurd misrepresentation of the Article 50 process.

As the Cabinet Office paper confirms: “The final agreement would need to be agreed by both parties: the EU side and the departing Member State”. In other words, the terms of withdrawal would be a matter for negotiation. The Britain Stronger in Europe (BSE) campaign, which glommed onto much of the nonsense spouted by the sources identified above should also take a credibility hit for inanely repeating such folly.

The next section of the document is slightly less edifying. “As the Prime Minister has said, if the vote is to leave the EU, the British people would expect that process to start straight away,” the officials report. As ever, one must be careful to read the precise words that are written. What the British people “expect” is not the same as what the government would do in the event of a vote to leave.

Although it is vital that the British people see progress towards EU withdrawal, the likelihood of the Article 50 process beginning “straight away” is slim—to say the least. In the interests of both parties and for the sake of expediting an appropriate exit agreement within (or as close as possible to) the two-year Article 50 deadline, there would be “scoping talks” prior to the start of the official Article 50 process.

In fact, other parts of the report make clear that there are internal EU procedures that would make beginning Article 50 talks “right away” impractical at best and self-defeating at worst. The notification would be submitted in due course to a timetable that befits the seriousness and the scale of the undertaking.

Usefully, the officials also make clear that Article 50 is “the only lawful way to withdraw from the EU. It would be a breach of international law and EU law to withdraw unilaterally from the EU”. To do so would also be needlessly hostile and not conducive to facilitating the positive future relations with the remaining EU Member States that all sensible leave campaigners seek.

In addition to which, there are explanatory notes that highlight what Dr Richard North has been trying to communicate to the wider Brexit community for several years; the talks will be complicated and a short-term agreement on trade and regulation will be easiest to achieve via adoption of an “off-the-shelf” model, the best being the EFTA/EEA or so-called “Norway Option”.

Although not appropriate as a final settlement for Britain’s future relationship with the EU, the EFTA/EEA option is a useful staging post. “Ambitious trade agreements can take up to a decade or more to agree from scoping to ratification, and sometimes take longer,” note the officials. This is precisely why the best minds in the business have long recognised that EU withdrawal must be thought of as a process and not only as an event—what a happy state of affairs to see government officials confirming that such a proposal does indeed presage a positive way forward for an independent Britain.

In that context, the officials’ appraisal is missing at least one crucial aspect, which makes the following assessment far too pessimistic: “It is therefore probable that it would take up to decade or more to negotiate firstly our exit from the EU, secondly our future arrangements with the EU, and thirdly our trade deals with countries outside of the EU, on any terms that would be acceptable to the UK”. Not if Britain pursues a multi-phaisic extraction (MPE).

Based upon this official report, there can be little doubt that a structered exit approach that pursues flexible and continuous development offers a credible vision for what Out looks like.

The Economist’s Anti-Brexit Propaganda – Part Two

As promised, here is my dissection of the second part of the Economist’s tiresome anti-Brexit tirade.

Building upon its warnings about the economic consequences that could result from a vote to leave, the Economist avers: “Brexit would deal a heavy blow to Europe, a continent already on the ropes.”

Let me try to get this straight. Britain is too poor, too weak and too stupid to be an independent country and would face economic and societal ruin without EU support, yet Britain is also such a vital member of the European Union that withdrawal would fundamentally weaken the Western alliance and destabilise the entire global economy. Are you following this? I’m not.

These assertions are so far from reality that it is genuinely difficult to know where to begin. “Poorer, less secure and disunited, the new EU would be weaker; the West, reliant on the balancing forces of America and Europe, would be enfeebled, too,” remarks the Economist. Yet there is nobody suggesting that leaving the EU and forging a new relationship based upon trade and intergovernmental co-operation would mean an end to long-standing alliances across the West.

In all likelihood, there would be policy continuity for a long time to come. Britain and the rest of Europe share all sorts of common interests and would continue to work with one another on a multilateral basis at the global level, working together where it is appropriate and diverging in areas where it is more important to preserve uniqueness. Leaving the European Union would increase Britain’s options in that regard, it would not cut us off from the rest of the continent, let alone the rest of the West.

