Saturday, May 23, 2015

How to win the EU debate

One of the reasons I only reluctantly engage in any online EU debate is because I have been a Eurosceptic all my life and I have read every cliché, every hackneyed mantra, every block capital rant, every slimy press release and every glossy brochure.  I am so utterly sick of the sight of it I would be happy to leave the EU purely on the basis of never having to see such drivel again, regardless of the more delicate matters therein.

Further to this, if there is one thing more tiresome than your opponent distorting the truth, it's watching your own side engaging in the debate and getting it wrong. So single-minded are they in their ignorance that they interpret any criticism of their arguments as an attack from a "Lib/Lab/Con Europhile Gramscian Marxist traitor" (whatever that means). This is particularly evident among the Ukip fraternity. It's boring, it's lame, and more to the point, it is not going to win us an EU referendum. The aggressive and bullying posturing of "cyber-nats" has tainted the Scottish independence debate and it has not won anyone over. It is that same stunted attitude that will lose us an EU referendum.

The way to win the debate is with rational, measured, realistic answers. The outcome of the referendum will be less about why we should leave the EU, but what will happen if we do. That is why it is important to have a grasp on how we leave the EU. Ripping up treaties and walking away is not a realistic proposition. Decades of political and regulatory integration will not be undone overnight, and not even in a few years. Anyone making the case that we can is someone who probably doesn't understand the complexity of EU regulation or the necessity for it. Leaving the EU does not mean we are free of international obligations in the way we trade with the world either.

Our side needs to be prepared and it needs to have good answers to difficult questions. This is why I have so relentlessly attacked Ukip which is still failing to answer the more nuanced questions with anything other than flimsy conjecture. Ukippers say it doesn't matter but it very much does.

The way the pro-EU camp will fight this is with scaremongering about trade and jobs. To engage in top-trumps arguments on trade and jobs is to immediately fall into the trap because it plays along with the lie that the EU is a trade organisation. It isn't.

From the beginning the EU has been a federalist, supranationalist project. "Ever closer union" is written into the DNA of the EU and the final destination is an EU superstate, with a flag, an anthem and army, complete with a president and foreign policy capable of starting wars of their own. Were the wording of the referendum entirely honest the question would be "Do wish to abolish Britain as a nation to become part of a United States of Europe?" It is fundamentally a question of who governs us and it's about democracy.

The scaremongers will repeat the old mantra of three million jobs depending on the EU. It cannot be said too often that those jobs depend on the single market, not the EU - and the EU is not the single market. It is entirely possible to be independent of the EU and still trade with the EU and Europe. They will bleat about us not having a seat at the top table, failing to recognise the EU is no longer the top table (if ever it was). Most regulation now originates at the international level, and if we leave the EU we get more influence since the EU presently negotiates on our behalf.

The warnings of economic disaster also do not stand up. For sure, there would be a major economic disaster were we to suddenly rip up the law that enacts the EU, but that is why we must not fall for this straw man and be able to point to a workable exit scenario that covers all the bases. The lack of such will be the Achilles heel of the exit campaign.

We have to recognise that leaving the EU is a long term process, not an event, and whichever solution is advocated it must be one that maintains access to the single market. That is the only scenario that will not scare the horses enough for us to win the referendum. The Ukip notion that we will suddenly switch over to trading with the rest of the world is not a serious argument, not least because we are always going to trade more with our neighbours, and as an argument, any half way informed Europhile will drive a horse and cart through it. And rightly so.

Our side needs to be very careful not to overstate the advantages to leaving because it will not lead to a miracle recovery or a bright new dawn and few (apart of from the Ukip obsessives) will believe it.  I certainly don't. Even outside of the EU we are a long way from real democracy, and anything the EU can do to us we are perfectly capable of doing to ourselves.

In the short to medium term leaving the EU will not mean we miraculously regain control of our borders nor will be be junking vast tranches of regulation or abolishing VAT. This pie in the sky stuff isn't going to happen. Nothing in policy and politics happens at the stroke of a pen and not all of our deep rooted problems can be blamed on the EU. Pretending otherwise is not a credible argument.

