Monday, 15 February 2016

Brexit? Why bother?

You all know by now that I think the Leave campaigns are rubbish. We're not going to save £350m a week. Nowhere even close to that. Families are not going to be better off by £933 a week. Our contractual obligations and treaty commitments means we'll be paying the same for a long while to come, and of we stay in the EEA then we'll still pay substantial sums and spend the rest on agricultural subsidies in place of the CAP.

If we don't stay in the EEA then, depending on the deal we get, we will be doubling up on our foreign office expenditure looking to replace trade made less profitable by technical barriers with the EU.

Since the substance of regulations is built on international standards there isn't going to be any deregulation to speak of in or out of the EEA, and even taking back our fishing waters doesn't change the existing contracts of foreign boats. We're not going to be slashing VAT on anything either. Our arguments don't hold up.

At worst, we make things a lot harder for ourselves, and at best, the Norway Option, the business environment doesn't change that much. It's not going to slow immigration either. We're not going to get a better deal than Norway. 

The reasons for leaving the single market are not credible either. All this waffle that the EU's percentage of global GDP doesn't stand scrutiny. Not when the overall volume of world trade has been climbing in recent years. Even if that were true, the volume of trade with the EU is large enough in its own right that we cannot afford (under any circumstances) to neglect it or turn our backs on it. 

The notion that we will be trading more with the Commonwealth is a fantasy too. What use is a free trade deal with nation that hasn't dredged its shipping lanes for twenty years and has traffic jams preventing the timely delivery of perishable goods?

The "Anglosphere" as a trading concept doesn't exist either. The USA is horrendously protectionist and we are not going to get a deal even approaching what we have with the EU. The EU can't get a good trade deal with the US, so why should the UK?

Economically, there's not much to be said for Brexit. You might even conclude that it's a rubbish idea. The political realities mean we will get an equitable deal that means not a lot changes. That's it. We keep our EEA status, we don't leave the single market, we keep freedom of movement and we keep paying substantial sums into the EU budget. 

Thus far, were a child to present the eurosceptic case to the teacher as their weekend homework, it would be thrown back with "See me!" scrawled in red ink across it. It sucks. 

Because eurosceptics cannot think past their ancient dogma dating back to the 1970's, they cling to their weak arguments like a lifebelt and continue to push them, building a cult around them, and isolating anybody who dares challenge the orthodoxy. If you ain't one of them, you are obviously a europhile. And though this sounds like the Ukip pathology it applies uniformly to 99% of Brexiteers. 

They are rubbish arguments that didn't win in 1975 and they won't win now. The only major difference between now and 1975 is that the Leavers are going to whinge a lot more about immigration to no real effect. 

They tell me off for undermining the campaign by pointing it out that their arguments are shit. I really can't help that. I live in 2016 and my eyes are open. Moreover, there is a huge tactical advantage to acknowledging reality.

By pointing out that very little is going to change we win points for integrity and honesty and pragmatism and in the process, by proving that case, have the Remain arguments falling flat in that we absorb their main thrust. And since the business environment does not change, if we are successful in communicating that then all the scare stories fall flat too. It's quite clever really. 

This, though, causes your average eurosceptic to have a panic attack. Not least because it slaughters most of their sacred cows. And the Kippers, well, they will seethe at the very idea that we might still let foreigners in. That makes them openly hostile to a message that could win. 

Course, the smarter ones point out that if bugger all actually changes, than what is the actual point of Brexit? Why bother? Tis a good question. As I have always said, we need to incentivise Brexit rather than just moaning about how horrible the EU is with a promise of a few extra quid in our pockets. 

And this is something they cannot do. They have always assumed that their loser arguments from the 1970's are good enough despite them failing last time. They think abolishing helicopter safety regulations and doling out £933 a year is enough. Sadly for them, the electorate will say "meh", like they did last time. Not least because we don't have the time advantage. 

