Thursday, 25 February 2016

Without a vision, we're staying in the EU


The Europhiles are right you know. There are very few Brexit options. That's what this post was about yesterday. If we leave the EU, we have to do it via article 50 and the options are limited. The WTO option is out of the window, the Swiss Option is messy and the EU is not in a hurry to replicate it - and the Australian pathway is suboptimal.

While Richard North, principal author of Flexcit says we are all too hung up on the means of leaving, I happen to disagree. He is right in that leaving is only the first step on a long journey but before we can even discuss the destination, the first step has to be explored.

In this, we actually needed a longer period of deliberation in order to have the necessary debates about each stage. Cameron has cut the debate short, leaving too many arguments unresolved, leaving us in disarray by the time of the final vote.

I think it's safe to say that while the leaders of the Leave campaigns, aka Team Dinosaur, are still in denial about what can be achieved in the first step, it's a no brainer that the Norway Option is our best possible departure lounge, not least because it doesn't require too much sacrifice by either party. We have to just run with that as though that were a given whether the likes of Bannerman, Lea and Cummings agree or not. It's their short-sightedness that cannot see what an opportunity it presents.

All this time they have been railing against regulation and the single market when really what they need to do to win is embrace it. The Remain campaign has been running articles saying "what has the EU ever done for us" and in so doing they list a great many achievements of the EU - and while we can argue the toss that a lot of what the EU takes credit for is the product of global accords simply adopted and implemented by the EU - or to be more precise, by member states on the EU's instruction, it's only going to make us look petulant by getting into nay-saying slanging matches over it.

What we actually need to do is say that yes, the EU has been in some respects quite effective. The single market has many merits and the EEC was instrumental in modernising our markets and industries. It cost us greatly, as indeed did Mrs Thatcher's economic reforms, but most adults can now agree that it needed to be done and things are mostly better because of it. We need to accept it, thank it and acknowledge it. That, however, does not mean we should stay in the EU. Europhiles themselves make the case for leaving far better than we ever could.

You see, they say we have to pretty much accept the Norway Option because everything else is too complex and couldn't be achieved in two years and would in fact take several years to reach a common agreements.

The tacit admission here is that the EU structures are actually a terrible means of establishing trade relations and access to the EU market. It's overly complex and it takes ages and if it's not easy for an existing member to recalibrate their existing relationship then forging new relationships are going to prove impossible to match single market membership inside my lifetime - and though I am 37, I'm not exactly knocking on a bit.

What we should be saying is that the EU has brought us so far, it has developed a single market of sorts,  but what we actually need to do is expand it and lead it. The goal we should all share is to give everyone the freedom to thrive where and how they want to. I see the EU as a major obstacle to that. While I have the freedom to live and work anywhere in Europe, in practice that's worthless to me since I don't speak Polish, French or German and I am not going to learn. And really I want to go to Japan and Vietnam and Canada to work.

While the EU can say it's in the process of establishing trade links, what it has achieved thus far is insufficient and what exists has already taken years. And more to the point, while there is a notional single market in the EU, anyone who does bring in workers from Poland knows that the red tape barriers to do with banking are far more cumbersome than visa arrangements. So the visaless travel and reciprocal agreements on goods and services are not actually as far reaching as the EU would have us believe.

And so what we have is a very basic single market, where it's really the advancement of customs procedures (TIR) and technology and port harmonisation that has made the big leaps for trade, we need to be asking how we can build a better system that the EU and a framework whereby we can have global agreements on trade where people can opt in on the basis of choice rather than coercion.

Some would rightly argue that this defeats the purpose of an enforce single market, but actually that need not be the problem it once was. Since we have a framework of international standards and the global super regulators create the blueprints of many industrial laws and the ILO creates the basis of labour rights, we already have many of the components we need to construct something of a similar potency on a global scale.

In this we would have to reform the WTO and give it a bit more teeth and by doing so make it a registrar and host of trade agreements feeding into a global trade supercomputer that serves not only as the open data capital of global trade (thus spawning services and economies of its on) but also an organically growing single market that requires no other driver than the trade in its own right, without the imposed political agenda of creating a nation with a set of predetermined values that are not even universally shared. That EU cultural colonialism thing.

In this, there is a huge role for the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe which is pretty much the engine of European regulation and could be made to serve the global framework rather than being a rival to the EU.

What we need to say is there is no going back on what we have built in Europe, but the EU political entity is the obstacle to growing it, and expanding it beyond the confines of Europe. As far as post war settlements go, there were better ideas and we could have chosen a better model, but the EEC (rather than the EU), while substandard, was not, from an economic perspective a wholly bad idea.