If we are going to win we must be reasonable, pragmatic and ready to respond with watertight arguments. The coming debate will see the pro-EU side enlisting big business to warn against "uncertainly" with grave consequences for pulling out. This is where the "Flexcit" plan comes into play as an off-the-shelf solution, seeing us join the EEA & EFTA. This means the day after we leave the EU, nothing whatsoever changes as far as industry is concerned, but we then have the power to start reasserting our sovereignty.

We might prefer more drastic and faster methods, but business and the public will need reassurances to vote the right way and these are the compromises we will have to make if we want to win. Leaving the EU is like turning a supertanker and we will have to do it in stages.

This does mean we will still have open borders, but we are then free to take the necessary domestic measures to reduce the pull factor for immigrants, while negotiating with the countries of origin to take measures in preventing the flow. Closing our borders in not a realistic option and nor would we want to. There are more nuanced and creative solutions.

Essentially the "little-Englander" Ukip approach to the debate (of pulling up the drawbridge and turning us into an island fortress) is not a vision we can sell. It has limited appeal and so do the sorts of people who push that line. They tend to be the "Mr Angry" ilk who are absolutely poisonous to speak with and horribly tiresome - the very reason I can't bring myself to join Ukip.

We can only win the debate using skillfully crafted arguments. Mantras and conjecture is insufficient. We must show the opposition and the world that we still believe in international co-operation and freedom of trade and movement, and that we have better solutions to our problems than the EU.

Moreover, we must have broader ambitions than simply leaving the EU. Leaving the EU is not the end of the fight. Leaving the EU is only a milestone on the road to democracy, and just because we have shift the establishment from Brussels back to London it does not mean we have any greater control over our affairs. So we will need bigger ideas than the wholly negative premise of leaving the EU and sticking twos up to Europe.

That is why The Harrogate Agenda, a total revolution in the structure of UK governance, has been included in the Flexcit plan, not only as a deal sweetener, but also as a destination where government serves our interests and not those of an ever distant elite. It is a positive vision that makes leaving the EU more than a dull technical procedure and something that might inspire a movement that lives beyond the referendum campaign. If we leave the running of the campaign to the likes of the IEA and the Tory think-tank fraternity, they will waste the cash, lose the referendum and let the movement fall flat, as every campaign they have ever managed has.

In that respect, those who are serious about winning this referendum will be fighting on three fronts. We will have to deal with the underhanded lies of the pro-EU camp, the brain-capsizing ineptitude of the Ukip, and the selfish, self-absorbed right-wing think tank grandees who are neither use nor ornament. We can only win this if Eurosceptics up their game and start doing their homework - and most of all, do not allow the campaign to be hijacked by Westminster careerist campaigners who get paid either way. I don't know about you, but I would like to win.

Maybe you can hire... The B Team

We're only a few days into the EU referendum campaign for real but we're proving in spades the value of having the superior intellectual capital and why you need your ducks in a row before you go into the fight. Something Ukip never learned which is why they messed up their election campaign.

We've won every debate we entered on Twitter this week. Just a pity we're the only operation in the game. The kippers are floundering because they've done nothing but grunt about immigration for two years so they're no use at all. If we had the public money the europhile campaign does, us sceptics would have this referendum in the bag. 

The main reason we'll lose is because the media will use the eurosceptic B team as their go to guys - Carswell, Farage and Hannan. Thus far, the BBC haven't approached Only the most influential and longest running eurosceptic blog there is. We do have our victories though.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

An open letter to Airbus

Dear Airbus,

We don't tell you how to build aircraft so don't tell us how to run our country.

The EU is not the single market so the functioning of Airbus is not in any way affected by the UK leaving the EU. Most of the rules of the single market are made by global bodies. This you know full well. The same is true of the regulations with which you must comply.

To say you would reconsider investment in the UK in the event of Britain leaving the European Union ignores the fact that you already have, some time ago - not least by ending 100 years of aviation at Filton by closing the runway. This does not suggest to me a long term commitment to the UK.

Moreover, the repair jobs based at Bristol have been gradually outsourced to India over the last few years so please don't pretend you care about British jobs. We know that first and foremost you are a French company and you have been gradually pulling out for years, placing all the best jobs in Toulouse.

