Friday, 28 August 2015

Time to ditch the eurosceptic baggage


Earlier this week I said that eurosceptics are going to have to bin all the arguments they have rehearsed for decades. The world has changed, the battlefield has changed, and more to the point, these same arguments didn't work the last time we have a referendum. The opposition knows what to expect of us, it knows our arguments as well as we do, and it's not the burning issue that eurosceptics believe it is. If we don't have something new to sell, it really is game over.

This cannot be stated enough.

All of the pro-EU outfits are well briefed to handle the classic arguments- particularly the matter of the budget contribution. It's useless to say families will be £933 better off. For starters, the chances of any sum being returned to us by way of a tax cut is, shall we say, optimistic. Secondly, while Brexit presents opportunities, there are going to be costs. Opening up new markets may require we enter new agreements that require contributions, and as yet we do not know which EU programmes we will want continued participation in.

If we march down the road of making big promises, the opposition will see us coming. We are often keen to point out that EU money spent in the UK is our money thus the net contribution is going to be a small fraction of GDP. A well crafted infographic can hit that point home. Moreover, the last thing we want to do is get sucked into bickering with claim and counter claim. We can instead take the high ground and say with pragmatism that it doesn't matter what we pay, we will continue to participate in the economic and social life of the EU regardless. We can argue that Brexit does not exclude us from participating and we have every intention of keeping up good relations with the EU.

To suggest we're going to keep all the money essentially says we are taking our bat home and withdrawing from all co-operation with the EU. Precisely the wrong message. Brexit isn't about bean-counting. Such arguments didn't work in 1975 and they don't work now. They are boring and people won't know who to believe. If Ukip et al is wedded to those arguments, by association the argument loses credibility.

This is an old argument that fails to inspire on an issue that will not turn the the vote in our favour and it's a weak position from which to be making our case. Our best bet lies in creating an exciting vision that incentivises a No vote. It wouldn't matter if eurosceptics were 100% correct and that we would save every penny and housewives could spend more on wine and cheese in Sainsbury's - it's just not going to be the basis on which anybody casts their vote except for those who already want to leave.

We have to move on and change the record if we want to win. It may be difficult to let go of because it's been a well rehearsed argument for all of time, but we can't afford any sacred cow arguments. The opposition knows how to play to them, they're a crashing bore and Brexit has never been about the money. In no battle would you deploy your forces where the enemy expects them to be and you wouldn't send your forces running into their most fortified position. We need arguments they are not prepared for and ideas that will energise and excite.

More to the point, that ground is covered by the usual eurosceptic suspects. The Know, Better Off Out and Business for Britain will be running at the machine gun nests like the lemmings we are, so why should we reinforce their failure? We need some original thinking and some new angles because we have to reach new ears. Once again I repeat: we have to reach people who would never in a billion years vote Ukip. Adapt or die.

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