Even the Prime Minister has long argued that Britain needs a “new relationship” with the EU—that was the purpose of the so-called “renegotiation”—to agree a deal that would keep Britain in a “reformed EU”. Yet, even with the very real prospect of one of the EU’s largest members leaving the supranational union, EU institutions and other EU Member States decided that “reform” was not on the agenda. David Cameron’s promissory note changes absolutely nothing about the relationship between Britain and the EU, as the Economist obliquely recognises by not even mentioning Britain’s “new settlement”.

The Economist sets up yet another straw man in the form of an argument against using the Norway Option as an immediate staging post for a post Brexit Britain. The leader writers state: “the union would also demand the free movement of people and a big payment to its budget before allowing unfettered access to the market”. To which one can but answer, “So what”?

Freedom of movement is not going anywhere if Britain remains in the EU so it is hardly a credible hit against the Leavers that EU withdrawal will not bring an immediate end to the arrangement. Furthermore, while a majority of people polled say that they think immigration should be reduced, opinions about freedom of movement are much more nuanced; people like that they can hop on a jet to France or take a job in Germany without having to apply for visas or fill out additional paper work.

What Britain’s immigration policy should be post-Brexit will be a matter for the British people to decide and with domestic politicians unable to hide behind the “EU competency” shield, our elected representatives will have to confront the trade-offs we will face, regardless of the approach that is eventually decided upon.

As for the comment about “a big payment” into the EU budget, presumably voting to remain will result in Britain paying less into the EU budget? No? So, why then are europhiles raising this as a bone of contention? International co-operation costs money. Get over it.

Then the Economist wheels out this tired old canard. “Worse, the EU would have a strong incentive to impose a harsh settlement to discourage other countries from leaving”. Having said that leaving the EU would be a disaster, the Economist now tells us that the threat of a harsh leave settlement is necessary to discourage others from making the same mistake. Am I reading that right? This is akin to a prison with guards posted outside the gates, which insists the inmates are free to leave at any time, but will beat anybody found outside the prison walls to a bloody pulp.

The next point that the Economist makes, noting that those Brexiteers who argue that the EU needs Britain more than Britain needs the rest of the EU are foolish, will find no argument from me. I have never understood how asserting that the rest of Europe is a “declining trade bloc” helps the Brexit cause. Europe is home to many of the most economically, technologically, socially and culturally developed countries in the world. Britain and the rest of Europe have a shared civilisational outlook and the fact that our economies are at similar levels of development means that our trading partners on the continent cannot be ignored. Indeed, they should be valued.

However, I do not see what economic or cultural exchange has to do with Britain’s membership of the political EU. International trade and co-operation does not need political integration or supranational governance any more than buying a sandwich requires me to marry the girl behind the check-out.

Finally, the Economist descends into an Orwellian nightmare in which the conventional meaning of words is inverted and the only way to establish what is true is through dogmatic adherence to Party doctrine. According to the Economist: “In a globalised world, power is necessarily pooled and traded: Britain gives up sovereignty in exchange for clout through its memberships of NATO, the IMF and countless other power-sharing, rule-setting institutions”.

Yet it is only the EU which demands that Member States accept the supremacy of EU law over domestic law. The idea of enhancing sovereignty by pooling is akin to the idea of increasing virginity by having sex. Some of the international agreements and global conventions to which Britain is party do constrain the framework within which it is appropriate for the government to act. Britain signs those agreements because, broadly speaking, it is in our national interest to do so. That is not an argument for continuing with a relationship that does not serve our interests.

This is not a distinction that the Economist seems able to make. Instead, its writers suggest that leaving the EU would lead to “a purer but rather powerless sort of sovereignty”. Nope. Me neither. Answers on a postcard.

Finally, there is the usual blackmail about Scotland leaving the UK if Britain leaves the EU, to which I am inclined to say, “go ahead”. If that is what the Scottish people choose, then so be it. The rest of the UK cannot be held to ransom on the back of what the SNP wants. And, then there is a plea for people to support Britain’s continued EU membership on the basis that leaving would weaken the EU.

To my way of thinking, there is something oddly parochial and condescending about the notion that the EU needs Britain to keep it on the straight and narrow and that without us the EU would be “more dominated by Germany; and, surely, less liberal, more protectionist and more inward-looking”.

