Thursday, 30 June 2016

Article 50: playtime is over

Ok kids, let me put this Article 50 nonsense to bed. Article 50 is a notification to the EU that we intend to leave. It triggers a two year period in which to negotiate our new relationship. Before that can happen we need to know from each member state what their position is likely to be on our position. This is called a scoping exercise so that we can create a timeline for events and an agenda whereby anything that was not agreed beforehand is not opened up for discussion unless the rest agree.

Before we do this we first have to know what our own objectives are and whether we wish to keep full membership of the single market and what we are prepared to compromise on and what we are not prepared to compromise on. That will require hearings of select committees, expert panels, public consultations and referrals to professional bodies, unions and trade guilds. I expect academia will want their say as well.

If we have even half a clue inside a year it will be a miracle. Scoping and testing the water with out position will take anywhere up to six months or more, also keeping in mind there are French and German elections which may see a change of position. So we would be quite reckless to even consider any rushed moves.

Some of this can happen concurrently but Article 50 invocation would be most ill advised until the process is complete. Keep in mind not a single strata of policy making is not affected somehow by EU laws. And at best after those two years of official talks all we will come out with is a roadmap for gradual divergence. To say this is complex doesn't even begin to cover it.

Some have asked if I gave concerns that Article 50 may never be triggered. There is always a danger of that. It has yet to dawn on most politicians just how big this is and they may seek a pause when it does dawn on them. The only politicians who has thus far given us a hint of a clue that they know how big this is is David Cameron. That is ideally why we need someone from his camp leading the proceedings. They will have been given the same briefings. Gove will still be clinging on to childish fantasies about knocking up a free trade deal over beer and sandwiches followed by a slash and burn of red tape.

Some of you may remember me being quite put out by some of the untruths told by Professor Michael Dougan just before the vote. I did not like the way he planted little white lies inside the truth. But much of what he did say was entirely accurate. This is no small undertaking and there are no shortcuts. If we really do want to leave then we are going to have to keep the pressure on to make it happen - and there is a good chance that a general election will fall upon us sometime in the process.

That could be dangerous if we see a rejection of the Conservatives, placing the final process in the hands of a dysfunctional Labour party. I wouldn't rule it out. I wouldn't rule anything out. We could be in for some nasty surprises. We also have massive mess to sort out at the WTO. We may have to negotiate a longer period for Article 50 before we even start. As Tony Blair points out in the Telegraph, some may accommodate us but others want rid of us ASAP.

We have a major minefield to navigate and there is nothing to be served by going off half-cocked on a paranoid whim. We have some major decisions to make and we need to settle the argument about freedom of movement. While we gain some extra controls, ending it would not solve our immigration issues and attempting to do so could seriously harm our single market access.

By rights it should not be an issue because the majority of leavers did not vote on the immigration issue - but the BBC, the wider media and our political class say we did and Ukip keep insisting we did too. So the bubble is once again impervious to the truth. So now we have an establishment approaching negotiations on the wrong angle for the wrong reasons based on a faulty interpretation.

Just to make things interesting, the opposition party has gone AWOL, the SNP have gone insane and the Tories are, well, Tories. We have a right royal mess to sort out. Why would we want to make anything more difficult than we need to. At some point we have to put some trust in our MPs even though many are not deserving of it. But we are going to have to watch them like hawks.

And though some of you by now, when faced with the reality might well be regretting your choice. But it is done now. There is no going back on it and the EU is not in a mood to be pissed around. Chances are they want us gone and if we show no sign of leaving they could well force the issue. In times like these politics can override treaties when push comes to shove.

I would argue that we need to get to grips with it and focus on the task at hand. The referendum has exposed just how debased our system has become and now we face a major national conversation about how we fix it without harming our economy and making life even harder for those whom life is already difficult.

What it will require of some of you, especially those of you who are Ukip or Tory right wing inclined, is to tone down your stupid a notch. This confrontational attitude helps nobody. We are going to need massive cooperation from the EU and we do not seek animosity. We need measured, thoughtful and astute responses to difficult questions. Playtime is over. You have had forty years of blissful disengagement from grown up politics. Now we start paying the price.

Brexit: approach with caution

A lot of people have a lot of growing up to do. Some have a seriously babyish idea of what to expect from Brexit. It's bad enough that knuckle-scrapers think it means keeping muslims out but there is a notion about that in two years time we'll be out of the EU and a buccaneering free trade nation, doing as we please and pulling trade deals out of our backsides. Stop it.

Let's take fishing for an example. We opened up our seas and handed out quotas. With the law being as it stands contracts have been made going several years into the future on the basis of the law as it stands and so freeing boats will have "acquired rights" in law. So no, we won't be restoring our fishing fleet to what it was and as it happens we probably won't be able to. Markets have changed and so has demand.

It is going to take more than a decade for those contracts to expire and we will probably extend them as we won't have a fleet looking to compete. We may regain some domestic advantage but what was done was pretty much irreversible. The same applies with industry regulation throughout.

At best we will be able to retake some of the quota but all agricultural quotas will be used as bargaining chips to get some of the market access we need. And if we do manage somehow to abandon freedom of movement in favour of a quota system for foreign unskilled workers, that will also be a bargaining chip where we will make huge concessions in order to secure continuity agreements on existing cooperation where we lack the domestic ability to take over competences.

So it;s going to be quite a long time before we see any major changes, the changes will be slight and we will be making concessions that nobody anticipated. And that is why people like Leadsom and Gove worry me. They have seriously childish expectations and think that negotiations will be bang the table roads about broad stroke issues whereas the reality will be very long and tedious debates or arcane aspects of law over obscure subjects.

They think they are going to come back conquering heroes where after two years they will have a severance deal that completes the process. This is for the birds. At best we will have an underwhelming agreement that will need to be revisited many times with ongoing talks with the EU as we manage the uncoupling process. This is going to require armies of experts fostering good relations. That is why we need someone remain inclined who harbours no innate animosity toward the EU.

That I would advocate someone like May jars with my own conscious and already I'm getting issue illiterate morons saying "May isn't a leaver" with all the conspiratorial suspicions, which is all very well, but prats like Leadsom could very easily be suckered into a deal even worse than we have as members because they will see her coming.

May on the other hand has had extensive experience trying to hammer out cooperation agreements over border data exchanges and a lot of diplomatic exchanges that go with it. Gove on the other hand has just gone out of his way to antagonise the Teaching profession out of some petulant Tory ideology and enjoyed taking a wrecking ball to it. That might actually be what was needed when you're dealing with a blob like that but the EU talks are no place for ideological zealots like Gove and Cummings and no place for wreckers with a list of stupid demands and unrealistic expectations.

What we will be looking to appoint is someone capable of making an astute choice when none of the options are particularly palatable. That is the nature of this kind of diplomacy and it is not for amateurs. They will at least take May seriously. Gove will be seen as a hostile and Leadsom will be laughed at.

If at the end of this we get a transitional agreement out of the EU even close to what Norway has then we will have done exceptionally well. Gove and Leadsom genuinely believe they can get a better "British deal" which is just completely absurd. We are massively dependent on the EU because we have integrated so many tiers of governance and at best we can negotiate a gentle release from obligations - and we will pay through the nose for them. We do have leverage but it's only useful if wielded with skill.

If we get as far as a Norway type agreement that is the point when we will need to start enlisting the cooperation of Efta members to take us the rest of the way out, using the collective weight to renegotiate the EEA agreement. If we just leave it to rest with the EEA as the destination then there genuinely isn't any point in leaving.

Hitherto now I have advocated the Norway Option not because its a good deal but because it registers a few basic concepts like the EEA, the single market and Efta in the public domain. Even getting people familiar with the terminology has been an uphill battle. Now comes the hard part of getting people to understand the transitional nature of it.

The end goal should be to snatch the single market out of the EUs control altogether, making UNECE the controlling body thereby widening the single market to anyone who subscribes. That is why leaving is, in the end, beneficial to us because we are expanding trade while diminishing the EU's dominance. If we are just going to rest inside the EEA then we might as well have voted remain. The goal is to expand the single market, not leave it.

That is why you don't want halfwits like Gove, Cummings and Leadsom around who believe the essence of free trade is to leave the single market and slash away at regulations. This is not just foolish. It's infantile. It's moronic. These people are not even close to competent adults.

