An Emotional Cushion

A quick straw poll down the pub last night revealed that at least two of my mates think that Britain should be less than an independent self-governing country and that they will therefore vote for Britain to remain in the EU (they didn’t quite phrase it like that). The conversation did not dwell on the topic and I did not say much—I find it difficult to talk about the EU with friends, for it very quickly becomes apparent that I know about 50 times more than anybody else and that tends to be the end of that—but I was both mildly impressed and disappointed in equal measure.

Impressed because one of my friends (one of the Remainers) ventured to say that, “The likelihood is nothing much would change” in the event of a leave vote. How he discerned that from the barrage of garbage from the Prime Minister and the “big leaves” is beyond me. Another friend (an undecided) then ventured that, “there will have to be a gradual transition”, which once again left me wondering where he has been getting his information because that is certainly not the message coming out of the legacy press. I didn’t ask but my gut tells me that, in both cases, this was just their latent common sense speaking. This did, however, give me the opportunity to say that, “Britain’s governance is far more integrated with the EU than most people understand; the EU institutions have a say in an enormous number of policy areas”.

Not exactly a killer point, but an important one nonetheless. I do not think that most people have any conception of the fact that, unlike every self-governing nation-state, Britain does not have an independent trade and industry policy, which means no right of reservation or veto at the global top tables like Codex, UNECE and the ILO, where industrial standards and labour participation rules are codified. Furthermore, Britain, host to more than 60 percent of “EU waters”, has to conform to a Common Fisheries Policy decided in Brussels, with input from countries that do not even border the sea. Finally, adherence to the Common Agricultural Policy means that food and land management strategies cannot be easily adapted to address local ecological and environmental needs in Britain, which are different enough in Scotland, Yorkshire, Somerset and East Anglia, without also having to devise one-size-fits-all measures for our rural counterparts in France, Spain, Italy, Poland and Slovakia.

What followed was less edifying. The Remainer followed up his “no change” comment by saying that, “They’re not going to just kick ’em all out, so some people are going to be upset no matter what”. The undecided concurred, “Yeah, I’m surprised that my dad, although he is a bit ‘old man racist’ is in favour of leaving, given that he spent so much of his career working in Belgium for a Belgian firm”. The other Remainer kept his own council, as did I, for the most part.

This is probably not a fair sample, but I think that these are interesting comments in as much as they scratch at the surface of the underlying irrationality of the Remainers’ position. For all of their claims to be desirous of facts and evidence, when offered (by me, at least), the response is to clam up and stop communicating. No. In the case of these young professionals, two with young families, the “remain” position is the one that flatters their vanity; it is the reasonable, pragmatic, sensible choice, opposed to the reactionary and racist choice.

That is at least as much a failure of the “leave” campaign and one that we need to do everything in our power to address as we enter the crucial stage in which those who have an open mind will be looking and wanting to be convinced by the evidence that we present. However, they will be reluctant to do so unless we can provide an emotional cushion that flatters their ego, too.

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An Opportunity For Meaningful Political Change

So far, the Britain Stronger in Europe (BSE) campaign has claimed that, in the event of Britain’s EU exit, people and businesses based in the remaining EU Member States would all refuse to trade with people and businesses based in Britain, thereby cutting themselves off from one of the world’s wealthiest consumer markets. Why anybody would behave in such an irrational and self-defeating manner is not something that the Remainers ever explain.

Not only that. In the event of Britain’s EU exit, according to the Remainers, the EU institutions and the remaining EU Member States would refuse to co-operate in matters of security and defence. The form that this would take is never specified, and quite why the rest of the EU would choose to cut itself off from GCHQ, Mi5 and Mi6 is difficult, if not impossible, to fathom.

Cross border scientific co-operation would also suffer, the Remainers say. In the event of Britain’s EU exit, the EU would spurn opportunities to work with world-leading researchers at Oxford, Cambridge, Manchester, Aberdeen and elsewhere in the UK. Once again – why?

Some of the claims the Remainers make about the consequences of leaving are quite serious and require serious answers (others are just ridiculous), but every single one of them works both ways. That is why the Treaty on European Union allows for a minimum specified period of two years to negotiate an exit agreement with any succeeding state. The EU institutions bind themselves to host countries in a manner that is challenging to reverse, but that does not mean that the process is impossible, it simply takes more time than many of us would like.

Indeed, with sufficient political will, good faith, and a willingness to compromise, it is conceivable that a new relationship for Britain with the EU, trading and working together in areas of mutual interest, but shorn of the burdens of political union that are incumbent upon all EU Member States and which Britain singularly does not want, would be better for everybody.