David Cameron has ably demonstrated just how much “influence” Britain has within the EU. Faced with the prospect of Britain leaving, Mr Cameron’s fellow Heads of State and Government would not compromise on anything of substance. If the oh-so-clever writers for the Economist cannot see what is staring them so plainly in the face, rest assured that the rest of us can.

Britain does need a new relationship with the EU and the only way to achieve that is to leave.

Tory Lies

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No British political party has any credibility when it comes to the matter of Britain’s EU referendum. The politicians have always lied, saying that Britain’s EU membership is about trade. But the fact of the matter is that the EU is a political body, always was, always will be.

Therefore, whether Britain should remain in or leave the European Union is a matter of politics and, even more fundamentally, a matter of governance. The real question is: who rules?

Those who think that Britain should be an independent country are convinced that the best people to govern Britain are the British. Those who support the supranational EU see the need for institutions above the nation-state that have supremacy over national electorates.

The contest between leave and remain should be a battle of visions. What sort of a country do you want Britain to be? Confident, self-governing and democratic or frightened, subordinate and governed via a supranational treaty organisation? That is your choice.

The politicians, on the other hand, are determined to bog down debate in petty trivia. First there was the charade of the “renegotiation”, which achieved precisely nothing. Now the Remainers have affixed upon the idea that the EU would frustrate cross-border security in the event of Britain’s EU exit. Illogical and irresponsible piffle.

Chancellor, George Osborne, even has the gall to say, “this would be the very worst time for Britain to take the enormous economic gamble of leaving the European Union”. I can scarcely express my rage at this transparent attempt to portray the EU referendum as an economic question, but to engage with the “logic” of Mr Osborne’s position is enough to reduce one to fits of laughter.

If leaving the EU was as risky as now claimed, the proposition would have never been put to the British people in a referendum. Moreover, the position of Mr Osborne, Mr Cameron, and the entire Tory Party, all of two weeks ago, was that they “rule[d] nothing out”.

We are expected to believe that these men and women would have campaigned for Britain to leave the EU had they not been given a promissory note saying that the British government can ask permission from the EU institutions to make a minor administrative tweak to migrant benefits, yet now EU withdrawal would mean the end of the world. Give me a break.

The fact that a referendum has been called is an admission of failure on the part of the politicians. The lot of them really need to sod off; they absented themselves from this decision when they decided that the matter of Britain’s EU membership should be decided by the British people.

For Cameron to instruct us that the government and the civil service are not impartial actors in this is such a blatant manipulation of the referendum process that a capable press and a worthwhile opposition would be creating ructions over this.

Unfortunately, Britain has neither. Nor are we ever likely to while the preponderance of the British people are content to be lied to by politicians and patronised by a media that seeks to trivialise the real heart of the matter—who governs Britain—yet reports on Boris Johnson’s every fart and eyebrow scratch with solemn earnestness.

Dave’s Dodgy Deal

“The European Union prevents us from being a proper self-governing country”

The above is one of the take home statements from this BBC interview with Justice Secretary, Michael Gove. And, in a massive departure from the norm, the Tory minister is absolutely 100 percent correct.

Bringing us back down to earth with a clattering bang, however, is the Prime Minister, who insists that the deal he and the other 27 Heads of State and Government agreed is both “legally binding” and “irreversible”. Mr Gove disputes this saying, “The facts are that the European Court of Justice is not bound by this agreement until treaties are changed and we don’t know when that will be”.

Meanwhile, European Council President, Donald Tusk affirms that the agreement is “in conformity with the treaties and cannot be annulled by the European Court of Justice”. To which he adds, “But it will only enter into force if the British people vote to stay. If they vote to leave, the settlement will cease to exist.”

I think that it is worth picking through this very slowly. The precise use of language by Donald Tusk, in particular, is interesting.

First of all, Mr Tusk says, that the deal is “in conformity with the treaties”, which prompts the immediate question, what then has Mr Cameron really achieved? A deal that does not require treaty change cannot be regarded as presaging a “reformed EU”. If the treaties are not changed then the relationship between Britain and the EU has not altered one iota.