Now is the time for olive branches

Gove would be the ideal general to select if we were going to war with the EU. We're not though. We are beginning a new relationship with the EU. So the last people we need are people like Leadsom and Gove who are hostile to the EU. These are people who have already declared their opposition to the single market and freedom of movement. What we need is someone who will open doors rather than slam them in the EUs face.

Theresa May of all people knows the frustrations created by the EU but she also knows their limitations and she also knows ours. If she can get a worthwhile concession she will. What we don't want is people who will commit a singular act of economic vandalism on the back of a their campaign promises which were ill advised to begin with.

We could forgive such a stance if the mandate was to control immigration but it wasn't. The vast majority of leavers voted on the issue of sovereignty and the majority of remainers, by a wide margin, voted out of concern for the economy. And being that the leave majority was small, we want a compromise candidate who will be firm and make reasonable demands.

We do not want ideologues and zealots. We want pragmatists and we need an olive branch to the EU - as we will be seeking their cooperation to help us leave for the next two decades.

If we have a PM who privately wants to destroy the EU then we won't find much in the way of cooperation. Leave MPs have called the EU all the names under the sun which would prove a major liability for us in the same way that Johnson, as a Europhile, damaged Leave's credibility.

Leadsom et al, do not see any value in EU cooperation because they know so little about it. In that regard we cannot expect her or Gove to approach talks with the necessary maturity.

And as I say, these are not normal times. In any other times as a profoundly anti-EU conservative, to the right of the party, I would probably go for someone like Gove myself. But these are unprecedented circumstances and we will have to put our trust in a more moderate candidate who commands a good deal of cross party respect. That won't be anyone from the Tory right.

I am opposed to Gove and the likes not because they are different to me, but because they are like me. I want roughly the same destination as them, but I appreciate we won't get it all at once and we won't get it by adopting an aggressive approach. If we do it that way we likely won't get anything we want. That is why I am pleading for a bit of self-awareness from leavers and for a bit of maturity in who you side with.

I am not speaking here as a tepid leaver. I am speaking as a pragmatist who knows better than anybody the magnitude of what we are embarking upon and the risks it entails. I also know that politicians are only as good as their advisors. I have looked at these people very closely and what I see genuinely keeps me awake at night. You don't know them, but you do know me and so you know I don't say things without a reason. If I am concerned, you should be.

This isn't about what you want as a prime minister. It's not even about the leadership the country needs. It's about what a unique set of circumstances demand of us - and that means looking beyond base instincts or habitual preference. This has now become a managerial decision. When this is all sorted we can return to real politics and choose those who best reflect ourselves, but for now, we must choose wisely. There is much at stake. More to the point, when she doesn't get a concession on freedom of movement, she alone carries the can for it.

Meagre pickings

Theresa May as a Home Office minister is more acutely aware of the immigration distinctions than anybody. She does not view it through a single scope and does not conflate the issues. It is one thing she has intellectual clarity on. So she will not risk single market access for a policy pursuit she knows will not substantially reduce immigration. She has already made a firm commitment to the single market (and services) which makes her a rational and safe choice which won't spook the markets.

If anything if she is leader they will breathe a sigh of relief. If we send one of the Vote Leave morons then we are in trouble because they would rather blow single market access than concede on freedom of movement - and they are actively hostile to the EU - which is the last thing we want when we are seeking an amicable departure. On the other hand you have Leadsom who can't separate out immigration issues, ruled out the single market when challenged during the campaign and can't even convincingly define it. This is not a serious proposition.

If you want an adult tempered by reality, choose May. If you want a petulant and naive mouth-breather, then choose Leadsom. It doesn't matter a if you don't like Theresa May. I don't like her either - but this isn't about choosing someone to have a cup of tea and a chat with. This is about the person who will be negotiating the largest shake up of European politics since the second world war. May has prestige and is respected internationally. Leadsom will be laughed out of the room and the British will be regarded as cranks for even thinking about sending her. As to Gove, if you vote Gove, you get Cummings. This is a time for pragmatists, not zealots.

I also remind leavers that Vote Leave did not win the referendum for us. If anything they cost us a larger win margin. The grunters against immigration were always going to vote leave so there was zero point in chasing the knuckle-scraper vote. These are also the same people who ruled out any kind of transitional agreement and attacked the single market from the outset. Now you're telling me you want one of these people in charge of the country? No thank you!

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Cautious optimism

Ambrose Evans Pritchard in the Telegraph today notes how the temporary blip in the markets was enough to push weak Italian banks over the cliff. And while the markets have shrugged off the Brexit vote, with the scribblers in the city realising that little changes for a while yet, this will serve as a reminder to the EU that a bungled Brexit, putting a gun to our heads causes problems for them too. For instance, should they choose to withhold banking passporting rights that is a potential threat to 1% of our GDP. Just the very idea of this rippling through the markets could seriously hurt the Eurozone.

This pretty much confirms what I have been saying for quite some time. We will get an amicable deal and that we are not without leverage. We will be able to secure some concessions on freedom of movement out of good will but not without some concessions in kind. Chances are we will take whatever is on offer. The bottom line is that nobody is served by dicking around. The French and Spanish seem to have worked this out already by refusing to engage with Nicola Sturgeon, which would actually be a hostile act on their part to intervene in the sovereign affairs of the UK.

It seems the mood music is one of cooperation out of enlightened self interest. Talks of punishment beatings always were entirely a bogus suggestion. Though the last thing we need in these proceedings is idiotic grandstanding which is why we do not need Boris Johnson anywhere near it. Having a man-child like him around could prove very damaging.

Meanwhile the media is waking up to the EEA as a solution but have still not grasped the concept of it being an interim measure. We need to be extra clear this is only an interim measure so we do not end up in a cul-de-sac. In any case, in terms of resources committed, we are looking at a diplomatic Berlin Airlift.

We should take the market recovery as a good sign but I warn against complacency as there will be further surprises along the way. We still have to renegotiate agricultural subsidy quotas which could very easily stall the process unless we can agree them separately. Such minutia can cause talks to stall. Any hint of that could see market jitters as the consequence of failed talks is ejection from the EU without an agreement. That would be devastating.

The real world effects in the meantime will still be significant though. Some of which will be sheer petulance from the likes of Richard Branson, in which case that is entirely his loss in the long run - and then there is the announcement by Siemens to suspend plans to manufacture wind turbines. I think this is more to do with them detecting a swing to the right in UK politics whereby such frivolities will be first on the chopping block as we regain control of policymaking. Just as well in any case. Siemens are one of the most corrupt companies on earth and wind turbines are a waste of money.

There is still every reason to believe Brexit is the right path and we have every right to be optimistic but we should proceed with caution. A lot can go wrong - especially if our government does not have adult supervision. Handing such proceedings to Boris Johnson would be like handing a Ming vase to a chimpanzee. Amusing to watch - but not if it's your vase.

Monday, 27 June 2016

The long road to democracy

This second referendum talk is dangerous. A political establishment which acts to overturn a free and not very fair referendum, is one that has said "up yours" to the people. And while they may win a second referendum, we are back to square one, with Britain unable to progress, with the matter unresolved with the same people in power. The bitterness will only fester. And all those calling Ukip a fascist party will come to learn what a fascist party REALLY looks like.

It really is time for remainers to grow up and give up the ghost. We have been arguing for decades about this and politics is not going to progress until the issue is resolved. We have two choices. We can either bicker about the result, or we can focus on the question of what next. One of them is is a valuable use of intellect, the other is not. The fact remains that for whatever reason, the British public answered a single and unequivocal question and that is what we must abide with.

Should we have a second referendum, which we definitely won't, we probably would see remain prevail largely because the people will have taken the message that their vote doesn't count. I would wearily vote to leave again but many would abstain and simply withdraw from the process, and then we are back to a resined and politically disengaged electorate which has dangers all of its own.

In any case, a second referendum would trigger howls of rage. MPs would have to double up on personal security. A betrayal of that magnitude would destablise the country even further and add to further uncertainty. It would also damage long term investment as the possibility of Brexit would remain hanging in the air for the following decades. If we say now that out means out then at least business knows how to plan for the future.

But then our political establishment is a little more shrewd than this. They would never wield such a blunt instrument to subvert the process. They will seek to derail the Brexit talks or push us into an agreement which is EU membership in all but name with no road out so that at some time in the future we will be bounced back in. I strongly suspect they will attempt that, to hoodwink the public in the same way Cameron told us he had reformed the EU. And I wouldn't put it past Boris Johnson to try this on as he himself has no track record of being a committed leaver.