Brexit is an opportunity for real, meaningful political change in Europe.

Sod Off Boris

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I used to quite like Boris Johnson, in the same sense that I used to quite like Eddie Izzard. Many years ago, when Have I Got News For You was still funny, Boris could do an entertaining comedy turn and I would laugh. The more I learn about the man and his politics, however, the less funny and the less interesting I find him.

The Boris Johnson of today is less like the Bertie Wooster character that he used to play in days gone by and more of a bullying man-child who shouts and sulks when his pretensions are challenged.

The fact that this long-time europhile has been adopted as the poster boy of the Vote Leave campaign, as a means to further his Tory leadership ambitions, tells you everything that you need to know about that ghastly Tory-led campaign. The fact that the other “leaver” groups, with the honourable exception of The Leave Alliance, endorse this man as their spokesman bespeaks the conformist mindset of those who should be striving to set the agenda.

Johnson’s recent appearance on The Andrew Marr Show is as good an example as any of the damage that he is doing to the “leave” campaign. Had a properly briefed politician with Johnson’s level of exposure had the opportunity to participate in a 25 minute interview on the BBC, he or she could have blown the debate wide open. Instead, we had Johnson’s ill-informed blathering.

It wouldn’t even take that much.

Marr: “Do you foresee Britain remaining part of the Single Market?”

Spokesman: “Yes”.

Marr: “What about freedom of movement?”

Spokesman: “It’s not going anywhere if we stay, let’s leave the EU first and then see what we can do.”

Marr: “And what about all those third-party treaties?”

Spokesman: “In international law the presumption of continuity should address that or even an adjunct to access EU treaties on a temporary basis so as to continue those provisions in the short-term would be in everybody’s interests.”

The above is not some arcane information available only to a small priestly class. In fact, the most important details have already been organised into a short pamphlet that is accessible to anybody.

Personally, I think that there are very serious questions to be answered about how and why the political parties have been able to co-opt and dominate the people’s referendum, thereby denying us the debate that we were all promised. The Tory Party is more than happy for the EU referendum to become the “Boris and Dave” show; Johnson sets them up, Cameron knocks them down, and Tory shall speak unto Tory, and the rest of us do not exist. Corbyn’s Labour is an irrelevance and Farron’s Lib Dems do not even qualify for joke status.

The latest outing for the blonde bombshell has already been demolished by more experienced minds than mine. Why anybody other than partisan Tory sycophants find this acceptable is beyond me. It is about time we started to set our own agenda.

The Plan That Must Not Be Named

Vote Leave and the Leave.EU/GO nexus are apparently determined to lose the EU referendum for the “leave” side.

Several months ago I wrote a piece about Leave.EU firing practically every “footgun” on the eurosceptic range. But Vote Leave and GO are no better.

For those who do not know, a footgun is something that you use to shoot yourself in the foot. The repeated assertion that Britain sends £350 million a week to Brussels, for instance, is a footgun. In spite of numerous people—allies and adversaries—pointing out that the figure is wrong, Vote Leave representatives and social media accounts continue to repeat that number ad nauseum. This absense of care and attention can only damage the credibility of the “leave” campaign, so why does Vote Leave insist upon promoting easily verifiable falsehoods?

A more nuanced example is the Vote Leave, Save Our NHS slogan, which, for the longest time I simply didn’t understand. What does a new relationship with our continental neighbours, working together as partners rather than accepting our subordination to a supranational bureaucracy, have to do with Britain’s national health service?

More often than not, journalists who use the term “dog whistle” in a political context are referring to something obvious. An effective dog whistle, however, is pitched at a frequency that only certain audiences can hear.

That Vote Leave slogan may be the first time the term has been applied appropriately, at least in my case, for it turns out that “Save Our NHS” is not a reference to Vote Leave’s love of socialist-style central planning but to mass immigration, which rather puts the lie to the prissy, self-important Tory whinging about the continuity UKIP campaign of Leave.EU/GO. No marks all round.

I could go on, but I do not wish to test people’s patience with an overabundance of examples, so, finally, we return to the Leave.EU campaign, which recently put out a video saying, “The remain camp cannot tell us how much worse things will get if we stay in the EU”. I would like to think that this video will be the nadir of that misdirected and wasteful campaign, but I fear that it will not be.

The attack might have had some purchase were the “leave” camp united behind a comprehensive Brexit plan that provides credible answers to serious questions about the risks associated with leaving the EU. Unfortunately, Vote Leave and Leave.EU have both rejected the idea of using the Flexcit plan as a campaign manual and a means for providing people and government with a post Brexit vision.

