Running Towards Risk

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In 2003, Tim Lister and Tom DeMarco published a book about managing risk on software projects (stay with me!) in which they argued that “running towards risk” invariably yields more productive outcomes and better results than doing the opposite. “Projects with no real risks are losers… Risks and benefits always go hand in hand,” the pair assert.

That does not mean adopting a reckless or cavalier approach to risk-taking—Lister and DeMarco both consult on risk-management—but it does put the lie to the idea that risk is something that should be avoided at all costs. A more positive description of the same idea would be “embracing opportunity”.

So, yes, there are risks to leaving the EU and yes that is what makes embracing the opportunity so worthwhile.

Managing Risk

Effective risk-management involves identifying risks and proposing credible mitigation or avoidance measures. To that end, leaving the EU must be the most painstakingly described “leap in the dark” in the history of the world.

There are serious proposals for how Britain can leave the EU without fear or economic disruption and they have been part of the “leave” conversation from the very beginning. The Remainers have never seriously addressed the case that The Leave Alliance has made because the chancers and blowhards within Vote Leave make for an easier opposition.

Most people who follow these things will now know that Roland Smith’s terrific essay for the Adam Smith Institute, The Liberal Case for Leave, was based on the research of Dr Richard North and the Flexcit plan for a fear free exit. The plan was mentioned on Newsnight recently and it is openly acknowledged that civil servants have been reading Flexcit as part of drawing up contingency plans to be used in the event that the British electorate vote to leave the EU on June 23rd.

Though nobody can say with certainty what “leave” would look like, that does not mean that the “plausibility scope” is limitless. The decision will be constrained by political reality and the default two-year time period for the Article 50 exit negotiation means that the deal will of necessity use as many existing legal instruments as are available. That points very strongly to an EFTA/EEA interim deal.

The consequences of not coming to some kind of an agreement on trade prior to the deadline would be disastrous for both Britain and the EU so we can be confident that such a deal would be done.

Even if the EU decided to play “hardball” the UK would have options. The EU is a rules-based organisation bound by treaty and convention to negotiate in good faith. Article 50 commits the EU to “negotiate” with any departing EU Member State; Article 8 commits the EU to a “good neighbourliness” policy “founded on the values of the Union and characterised by close and peaceful relations based on cooperation”; and Article 3 affirms the EU’s commitment to promoting “free and fair trade”.

The EU will drive a hard bargain but it will not step outside the framework of its own treaties and there would be consequences for the EU if it did.

On this side of the Channel, if anybody wants to make a problem out of the fact that the abysmal Vote Leave is not proposing anything like that, I can only reiterate that this referendum is not about electing Vote Leave, it is about voting to leave the EU. Following a leave vote the position of the UK government will be determined by a parliamentary process; “leave” voters will not call all of the shots and “remain” voters will not be ignored. It is their country too.

The Commons as a whole is “remain”-minded, which, ironically, would provide the necessary ‘ballast’ to ensure that Britain’s economic security is protected at the point of EU exit. According to a very interesting poll commissioned by the Adam Smith Institute, the EFTA/EEA option has overwhelming popular support among “remain”-minded voters (in the event of a leave vote) and, even more importantly, nearly half of all “leave”-minded voters would accept such an outcome, at least for an interim period.

The need for reconciliation and a positive future relationship with our EU partners points almost ineluctably to a phased approach to EU exit—a process not an event—embracing the idea of transitional arrangements which retain Single Market membership at least until Britain has had the chance to rebuild its policy-making capabilities in vitally important areas such as trade, aid, energy, the environment, agriculture and fisheries.

However, that does not mean neglecting immigration as many in the media so often imply. The EEA agreement refers specifically to free movement of “workers” not free movement of “people” so there would be some wiggle room there. The “safeguard measures” in the EEA agreement are also interesting in the sense that the precedent for using them already exists—and there is also scope for a quota-based system to be applied as per “sectoral adaptations” in the EEA agreement. Little Lichtenstein has a brake on free movement of workers and Iceland imposed capital controls in response to the banking crisis. There would be scope to allay the fears of the most concerned.

