Thursday, 4 February 2016

Euroscepticism 2.0


From this post this morning, it prompts some to ask if I am even eurosceptic at all. After all, I don't have that much of an issue with freedom of movement, I accept the need to contribute to the EU budget, I don't favour deregulation or divergence and I am in no desperate rush to leave the single market. This puts me at odds with most eurosceptics.

Certainly there is nothing coming from the Tory camp I can support, nor am I especially enamoured with Kipper moaning as you're probably well aware. As to the left, The Morning Star is actually the one original contribution have seen that adds value - but on the whole, the blether about Greek austerity and TTIP won't turn too many heads. Then we get the arrogant Johnny-come-lately's, having failed to do any groundwork, barging in to plaster the debate with yet more of the same contradictory nonsense. What is there to be impressed by?

Apart from a band of bloggers, there are few inside the Leave camp trying to do us any favours. There are those who call me a wrecker and an infighter who attacks absolutely everyone, followed by a good deal of sniping that I should put forth a positive message. Well, I have, and not one of these people ever bother to read or retweet it. Instead we get a reversion to type - and just as we think we are making progress we get another Johnny-come-lately dumping their ignorance on the debate. It really does seem like they are determined to lose.

The fact is I am a realist. There isn't a functioning Commonwealth to trade with, there is no turning our back on the EU, the Anglosphere is a eurosceptic fantasy relying mainly on the notoriously protectionist USA, and our trade with Europe is not small enough to ever dismiss. Cooperation with the EU is an absolute necessity, we must have good relations with it and we will want to continue participating in joint programmes even if we leave.

Kipper headbangers imagine Brexit as a massive "up yours" to the EU, going our separate ways and ending any kind of integration or cooperation. As much as that's a stupid idea, it's just not realistic and you won't sell that to the voters.

And as much as there are alternative configurations for interfacing with the EU, we are not starting from scratch. We are not talking about initiating new trade agreements. We are talking about gradually unpicking forty years of economic and political integration which is not nearly as easy and anybody imagines. The Redwoods and Bannermans of this world who think "bish bash bosh, knock up a free trade deal and we're good to go" are just not on this planet.

And seriously what are voters going to think of eurosceptics if that's what we are seriously trying to convey? The Remain camp have already dragged us over the coals on a number of contradictions and John Springford's debunking of the deregulation myth is about as good as my own. Put simply, the Leave camp is just not credible - and it can't even spell out why Brexit is even worth the hassle short of bleating about bent bananas and the evils of helicopter safety regulations.

The fact is, we suffered a very painful revolution in the early nineties opening the floodgates to a whole tranche of regulations made at the EU level and above. That was the price for regional regulatory convergence. It hurt us and we never had a say in it but we lost the argument in 1992. Now we cannot put the genie back in the bottle. Regulatory convergence is here to stay. We are in a single market, the world is catching up and while we felt the pain, we have also gained from it.

To suggest we now put that process into reverse and to transition to a different regulatory regime that puts up technical barriers to trade just causes the same amount of pain to no real advantage. What is so terrible about the EU that we should go through all that again? Why bother? That is the case the Leave campaign has to answer.

If the argument is so that we can protect British steel and British jobs, and make sure only British firms build our trains and ships then forget about it. You have wiped out half your conservative swing vote right there. If it's so we can repeal the working time directive, well as it happens it's very popular with the left. So too are helicopter safety regulations, you will not be surprised to learn. All things considered, it's better if helicopters don't fall out of the sky on a regular basis. One or two a year is enough.

Deregulation is a lousy argument, immigration is pretty much a busted flush, budget contributions is a loser of an argument and souring EU relations is not a serious proposition. Leavers will just have to come to terms that while many dislike the EU, they do not actively hate it as they do.

The theme I am running with is that we are reluctant EU members and neither party is getting the best from us being in the EU and our politics is souring because of it. It's a chance to reboot democracy. We can safely concede that much of what we get from the EU is actually good and we do want to keep some of it but we just don't want to be ruled by a supreme government for Europe.

In fact, that's my main sticking point. I actually don't care if the EU wants to steam ahead with a federal superstate and I don't want to make an enemy of it, but I will happy fight and die for the principle that Britain should not be a supplicant of it.

What we can say is that Norway has close to what we want, and we can also concede it is suboptimal too. It's up to us to set out a case as to how we can use that new position to our advantage, what the differences would be for the man in the street and how it affects business. What it all means for the future.

What we can say is that it strengthens our hand at all of the global bodies, we are free to pick and choose ad-hoc alliances, and in joining with Norway and the rest of Efta we have sufficient clout between us to force a better EEA agreement. Norway would certainly support that and even welcome it as the EEA agreement is not all that popular.

Whichever way you look at it, the UK being the fifth largest economy, able to make agile agreements is more of an asset to Europe outside of the EU and the EU has nothing to gain by frustrating that.

What we can say is that it will revitalise our diplomatic efforts, will transform our aid and trade policy and will reenergise domestic politics as it focuses on matter of greater substance. It gives business more of a direct line to the global standards bodies and gives them a greater voice in shaping the regulations the EU adopts and it promotes multilateralism within the global bodies as the EU dominance is weakened.

Nevermind all the miserly bean-counting and the shrivelled 1970's arguments. Bin them, get creative and start thinking of real world incentives. Nobody is going to vote out because some think tank wonk says they will have an extra £933 while everyone else is saying it might cost them their job. Nobody believes these statistics and they are right not to. In fact, if you are arguing for Brexit on the basis of any statistics then you're doing it wrong.

The fact is we are going to accept single market rules, we can't expect Brexit will impact immigration especially and we're not going to have a slush fund to spend on teachers and nurses. Deal with it. But rather than whinging that I've shot your fox in the same way the Remain camp is going to, turn that to your advantage. If Brexit really doesn't impact all these things that much then there is no realistic basis for all these silly scare stories is there?

The short of it is, we need to reboot euroscepticism. Shun all these has-been Tory grandees and Kipper whingers. Think big, get your facts right, get better arguments and present a vision that goes bigger than the dismal Fortress Europe. Give people something to get excited about while reassuring people that it's safe to do it. We need our own revolution on the Leave side, to throw off the tyranny of the Eurosceptic aristocracy and reclaim it as our own. In this we do need to attack our own side and slash and burn through the chaff.

It must be ruthless in dispensing with David Davis and John Redwood and lacklustre Ukip moaners. We don't want them, we don't need them and they don't help us. This must be a people's campaign and it must be our ideas, not theirs. In this, if we can't have a revolution in our own ideas, how can we ask the electorate to do the same?

It may be that it will take a defeat for this to happen. I would rather not and I would rather use the time to have this civil war now than to lose and spend another twenty years battling for a new vote. All I can tell you for certain is that if we sit idly by and let these people dictate the narrative then they will deliver the same 1975 defeat with the same 1975 arguments.

In this, you are either on my side or you are in my way. If you side with the old guard then I will be as ruthless with you as I am the opposition and no I won't stay silent for your benefit. One way or another, this revolution in Eurosceptic ideas needs to happen, and it will happen, and all of the losers will be purged. Whether it happens before the referendum or after we lose it is entirely up to you.

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