What is certain is that victory is not assured. I have always assumed the process of leaving would take at least twenty years, but now I get the feeling we have another decade of arguments to get around whatever they do to subvert the process. This is what happens when the political establishment is so at odds with the public.

And if by now you are having regrets, asking how could it have gone so wrong so quickly, it's because all of the foundations for failure were there from the outset. A debased academia, a frivolous media and a hollowed out and morally bankrupt house of commons and a disengaged electorate. It can limp along to manage the basics of day to day governance but it was always going to fall apart at the first hint of a serious constitutional crisis. This referendum has shone a torch on that. And not before time.

One way or another, this country is not going to be the same again. And that's a good thing. We have been living in blissful complacency where the people have shirked their responsibility to engage in politics. As someone who does engage in politics my social options have been few in my lifetime. Most people don't want to know and don't want me around because I talk about things they have to think about. Politics is shunned. Well, there is a price for that.

This is a kick in the complacency. The public wanted to defer politics til later. Later is now here. Now it's our job to re-engage and sort out their mess. In that regard I have zero sympathy for the British electorate. If you choose to delegate politics to politicians, this is what you get. Now suck up the consequences.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Hold your nerve

I am going to admit something to you now. As a fierce campaigner for Brexit I have been in the mode of producing counter-arguments by reflex. I was employed to do this because I am good at it and I wanted to do it too. And though I stand by the view that the scares were overstated, they are still nonetheless real.

I am not the only one to be having a post-referendum wobble looking at what we have unleashed. But mostly the shockwave is psychological. We are waking up to the enormity of what we have decided. It's bigger than even I thought.

But what drives that fear is what my good friend and compatriot Sam Hooper calls "catastophisation". Many on the remain side are now in apoplexy going full tilt to find any scrap of evidence that supports their dire warnings. It's pervasive and quite persuasive. They do it because they believe there is, by so doing, a chance of overturning the result.

But we should hold our nerve. We should not cave into second thoughts. What is done is done. If we go back on our decision now and go crawling back we will be treated in the same way as a battered wife who goes back to her abusive husband, begging for forgiveness.

For a moment in time on Thursday, to abuse a cliche, middle England roared with pride at who we are and what we can do. We should hold on to that. If we give way to doubt then we shall be all the more diminished and in a worse position than before. I urge you to continue to trust in you voting instincts, that we prosper because of who we are, not because of the EU.

And as much as the political realities may give us pause for thought, I still have faith that this was the right choice. It is not because I have read the runes or the treaties or the letter of the law. It is not because I have looked closely at the economic metrics. It's because of all of you who have stood up to be counted.

They say that the Brexit vote is some slobbering nativist sentiment, but I have seen none of that in my social circle or indeed online. All I have seen is great people who believe it is time for change, and that we can be whatever we want to be. Among them are surgeons, engineers, teachers and mothers. They are our neighbours, friends and colleagues. They are the backbone of Britain and the backbone our politicians lack.

I have said it before. There are times when the politicians must show leadership but there are also times when the people must show the politicians leadership. This is one of them. This is a time for each and every one of you to stand your ground and say to them that we can do this.

It will require that we are more alert and must work harder, but the wages of this will be a thriving Britain we will be proud to hand to the next generation, and all those whining youths who said we have robbed them of their future will grow to realise what fools they were.

The political establishment will not go without a fight. They are waiting for us to blink. We should not indulge them. They have had forty years of having things their own way. If we have made the decision to stand up to them then we must be resolute in our determination to hold them to account and instruct them that they serve us - and not the other way around. If we do not then we will have consented to be ruled, not governed.

A debate we cannot afford to lose

On polling day I wrote an excoriating piece about the leave campaign in the full expectation that we were going to be trounced. So there is some egg on my face. But the pitch was about right. It was broadly assumed that Leave was not going to win and on the basis of the main campaigns it certainly didn't deserve to for all the reasons I outlined.

But looking at the reasons why we won I would say Vote Leave and Leave.Eu are the main reason we didn't do better. The BBC have interpreted this result as an anti-immigration vote. It isn't. What it looks like to me is is a two fingered salute to London. Leave didn't win it. Remain lost it. We saw repeated efforts to bully and scare the public and insult their intelligence. This vote was not an endorsement of Vote Leave, Boris Johnson and the Leave bunch. It was always going to be an estimation of which campaign was the least repellent.

In this both sides were equally repellent for the most part and most leavers I know were deeply upset by the shape the leave campaign was taking. In was an obstacle in convincing all of the moderate swing voters I spoke to. They agreed with my arguments but voted remain in fear that the Brexit agenda would be steered by Gove and Ukip. That is not an unreasonable position having seen multiple flat rejections of the single market. Had we been able to secure the liberal and moderate vote there would have been a far wider swing against the EU.

If the lesson the establishment took from this is that we are all a bunch of slobbering nativist xenophobes then they are wrong. In the end it was lost by a remain campaign which demonstrated its contempt for ordinary people. There was only one answer to that. And so Vote Leave nor Ukip can take the credit. They are just as guilty of the same contempt in expecting the public to believe that £350m a week would be redirected into the NHS along with all the baseless scaremongering.

And now, having done so, there are attempts to hold the leave campaign to those false promises and that is creating problems for us already, not least with challenges to the legitimacy of the result. Moreover, the lack of a plan has contributed to the uncertainty with even basic questions still going unanswered. So in that regard Vote Leave have recklessly endangered the economy and risk souring the public mood. It also puts negotiations in danger if the government takes the vote as an instruction to close down freedom of movement.

The lack of a plan has contributed to an ideas vacuum and now we urgently need to continue the campaign to ensure that the nihilistic Vote Leave bunch do not get their way. The very idea of Gove, advised by Dominic Cummings, in the Brexit negotiations is a horrifying thought. That is why this coming debate is even more important that the referendum campaign itself.

Hitherto now I have used the EEA/Efta route as a shorthand for our preferred option, but we do not know for a fact if that will be available to us. Our train of thought, following the logic of the political realities, leads us to believe that is the safest and most likely outcome, but if there is mounting pressure to control immigration then there may yet be complications - even though Efta gives us more control than we have now and more than is commonly thought.

That is why I am now changing tack to force the issue of Flexcit. Up to now I have been thankful and grateful to Roland Smith for his work in establishing the EEA option as a viable moderate proposal but pushing that as a basis of a plan is actually quite dangerous. If circumstances change and the logic is wiped out then our whole line of thinking will be disregarded. That is why it is paramount to promote Flexcit because it is written with the risks in mind and has multiple fallback positions. That is what we need to be pushing at opinion formers, and not the largely derivative work appropriated by the Adam Smith Institute.

We are no longer campaigning to leave the EU. We have won that argument. Now we are in a very different game where the outcome depends on presenting as many options as possible with clear pathways available should certain hazards present themselves. That is why only Flexcit will do - and this is now deadly serious. It is a debate we cannot afford to lose.

Immigration is a secondary concern to the process of leaving

What we actually want from negotiations with the EU is the maximum level of cooperation and openness with the EU possible. Brexit was never about ending cooperation with the EU. This was about removing the subordination aspect so that we are partners and friends and not supplicants. To that end, Ukip and the Tory right are now more my enemy than ever. I do not want to see pointless and bureaucratic immigration controls introduced in order to pacify Ukipers.

I do not want to see us pointlessly setting up new institutions to produce regulations almost identical to those of the EU. I do not want to see an end to Europol and I definitely see no value in messing around with long standing areas of cooperation which work about as well as they are ever going to. So we do not seek hostilities with the EU. We will need to moderate our attitudes to it and we will need to push hard to make sure we don't close up shop to Europe.

We will need to reach a national consensus on how we go forward and with the vote being as close as it was, the wishes of remain voters must be taken into account.

As to those concerned about immigration, Efta as a starting point does give us more of a say and more flexibility and leaving the EU does give us leverage to reform the EEA agreement in the future. But the issue here is not immigration. It is about disentangling ourselves from the EU. We must treat immigration as a secondary issue and one for discussion at a later date.