If it's labour costs that bother you, you should be glad we're leaving the EU. As to jobs, don't forget those jobs are heavily subsidised with OUR money. We CAN take our money elsewhere.

Meanwhile, our order for the A400M is worth less to us than the maintenance contracts for the C130. We can survive without it. And while we're on that subject, rather than pontificating on how we should run our democracy, how about you concentrate on making the A400M not fall out of the sky and killing all the crew - especially since our RAF men and women will be serving on them?

That's your business. Who governs us... is not.


EU Referendum Group

Brexit: the Scottish question

Many firmly eurosceptic Tories think that if we quit the EU, we'll lose Scotland from the Union. This they tell me is why they will vote to stay in the EU.

I take the view that an independent Scotland would not be intolerable if we leave the EU. By now most eurosceptics appear to be settled on Efta as a solution or an interim negotiating platform, which retains our access to the single market. This makes sense. From the likes of Airbus and Deutsche Bank we've seen the usual hyperventilation about uncertainty, but retention of the single market cuts through all that.  Brexit makes very little difference to business as usual.

The only way the pro-EU forces can then win is to continue their deception that the EU is the single market. This is their only ace. We have two years with which to educate the public that much of the rules that govern the single market come from global bodies from the WTO to UNECE. As an independent nation we can influence the rules before they get anywhere near the EU. And so could Scotland.

Efta is an intergovernmental alliance rather than a supranational project, so Scotland would massively benefit if it did leave the Union.  For starters it could have many of the benefits that Iceland and Norway enjoys and also a seat at the NAFO and other bodies in the Nordic trade circle. Without such influence over things like Scottish fishing waters, there is very little point in leaving the Union but staying in the EU.

As an independent nation. Scotland would then have a voice and would probably have more to say at the top table on some issues than we do. It has a much stronger voice as a nation within a community of nations than a single bloc like the EU. Giving Scotland all the adult responsibilities that come with independence means reality will soon dampen some of the SNP's more, shall we say, ambitious ideas. It is likely the SNP would be thrown out of office post independence anyway.

Nothing will ever change the fact that Scotland is intimately intertwined with England and Wales so we have little to fear. Even as an independent state, London can still hold sway with Edinburgh. Without London, Scotland would be a weak voice in the EU and there is little to be said for Scotland rejoining if it has all the advantages of Efta. It's a gamble but as a partner nation in Efta with the remainder of the UK, we have a chance at shaping the world in ways we can't while the EU negotiates on our behalf. So what we should be saying to Scotland is give us our freedom from the EU and we'll give you yours. If then Scotland wishes to remain part of the Union and see where our independent future takes us, I'm good with that too.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Farage has to go. He's a disaster.

Iain Martin in The Telegraph:
To stand any chance in the referendum that is coming, the Out campaign should calmly distance itself from that rag-tag of Ukip MEPs, and the warring Ukip leadership, and hope that the party’s 3.8 million voters turn up regardless. Moderate voices from business and beyond should be deployed urgently who can counter the wave of pro-EU propaganda about to be unleashed on middle-ground voters. If that cannot be done, if the Eurosceptic cause cannot be decontaminated, then the Out campaign should prepare to get thrashed. 
Everyone sees it but Farage. Failure seems inevitable now Farage has gone full Galloway. I've spent months trying to reach these people but we cannot do business with "Liblabcon/EUSSR" headbangers. We've tried. Their cult comes first.

The Kipper line is that there will be no referendum and if there is, they'll lose it, so they carry on marching behind Farage in the rather optimistic delusion they'll eventually take power. As far as they're concerned the referendum will be "rigged" so we can't possibly win it, so in the kipper mind there is no fault attached to losing it - even if they're utterly repellent.

Up to now I've never seen round 1 as winnable, just an opportunity to put the issue front and centre and build up an alliance of experienced and knowledgeable campaigners who can be put to use in any future treaty referendum. That's when we'll see a huge swing against the EU, but that can only happen if we lose this referendum well. Farage seems absolutely determined it should be a wipe-out and lose as badly as possible. I've said it before and I'll say it again - Ukip is the most malevolent force in British politics.