The Eu though was a dogmatic construct based on fears and paranoias that grew from the mechanised slaughter in the first half of the last century. It may have held some relevance back in 1975 as the scars of WW2 were still visible, but in a post industrial, internet world, the dogma of Monnet and Schuman simply do not hold relevance. It is a bed blocker to something manifestly better.

We do need a global single market and we do need to extend rights and freedoms and harmonise trade but ultimately it is technology and communication that will do that rather than the ossified processes of the EU construct. By its own admission it cannot bring new trade on board inside a decade and that's what happens when a government for 28 nations is tasked with achieving an agreement that all members can agree to. That's never going to be a good idea is it?

So if we have a global forum where nations can meet and get the best for their shared industries on a conceptual basis rather than the limitations of geography then we have a more fluid and dynamic means of reaching agreements that can in fact bypass government altogether. We have alrteady seen this dynamic taking place with agreements between private global super regulators joining forces at the WTO.

By leaving the EU, people say we would be isolated - which isn't actually true in that we would be in Efta with the freedom to join ad-hoc alliances, but in one respect we would be isolated in that we would be standing apart form the EU saying that this era is over - the post-war settlement has done its job - it is no longer suitable for the modern age and we have a new, better idea for a global community of equals where nobody is summarily overruled.

In that we would find our Efta partners immediate allies in that they have been sufficiently pressured to join the single market but never so convinced by supranationalism that they see fit to join the EU. They have been waiting for a better idea and for someone with the clout to make that happen;. Britain as the fifth largest economy could well make that happen.

We really could be leading Europe and the world - with a view to breaking the walls of fortress Europe and busting it wide open - exporting the best of the single market to the world while dumping the dogmatic supranationalism into the dustbin of history - where it belongs.

Presently, eurosceptics are dead set against the single market and want to go back to the commonwealth, which are both fantasies and do not speak to the modern world, but then the europhiles are just as much locked into obsolete paradigms designed long before I was even born. There's no coincidence this EU referendum debate looks almost identical to the last one.

In essence, the europhiles are right in that we do want all these freedoms and open trade but they are mistaken in believing the EU is the embodiment of it, and in reality it is being bypassed by global events and dynamics beyond its awareness and control. The EU wasn't the best solution for the past and it certainly isn't the model for the future. They just can't let go because thus far nobody has presented a better ideal. And that is really the task for the eurosceptics - to stop whinging about what doesn't work and set about offering something that might.

In this, since we haven't been given the time by Mr Cameron to have these very necessary public debates, we are not going to be able to resolve these issues. We're once again being bounced into the status quo. That means, because the Leave campaign is in such a pisspoor state, with Arron Banks this evening belching out the risible scaremongering that TTIP will privatise the NHS, we will probably lose the referendum.

It's almost a foregone conclusion in that we haven't been able to stimulate a thirst for domestic democracy nor have we set out a convincing and exciting alternative vision. In this I would argue that, so much as we need to put up a good fight to keep the issue alive after the referendum, we may need to lose it just so our side will learn the lessons.

The dinosauric euroscepticism we see on display certainly doesn't deserve to win and if they did actually get the UK that they envisage then it would be awful. I don't want those people running the country and I utterly reject their vision. They may waffle about the anglosphere and the commonwealth, but that's not really an alternative, nor is it a vision. It's just a default option - a line of meaningless rhetoric that could not be practically realised and bares no relation to the word as it presently operates. Their whole case for Brexit sucks.

If we lose this we are going to have to have a serious debate about what we actually want and how we get it. Contemporary euroscepticism is a dreadful movement full of dreadful people with bad ideas who have little to offer anybody. It's a whinge on a repeat cycle - not a movement - and they are wrong about just about everything apart from one basic fact - that the EU sucks. They don't understand why anymore - and can't offer anything better which is why they persistently fail.

But do not be disheartened. We are at a crossroads. As much as we have already noted that the Tufton Street losers are dancing their last little dance, it is also the swansong for the old-school eurosceptics. After this defeat we will be having a version of our own Nuremberg trials.

It will be noted that Arron Banks is incompetent, arrogant and profoundly ignorant and it will also be noted that Dominic Cummings is a sociopath with a slim grasp on reality. It will also be noted that the MPs who came out in support of Brexit were thick as pigshit with no ideas of their own and failed to put in the effort to consult expertise or expand the debate outside their grubby little circles.

We will also have a serious inquiry as to the ongoing Ukip malevolence headed by Farage. It will all come out in the wash and pretenders like Redwood and Hannan will also be found guilty. The whole sorry lot will have to answer for their arrogance.

When that is out of the way, they will listen to the voices outside their dismal little clan. And they will say what we have always said. We needed a plan, a vision and a workable alternative. When we have that collective realisation, then we will be able to build a movement and then, we will, most certainly, leave the EU. It is going to happen - just maybe not in 2016 as many had hoped. 

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