If you are Ukip inclined then it is incumbent upon you to restrain yourselves and learn the difference between EEA freedom of movement and open borders. They are not one and the same. Brexit does give us some new powers but for the time being the focus is on securing a safe and amicable transition and you hobby horse will have to wait til the dust settles. By continually picking at the scab you risk endangering the whole process.

There are several approaches to dealing with immigration, but they are all comprised of multiple incremental policies that require joined up thinking. There is no silver bullet single policy and this empty mantra of "Australian based points system" is worthless rhetoric. It's expensive, it doesn't work and will probably lead to more illegal immigration with fewer immigrants paying tax. It really is time for Ukippers to grow up.

The EU is not our enemy, we have friends in Europe and they all want to see this resolved peacefully and without damaging our economies and without damaging Europe's political reputation. We should not seek to antagonise. A lot is at stake here and the world is watching. How well this works is as much to do with how we react as much as how our politicians behave.

A time for answers, not specualtion

Having taken the day off yesterday for a drive to the seaside I listened attentively to Radio 4 all day just to keep my ear to the ground. BBC Any Questions was instructive. I am no fan of Emily Thornbury but the concerns and questions she aired were entirely justified and she is right that mainstream leavers had no answers during the vote and have no answers now. I think Vote Leave have done some considerable damage having campaigned on messages they know to be false.

What was also apparent is that Ken Clarke of all people is one of the few who has a clue as to what the choices are while Steven Wolfe of Ukip and Chris Grayling are barely past first base on the details. And so there is some cause for alarm.

Ukip and the Tory right are now on the wrong side of the argument. Ukip persists in conflating freedom of movement with open borders because they are determined to end it. I believe that will be bad all round. I think it would do untold damage for no gain with very little reduction in immigration. 

Then there is Chris Grayling, who like Gove believes what we can bang up a trade agreement on tariffs and withdraw from freedom of movement with no consequence. Letting these people anywhere near Brexit negotiations would be like handing a box of razor blades to a four year old.

I am still confident that political realities will kick in sooner or later but in the meantime they will do a lot of damage making promises which cannot be upheld. It is therefore imperative that we make the case for continued membership of the single market and enlist help from anyone who campaigned to remain because this is even more important than the referendum question.

Now that the decision on membership has been made I am now closer in spirit to those who voted to remain that to leave. I still think leaving was the right thing to do by it is now incumbent on all of us to make the case for continued openness. We do not want Boris Johnson as Prime Minister and Gove would be even worse. Half a clue is more dangerous than no clue at all.

The BBC narrative was that this was a vote of immigration because it is their comfort zone. I've noticed a game going on where they goad leavers who were not connected in any way with Vote Leave to admit that Brexit probably will not have an effect on immigration - and so British voters have been "betrayed".

It's a dangerous game because it doubles down on the pressure for negotiators to try and tinker with freedom of movement. We will pay a heavy price if they do. The BBC is like an infant pulling the dog's tail to see what will happen. They are pushing a betrayal narrative because it suits their agenda, but we were not betrayed at all. We knew what we were voting for. Immigration was not on the ballot paper.

Worse still is the idle speculation about what will happen on the Irish border. At this point, the BBC really shouldn't be indulging in this. They are the BBC, they should know by now. Nor should they be repeating the Remain campaign mantras about the Norway Option. They should be by now testing those claims with a view to giving BBC audiences details instead of supposition to fill air time. They are the state broadcaster in a time of heightened alertness. It's about time they started acting like it.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

We have established a beachhead but the fight goes on

What goes with the preening narcissism of contemporary left wing politics is the curse of identity politics. And that is what makes Brexit something of a conservative revolution. We have seen how those who voted remain do so because they "identify" as European and also as anti-racist. As asinine and shallow as that is, to condemn your country to a wholly antidemocratic alliance of globalist elites, it is the thoughtlessness that identity politics that is so utterly corrosive to everything it touches.

It is the self-reinforcing idea that those who conform to the orthodoxy are good therefore those who disagree, particularly those of a conservative persuasion are bad and have harmful ideas. It is that which accelerates a climate of further conformity where even the speaking of an unclean ideas becomes haram.

That is why the arts are predominantly left wing as it does not do one's career prospects any good to hold socially inconvenient views. And so we see a gradual strangulation of free speech and independent thought.

And since the only route into EU officialdom is to subscribe entirely to that set of politically correct value we have a system which is entirely remote from the ordinary public and one which holds ordinary people in contempt.

And that is why it was necessary to leave the EU, in order to deprive such people of their means to subvert democracy. That is why I have been somewhat critical over these last few years of climate sceptic bloggers and free speech crusaders in that they have been battling with the symptoms and not the cause. Brexit was always the primary concern as a a decapitation policy. It is through the NGOs and offices of the EU that they can impose their politics on the people without having to first win the argument.

And with that identity politics goes something far more corrosive. The idea that we should be browbeaten into believing what they believe by attacking language itself. Technocratic bureaucratese is the hellmouth of political correctness. It is through this that they attack societal norms, the conclusion and consequence of this is the sort of debate we see in the United States where even the concept of gender is spawning new branches.

The authoritarianism that goes with it imposes on us the idea that we should accept a person on they basis of how they define themselves, instead of how we perceive them. This has spawned a narcissistic culture whereby anybody who feels entitled to trample on your liberty may do so with impunity.

And look at the consequences of this corrosive idea. Young and confused people getting caught up in the identity trap, increasingly resorting to things like gender reassignment surgery - a massively invasive and dangerous procedure which statistically tends to lead to reversion treatment or suicide. Instead of teaching our young to accept and love who they are, we now teach them that they can define themselves as they choose and it is the responsibility of everyone else to uphold that delusion. Even to question it is viewed as bigoted and transphobic.

I am not without sympathy though. There are genuine cases which must be observed. I was recently quite appalled and the vicious criticism levelled at the American athlete turned female. I felt it uncalled for. Until I actually saw the television programme built up around him. This is not a person who has been born to the wrong body. This is simply a person who has elected to be something he is not and demands that everyone else bends to that.

And now he presumes to lecture us via the UN on gender identity issues which naturally makes him, in the eyes of the morally debased left "brave" and a "hero" when what we are seeing is pure narcissism. But from that we get further legislative acts designed not for the better functioning of society but as a cage your your mind.

And this is why, bolstered by Brexit, Donald Trump stands a very good chance of winning the presidency. You see the USA is in a far more advanced state of decay, but rooted in largely the same cultural phenomenon. America may on occasion elect broadly conservative politicians, but like the EU and the UK, the institutions are predominantly left wing where no discrimination or criticism of any kind is permitted - unless of course you're a conservative.

We have seen forty years of our institutions gradually falling prey to a pernicious and sick left wing ideology that has chased basic decency into hiding.

And so as much as we are seeing a political revolution in the UK we may also see one in the USA. Brexit is only the opening volley of a fightback across the west to reclaim our institutions and purge them of this cancer. That is why the left are in apoplexy throwing every pejorative they can at anyone who seeks to oppose them. And now they are scared because it doesn't work.

We do not pick leaders like Trump and Farage because we believe in the things they say. Don't be so naive. We pick them precisely because of who they offend, and in putting them at the forefront, it exposes how the left react which then reveals reveals their true contempt not for the decoy we present - but for the views of ordinary people.

And having so effectively exposed them, not least the Geldofs of this world, and the dismal functionaries such as Jo Cox who wormed their way into office by the back door, we can see these democracy dodging scumbags for what they are. And that is why we voted to leave the EU and that is why this war has only just begun. They will use every means at their disposal to keep us on the EU leash.

They will try as Cameron did, to present a new deal which they say is out of the EU but not actually out of the EU. And once again they will use every mechanism of state to commend it to us. They are not going to go with out a fight.

So while you may celebrate the referendum victory, we are not out of the danger zone yet. All we have done is establish a beachhead. We have not yet taken the power back and there is a long road to travel before we have. That is why those who campaigned to leave the EU must keep up the pressure. We must demand of them that Brexit does actually mean Brexit and that we will not tolerate any funny business. Nothing but democracy will do.

The Scottish Question

The Guardian is busy trying to interpret the result. What could it possibly mean? Is it that Britain has got Farage fever? Have we turned inward? Is it a protest vote?

The one question they have not asked, because it does not occur to them is, is it because we wanted to leave the EU? And the answer is most emphatically yes.