Mr Tusk also notes that the deal will only enter into force if “the British people vote to stay”, thereby implying that what Mr Cameron has agreed with the other Heads of State and Government is little more than a promissory note. The “reforms”, meagre as they are, will not come into force until after the referendum vote, so when the British people go to the polls we will be voting on the basis of a political promise.

The promise of a “special status” for Britain, outside of “ever closer union”, the euro, Schengen, and various areas of justice and home affairs policy, has no legal force until the next EU treaty is signed—and, of course, while Britain remains in the EU, there is little that the British people can do to prevent a future government taking Britain further in or needlessly surrendering further powers to EU institutions.

It is the EU treaties that bind the European Court of Justice and the other EU institutions, not political promises agreed by Heads of State and Government.

To that end, it is not possible to agree the outcome of a future treaty negotiation prior to the treaty negotiation. At the risk of testing everybody’s patience, a negotiation that is agreed prior to the negotiating process is not a negotiation—and we have no need of legal scholars to inform us of that. So much is self-evident.

David Cameron’s EU deal is not legally enforceable within the EU treaty framework because it is not an EU treaty. Indeed, there are serious questions to be answered regarding whether the document lodged with the UN constitutes a treaty of any kind. When and by what means will Mr Cameron’s deal be ratified by the 28 EU Member States?

One is reminded of George Orwell’s dictum that: “There are some ideas so absurd that only an intellectual could believe them.”

The Economist’s Anti-Brexit Propaganda – Part One

Reporting on what its leader writers aver is an “alarmingly close contest”, The Economist magazine this week informs its readers that there is a “real chance” Britain could leave the EU.

Prior to the referendum, it is extraordinarily difficult to determine how people are likely to cast their ballots. There are two propositions—“leave” and “remain”—and by dint of Electoral Commission procedure both options are given equal weight on the ballot paper itself.

The prestigious Economist magazine, on the other hand, pays its readers no such courtesy and instead indulges in paragraph after paragraph of ignorant, doom-leaden propaganda. I have practically given up on the celebrity-obsessed legacy media but for many people (some of them known to me personally) the Economist is regarded as a redoubt of evidence-based reporting and knowledgable commentary.

I can dispel that myth immediately. Beginning with the emotive imagery of Britain “casting off from Europe’s shores”, the leader writers have produced an editorial loaded with the kind of scaremongering piffle that would make even some gossipy tabloid hacks think twice. The affect is to engender a feeling of ennui at the mere thought of Britain’s EU withdrawal.

Leaving the EU would “damage the economy” and “imperil Britain’s security”, the Economist asserts, without a scrap of evidence; the “sophisticated readers” of this “august journal” are expected to accept these statements as a priori facts rather than subjecting them to the kind of critical reasoning conventionally associated with brand Economist.

From thereon, the feature descends into incoherent foaming, presenting an unpleasant and unhinged perspective on what self-governance would mean for the United Kingdom and its allies in Europe and elsewhere. “Far from reclaiming sovereignty”, we are told, “Britons would be forgoing clout, by giving up membership of a powerful club whose actions they can better influence from within than from without”.

In response to this, one can but ask, “what influence”? Here are a few pertinent facts that the Economist neglects to mention in its petty rant.

As part of the EU28, Britain sacrifices power for so-called influence. The fifth largest economy on the planet surrenders the right to make its own trade, agricultural and fisheries policies, and “shares” responsibility for justice and home affairs, environmental, energy, transport and telecommunications policy with 27 other Member States and the EU’s supranational institutions. In short, EU membership lengthens lines of accountability and introduces unnecessary complexity into the policy-making process; that means less power and influence for ordinary voters, not more.

The promise of “clout” is also worth far less than is often claimed when one considers the effects of the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade, which compels signatories (as both the EU and UK are) to favour international standards over regional or domestic standards. As a result, the EU is an impediment to Britain playing a full and independent role in the truly multilateral standards-setting process that advances through thousands of technical bodies—operating on an intergovernmental basis—at the global level. Food standards are a matter for Codex Alimentarius in Rome; the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) focuses on shipping and freight; automotive vehicle standards are agreed by WP.29 under the auspices of the United Nations Commission for Europe (UNECE).

Adopting a global perspective, the Economist’s view that Britain would be isolated or “cast adrift” is absurd. Are Australia or Canada isolated because they are not EU Member States? Britain’s economy, it is worth noting, is far larger than both.

