Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Flexcit: a shot at winning

We are facing an uphill battle on Twitter, but with a small but very vocal group of kippers smearing Flexcit (our comprehensive Brexit plan). Most of the names are familiar to me. The headbangers Farage cultists who think that anyone who doesn't agree with them is a "leftard liberal" and because we are not slavishly devoted to Farage, that makes us "faux eurosceptics". Some go as far as saying Flexcit is not Brexit.

Firstly, it has to be said, we all want the same things. We want sovereignty, control over regulations, to sort out the immigration mess, to reduce our payments to the EU and to leave the EU political entity. That we should have to explain this in such basic terms gives you some idea of the people we are dealing with.

The difference of opinion is that they assert we can have everything immediately and without consequence. Bizarre. When is that ever true in politics? When is a single gesture ever the silver bullet to all our problems?  When is there ever a political act that does not have consequences - good and bad? Those who say otherwise are simply on another planet. The reality is somewhat different.

While Flexcit has taken two years to write, it is informed by blogging EU affairs for over ten years on a daily basis. It has been a collaborative process, consulting experts, government officials, and politicians. Put simply, we knows our stuff.

In this process, it has required us to be quite scientific about it, having to come to terms with facts we don't like, some of which upset a decade's worth of assumptions. It has been a life-altering process by way of what it has taught us about regulation and the law-making process - and the universe of international organisations that sit above the EU - that we had never heard of and are still making new discoveries to this very day.

The irony is, the articles of faith and core beliefs of our opponents in this are actually informed indirectly by our efforts on the blog. It is no secret that is the research component of the Christopher Booker column in the Sunday Telegraph - which has been a pillar of eurosceptic thought for the last decades. It is patient zero of the viral ideas the movement has inherited.

There is no question, even among our harshest critics that Dr Richard North is a thought leader - to which euroscepticism owes a great deal. Even out in the cold, Ukip has been a beneficiary of his work. Too bad they misunderstand much of it, twist it and get it wrong.

It is on this basis, we ask them to trust us. Both Richard North and I - along with our many supporters have had to unlearn a great many articles of faith in order to incorporate the new paradigm we are pushing in Flexcit. It has made us question much of what we have said in the past - and through forensic examination of the issues, we can say with certainty that it is far more complex that Ukippers think and it is far more complex that even we thought.

It is this realisation that prompted us to write and rewrite Flexcit. The fact is, a mishandled Brexit has obvious costs and risks that will be highlighted by the opposition - and without good answers, we cannot secure the confidence of opinion formers, the press and influential members of the wider public. Forty years of political, social and economic integration must be picked apart with a scalpel, not an axe.

Our message is one that demands compromises from extremists. We believe the swing voters who are not obsessed with the EU as we are will not deviate from the status quo if the risks are significant. So we start on the assumption that Brexit is a process and we must do it gradually and with care and show that Brexit is not a risk. In this it requires that we slay a few sacred cows and be patient in the knowledge that we will get what we want - just not straight away.

Given that we have put this into a carefully considered plan, it has huge ramifications on what the campaign can say - so it is as much a campaign blueprint as it is a Brexit plan. It does mean we cannot make wild claims about what Brexit will save. It means we cannot talk about a bonfire of regulation and for the time being, it makes little impact on immigration.

Moreover, this is just as well, since immigration is always going to be a minefield and any campaign coupled with what is perceived to be an anti-immigration platform will be tainted by unhelpful associations. If that happens, there is no putting the genie back in the bottle.

What it does do, is force us to drop many core arguments - or as I call it, the eurosceptic baggage. It forces all of us to step outside of our comfort zone and push a positive alternative to EU membership - one that takes issue with the constraints the EU places upon us and shows how the EU is is a failed idea from the last century. That is why we created - where you will find a wholly different set of arguments, raising the tone of the debate so that we are not perceived as grumbling Mr Ukip types.

The vibe coming off our campaign, and how people identify with us, will be the crucial element in winning the referendum. We have to broaden the appeal of the movement and reach new ears. If we are fighting from the eurosceptic comfort zone with all the arguments that lost the 1975 referendum then we can expect to lose again. In that regard, if we are not upsetting the Ukip headbangers, extremists and the "have it all now" brigade then we are not doing our job.

It appears that opposition to Flexcit is a coordinated effort among a handful of very angry, very shouty, very nasty individuals - none of whom have actually read Flexcit - and if they have they are wilfully, dishonestly smearing it by saying it does not deal with immigration. These are people who have taken our long standing criticism of Ukip personally, and are out to settle personal scores.

In this, they feel entitled to spit on years of dedicated and comprehensive work in the belief that their extreme views are shared by the majority - and that everything they hold to be true, received through the Daily Express, trumps careful and considered research. Research conducted by a team lead by a man reputed to be one of the most indefatigable and dedicated in the business.

Well, it's decision time. The choice is yours. Do we go with the message of the angry mob who wants everything now and believes there is no cost or consequence - or do we go with Flexcit? Do you side with a petulant and petty minority on the fringes of Ukip - or will you go with the mature and considered approach?

If you want to win, it will require that you make the same personal sacrifices we have and discipline yourselves to fight outside of your comfort zone. You will find that if you want to join our efforts, we will support you 100% and we will give you all the resource you need to make the case. Our operation is running almost twenty four hours a day and will do so until the day of the vote. To question our motives and our dedication is offensive.

You can either go with the angry mob or you can come along with us. We're offering a shot at winning. Ask yourselves carefully, what have the angry mob come up with? Nothing that we can see - apart from petulant complaints over a plan they haven't even read.

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