Questions For Remainers

There it is. The initial phase of the Brexit transition from supranational subordination to independent self-governance. There are risks but there are also contingencies to mitigate those risks and the opportunity to re-engage with the rest of the world, championing the multilateral trading system and promoting trade facilitation to enhance peace, prosperity and well-being is enormous.

What then can the Remainers tell us about what staying in the EU would look like? Do they have the first idea about the plans for further integration that are coming down the pike? Are they capable of speaking honestly about the risks associated with remaining tethered to an EU bloc centred around the euro which substitutes Britain’s global voice in international forums for the “common position” of the EU-28? What kind of a future is that?

If you want to stick your head in the sand and pretend that systemic problems with the euro and the entire EU legislative process can be wished away with some half-hearted incantation about “reform” from people who never really mean it and who would never achieve it then that is your prerogative.

But running towards risk is the inverse of taking a reckless gamble on a genuine unknown. The greater autonomy, agility and accountability that leaving the EU would mean for policy-making in this country represents a real opportunity to bring power closer to the people. Taking responsibility for your actions is the beginning of maturity and it is past time that British politics grew up and started to engage with the real world once again.

Nobody should think that reforming Britain’s governance is going to be easy but we have to start somewhere and returning policy-making power to institutions we can influence begins with Britain leaving the EU.

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A Step Into The Light

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Untangling 40 years of political and economic integration cannot happen overnight but it can be done in a series of measured steps. The obvious first step is to rejoin EFTA so as to continue to access the Single Market (EEA) on the same terms as today.

Yes, free movement of workers is an intrinsic part of the EEA agreement, however, even exiting to that position would allow more control over immigration than we have today—and as the first phase of a multi-stage process the EEA provides a solid platform on which to build a longer-term settlement that better suits Britain.

First of all, there are so-called “safeguard measures” in the EEA agreement. These are akin to the “emergency brake” which Cameron failed to agree as part of his renegotiation, allowing for the unilateral suspension of any of the four freedoms. Secondly, leaving the EU places responsibility for the current immigration policy squarely where it belongs—at the feet of Parliament and the UK government.

Any post-exit immigration policy would obviously need to accommodate a wide range of voices, not only leave voters, and there would be trade-offs whatever is decided. I can only think that we would see a much more constructive debate as a result.

People need to stop thinking about leaving the EU as a one-time event and understand instead that of necessity it will be a longer-term process. An EEA type deal keeps the rest of the ship steady—retaining the bits that people generally like (i.e the market)—while removing Britain from the political and judicial arrangements of a union which even Remain-minded politicians say Britain should not go further into. See Cameron’s claims about a “special status”.

Britain is not in the euro and not in Schengen and it is not going to be. “Leading in Europe” is unthinkable from such a position and the idea that the UK can “reform” the EU from a position on the periphery is a joke. Remaining at this stage would mean accepting the EU as our interface to the rest of the world even while being marginalised as the eurozone integrates still further (as it must). That really would be “isolating” ourselves and turning our back on the world.

Better to let those countries that want to integrate do so while we step into the second pillar of the two-pillar EEA agreement, EFTA, which is genuinely all about trade, as the EU is still (mostly) being sold to people.

The fact that almost the entire referendum debate has centred on what our future trading arrangement would be—even though the EU is an avowedly political organisation with competency across a vast array of policy areas—is part of the same delusion British politicians have perpetuated since the UK first sought to join the then European Economic Community (EEC). Nowhere else on the continent is this level of deception and self-deception indulged. The EU is not a trade bloc, it is a government, and it is one that, in my view, we do not need nor want.

There is an enormous amount of work to be done to rediscover the art of democratic self-governance. More than almost anybody seems to realise. But I see leaving the EU as an enormously exciting opportunity to reinvigorate our domestic politics and to re-engage with the rest of the world as Britain.

The first practical and pragmatic step, however, is to concede the point on freedom of movement, which is not the same as an “open door”. That is the price the EU will demand for securing our trouble free exit and it is also the only kind of deal that our Remain-centric Parliament will accept. It returns policy control in the areas of trade, aid, energy, the environment, agriculture and fisheries, removes Britain from the jurisdiction of the ECJ, and causes minimal disruption for both sides. That is more than enough to be going on with for the time being.