Since this post is already running a little long, and I am barely a third of the way into the Economist article, I shall have to continue the rebuttal of their fantasy land Brexit in another post. Remarkably, the rest of the article is even more incoherent and illogical than its opening.

The Point Of The Plan

The point of presenting referendum voters with a coherent and practicable exit plan is to avoid the kind of petty-fogging problematising and idiot scaremongering with which the Remainers will bombard people over the coming months.

Once people have credible reassurance that their jobs are safe, the referendum can be elevated (some hope, I know) to the level of competing visions: the Leavers emphasising the moral and spiritual uplift that free people derive from meaningful political representation, self-governance and full global engagement, while the Remainers either slink back into their holes or come out fighting for their “vision” of Britain as subordinate to a supranational empire that cannot meaningfully represent the views of its citizens but which can disrupt multilaterlism pursued on an intergovernmental basis at the global level, above the sub-regional EU.

The opportunity to clearly establish prior to designation that leaving is not only possible but lower risk than remaining subordinate to EU institutions and subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice has now passed. The narrative will simply have to catch up with the relative stability offered by the “leave” proposal to step out to an EFTA/EEA position—trading and co-operating with our fellow Europeans on all manner of important areas while deciding spending and policy priorities for ourselves—and the uncertain future that awaits us if we vote to remain within a political project that will continue to pursue “ever closer union”, regardless of the wishes of the British electorate and what the Prime Minister claims to have negotiated, relegating Britain to an ever more peripheral role.

The idea of “leading in Europe” without joining the euro is nearly as absurd as the idea of continental leaders paying any real attention to the British Prime Minister while the United Kingdom remains subordinate to the EU. The best way for Britain to show leadership in Europe is to leave the moribund European Union and establish a new relationship with our near neighbours founded on mutual co-operation and intergovernmental agreement.

It is only because of the mistaken belief—perpetuated by preternaturally ignorant and deceitful politicians, and the world’s laziest legacy media—that the EU is an intergovernmental forum for mutual co-operation between equals rather than a supranational entity that subordinates Member States to the will of the majority via invidious mechanisms such as Qualified Majority Voting (QMV) that this debate is even necessary.

Playing his part in The Great Deception, David Cameron has decided that sans the “fundamental, far-reaching change” that was promised in his 2013 Bloomberg Speech, let alone the “full-on treaty change” that was also mentioned, his best shot at winning is a quick and dirty fear and lies campaign.

What we on the Leave side have to work with is far from ideal—it is still not at all clear that the aim of the Vote Leave campaign is Brexit and the problems with the Grassroots Out campaign can be summed up in just two words (and one conjunction): Farage and Galloway.

However, we all have our crosses to bear and it is not as if the Remainers have a strong hand. The dead weight of several hundred pig ignorant politicians spouting an unending stream of BS, a weary and ill-looking David Cameron, who has shamed his country and humiliated himself on the international stage, and foundations of intellectual sand, almost entirely dependent upon claims that trade and international co-operation are not possible outside the EU. Practically the Remainers only weapons are fear, uncertainty and doubt.

Whereas among the Leavers—even though we do not all agree on the specifics (that is the nature of democracy)—there is universal agreement that the future that awaits an independent Britain is full of possibility, opportunity and hope. Self-governance and global engagement cannot be gainsayed. Both are worth having for their own sake, but when you factor in proposals for further democratic reform, greater trading agility and the power that derives from speaking with your own voice on the international stage, the chance to rejuvenate British politics is waiting to be grasped.

The EU referendum is an historic opportunity to correct one of the most egregious errors ever made by the British political class and, for once, it will be the British people who make the decision. Let’s vote to leave the EU.

Where Are The Serious Leavers?

Nobody thinks that Britain can leave the EU without the Leave campaign presenting referendum voters with a credible Brexit plan; the fear, uncertainty and doubt of the Remain campaign, which centres on the equally fanciful notion that international trade and co-operation would end post-Brexit, quite simply has to be addressed.

Voters will expect the plan to demonstrate that Leavers have considered the various Leave options and taken account of the political realities that will constrain the actuality post-vote. Voters will also expect the plan to put forward a vision for Britain as a self-governing country with independent representation at the world’s top tables.