The ballot paper had the question "Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?" The two possible options were "Remain a member of the European Union" and "Leave the European Union" - and as per tradition, we go with the result that most people opted for. In this instance, more people selected "Leave the European Union" than selected "Remain a member of the European Union".

And so no interpretation is required. There is no hidden message here. This is not an instruction to go away and think about how to reform the EU or to "engage voters". The option "Leave the European Union" is as unequivocal as it possibly can be.

But what does it mean for Scotland? Well Scotland voted to remain part of the United Kingdom, and in so doing elected to accept decisions made on a national basis. And so as the Leave sentiment is UK wide, with 38% of Scotland voting to leave, their voices were accounted for in the overall vote. That is a consequence of voting to remain in the UK.

But this is not good enough for Nicola Sturgeon who thinks it is within her gift to force a second referendum on Scottish independence. She is seeking to leverage her position to try and subvert the national verdict. I very much doubt that parliament would be so reckless as to pass such a measure even in their determination to stay in the EU. It really would show their contempt for the British people. I have just enough faith left in our MPs that they will do as they are instructed. Though I advise vigilance.

As it happens, I am not opposed to Scottish self-determination. But this is an inopportune moment to be adding further instability to the political landscape and dare I say, wholly irresponsible. The SNP must accept that Scotland voted to remain part of the UK and must accept the consequences that go with that. Once we are out of the EU we can then discuss it further.

If then there is another vote on Scottish independence I will remain entirely neutral. But it should be noted Scotland's chances of re-admittance into the EU are remote. It is difficult to see what Scotland would gain - unless of course they joined us as partners in Efta which is not at all an unthinkable prospect. But I doubt that is what Wee Nippy has in mind. She is being entirely opportunistic and seeking to sabotage the Brexit process. That is why she is contemptible.

Friday, 24 June 2016

It's the democracy, stupid

I woke up smiling and relaxed this morning. Albeit with a bit of a headache. But also with just a hint of trepidation. I am under no illusions about that task that befalls us. Much that we have taken for granted is now in question. And I don't mean things like EU rights and the likes. I mean on a more subtle level.

There will be a while of uncertainty to come that will influence our decision making on things as basic as whether it is wise to spend money on small luxuries. It forces us reassess some of our habitual spending and default activities even if only on a subconscious level. And you know something? I think that's exactly what the country needs.

You see, when the crisis hit in 2008, it never seemed quite real and for most people it wasn't really real. There was a real threat for a short window only and the fallout was mostly highly politicised wishful thinking. But this, this is something else. This really is a turning point in history. This is a departure from the post war settlement. It is the dawn of a new era not just for Britain, but for Europe. It is a kick in our complacency. It forces everyone out of their comfort zone. It interrupts foregone conclusions.

Some joked in the run up to the referendum "is there a shake it all about option?" - and there was. Brexit. This is what we have done. We have disturbed the order of things and interrupted the schemes of politicians. It is also an interruption for us underdogs too. We are habitual complainers. We must now also change. If we are so keen on dismantling the existing order then the onus is on us to present the ideas.

I note that Caroline Lucas in the Guardian yesterday is once again pushing for Proportional Representation. She is no democrat. PR is for those wishing to subvert democracy - to take short cuts to get ideas onto the agenda that they have failed to popularise. It is why Ukip and the other fringe parties want it. They want to cheat. Instead of climbing the mountain they want to walk around it. This should be resisted.

Moreover, we need a wider discussion about the definition of democracy and the applications for it. The likes of Lucas still see parliament and other assemblies as tools with which to impose their will. That is why Caroline Lucas is more of a fascist than anyone on the right.

The fact is we do not want the power over us in the hands of politicians. Politicians are a necessary evil but we should ensure that we have control over them. In this the answer is not to be found by tinkering with the means of voting for them. PR is their default answer in the absence of any other and it misses the point.

Hitherto now we have relied on the EU to constrain our politicians when really it should be us who constrain them. I am now less convinced that a tightly encoded constitution is the way to go and instead we should seek new structures that engender a different political culture.

What has been missing in all these years is any real opposition. It is instructive that nearly all of our MPs conspired to keep us in the EU with the government wielding considerable influence over them. With the ever present chance of a ministerial post or cabinet promotion there is always a carrot for obedience. Those will political ambition will toe the line. This is why we need a directly elected executive where MPs are excluded. That way the entire house of commons becomes the official opposition. The line of defence between us and our government. 

Much of the reason we are leaving the EU is because public have rejected our political class and that which they subscribe to. An "us and them" mentality has broken out and not unjustifiably. Our politicians have colluded with government rather than opposing it. 

We need a structure which recognises that government is the friend of nobody. It is something we tolerate. In that we need our politicians to serve not as leaders but as goalkeepers to prevent bad ideas reaching the back of the net. 

It is ironic that in the many debates about the EU not being a democracy many pointed to the "unelected house of Lords" as being an example of our system being worse. Such is to misunderstand democracy. It does not matter that the House of Lords is unelected. 

The fact remains that gaining access to one of the lords is far easier than speaking to a minister and the House of Lords serves as the goalkeeper in ways that the house of Commons does not. In terms of the people wielding power, there is more democracy in the Lords than in the commons. 

But they are right in that the Lords is insufficient. With the globalisation aspect we are never going to be making all of our own laws. Even though we are leaving the EU we will still have regulatory harmonisation with the EU and we will still adopt global conventions. The decision to adopt them though must rest with parliament for their scrutiny where they must be free of distorting incentives such as ministerial promotions.

Caroline Lucas is right that Brexit is insufficient to address the systemic democratic deficit but we need a system reboot, not mere tinkering with voting rituals. This is why we must have The Harrogate Agenda

PR has always been a bad idea. It has become a political meme, much like "Australian points based system". It doesn't actually achive anything and in substance doesn't even mean anything. Those who utter it are symptomatic of a system that has run out of ideas. That's why we will have to do more than simply leave the EU. We will need to rid ourselves of Caroline Lucas and her ilk. We cannot expect our politicians to defend democracy if they themselves can barely even define it. 

So it's out then.

Well, we've done it. Defying all of my expectations. Firstly, I want to get some things out of the way. Though I was wrong about the result I think the Vote Leave campaign was dismal. I believe it is responsible for this being a slim victory and not a landslide. Those ideas put forth by the leave camp have been wholly disgusting and factually incorrect. I do want to leave the EU but I do not seek the Britain as envisaged by the Tory right, the Labour left or Ukip. Thankfully, reality stands in the way of that.

As campaigner and contributing editor at The Leave Alliance, you should know this. The official Leave campaign was one widely opposed and we never wanted the likes of Boris Johnson or Farage. These are not informed men and they have no idea what they are talking about. Our ethos at TLA was to make a liberal case for leaving the EU, seeking not to dodge the political realities.

To that end, we produced a comprehensive Brexit plan which is rumoured to be required reading in the civil service. We make the case that leaving the EU in a single bound is impossible as it is damaging both to the EU and the UK. And so our recommended path is similar to that of Norway whereby we retain single market membership and freedom of movement.

The funding for the official Vote Leave campaign dries up today and that malign entity will be dismantled. What Ukip says will no longer be relevant. This is now a decision for the adults.

The majority of MPs are opposed to leaving the EU and so they absolutely will not support any moves to leave the EEA as well and so there are democratic safeguards in place to ensure extreme measures are not taken. 

We are meeting on Tuesday to discuss future direction. The proposal will be to continue making the case for Flexcit and for Efta membership under the banner of TLA. It sees us as close allies of the EU but not subordinate to it, which I believe is best for the UK. It retains most of the advantages of the EU without requiring a political merger and gives us control of key policy. I think it is the right move.

This is not about hostility to Europeans or Europe. This is hostility to our political class who continued to commit us to further subordination without public consent. One way or another, Britain will remain a liberal and tolerant nation. We are simply choosing a different mode for our relations with Europe. 

The EU is based on a dogmatic principle of supranationalism. We are departing from that to a more multilateral mode both in Efta and the WTO. This is not the end of the world and I can assure you Ukip and the likes will not get their way. We know this because they only scored 14% at the general election. There are more of us than there are of them. 

As a committed leaver for all of my adult life I detest Ukip and what they stand for. And so do our thousands of supporters. I believe this is the right move because the question is now resolved, we can reboot British politics, redesign British governance and move on from a 40 year quarrel. Politics will be far healthier for it at the end of this process.