A process, not an event. That is the key. The EEA is the door. We were taken into the EU one step at a time, we will recover our independence in equally measured steps. Do you want to take that first step?

Vote to leave.

Reading Comprehension

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Literary comprehension is one of the skills that the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) test as part of the application process for the FCO fast-track programme. Presumably this is because understanding the meaning of words is more important than interpreting what you think the words might imply.

If the response of the British legacy media to the comments of German Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schauble, are anything to go by, British journalists would almost universally fail any such test. Reported in Der Spiegel, Schauble’s intervention comes at a time when the idea of using the EEA as a post-exit staging post—which would allow Britain to leave the political and judicial arrangements of the EU while remaining in the Single Market—is beginning to be seriously discussed, in spite of Vote Leave protestations to the contrary.

What the British public may understand but which the Vote Leave campaign and the bubble-based commentariat affect not to is that voting to leave the EU is not the same as electing Vote Leave. Indeed, the rationale that Vote Leave used to use to justify its refusal to present referendum voters with a credible Brexit plan was that only the UK government has the power to determine “what Leave looks like”.

The referendum itself is advisory and the question is commendably specific. There should be no confusion about what the referendum question is asking: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”

Post leave vote the position of the UK government will be determined by a parliamentary process and the need to reconcile the two sides of the debate; Leave voters will not call all of the shots and Remain voters will not be ignored. It is their country too.

The need for reconciliation and a positive future relationship with our EU partners points almost ineluctably to a phased approach to EU exit, embracing the idea of transitional arrangements which retain Single Market membership for a time, at least until the UK has had the chance to rebuild its policy-making capabilities in vitally important areas such as trade, aid, agriculture, fisheries, energy, the environment, justice and home affairs.

To that end, what did Schauble actually say? Asked about the possibility of Britain leaving the EU and remaining in the Single Market—as an aside, the fact that this is so frequently raised as a possibility really puts the lie to the idea that the EU and the Single Market are synonymous—Schauble said:

That won’t work. It would require the country to abide by the rules of a club from which it currently wants to withdraw. If the majority in Britain opts for Brexit, that would be a decision against the single market. In is in. Out is out. One has to respect the sovereignty of the British people.

He did not say that an EEA transition would not be available. What he said was that we the British people would not want it. I rather think that we will make our own minds up about that.

The EU will not do Britain any favours in the exit negotiation but it will act in its own self-interest—and the EU has a massive strategic and selfish interest in continuing to trade with Britain on the same terms as today. Provided that we are willing to compromise on freedom of movement in the short-term, there should be little difficulty coming to a suitable transitional arrangement, pending further discussion on a longer-term settlement that is better suited to a country of the size and power of the United Kingdom.

In the event of any “funny business”, Britain would even be able to draw upon the EU treaties. The EU is a rules-based organisation bound by treaty and convention to negotiate in good faith. As part of that, Article 50 commits the EU to “negotiate” with any departing EU Member State; Article 8 commits the EU to a “good neighbourliness” policy “founded on the values of the Union and characterised by close and peaceful relations based on cooperation”; and Article 3 affirms the EU’s committment to promoting “free and fair trade”.

The EU will drive a hard bargain but it will not step outside the framework of its own treaties and there would be consequences for the EU if it did. So, yes, there is a viable post-exit deal which protects Britain’s economic security, jobs and investment, and yes, we can be confident of achieving an amicable separation.

There is no way to get everything that we might want at the point of exit—40 years of political and economic integration could not and should not (read: won’t) be undone overnight—but the opportunity to revitalise British domestic politics and reimagine Britain’s place in the world is too great to ignore.

A confident step into the light of an EFTA/EEA type relationship takes us out of the EU and from there we can carry on reforming our relationship through active participation in the multilateral trading system and through demands for greater democratic accountability at home.

Self-Governance And Global Engagement

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Britain should leave the EU to make our politics more democratic and our government more accountable. Everything else is a sideshow. Whatever the short-term costs may be, there is nothing that could not be managed better by bringing decision-making power closer to the people and through more active engagement at the global level.