The constant jibes from the Remain camp asking, “What does Out look like then? Eh? Eh?”, although overly shrill, are entirely justified. The promotion of a credible Brexit plan would have the happy consequence of avoiding all of the arcane discussion about trade ratios, regulation and economic risk while also rendering such silly anti-Brexit scaremongering obsolete.

Rejoining EFTA to participate in the EEA agreement—the totemic Single Market—reassures investors that regulatory continuity and indeed regulatory convergence would continue past the point of Brexit.

Business need have no role in the referendum debate once that point is acknowledged. How and by whom Britain is governed is a matter for the British people to decide; it is no business of business.

The question that would then need to be addressed would change from, “How will Brexit impact the economy?”, to, “Who governs Britain?”

A Point of Principal

Spending and policy priorities should be determined by democratic governments that are accountable to national electorates rather than being set by supranational institutions that are accountable only to the national governments that agreed the original treaty framework.

That argument is one that can deliver a resounding victory for the Brexiteers, so why then are all of the big Leave campaigns, Vote Leave, Leave.EU and GO, still promoting arguments and perspectives that are incidental to the Brexit debate?

I suppose that I should not be overly surprised at this stage, but I am genuinely shocked by the contents of this ghastly press release from Conservatives for Britain.

Titled, “The UK Must Take Back Control Of Our Money, Our Borders And Making Our Own Laws”, the blog post, which is also referred to as the ‘Conservatives for Britain Brexit Manifesto’—prompting the question, “Where is the rest of it?”—evinces a faulty and extremely shallow understanding of the vast regulatory bureaucracies in which nations, corporates, NGOs, super-regulators and other stakeholders negotiate and agree to adopt international standards.

The press release also trots out all of the same tired old eurosceptic memes that have failed to engage the British electorate over the last 20+ years.

On the vexed subject of immigration, I am among the majority of people who think that the number of people settling in the country is too high and that the British government should pursue policies to reduce the inflow to a more reasonable level. However, it is also evident that concerns about freedom of movement within the EEA are overblown and that many of the policy failures—migrants living 10 to a room, for instance—stem from failures of enforcement and an absence of political will at the local and national level.

There is no “big bang” solution to the mess that successive governments have made of Britain’s immigration policy, the kinds of reforms that could make a difference are on the order of “marginal gains”, although cumulatively the result could be significant.

In the context of Britain’s endless “immigration debate”, the EU is a handy way for ineffectual British politicians and policy-makers to hide from the British electorate. This is an insult. But pandering to the idea that leaving the EU could or would solve the problem in one fell swoop is just as foolish.

Probably the most ridiculous assertion in the CfB document is that, “We have no intention of being like Norway. The UK need not make any contributions to the EU after leaving.” This is almost too depressing to go into yet again, but just in case there is anybody reading this who is new to the blog, nobody has ever said that Britain should be “like” Norway. Britain should be like Britain. That being said, the safest Brexit option is to participate in the EFTA/EEA agreement on the same terms as countries such as Norway and Iceland in order to overcome the challenge of agreeing a new trade deal with the rest of the EU during the two-year period of an Article 50 exit negotiation.

Few people, even at the height of government, if the MPs who speak on behalf of the Tory Party, the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats are to be believed, have any idea of the extent of the political integration that has occurred over the past 40 years. Vast areas of policy are either directly administered at a supranational EU level or only exist within an EU policy framework.

There are so many areas other than trade that will need to be addressed in the event of Brexit that British civil servants will undoubtedly seek the path of least resistance in terms of regulatory continuity and mutual recognition.

Then again, honesty and integrity always was rather a lot to ask of the Tory Party. After 40 years of The Great Deception, the leopard cannot change its spots. The designated Leave campaign following the political parties down the same path will not win Brexiteers the wider support that we need.

The Leaver truth opposed to the Remainer deception is one of the most powerful cards that we have to play. The politicians, who would like to own the Brexit campaign, would rather put that card back in the deck.

Where are the serious Leavers?