In the meantime, nothing happens immediately, there is no need for alarm. Brexit is a process, not an event and we will see in due course that the propaganda spouted by the remain campaign was a gross distortion of the facts. 

Though if you wish to guarantee Britain remains a liberal and tolerant country, it will require of you that you maintain current levels of political particpation and speak up for what you believe in. We have been disengaged for far too long which is why we are even here in the first place.

There will be more to discuss and this blog will continue as normal and I expect there is more work to be done. Meanwhile, enjoy the party. You have earned it. 

Thursday, 23 June 2016


Looking like yesterday's excoriating blog post is the wrongest I have ever been about anything. Pinch me. I must be dreaming.

Now we have to hold these scheming shits to it. They will try and worm their way out of this. I will not be dancing in the street until I see our Article 50 settlement ratified. This is the opening volley of a major political battle and our establishment will do everything they can to sabotage it. So stay tuned and watch these bastards like a hawk.

Into the fire...

In many ways, Brexit is a decapitation policy. Cut off the head and the body dies. That is why the establishment fears it. But we have heard this word "establishment" bandied about with reckless abandon for some time now. That gives us an indication as to why our efforts to leave the EU have failed. The word establishment is far too ill-defined to land a punch.

But so as much a Ukip have handed us a defeat there is an opportunity presented to us by this referendum. Recent events have shone a torch on who the establishment are and the power they wield.

There is a particular club at the heart of UK politics. There are few paths to entry. A prestigious degree in the political sciences from the right university is one point of entry. That alone though is insufficient. You must also believe what they believe and behave as they behave. You must think like them. The greatest faux pas is to question the prevailing orthodoxy in any way.

And though it resides in Westminster it glides effortlessly into the EU and above. There is considerable overlap between the think tanks, charitable foundations, NGOs, lobby groups and the EU. Many of which are EU funded. And there is one notable exemplar of it. To borrow from a recent blog post elsewhere:
"Tribute after tribute bore witness to Jo Cox’s uniqueness. But in reality, nothing could have been further from the truth. In fact, women like Jo Cox are ten a penny across the West these days — bland, compliant functionaries who have been marinated in political correctness and are happy to regurgitate the platitudes and attitudes of their political masters. And are well-rewarded for doing so."

She was that toxic combination of self-righteousness and entitlement which believed itself possessed of a special moral insight into the moral shortcomings of their own people. Never slow to parade her compassion, she was also calculating enough to help more dubious causes, as when she lent her name to a government minister who was lobbying for Britain to begin bombing in Syria. Bombing and babies; it was all business for Jo Cox.

Hers was the typical smooth career path of the modern political cog. From her grammar school, where she was the Head Girl, she seamlessly moved onto an extended period at two universities before emerging as professional aid worker for Oxfam and Save the Children. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was another fashionable international development outfit in which she managed to wangle a position as “advisor.”
This is the recruitment funnel into this world, where those most able to conform are put on the ticket and parachuted into a safe seat. A Westminster platform it a gateway post to permanent residence in a political establishment going all the way up to the UN. Ministers and above are guaranteed to become part of an elite dynasty and entirely untouchable by democracy. Former foreign secretary David Miliband pockets an astonishing £400,000 as boss of a refugee charity along with fees for public speaking, much like Blair, Hague and Major.

And in this there are no real party divides. It spans into the high offices of the media too. But this is how we get the Stephen Kinnocks of this world. Dan Snow, Stephen Kinnock, Hillary Benn, John Cryer, Euan Blair, Chuka Umunna, all in some way part of an emerging hereditary political class. Particularly on the left it seems.

And though we have a cabal of Etonians dominating Downing Street, they are there largely because they conform to the orthodoxy. Johnson, Cameron and Osborne are not conservatives. The well oiled machine has ways of dealing with those who hold different ideas.

The say feudalism is when it's your count that votes. That is pretty much the model parliament works on to this day. The only difference is that once every five years, by accident of numbers, there's a remote shot at ousting our representatives, who in the meantime can pretty much do as they please in our name. This is not sufficient to call it a democracy. It is entirely self-serving and it is dangerous.

The reason it is dangerous is because this is a class who believes the more one emotes the more virtuous one is. This explains the outpouring of emotional incontinence in the wake of the Jo Cox murder. Those MPs, of which there are still a few remaining who think the whole sordid show is nauseating, must bury their opinions deep where nobody will ever find them. To utter disapproval even as a local councillor sees you disbarred and ostracised. It's political suicide.

There is a political correctness where if breached it is considered amoral. And that is where we get the expression "polite society". There is a convention that the truth must not be uttered. One must not express doubts about climate change, one must never question orthodoxy, and and one never ask questions as to the effectiveness, legitimacy or accountability of the NGOs deeply entrenched in government and policy making. One must never say that Jo Cox and those like her are part of a parasitic class of wastrels who do untold damage to everything they touch.

And so for as long as this establishment exists there is no effective political opposition in the Commons. Even the media is self-censoring out of politeness. And they will say that anyone who opposes them is "hate filled". And to a large extent it is true. Those of us who have different ideas really do hate these people with a passion and will not mourn the passing of Jo Cox however brutal her passing. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

And because the public take little direct interest in politics, they look at the well engineered wholesome image of these people, wrapped in their Oxfam causes, parading their virtue, putting on fair trade events and preaching about sustainable development, how could the average, disengaged voter possibly get the impression that they are malign self-serving fascist bastards who hate democracy and the people the nominally serve?

Hence why the bovine will always vote to remain in the EU. If taking a principled stand against such people means being labelled by the orthodoxy then it becomes socially inconvenient and damaging to the careers of anyone trying to make it in the arts.

And so this is why there is a culture war, and though I detest the Ukips and the Breitbarts of this world I am still more one of them than one of the simpering, slovenly, shallow political class. And if there is a toxic atmosphere, and I certainly intend to nurture one, it is because our establishment is toxic. It has free run of the machines to do as it pleases, with our money, with nothing to stop them except for a timid bunch of gutless Tory backbenchers.

And so this referendum is not just about cutting them off from the global elite ruling class, it is about destroying them and everything they stand for. The expression "culture war" is not just a piece of rhetoric. It is a war, a very real one and we will have to use the mechanisms of state to subvert them.

Brexit is not just a transactional piece of politics. It is a revolution. And it isn't a right wing revolution. Like I say, this isn't a left right issue. This is about removing a self-serving cult from the heart of government. We have already sleep-walked into a technocratic dictatorship without even realising it has happened.

And so with our best ticket thwarted we are back at square one. Ukip has been routed and stands discredited and what passes for conservatism is weak and diminished. We are without an effective organisation and without a strategy. That is what the next debate must be: How we go about taking the power back.

But this is ultimately why Vote Leave failed. It is a contrivance of toryboys who mouth the word "establishment" with no real idea of what it means or why it must be destroyed. They never understood who we were fighting or why. They are part of the problem.

This is a long fight, and this is a fight to the bitter end. We have missed a major opportunity here. But at least now we have seen who the enemy is, how low it will sink and how it operates. We now stand a better chance of fighting them. And fight them we will.

It is fitting that the enemy should choose Jo Cox as their martyr and their figurehead, because she represents everything we ought to despise. Faux sentimentality, self-enrichment and self-righteousness. They who have robbed parliament of its gravitas, robbed the British state of its moral authority and smashed our institutions. And so offend them we must. We must say that which must be said and we must empower people to speak out against them. They draw their power through the lack of opposition.

In this we most first remove the wastrels on our own side. The Hannans, Farages and Redwoods. This isn't about immigration, and its not even about the EU. The EU is just a symptom. This is about democracy - a revolution - removing these people and making sure they never get to do this to us again.

Meanwhile, watch out for the next sleight of hand. They will say that we should be more polite about our rulers otherwise we are contributing to that toxic atmosphere that will see more MPs put in the ground. It will be considered rude and improper in polite society and the media to be seen to be talking about our rulers are though they are malign self-serving shits, and in so doing silencing legitimate criticism.

The subtext of it is that we go back to that war time consensus that our rulers must not be criticised. "That kind of talk gets MPs killed" they will say. Like I give a solitary shit. They have made it quite clear what they think of us. The feeling is entirely mutual. They have started something ugly.