To that end, this post seeks to address many of the points that are often raised with respect to the idea of accepting an EFTA/EEA type of trading relationship as part of a post-exit transition to a longer-term settlement.

Cost

Let’s be serious for a moment. Leaving the EU may not result in any immediate cost-savings. The money that we presently pay into the EU budget would be deferred rather than saved and there is every likelihood that the EU would insist upon budget contributions continuing at the current level at least until the start of the next funding round. The UK government has made commitments and it is because of our respect for the rule of law and the sanctity of contract that Britain heads the world soft power index.

In other words, an independent UK would continue to support British agriculture and provide regional development funds to the underdeveloped parts of our own country as well as to post-Communist Eastern Europe. We would also continue to participate in science and social programmes in collaboration with our EU partners.

There may be savings to be made through more efficient administration and reduced bureaucracy, but cost reduction is not a key reason to leave the EU. I’m not sure it would even make my personal top ten “reasons to leave” list. Even if EU membership cost the country only £9.99 a year, I would still want to leave. It is sacrificing self-governance for supranational subordination that I find objectionable, not the membership fee.

Immigration

With regard to immigration, there is much more that the UK government could and should be doing to reduce the “pull factors” that attract such large numbers of people to this country. Properly enforcing occupancy rules at the local level is just one example of a measure that would help to increase the cost of living for migrants to something like the normal level.

These enforcement issues are as much a matter of political will as anything else. A vote to leave the EU would send a strong signal to the UK government to pay serious attention to people’s legitimate concerns. Leaving the EU also places the responsibility for the current policy squarely where it belongs—at the feet of Parliament and the UK government. Politicians would no longer be able to fob voters off with the bogus notion that the EU “makes us” do such and such. EU membership is an active policy choice made by Parliament, something that MPs impose on us, not something that is imposed upon them.

Free of the EU, Britain would also be empowered to take an independent stance in global forums and to table proposals to reform the conventions that are driving mass migration to unsustainable levels. Immigration is a global concern and should be dealt with at that level as well as at the local, national and regional level. The EU’s “common position” restrains the ability of the UK government to act in the British interest and for the common good.

Regulation

The claim that EFTA/EEA member states have “no say” over what are sometimes called “EU rules” is one of the most egregious lies told by the Remain campaign. It would be true to say that Norway, for instance, has “no vote in EU institutions” but that is not the same as having “no say”.

The EEA agreement has a two-pillar structure in which EU and EFTA members participate. EFTA members also play a full role in joint committees and are equal participants in a process known as “decision-shaping”.

In addition, the EEA acquis is one quarter the size of the EU acquis. Upon leaving the EU, Britain would regain policy control over crucial areas such as trade, aid, agriculture, fisheries, energy and the environment. We would also be free to determine our own level of foreign affairs and defence co-operation.

The so-called “emergency measures” contained in the EEA agreement also allow EFTA members to unilaterally suspend any of the four freedoms for a period. This is akin to the “emergency brake” that David Cameron failed to bring back as part of his “renegotiation”—and it does not require the assent of EU institutions in order to use it.

Taking the point about having a say several stages further, the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade has changed everything with respect to regulation. Article 2.4 says: “Where technical regulations are required and relevant international standards exist or their completion is imminent, Members shall use them, or the relevant parts of them, as a basis for their technical regulations”. That little word “shall” transforms the relationship between global bodies and the EU, placing independent nation-states at the forefront of the regulatory agenda.

In his Bloomberg speech, David Cameron said: “Our participation in the Single Market, and our ability to help set its rules is the principal reason for our membership of the EU.” The Prime Minister would do well to read my previous post explaining that the EU is not the Single Market. Even more important however is the WTO TBT Agreement and the combined effect of the Vienna and Dresden Agreements which increasingly render the EU obsolete as a vehicle for making our voices heard.

The standards that are translated into Single Market regulations increasingly originate at the global level in bodies such as UNECE, Codex, the ILO, the IMO and the ITU. Independent nation-states have more power in these forums than any EU Member State—all of which are treaty-bound to adopt the EU’s “common position”. The real ‘top tables’ are at the global level and that is where Britain needs to be in order to ensure that British ideas are represented.