Same As It Ever Was

Newspeak is the controlled language of Oceania created by The Party to limit freedom of thought and freedom of expression—and, while our world is not that of Winston Smith, contemporary politicians and contemporary journalists do use words to constrain the parameters of “acceptable” debate.

Perhaps the most obvious example of this in an EU context is the tedious way in which anti-Brexit voices use the word “Europe” to mean the EU. Europe the continent is full of lots of things that British people rather like—Britain for a start!—music, culture, civility, classical architecture, a rich and varied history and European, sometimes referred to as Western, civilisation. The EU, not so much.

Another example is the way in which legacy media outlets refer to the EU referendum as a contest between an “In” and an “Out” campaign. This should be a cause for concern among campaign groups on both sides of the debate. In their invaluable history of Britain’s only previous plebiscitary vote on the issue of Britain’s membership of the organisation that became the European Union, The 1975 Referendum, co-authors David Butler and Uwe Kitzinger explain:

most pollsters believed that although phrasing could make a great difference in a hypothetical situation, at the end of a fully publicised campaign where the issue was clear the actual question wording would matter little.

In short, if we do not make the issue clear then the risk of an illegitimate referendum result increases. It is therefore the responsibility (née obligation) of everybody involved in the referendum to establish that we are making a choice to determine whether we wish for Britain to “remain” in or “leave” the European Union. The press has an especially important role to play in the sense that the Code of Practice issued and enforced by the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) says, the press “must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information” and “whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact”.

As for the politicians, their latest wheeze—designed to ensure that the campaign centres around them rather than the people who really matter (the British electorate)—is to label their campaign organisation Grassroots Out. As I pointed out to Kate Hoey on Twitter, “Describing a campaign established by politicians as ‘grassroots’ does not make it grassroots”.

The Grassroots Out organisation is going to have to prove its credentials in that regard. Stump speeches delivered by second-tier politicians does not constitute grassroots activity.

For my part, I shall be doing what I can to promote the only viable Brexit plan that has yet been presented, in the hope that people will understand the real opportunity that this referendum affords.

The referendum gives us a vote and the Internet gives us a voice, we have no need of politicians or journalists to “represent” our views.

As fellow Brexit blogger, UK Independence points out, the power of the British electorate is enough to turn the head of the most powerful man on the planet. Think about it.

I do not think that ordinary voters have even begun to understand just how powerful they really are.

David Cameron says that his aim is to negotiate a “new settlement” for Britain in a “reformed EU”. The fact that he has singularly failed to deliver any reform whatsoever is notable. More important still is the alternative vision that Flexcit outlines—a new settlement for governors with the governed in a reformed UK.

That is something for which it really is worth campaigning.

For The Avoidance of Doubt

The “leave” campaign must present referendum voters with a credible Brexit plan. Everybody expects there to be a plan of some kind and voters will be understandably perturbed if no plan is presented. The existence of a coherent Brexit plan is what will allow referendum voters to make a considered choice between continued EU membership and an independent Britain.

The only serious Brexit plan anybody has yet produced is Flexcit. Fortunately for Brexiteers, Flexcit is an amazing achievement in its own right.

It is not that national independence will be a “leap in the dark” for Britain, as the “remain” campaign would frame it; but there are legitimate concerns that must be addressed regarding how Britain leaves the EU. The outcome is not in dispute—Britain’s EU exit—it is a case of: What is the best way to achieve a low-risk Brexit?

To that end, Flexcit offers people a vision for Britain that is founded upon self-governance and global engagement.

The Flexcit plan does involve slaughtering a few long-cherished eurosceptic sacred cows. The end result, however, is a core message with the potential to appeal to voters across the board.

Firstly and most importantly for many (though by no means all), the first stage of the Flexcit plan involves accepting freedom of movement, under the aegis of the EEA agreement, as a means to participate in the Single Market on the same terms as Iceland and Norway. That also means accepting one fifth of what Remainers call “EU rules”, but, crucially, without Britain being subordinate to EU institutions, such as the European Commission, or subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

In other words, essential sovereignty is returned immediately, but there is an element of compromise so as to expedite a mutually acceptable exit agreement.

