One of the perennial accusations thrown at eurosceptics is that they are backwards-looking reactionaries who long for a simpler time when red tape was proper British red tape and we did not have to put up with any of this foreign muck. The pity of it is that the “remainers” are right; the eurosceptic old-guard who protect the Tory orthodoxy that says opposition to Britain’s EU membership is all about immigration, red tape and EU payments are well past their best.
One such fossil is Tory MP, John Redwood, who has written a blog post that is so anachronistic that one wonders if the man dreams not of taking Britain back to the 1950s but to the Cretaceous period, when dinosaurs ruled the Earth, without pesky big-brained mammals pointing and laughing at them blundering about the place.
There is no point delving into too many of the specifics, so, to cut a long story short, Mr Redwood achieves the remarkable feat of being wrong in almost every particular, beginning with this:
The Leave campaign does not want the UK to seek a Norway style deal, as we see no need to pay any money into the EU once we have left.
Needless to say, Mr Redwood does not speak for the “leave” campaign. The designation process has not yet begun. Regardless, there are already several Brexit bloggers, active on social media, who embrace the opportunity for a “Norway style deal”, which would undoubtedly be agreeable to the EU, as a means to withdraw from the political EU without any of the economic risk that understandably concerns referendum voters.
It is likewise useful to reflect on the fact that what are often described as “Britain’s exports to the EU” should be labelled “Britain’s intra-EEA trade”. As an EU Member State, with full access to the internal market, Britain does not export to the EU—all of the members of the European Economic Area (EEA) are part of a common regulatory zone known as the Single Market.
The fact that countries outside the EU but inside the EEA play an active role in setting the rules for the Single Market and have independent representation on the global regulatory and standards-setting bodies, where more than 80 percent of Single Market rules originate, means that there is a ready-made position waiting for Britain outside the EU. Britain joining EFTA/EEA as an interim measure post-Brexit will not only safeguard jobs but also provide a platform from which to negotiate alongside fellow EFTA states, such as Norway and Iceland, to agree a more suitable longer-term relationship with our EU partners.
However, none of that can happen if Britain does not first vote to leave the EU, and securing that leave vote depends upon convincing millions of our fellow citizens, who may be concerned about the direction of travel in the EU project but who are understandably risk-averse, that there is no risk associated with Britain reassuming its proper status as a self-confident, self-governing independent nation-state—and that, in turn, brings us to the second major howler in John Redwood’s blog post.
I shall quote at length:
Once the voters have chosen to leave, there are two options. The UK could invoke Article 50 under the Treaties and enter a negotiation lasting up to two years – or more – to decide which agreements we wish to keep and what we wish to change. That would be playing the EU’s game and may take longer than is desirable.
The UK could simply amend the 1972 European Communities Act to make clear that as from the Exit vote all EU laws and rules in the UK depended on the authority of Parliament and no longer derive from the Treaties or the European Court. All present laws and rules would continue for the time being.
Now, it is not entirely clear to me what Mr Redwood is even saying here. He airily dismisses the only route out of the EU—a negotiated exit via Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union—as “playing the EU’s game” and then blithely talks about making an amendment to the European Communities Act 1972. In the context of the shenanigans over at Vote Leave, with Dominic Cummings problematising Article 50 and Daniel Hannan arguing for “proper concessions” and “associate membership”, one cannot help but wonder, is Mr Redwood even talking about leaving the EU?
He recommends that the exit procedure outlined in the treaty not be followed, but he neglects to say that the ECA should be repealed, only that it should be amended. Now, one could get upset about this, but there is no point. This is kindergarten-level material and certainly not serious politics.
The matter of Britain’s negotiated exit via Article 50 is already settled, to the point of it having been accepted as government policy. The Foreign Secretary, Phillip Hammond, recently told a committee of peers:
“Although the referendum is not legally binding it will be politically binding and if there is a referendum decision that Britain should exit then we will serve a notice under Article 50 of the treaty of Rome and begin the process of negotiating exit arrangements—uncharted territory because no country has done that before.”
So that, as they say, is that. Article 50 is not only the only route out, it is also British government policy—and acceptance of a compromise position on the matter of Britain’s Single Market membership will eliminate all of the purported economic risk that is such a prominent feature of the anti-Brexit campaign.
If John Redwood and his fellow Tory dinosaurs could quit trying to turn the clock back, to repeat tired old arguments that have been rebuffed and defeated, the Brexiteers might be able to make some progress in presenting referendum voters with a credible vision for Britain’s future as an independent country.
In short, Brexit is not about going back to a time when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, it is about looking forward to a better way of engaging with our domestic institutions and the wider world as we look to advance our interests on this increasingly networked and rapidly globalising planet.