Remaining in the EU means sacrificing global power and self-representation in intergovernmental bodies where every vote is respected in return for so-called “influence” in the supranational EU where decisions are taken under a system of Qualified Majority Voting (QMV) in which, if you are in the minority, you can be overruled. That really would be resiling from the world and I fear for what would happen to our much diminished political discourse when it is understood that the politicians lied to us in order to hand policy-making power to people who are not accountable to any electorate.

After Brexit the power to make our own trade, aid, agricultural, fisheries, energy and environmental policies would be returned to Parliament. The greater autonomy and agility of our domestic institutions would force British governance to become more adaptable and accountable to the needs of the people. Indeed, with the ability to sack the government back in British hands, we would have a proper say in setting the agenda at both national and local level, and the politicians would have to listen to us. Moreover, we would have no choice but to get real, focusing on policies and not personalities, changing for the better the culture of debate and deliberation that plays such a crucial part in any self-governing democracy.

“Project Fear” Concedes Defeat

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The swiftness with which Remain-minded MPs have gone from saying that leaving the EU is a “leap in the dark” and “nobody knows what Leave looks like” (literally yesterday) to today saying that “One alternative option put forward by pro-EU MPs would be for the UK to stay part of the single market by continuing its membership of the European Economic Area” is quite remarkable.

This BBC article prompted a strong reaction on both sides of the referendum campaign. But nothing in it will be news to anybody who has followed the work of The Leave Alliance or read Dr Richard North’s Flexcit plan. Indeed, were either of the campaign groups doing anything like a reasonable job of informing the public, the idea of leaving the EU but remaining in the Single Market would be entirely unremarkable.

The Leave Alliance has always argued that leaving the EU will necessarily be a process not an event and that as a result of more than 40 years of political and economic integration untangling Britain’s policy-making framework from that of the EU will take time. This is nothing more than pragmatic political reality.

There is no realistic exit option that does not embrace transitional arrangements of some kind or other and an EFTA/EEA type arrangement is the most credible because it involves taking existing legal instruments off the shelf to avoid uncertainty and facilitate an agreement that both Britain and the EU can accept in the short- to medium-term. EFTA/EEA would not be the destination but a pragmatic interim arrangement on route to a new settlement.

To witness the hysterical reactions of those who have variously ridiculed, ignored and scorned the only credible Brexit plan responding to the news that a Remain-oriented Parliament would have a say in the immediate post-exit arrangements is odd to say the least. A credible leave campaign, which Vote Leave most assuredly is not, would be using this opportunity to hammer home the fact that the EU is not the Single Market. Reassurance that Britain will not leave the Single Market while we disengage from the EU’s political and judicial arrangements means that leaving the EU is no risk at all.

With respect to immigration, it is worth noting that the EEA agreement contains within it a unilateral “emergency brake” akin to the one that Cameron failed to agree as part of his EU “renegotiation”. Furthermore, there is more to managing immigration than immediately ending free movement of workers within the EEA. Recovering policy control over key areas such as trade and aid, as well as foreign and defence policy, will enable Britain to do much more to find solutions to what is a global problem, working with our allies in Europe and partner countries around the world.

Leaving the EU is only the start of a process that will transform this country into one that is much more democratic and much more engaged at the global level. Outside of the EU, Britain would have no option but to modernise; Westminster and Whitehall would be too busy with national governance to indulge in political vanity projects; real localism would become a necessity; the business of politics would be policy and I see only positives resulting from the resurgence of democracy and accountable government.

The Remainers overplayed their hand with the “Project Fear” bogey and now they are trying to claim credit for ideas that were never theirs. The one thing that none of them can argue credibly from now on, however, is that “nobody knows what Leave looks like”. It begins with a return to proper democratic politics with a Parliamentary process to determine our immediate post-exit arrangements, and, to take the argument one stage further, we even know what that looks like—leaving the EU and remaining in the Single Market.

If you are interested in really engaging with the responsibilities and the opportunities that arise from democratic self-governance, there is (much) more in Flexcit.

