Friday, 13 November 2015

Are you serious about winning?

There is nothing like this internet to bring out the very best in people in times such as these. But also the very worst. Those eurosceptics making all the hackneyed noises about Islam, freedom of movement and the EU in response to the atrocity in Paris need to consider that while they may regard their culture war and their crusade against immigration as important, they are also ambassadors for the Brexit cause. They need to decide which comes first.

As we heave repeated so very often, it is the centre-ground swing vote who will decide which way this goes. Their opinion of us Leavers will play a huge part in which side they identify with. As points out, Cameron is playing the triangulation game, by isolating and attacking both extremes of the debate. We must do likewise.

The offer we put on the table is the Norway Option. We do so because it is the most politically expedient and most realisable means of leaving the EU. It is the one that eliminates the main risks of Brexit. There is a good reason why it was at the top of the list of things for the Prime Minister to attack. It is a rational compromise that to all intents and purposes allows us to have our cake and eat it. Something all of them have been telling us we cannot do.

Of course, those taking a more hardline approach point out that the Norway Option still requires freedom of movement. That is true. But that is also the genius of the Norway Option. It takes the most contentious argument out of the equation. While it does not achieve as much as hardliners hope for, it does achieve the ultimate step one. As soon as we take that first step, we are out of the EU forever.

From there we can evolve our status as a non EU member, and as we start to exploit the many advantages of a greater say in world affairs it is our increased wealth, leverage and agility that will allow us to start renegotiating the terms of our market access - up to and including freedom of movement if that is so desired.

In so many ways the Norway Option kills many of the Remain camp arguments stone dead and reduces it to the one debate of how much influence Britain would have with the same treaty arrangements as Norway. At this point we unleash our secret weapon of all the masses of work we have done on the role of international organisations and demonstrate just how pivotal they are, not just in EU regulations, but also those of the entire trading world. The toxic immigration debate is then shelved in order to win. 

The offer on the table is then one that is not dissimilar to that of Cameron's but actually better, while occupying the same centre ground. It is strategy that can win. While other prominent campaigns have backed off from the Norway Option, we believe this to be a mistake. But their actions do not bury the issue so long as we keep it alive as a talking point. We can force them to moderate their position and fall into line.

You don't need big bucks to do it. We just need a team of dedicated bloggers coordinating their message. That is what we are doing and all we need is a lot more of them. That is why we still need you to be building your own blogs and your own readership base.

Those who would still complain that freedom of movement is their sine qua non may just as well resign themselves to staying in the EU because a sudden death Brexit model more likely means a sudden death for our hopes of ever leaving the EU.

We are in the world of adult politics now. Adult politics means progressing in small steps and making compromises to achieve them. To demand that we have it all now ignores the political realities which undermines the credibility of of case. That is madness, when all we really want as our first baby step is an official recognition that we have left the EU. That is our first hurdle, and many sacred cows must be eviscerated if we are serious about that goal.

If you cannot bring yourself to make such sacrifices and continue to pollute the debate with grubby and tawdry memes about Muslims, free movement and the evils of the EU then the unhinged reputation of Leavers means we have lost the argument before we have even started.

The lead campaigns say we can have it all now - that "we can do better than Norway". This takes us out of the known conditions and into the territory of suppositions and blind optimism. It is also selling a deceit of what is immediately possible. That is a weakness in their case than cannot be corrected and will be exposed in the crucible of public debate. It will lose the intellectual argument and once it filters through that we have lost it, there is no possible way to salvage it. Put simply, it's Norway or no way.

A full-on campaign of hardline and unhinged loathing of the EU will only deliver a two-to-one defeat at the polls. A more measured approach at the very worst will keep the issue alive after the referendum, in which case we are no worse off than where we were two years ago, with the chances of a referendum being remote and building a new movement from scratch.

The short of it is, we need message discipline, and each of us Leavers should keep in mind that everything we say and everything we do will be monitored and judged. If we do nothing but moan about Muslims, foreigners, the price of fish and the cost of EU membership then we will have thrown away a once in a generation opportunity. The question for you is how badly do you want to leave the EU?

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