It is generally accepted that Britain could succeed outside the EU. Polling data indicates that most people think that over the longer-term Britain would be better off outside the EU. It is only over the short-term that people expect a bit of a wobble. In other words, it is the transition that concerns people.
Indeed, the consensus runs so deep that the Prime Minister, who has since taken to embarrassing himself with silly scare stories which nobody could believe, told the House of Commons earlier this year that: “My argument is not going to be, in any way, that Britain couldn’t succeed outside the European Union. Of couse we could. We’re a great country”.
That magnanimity has been well and truly lost in the heat of referendum battle—I am not sure debate is the right word as no real exchange of ideas is occurring. The Remain side will not recognise that the project which they insist upon promoting in terms of economics is wholly political and that leaving or remaining in the EU is about who governs Britain. Should the United Kingdom be a self-governing democracy or should the United Kingdom be subordinate to a supranational government based in Brussels? That is the question.
The real argument therefore concerns democracy and self-determination, not money nor workers rights. Britain has a proud history of support for working people—rights that were hard-won and are now so ingrained that they are taken for granted. Sure, there are debates around the margins, but it is only in the fervor of a referendum campaign that anybody could argue that entire tranches of policy could be surrendered without any form of defiance. The idea is laughable.
Now, however, the government, in the form of Chancellor George Osborne—supported by former Chancellor Alistair Darling—are resorting to outright threats and intimidation. I do not know anybody committed to leaving the EU who does not acknowledge that there is likely to be some kind of turbulence on the financial markets if the British people hold their nerve and vote for the freedom for which their forebears fought. That has been factored in and is a price that is well worth paying. This goes way beyond that.
George Osborne is now claiming that a vote to leave the EU “would mean less money. Billions less” and that he would raise taxes and cut spending as a result. This is not congruent with the Remain line that leaving the EU would be a “leap in the dark”. When did that change? Or did it? Are voters supposed to think that leaving the EU is economically uncertain or certainly disastrous?
The result is confusion and that I think is the purpose of “Project Fear”. It is not to scare people, as such, it is to bewilder and befuddle. With all of the competing information in the ether how can you possibly trust your own judgement and decide on such an important matter for yourself?
The purpose of The Leave Alliance bloggers throughout this referendum campaign has been to bring some much needed clarity to proceedings—to narrow the plausibility scope with respect to how Britain could leave the EU—in order that the decision facing people may be made comprehensible. Of course there are uncertainties and one has doubts, but that does not mean that you are helpless, a child alone in need of adult supervision and entirely beholden to “experts”.
Ultimately, the decision in this referendum is simple. Either you vote for democracy and accountable government or you submit to people who would bully and cajole you into voting for something else.
To that end, I fear that the lead for “leave” is soft. The Vote Leave campaign is not making the kinds of reassuring noises that people need to hear. We cannot know what “leave” looks like but we can make credible proposals for how Britain could leave the EU with minimal disruption. I have done so and the other Leave Alliance bloggers have done so several times.
Broadly speaking the safe route out of the EU involves seeking to rejoin EFTA in order to use the EEA agreement as a transitional step on the road to something far better—as outlined in the Flexcit plan—a genuine European free trade area. But the Vote Leave campaign is such that the more visionary aspects of what Britain’s future could be outside the moribund EU have of necessity been neglected so as to emphasise the importance of taking that first step on the road to an independent Britain.
I know at least one person who would be voting to leave the EU were Michael Gove making the arguments that I have put to him about an EEA transition. Credible proposals for managing the Brexit transition could make all the difference at this stage. But I can only reach so many.
I have never been in any doubt that I would vote for Britain to leave the European Union on the 23rd June. It was never about the money and I have never needed reassurance about the economy—never in human history has people having more freedom led to less prosperity. Whatever number George Osborne plucks out of the air, democracy and accountable government are worth that price.