The EU Is Not The Single Market

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Remainers apparently struggle to understand the very simple concept that the EU is not the Single Market. To clarify, the Single Market is the 31-member state EEA (European Economic Area) agreement, which includes EFTA (European Free Trade Association) members—Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein—along with the 28 EU Member States.

EFTA/EEA member states enjoy full access to the Single Market without being bound by the Common External Tariff or the Common Commercial Policy, which, under the terms of Article 34 of the Treaty on European Union, empowers the European Commission to speak on behalf of EU Member States in international trade talks and compels EU Member States to adopt the EU’s “common position” on standards-setting bodies at the global level.

It is quite stunning the lengths to which Remainers will go to in order to muddy the water on this particular issue, even to the point of arguing against themselves. No less a figure than the Prime Minister says that the Norway option would not be right for Britain because it would mean paying into the EU budget and accepting free movement of workers. Maybe I missed a meeting, but at what point was it agreed that remaining in the EU would mean any change to either aspect of our current relationship?

Of all the rubbish I have read about the EEA though, this piece from Euroactiv currently tops what is a very long list. If you want to read the entire article the link is there. I am going to focus only on the following sentence:

In practice, Norway was never outside the EU: As a member of the European Economic Area Agreement (EEA), Norway adopts all Single Market legislation just like any EU member state, with the exception of the common agriculture and fishery policies.

I will say it again if I have to, the EU is not the Single Market. This abuse of language is so common among Remainers that one easily becomes inured to it, but what Euroactiv has published here amounts to a lie. Norway is not in the EU and nobody can credibly argue that Norway is in the EU. That would be because the Single Market agreement (the EEA) is not the EU. The use of the words “in practice” change nothing.

There is also the assertion that “Norway adopts all Single Market legislation just like any EU Member State”. Countries that are in the EEA adopt all “EEA relevant” legislation, but, that is not the same as being in the EU. Not even close. At last count, the proportion of “EEA relevant” legislation was around one quarter of the total number of EU legislative acts in force. Adopting all Single Market legislation is not the same as adopting all EU legislation because—say it with me now—the EU is not the Single Market.

For any europhiles trying to follow along, you can leave now. You wouldn’t understand this next bit and I know that new information is the kind of thing that is liable to disrupt your worldview. Still here? Right, get this, I’m about to blow your mind: not only is the EU not the Single Market, but the world does not end at the borders of the EU.

Yes, I know what you’re thinking. You’ve heard all about those dragons at the edge of the map and isn’t the EU a flat disk sat on the back of a turtle being pulled through space by four giant elephants?

No, exciting as the thought may be, Britain and the British people will not be stepping off the edge of the world at the point of EU exit. Transitional arrangements which suit both sides will be hammered out as part of the exit negotiation. The Remainer idea that leaving the EU would mean Britain being “isolated” and “alone” is as pitiable as it is absurd. As far as these timid creatures as concerned, the UK is not a place that “makes history” any more.

To be completely honest, even if that were true (it isn’t), Britain is still my home. It matters to me how and by whom my country is governed even if the time-servers at the FT can’t be arsed to engage with the arguments with any degree of seriousness.

One of the reasons why the Remainers’ view of EU exit is so grossly negative is that (if their rhetoric is to be believed) they genuinely think that the world really does end at the edge of the EU. The fact of the matter, however, is that globalisation is changing everything. The emergence of genuinely multilateral institutions operating on an intergovernmental basis at the global level undermines practically every argument that the Remainers make about having “influence” in the EU. If we want Britain to play an active part in solving the major issues of the 21st century, rather than whinging from the sidelines mired in a grey supranational construct conceived in the 1920s, Britain needs a full seat at the top table.

Britain is plugged into the global system in ways that the Remainers have not even begun to recognise, let alone seriously address. There are a universe of global bodies above the level of the sub-regional EU. The WTO, Codex, UNECE, the ILO, the IMO, and so on. But, as part of the EU, the UK is bound by the EU “common position” on these forums, without an independent voice, vote or right of reservation.