A determination to lose

The last twenty four hours have proven to me that the Cult of Farage is as strong as ever. The Kippers are certain that their man is a referendum winner and they will back him all the way. So we'll have Farage front and centre on all the BBC shows, insulting the audience, making speeches up on the spot, getting the arguments wrong and mouthing off about HIV infected foreigners. He will turn the referendum into a left vs right debate and he will lose as he alienates just about every marginal voters we need to win.

Farage has even become convinced of his own infallibility claiming that "You’ve got a situation where a party leader has more support than he’s ever had by a monster margin. There was a leadership election four months ago, and it was uncontested. My support is stronger now than it was then”.

He has a mandate for sure, but a mandate from kippers. ie not 87% of the electorate.

In an article for The Sunday Times, Godfrey Bloom — the former Ukip MEP said the “out” campaign would lose the referendum if Farage was at the helm because he was not popular enough outside his own party. Douglas Carswell expressed concern about claims that Farage would now be “more autocratic” and face down his internal critics. He said that Farage's leadership could hurt Eurosceptic hopes. That's nothing we've not been saying for over a year. Farage's closest friends, colleagues and enemies are all telling him the same thing. If this isn't a bunker mentality I don't know what is. It has a ring of Downfall to it. Farage is becoming the new George Galloway.

We can only hope he jumps the shark soon and goes into self-destruct because if that man is the Brexit spokesman on Question Time then it's game over, for real. We only have a fighting chance if Ukip does not own the campaign. If Farage does not go, then Carswell will have to step up to the plate and hurt the party by quitting. If he believes in the importance of this referendum he will have to fall on his sword.

Kippers have been hammering the message all day that Ukip got 4m votes and that we are only be having a referendum because of Nigel Farage. Now they are determined to go down with the captain. Twenty years it took to build the party to what it is, to give us a shot at leaving the EU - but in the final analysis, Nigel Farage will be the man who blows it for Britain. Europhiles must be loving every minute of this.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Question Time: ducking the debate

Watching BBC Question Time, we get the distinct impression that Farage will help Ukip limp along until September while it gets its act together for some kind of leadership contest, in which Farage will probably let the other contenders make fools of themselves and resume his role, given that the gang of clowns he appointed to senior roles could not possibly replace him. That was always a possibility.

One thing we saw was Farage having a pretty easy ride of it. The thing is, Farage is now the useful idiot the establishment needs. He will make the worst possible case for Brexit, using decades old arguments, which are now beyond relevance, dragging immigration into the debate - which is what lost winnable seats for Ukip in the general election.

He trots out the same old baloney about a European army and and "taking back control of our borders", and it's precisely the sort of easy hit arguments the europhiles are prepared to face down, and Farage will walk right into it.

In many respects, the political establishment couldn't ask for a better opponent. He has been anointed by the BBC as the official spokesman for the Brexit campaign even though he has precisely no mandate to do that. For those eurosceptics like me who want this to be about bigger issues of governance, democracy, sovereignty and human rights reform, Farage is the very worst possible spokesman.

Never will you hear it said that free movement of people and trade is the benefit of the single market and the EEA, not the EU. Nobody will even make the distinction. Farage won't make this case because he's barely aware of the distinction even as an MEP. As it happens the majority of British MPs and MEP's don't know the difference.

This does raise the question of whether anyone in Ukip would be any better and the answer is categorically not (since they're all mouth-breathing losers), but in any case, the squabbling will continue for sometime within Ukip and that will sadly equate Brexit with Ukip - and will show just how much the campaign is in disarray. When the only other "assets" we have are the likes of Matthew Elliott, Dan Hannan, Bill Cash, John Redwood, Dominic Cummings and Business For Britain, the chances of winning look remote.

None of them will appreciate that the debate has been framed between the status quo and the narrow little Englander vision and they will only speak within those narrow parameters, with perhaps only Hannan preaching a more liberal view but in essence getting all the arguments wrong because he's a shallow individual and impenetrably thick.

One thing is clear, we are not going to get an honest debate about the EU, or even about what the EU is from either side, and ignorance will be considered a virtue. You might well ask why I'm even bothering. Given how bleak it looks today, I really don't know. I guess I'm just not one for going down without a fight, even if my allies are my enemies.