A rabble without a plan

I believe voters will reject Brexit. I believe this is a rejection of the leave side and their campaign along with their thin gruel manifesto. It is a rejection of the dishonesty of Vote Leave and the weakness of their arguments. It is a rejection of the hyperventilation over immigration. It is a rejection of the Brexit vibe. A movement of people who want change but present no clear idea of what they want or how they envisage getting it.

It is a defeat that collectively we deserve. We had every asset at our disposal. A sour and conniving establishment, a patronising and weak remain campaign and of course, the deeply unpopular European Union. And this time, if the BBC is to be cursed it is not for their bias but their profound ignorance.

But at every stage we have failed to answer the question with clarity as to what Brexit looks like. Only when the fantasy notions put forth by Dominic Cummings were comprehensively demolished did the mainstream leave campaign look elsewhere for ideas, by which time it was already far too late.

It is also a rejection of Brexit Tories. Gove and Johnson. Charlatans with half-formed ideas and deep misapprehensions. No real instinct for the the EU issue and have no track record in the field. The leave side needed a comprehensive alternative vision, it needed consistency, credibility and gravitas. It had none of those things. It was entirely exclusive and it managed to alienate vital supporters. In the end it was no better run than Ukip.

And what of Ukip? They lost this for us the moment they went live with those immigration posters in the euro elections in 2014. They made a concerted effort to equate freedom of movement with open borders and turned the whole tone nasty. We have had to work doubly hard to disassociate the cause with Ukip and to stop immigration clouding the debate.

Because of the malign influence of Ukip, who were overtly hostile to the Norway Option, it prevented either of the lead leave campaigns from endorsing a measured exit plan and that is why the Leave campaign was left making it up on the spot. I would rather not have had this referendum than one stirred up by Ukip mouth-breathers.

Because of Ukip, we will lose badly and the issue will be buried for a generation, with people being openly hostile to the very idea of another referendum after what this one has done.

So Nigel Farage is ultimately responsible for this and he is the main reason we are staying in the EU. He is the architect of this failure. All because of his galactic ego, his dismal little personality cult and his abject refusal to engage in detail. We are told that we wouldn't be having this referendum were it not for him. That may be true. But look at what a poisoned chalice it was.

In the end our message was tainted by the spectre of Ukip. And though the accusations that the campaign had contributed to a mood resulting in the death of an MP were entirely bogus, the slogan uttered by the killer, "death to traitors", is not all that far removed from the Ukip lexicon.

There was one opportunity along this road to turn it around. It could have been another way. Arron Banks could have listened to us. He could have adopted Flexcit and might well have won the designation because of it. In the end, he proved a coward and a fool.

And really it is political cowardice that has so badly tainted this campaign. The political realities dictate that a good campaign should reach out with a positive vision aimed at swing voters. Instead, it was the decision of Dominic Cummings to appease the base. He has run a hard line campaign. It has been unyielding and sneering. In fact, in every sense, this campaign has been a reflection of Dominic Cummings. Sour, belligerent, arrogant and crass.

In some ways I ought to be pleased that we will suffer a heavy defeat because ultimately this is the ideas of the Tory right and Ukip on trial. They have been defeated for all the right reasons.

They have treated the public as fools. They have never seen the necessity to win the intellectual argument. They have lazily assumed that the lowest common denominator will do. They thought this could be carried by appealing to the basest instincts of populism. They were wrong. The British public are smarter than either gave them credit for.

And when it comes down to it, the public as much as anything else will vote with their wallet. Vote Leave failed completely in securing the economic argument in their favour. They failed to de-risk Brexit and the more stabs in the dark they took at a Brexit plan, the more doubt they created. They failed at every test.

In the aftermath we will see yet more reasons why Vote Leave deserved to lose. Instead of introspection we will see them blaming the media, the government, the process, the opposition, and the untimely demise of Jo Cox. All but one of these were predictable elements in the equation and we should have been prepared.

We always knew the media would be crass. We always knew the government would abuse its position. We always knew what the remain campaign would do. We knew it would be a barrage of fear and uncertainty. All of this could have been countered by comprehensive Brexit plan. Cummings thought otherwise.

And though we might say that the death of Jo Cox did us no favours, the way in which the left used her still warm corpse corpse as a ventriloquist's dummy should have been to our advantage. In truth, I doubt the whole sordid business made a difference either way. The British people are better than that.

This is an entirely deserved defeat. The idiocy and obstinacy of Cummings, Banks, Hannan, Farage, Lea, Bannerman, Redwood and the rest of the eurosceptic aristocracy paved the way for this defeat before the date was even called. The Johnny-come-lately sheep like Gisela Stuart, Kate Hoey, Andrea Leadsom and Penny Mordaunt were more an embarrassment than asset.

I must also make special mention of Martin Durkin. A man who was in a position to make a real difference by producing a film that would have enhanced the arguments. Instead, despite warnings, he chose to make an anthology of museum piece arguments which should have been binned from the outset. Brexit the Movie was a travesty.

I could do a more detailed post-mortem, but it is nothing I have not already said along the way. All of this was predicted and events unfurled exactly as we expected they would.

The fight, however, continues. As I say, this is a rejection of Vote Leave, Ukip and their ideas. It is not a mandate for the EU or a vote of confidence in either the EU or the establishment. That desire for change is still apparent, the EU question has not been resolved, and will continue to be a source of division.

I remain as dedicated as ever to a British exit from the EU, and already we are considering what our next move is. We are not going away. We have anticipated this washout for quite some time so for me, tomorrow is just another day.

This has been just one battle in a long war for democracy - and though this battle is lost, our forces are replenished, our ideas updated and perhaps now we can clear out the people on our own side who have been an obstacle to victory. If it take another year or another forty years, Britain will be freed of this malign entity.

Just another day on a long road

I suppose it would be remiss of me were I not to offer a final address before I head out to vote. By now, most of you know the nuances and complexities of my arguments. For those of you who do not, the time has now passed for me to explain them. Throughout, though, has been one word. Democracy. I will speak no more of that today. We have seen where the battle lines are drawn.

There are those who believe the presence of assemblies and voting rituals constitutes a democracy. And that somehow this transactional approach to decision making is superior to the flawed and whimsical system we have here in the UK. There is little I can do to make them understand.

The diluted ratios of representation should be be a clue, but ultimately it is a matter of where the power resides. We can, by means of a contrived selection process, appoint an individual to speak on our behalf, in trust that their ignorance and arrogance is no lesser or greater than our own. But if they by themselves and through their collective efforts cannot wield power on our behalf, then as much it is not democracy it is not even representative democracy.

But I have come to understand that this is a losing argument. For most, the illusion of democracy is sufficient. The people do not wish to be troubled with politics. They are not by nature interesting in how things works so long as they do work. Rather than dreaming of, or working toward, a better future they work within the parameters they are handed. That is their way. And perhaps this is the right way for things to be otherwise nothing would get done.

People are happy with remote technocracy so long as it does not intrude on their lives or interrupt their schemes. And so if we cannot stir them we must wait for reality to disturb them. As is usually the case. I cannot think of any time where an electorate has acted to pre-empt the cycle of history. Democratic engagement is universally reactive.

And so as I expect to be defeated, ill-served as we are by a campaign we did not want and tried to prevent, I will not shed a tear of sadness. Tomorrow is just another day on this long road. What matters is that Britain will leave the EU, because the people who have troubled themselves to learn what it is, and understand the true meaning of democracy will accept no other outcome. In conniving to rob Britain of its democracy our rulers have started something quite ugly. We will end it.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Personal thanks

Tomorrow we go to the polls after what has been a very long and arduous campaign. For most this has been just a few months of tedium, but this blog gives you some indication as to how much discussion and preparatory work has been invested over the last year. Much to little avail. Consequently I fear there will be much more to say after the results come in. But for today, having stated my case to the point of exhaustion, there need only be words of thanks. To that end, some names stand out.

Lost Leonardo, Roland Smith, Ben Kelly, Sam Hooper, Paul Williams, Tony Sharp, Tony Edwards, Toby Goodman, Alan King, Paul Colman, Paul Reynolds, Alexander Talalakin, Bill Seddon, Rob Sanderson, John Kneeland, Eddie Coke, Fog on the Rhine, Jon Stanley, Adam Hamdy, Simon Barnett, Sandy Starr, Matt Sharples and all of my valued Facebook friends. I am sure through incompetence I have left out some major names for which I apologise.

