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!