Shorn of a credible intellectual base, Leave.EU has resorted to copying ideas from the Remain campaign, which produced an earlier video saying that the high-noise “leavers” do not know what “Out” looks like; the irony being that Britain Stronger in Europe (BSE), Vote Leave, Leave.EU and GO are all well aware of the Flexcit plan and The Leave Alliance, but, like Voldermort, none dare speak its name.

Perhaps the greatest irony of all, however, is that serious people among the “British establishment” are reading Flexcit. Want that the big “leave” groups were so practical and pragmatic.

If we are going to win this, we cannot rely on the substandard material of the big campaign groups. We’re going to have to do it for ourselves, which is what I always expected, so let’s get on with the job.

A Brief Comment

I have very little to say about the atrocities in Belgium, but, having chosen to involve myself in the EU referendum campaign, I feel the need to comment briefly, if only to distance myself from the egregious idiocy of those who would seek to politicise the event, even before all of the details are known.

James Delingpole and Hugo Dixon are both equally ghoulish to use such barbarian savagery as a pretext to promote the “leave” and “remain” causes, respectively.

Security cooperation will continue post Brexit and it is misleading and irresponsible to say otherwise. Those who suggest that our security services would not work together were Britain to leave the EU are simply not serious, and in my opinion not worth the attention.

The security, defence and intelligence issues associated with these kinds of attacks are probably even more complex and multifaceted than the Brexit debate. To that end, waiting for the information needed to understand what has happened, amidst calls for “action”, is a far more productive activity than crass political point-scoring.

This is not a Brexit issue.

Hobgoblins

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One of the few things that the “leave” campaign has done relatively well is ridicule the idea that Britain’s EU exit will lead to the apocalypse. Months ago, the @DailyFUD Twitter account produced a series of graphics that were heavily retweeted by one Daniel Hannan, depicting dragons raining down fiery death from the sky, the awakening of the kraken and other such absurdities.

The sort of hysterical ninnydom promoted by the Remainers is a massive turn off for most people, yet Brexit scares still receive enormously disproportionate levels of attention in the legacy media. This has much to do with the bovine way in which legacy journalists, for all of their Woodward and Bernstein-styled moral posturing are slavish conformists with scant interest in pursuing the truth, for fear that it may lead to politically incorrect conclusions.

In fact, that is who political correctness is intended to control. If certain thoughts are unthinkable, they very quickly become unsayable, and while the occasional prole might be squished under foot to set an example for the others, it is the intellectuals—those who work with ideas—that the system strives to keep in check.

The American writer and cynic, H. L. Mencken, famously said: “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”.

To that end, Brexit scares follow a familiar pattern. Just today, The New York Times published a puff piece promoting political campaigner, James Hansen’s latest contribution to the global warming debate, under the guise of “science”. The story is interesting in a Brexit context owing to the extremity of the claims and its appeal to authority. The NYT sees fit to quote Dr Michael Mann of all people saying that Hansen’s predictions are well outside the perceived “consensus”, which, if you know anything about the topic in hand, is truly Alice Through The Looking glass style stuff.

Whether the topic is a climate scare or a Brexit scare, the method of presentation favoured by the legacy media is almost invariably the same: make an outrageous claim about the negative consequences that will follow a particular policy choice and then quote a prestigious source in lieu of reason or evidence.

The message is always the same too: you, dear reader, have no more moral authority nor political autonomy than a naive child in need of adult supervision; remain within the confines of the perceived moral majority, whatever it may be, and you’ll be safe.

The scope, or lack thereof, of the Brexit debate, as conducted by the legacy media, tells us that journalists will accept the craven conformity of following the example of their betters; anybody presenting the view that free people should take responsibility unto themselves and that evidence and reason are appropriate tools for shaping political opinion and thereby political action are excluded. The fact that the only press coverage that The Leave Alliance launch received was in the column of one Christopher Booker, who is a long-time collaborator and personal friend of Dr Richard North, the principal author of the Flexcit plan, tells you most of what you need to know about the intellectual integrity of those who work for legacy media outlets.

Moreover, Flexcit and The Leave Alliance, have been snubbed by the big “leaver” groups, which have not even given us a courtesy mention. I welcome you to draw your own conclusions from that.