I would also thank our late friends Peter Troy and Sandy Rham whose expertise and support have proved invaluable on the journey.

And there has been one individual behind the scenes throughout who has been chairman, advisor, secretary, organiser, emotional punchbag and general beast of burden. A genuine superhero. One whose diplomatic abilities and hard work we could not have done without. Niall Warry. A man of infinite patience, decency and good manners. It is he who has cleared the path of administrative obstacles and has been a true friend to us. 

Further to this, there is one individual whom I have always admired. A man of the utmost gravitas and integrity. I refer to Anthony Scholefield, backer of The Leave Alliance and the man who has made all of this possible. A real gentleman to whom I owe more than I can possibly say.  

I would like to make special mention also of Ben Kelly of The Sceptic Isle who has been ultra dedicated above and beyond the call of duty. He has lightened my workload considerably. He has my respect and thanks. He has shown impressive resourcefulness and has been a real asset to The Leave Alliance.

And then there is Roland "White Wednesday" Smith. A man who has contributed enormously. He has done exceptional work in establishing ideas inside the media bubble. He has done it with unfathomable social aptitude and dedication. We have had our disagreements but we have gone further with him than without. He has walked an unenviable path between the technical purity of Richard North and the bubble as we find it.

Then there is also you, the reader. Especially those of you who have contributed financially. I hope our collective efforts have adequately reflected your generosity. And finally to all I would say thank you for your good humour, dedication and friendship. 

That said, whichever way the result goes, our work is not yet done and so if you do feel inclined to hit the donate button, that will be most welcomed. We have some post-match analysis to do either way and there will be a huge task ahead of us whatever the result. Should we win, we must keep on the pressure to ensure our politicians do as instructed. Should we lose then we must rebuild. We came here to get us out of the EU and we will not rest until we do.

The extremists on both sides lose if you vote to leave

I don't think I have met anyone who does not think the official campaigns have been woeful. The Leave campaign has been obstinate, fact free, disorganised and in recent weeks has degenerated to being Ukip on steroids. The Remain campaign has been devious, amoral, condescending and untruthful.

Were this an election you would abstain. But it isn't an election. And though the issues are many and complex, the question could not be clearer. Do you want Britain to be a subordinate of a supreme government for Europe?

And so this will require of you that you shut out the noise-makers, clear your thoughts of distractions and answer the question put to you.

In this, we do not want the extremists to get their own way. And there are extremists on both sides. The Leave extremists want total control, total sovereignty and an end to any relationship with the EU. Remain extremists on the other hand, would gladly give up any control, would surrender all sovereignty and would quite happily never seek public consent ever again.

We need both sides to lose. The only way to make that happen is to vote to leave. We can safely vote to leave because the zealots running Leave campaign have no powers after tomorrow. The intricacy and depth of EU integration means that they will not get their own way. There is no closing of borders, there is no rapid severance and there is no realistic scenario that sees us making all of our own laws. Not in a globalised rules based economy.

They will stamp their feet and shout with outrage, but the political realities for both sides will ensure the exit process is gradual and amicable - because nobody can afford it to be anything else.

My wonderful sister explains best the offer that will be on the table from the EU. "Like my kids choosing dinner, I give them two options, that suit me, because if I let them see what's in the fridge, they'll be arguing all day".

Quite. We will be offered a relationship on their terms, one of which is attractive, the other not so much. It will not be ideal. It will not be all that we envisaged. But it will settle the question. We will no longer be in the EU and we will be free to evolve from our soft landing.

It is not the end, it is a beginning. One that sees us closely linked with the EU but not of it. It will be a rational, moderate compromise that allows us to transition out of a long established settlement.

It gives us some of the controls we want, enough to ensure the euro-centric zealots never get their way, but not nearly enough to sate the foaming nationalists. The extremes from either side will be most disappointed.

But if we vote to remain, the question is not settled and the power remains with those extremists who neither like not trust us and will not seek our consent again. The decision making will be out of our hands. And so the only way for moderate sensible people to settle this once and for all is to vote to leave - but with no illusions as to what it will achieve, but with no sense of trepidation either.

In the end, both choices have an uncertain future with unknown risks, but the leave path will be one that will be followed with great interest and caution. The other path will leave the politicians to their own devices. I would venture the latter option presents a greater risk to prosperity, liberty and democracy. For that reason, I will vote to leave without hesitation.

A turning point for Europe

Whatever the verdict on Friday, I have a genuine feeling that we are about to witness change on a massive scale. I think this is why even Corbyn has been made to support remain. The European establishment does not know what to do about what is coming, it's fairly sure it cannot do anything to prevent it, and whatever it does do; it will most certainly be deeply unpopular and done without consent.

And I suppose it really depends how you read the signals. France is rioting and proving to be both ungovernable and unreformable. It is taken as a sign that social order is collapsing in France. But when you look at the last seventy years of French history it doesn't seem to be much of a deviation from the norm.

There is a widely held view that Greece has fallen, but then there are some sound fundamentals, and depending on who you believe, the reforms in place may well dig Greece out of a hole. Italy is said to have struggling banks which may set off a cascade failure, largely provoked by widespread corruption and a huge informal economy. Some might say this is a sign of acute stress, others might say this is, like France, this is entirely normal.

Much of the reports we get are highly questionable without context and written by junior reporters who have never seen anything like it but lack the experience to see it as part of a pattern. So I don't know. I find it unwise to give way to the hyperventilation because the media is hardly ever trustworthy. The only time you will finding me sharing a link from the MSM is if it seems plausible.

What I do know though is that the refugee problem has not gone away and it is going to get bigger, and and it is going to see massive disruption and violence within the camps. We are not going to be able to keep the barriers up forever and we can't keep people out of Europe without massive human rights abuses. No-one can say what will happen. All we know for certain is that a storm is coming.

I think we are going to see widespread unrest and a long period of uncertainty regardless of Brexit. And in this some people are predicting the EU's collapse. I do not think so. The currency will creak along surviving this crisis and the next by the skin of its teeth, mostly because the people who use the Euro do not want it to collapse.

But the single market, insofar as it exists in reality will largely disintegrate. With cuts to civic governance all over Europe, observance of EU rules and practices will fall by the wayside while the Commission turns a blind eye. Its head will travel deeper into the sand.

In that eventuality, the EU will have pretty much collapsed in all but name. The institutions will still exist and diktats may still flow outward from that place, but in the same way Hitler commanded tank divisions on a map deep in the bunker, which were no longer coherent fighting units in reality.

So long as we believe in the illusion of the EU then it will not collapse. Underpinning the maintenance of that illusion is Britain's membership of it, because we have a remote relationship with it. We're not quite as well attuned as to why it is a broken entity.

So in the most ironic way, the country most widely expected to leave the EU first is actually the last fully compliant member doing as it is instructed. Just ponder that for a moment. If you are laughing at the absurdity of it then you've understood the point.

And so when that refugee crisis happens and we are safely distant from it, over the Channel thinking "sucks to be you", we will in fact have already witnessed the death of the EU without even realising it.

The only place where the EU writ will still have credence is in London, in which case we have just relocated the capital of the UK to Brussels. And why not? We've outsourced everything else. Maybe we can outsource Norfolk to the Netherlands as well?

What we can say is that the EU dream is most certainly pining for the fjords. Whether that sees civil strife erupting into a full blown civil conflict is anyone's guess, but I have a feeling a new political order will impose itself on Europe if we do not seek to organise one.

That will largely see a reversion to old Europe while maintaining the EU institutions mainly because nobody really wants to admit that it's pointless. This is why I say we should leave now so that we're ahead of the game and we can set about building a Europe of concentric circles with institutions that work. To remain in the EU is to deny a force of nature. It is to deny the future. It is a perilous denial of change. The old order is dying.

The post war settlement has run its course. The circle is complete. There are times when politicians must show their people leadership to lead them from dark times. This is not one of them. This is one of those times where the people must show their politicians that leadership and shake them out of their complacency. We cannot afford their delusions and longer. We cannot afford their vanity nor their posturing and we cannot afford their denial.

Brexit is our one chance to extend the peace that we have so enjoyed. To hit the factory reset button on a political system which has drifted far from the path. If as citizens we shrink from this duty then we are just as guilty as they. Their cowardice will be a reflection of our own - and we will have earned whatever wages it brings.