As with every part of the Flexcit plan, the goal is to re-establish British policy control. Border control has acquired totemic status in eurosceptic circles, but border control is very far from the be all and end all in terms of immigration policy. There are things that the British government could be doing right now when it comes to enforcing existing rules at local and national level. There are also things that the British government could be doing in vitally important areas of policy, such as trade, which are currently beyond our reach as a nation. For instance, an independent Britain could use trade as a means to foster economic development in underdeveloped countries so as to ease migratory pressure.

A whole host of measures become possible once Britain leaves the EU. There is also evidence to say that a Brexit campaign that takes a measured approach to immigration policy is one that is likely to communicate more broadly.

The second sacred cow concerns the issue of cost. Leaving the EU will not make lots of money available for spending on new schools and hospitals. The UK economy produces in excess of one trillion pounds per year so it is hardly credible to insist that Britain should leave the EU on the basis of a few billion pounds.

Moreover, once we enter into the world of real politics, something that the more mindless of the Brexit campaign slogans seem determined to obscure, the simple fact of the matter is that international co-operation costs money. Think about it for a second. Of course it does. The “fee” that Britain pays to the EU covers the cost of administration—participation in rule-making—agricultural subsidies, regional development, social and science programmes. These are activities in which an independent Britain would either continue to participate or which it would seek to replicate at a national level.

Finally, there is the subject of so-called “EU red-tape”. If you are a nerd, this is a fascinating topic in its own right; economic globalisation has transformed the way in which standards and regulations are made, with the vast majority of the Single Market acquis (body of law) now comprised of international standards that are negotiated and agreed by a galaxy of global bodies which the EU curtain obscures from view. All independent countries have self-representation and a right of reservation in the forums where these standards are made whereas EU Member States increasingly accept the “common position” of the EU28. What even David Cameron described, in his Bloomberg speech, as “the principal reason” for Britain’s EU membership—the ability to play a part in setting the rules for the Single Market—is now being threatened by our continued membership of the EU.

That, I suppose, is a very long-winded way of saying that there will be no bonfire of regulations either.

So, what does that leave us with? A credible Brexit plan that does everything possible to mitigate the risks involved in leaving the EU, providing reassurance for referendum voters pre-vote and an outline for what the politicians will be expected to deliver post-vote—and a platform for Brexiteers to expound a vision for Britain founded upon democratic self-governance and global engagement.

That sounds pretty bloody good to me!

Lead Thyself

With the “name the date” game on hold, for the time being, instead of engaging with the substantive policy issues that confront the country, the press are now playing the “who will lead the ‘leave’ campaign?” game.

Theresa May is apparently “out” (in the sense that she is supporting “in”) while Boris Johnson, one of the most committed europhile politicians in the country, is considering how to announce that he wants to stay while making it sound like he would rather leave. Michael Gove, far less popular and much less well-known outside the Westminster village than Tory-leaning scribblers seem to imagine, is reportedly thinking about backing “leave” (I seriously doubt it) but Cameron is “pleading” with the Justice Secretary to keep him on side. Sajid Javid, as an unapologetic supporter of the Thatcher government may be ideologically attracted to the “leave” proposition, but being on the “wrong side” of the vote will harm his career prospects so he is definitely thinking about considering whether it is feasible for him to wait and see.

The loopiest suggestion I have so far read is that the “leave” campaign should be led by Michael Portillo, a man best known for losing his seat at the 1997 General Election and sitting on the This Week sofa next to Diane Abbott. This is obviously a joke, but that is just about the level of the journalistic trade; as far as the hacks are concerned, sovereignty and self-governance are laughable, something to be scorned and ridiculed as essentially trivial.

Referendums, however, are not like the everyday soap opera of Westminster party politics. Referendums do not require people to lend their power to elected “representatives” who act on their behalf. In a referendum everybody speaks and votes for themselves. We do not need “leaders” to tell us what to think or how to vote.

Furthermore, the legacy media is not a neutral party in wanting the “leave” camp to follow a single leader. The presence of a so-called leader is what allows journalists to control the narrative, portraying principled policy disputes as personality clashes and using their privileged position to dole out information in whatever way suits their narrow little agendas.

In a debate that concerns policy and principle, knowledge and expertise are much more valuable than access to “important individuals”, which, given the general inability of gossipy hacks to analyse and research, pretty much cuts the journos out of the loop.