As to the veracity of the work of mere “bloggers”, the news that Flexcit has become required reading among civil servants in Whitehall will surprise nobody who has been paying serious attention to this debate for any length of time, or who has read Flexcit for themselves. What Dr Richard North and others have produced is a serious policy document that takes Brexit as its aim and then works backwards from there to define the series of steps that will need to be taken to make that policy outcome a reality. The pragmatism and practicality of the approach is precisely why the other “leaver” groups are ignoring Flexcit even as the (broadly pro-EU) civil service is reading it. The professionalism of the “bureaucrats” stands is stark contrast to the amateurness of Vote Leave, Leave.EU and GO.

Which brings us back to somewhere like where we came in. Remaining in the EU means entrusting the future of this country to people who resemble the big “leave” groups in almost every respect; those who would presume to protect us from hobgoblins rather than engaging in reasoned, evidence-based argument. However, the fact that dedicated individuals within The Leave Alliance are having a bigger influence than any of them on the government position post leave vote is a strong indication of what is possible.

Brexit is not only about taking responsibility unto yourself and saying, “no”, to all of these people, it is about giving yourself and future generations the opportunity to say, “no”, again in the future.

The Leave Alliance Launch – Part I

Yesterday I attended the launch of The Leave Alliance (TLA). TLA is a network of new and established political groups, bloggers and tweeters who are committed to winning the EU referendum for the “leave” side. What makes TLA unique among the declared leave groups is its support for a credible Brexit plan.

Flexcit: The Market Solution is a six-phase plan for recovering Britain’s national independence in stages, as part of a continuous process, rather than as a one-time event. That change of perspective shifts the Brexit debate firmly in the direction of pragmatic and practical politics. The exact form that our post-Brexit deal takes is less important than our vision for what we will do with our national independence. Self-governance means taking responsibility unto ourselves and, if our politicians are any indication, a long process of discovery and rediscovery lies ahead.

So as to short cut the economics- and trade-centred debate that has been allowed (some might say encouraged) to obscure the more important political question—who governs Britain?—the Flexcit plan advocates remaining in the Single Market and then working to create a genuine free trade area in Europe whilst also rebuilding the national policy-making framework and enhancing our democracy by means of The Harrogate Agenda.

TLA members include EUReferendum.com, Restore Britain’s Fish, The Campaign for an Independent Britain, The Bruges Group, Futurus and The Harrogate Agenda.

The first person to speak at the event was founder and director of Restore Britain’s Fish, John Ashworth, who wonderfully summarised the destructive and alienating affect of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and what he called the “whole sordid 43 year affair” of Britain’s EU membership involving as it does nothing less than “the eradication of our nation”. The betrayal of Britain’s fishermen by successive governments is in fact a perfect microcosm of the destructive impact that delegating national governance to supranational EU institutions has had upon Britain as a nation state. Mr Ashworth’s brief description was greeted by spontaneous applause.

EUReferendum.com, the foremost Brexit blog in the country, run by Dr Richard North, Pete North, and now supplemented by a Bloggers Army, was ably represented by Pete North. This group is committed to the idea that restoring and enhancing Britain’s democratic self-governance is the first stage of a process that will give ordinary people more say over their own lives and the future direction of their country. Mr North spoke specifically about the unique efforts of EUReferendum.com’s Bloggers Army to influence the online debate, challenging opinion-formers, diffusing scaremongering and setting forth a serious vision for an independent Britain.

Bringing further clarity to proceedings was Anthony Scholefield, director of the Futurus think tank, which was founded to address policy issues that have been neglected for too long among legacy sources. Mr Scholefield addressed the fact that the EU really is a unique institution—not an agreement between governments but a new structure above governments that is thereby incompatible with self-governance. That fundamental truth is what British politicians and businesses have never seemed willing or able to understand or embrace head-on.

The oldest anti-EU organisation in the country, the Campaign for an Independent Britain, now chaired by Edward Spalton, is also a member of TLA. Mr Spalton evocatively turned the Prime Minister’s “leap in the dark” metaphor on its head, suggesting that people think of Brexit “not [as] a risky leap, but [as] a confident step from the smoke and mirrors of the EU to a brighter, sunnier world”.

Rounding out the speakers present on the day was Niall Warry (who also did an excellent job chairing the event), director of The Harrogate Agenda, which is an integral part of the Flexcit plan, aimed at bringing real democracy (direct democracy) to the United Kingdom. Director of the Bruges Group, Robert Oulds, was not in attendance, but is likewise supporting TLA and its plan for a secure transition from EU Member State to self-governing country.

With the introductions in the can, the stage was set for Dr Richard North to expand upon TLA’s “public declaration of strategy”, a campaign component that is missing from all of the other Brexit groups. More to follow in part II.