Our politicians cede our power at the global level in exchange for “influence” in the EU. But what purpose does that “influence” serve if it means that the voice of the people is never heard?

The Remainers want us to believe that it would be really, really dangerous for Britain, one of the world’s oldest and most successful nation-state democracies, to embrace the same level of independence as say, Australia, Norway, Switzerland, Canada, the United States, etc. Then they act incredulous when we say that we don’t believe them.

This great country’s days are not over. Leaving the EU would be but the first step in a great global journey towards greater prosperity and purposeful political engagement. There is a lot of work to be done to rebuild our democratic institutions and policy-making expertise, but the first step is to leave the EU.

A Transition Plan

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To complain that David Cameron, George Osborne and the Remain camp are scaremongering, spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt on the basis of tenuous assertions with little—sometimes no—grounding in fact is broadly akin to complaining that fish have gills which they use to breathe under water. That is what they are, that is what they do.

If nothing else, this referendum has made clear that David Cameron and George Osborne are not fit to hold the offices of state which the electorate so carelessly allowed them to occupy. That, in time, can and will be corrected. What is less certain is whether we will have another opportunity to vote on bringing power closer to the people, by leaving the EU, or pushing that power still further away, by remaining in the EU.

We knew what was coming. The core of what became The Leave Alliance spent years preparing a comprehensive transition plan for a structured EU exit. The Flexcit plan acknowledges (may have even originated) the idea that leaving the EU will be a process rather than a one-time event. We leave in the same manner that we were taken in—piece by piece, in stages.

The plan also presupposes that a successful EU exit should be the foremost political priority of the “leave” campaign and that any, indeed, every other issue, should play second fiddle to securing a majority vote in an EU referendum. Of necessity that means repudiating many of the tired old “eurosceptic” (a word that must now be retired) nostrums that have failed to arrest, let alone reverse, the ongoing process of political and judicial integration to which all EU Member States are subject.

The transition plan rejects empty aspiration and embraces pragmatic and practical political reality. It is not a contradiction that those who are amongst the most determined advocates for Brexit sound like the reasonable centre ground. We have put ourselves in that position deliberately because we know that is where we need to be in order to convince the mass of undecided referendum voters that leaving the EU is not only necessary, but also practicable, possible and safe.

The fundamental reason why Britain must leave the EU is, was and ever shall be political and not economic. As an EU Member State, policy choices which should be subject to democratic debate are taken at the supranational level. As an EU Member State, the UK is not and can never be a self-governing democracy. Simple.

We do not need common government in order to trade and co-operate with our continental allies.

Given that the only realistic immediate post-exit deal is an EFTA/EEA type arrangement (or something that broadly replicates the same structures), it is useful to look at how Norway works with the EU. Norway, a much smaller economy than the UK, is a member of the 31-member state EEA agreement, which also includes fellow EFTA members Iceland and Lichtenstein, along with the 28 EU Member States. Norway is involved in shaping EU legislation deemed “EEA relevant” and unlike EU Member States, which all accept that decisions shall be taken under Qualified Majority Voting (QMV), Norway has a right of reservation—effectively a veto—over any new regulation that it does not wish to apply in its own market. The decision to exercise that right obviously has consequences and, for reasons that are even more obvious, such an eventuality almost never arises. But, as is the perogative of a self-governing nation-state the choice is in the hands of the Norwegian government.

Norway also has full self-representation on the global bodies where most technical standards for trade now originate, not to mention independent trade, aid, energy, environmental, agricultural, fisheries, justice and home affairs, foreign affairs and defence policies. An EFTA/EEA type arrangement provides an excellent base on which to build something even better, affording us the freedom to make policies that serve the common good rather than sacrificing large swathes of people at the alter of advancing the cause of EU integration.

The British have always adopted a transactional approach to EU membership, to the chagrin of many of the other EU Member States. That is precisely why it makes so much sense to embrace this historic opportunity to reorient our relationship with the EU. Trading and co-operating with our friends on the continent, but writing legislation and making policy in Westminster and Whitehall.

If we want more democratic and more accountable government, we need to bring decision-making closer to the people, not vest it in supranational structures which empower tiny elites to impose their agendas on the rest of us.