The Remain side have some pretty clever people on their side (in influential positions) who will take their arguments apart one by one. And since there is probably not going to be an early referendum, that gives them plenty of time to chip away at the credibility of the leave case. By the time we have the vote, the 1975 era eurosceptic case presented by the Leave side will lie in tatters - and be exposed for all to see. That is why Leave has already lost. 

The Leave side first needs to set out the case that Brexit is risk free. And to do that it needs to have decided on a direction. A plan. It needs to set out that we will use Efta and the EEA as a safe harbour to de-risk the process. That instantly means most of their dogma needs to be decommissioned, especially the nonsense about saving money.

Saving money is a daft argument because people won't gamble with their jobs over a few extra quid that they won't see a penny of anyway. (and when is spare government cash EVER spent on more teachers and nurses?)

It needs all of the key speaks, Kate Hoey, Nigel Farage and Daniel Hannan, along with their recruits to spread this message. They need to get it out there that Brexit is safe. They are not going to do that. They are not even going to coordinate between themselves what they are going to say and they will even undermine themselves by not having a clear idea of the technicalities. This is that "message discipline" thing that eludes them. That is incidentally why Ukip failed in the election. They will instead mutter about the WTO and the Commonwealth. Which is boneheaded

What needs to come next is the incentive of playing a larger role in global affairs at the top tables, opening up new trade routes by repatriating trade and aid policy. By doing so, we can invest in sustainable development rather than just doling out cash to useless and unaccountable NGOs.

What we need to be doing is developing infrastructure in Africa, modernising ports, roads and airport and improving access to technology and education. If we want new markets we will have to stimulate them. In so doing we could even have our own national peace corp, which, while it sounds little bit imperialistic, you could dress it up as something else which would create travel and work experience for young people - and have them doing something a bit more productive with their lives than whatever kids presently get up to. 

There's a lot to be said for a really hands on integrated trade and aid policy, and I detail the specifics in this LeaveHQ post. Last year, I was told that the idea of Britain becoming the world's "unsinkable hospital ship" is a "really cool idea".

This naturally means spending as much and possibly more on foreign aid, but we would be spending it directly, in conjunction with the best aid agency on the planet. The Royal Navy. In this we would integrate part of our aid spending into our defence budget, which bolsters our forces while meeting our global aid spending commitment. 

And on the flip side of this, on the domestic front, by having a more engaged and integrated foreign policy we start seeing a return of politics of substance, and therefore, as expertise in London comes back in demand, we start seeing a revival of think tanks and quality media, displacing garbage we have now. As I argued recently, Brexit can only mean a shot in the arm for democracy. That might then lead to much needed domestic democratic reforms. 

And if this sounds a bit like a revival of British colonialism, well, it kind of is. Except this time we would do it less unilaterally and in conjunction with the UN sustainable development agenda, promoting good governance and setting up local education establishments so as to maintain the infrastructure that we build. 

And while you can argue that the EU does do all this stuff, it doesn't do it with any real focus, passion or connection with the people. Moreover it does not do it in an accountable way nor is it something that runs deep into the grassroots.

We could instead completely remodel Britain as the seat of internationalism creating partnerships between schools with other African schools. The possibilities there are absolutely endless. Once you get in the mindset of thinking in this way, you could probably do a better job of elaborating on the vision than I could. 

But we can't put out that message can we? Because eurosceptics are whinging, mithering dinosaurs who hate the idea of foreign aid and they hate the idea sustainable development - and most can barely tolerate the UN, and have completely hostile attitudes to any kind of environmentalism. They think the word "sustainability" is a joke. (admittedly it probably is, but we can make it mean something real if we choose to). How can they possibly pretend they want to "go global"?

In fact, all this "Anglosphere" nationalism crap, with obligatory mitherings about TTIP to make their crappy message appeal to the old left, is just obsolete, dismal, tired politics.

Since I started working on Brexit as a specialist subject I have gradually come to loathe eurosceptics with equal passion to the undemocratic and wasteful European Union. So much so that win or lose I probably will piss off to Canada when this nightmare is over. I'm gonna stick around just long enough to gloat when they massively lose their referendum.

The public are going to take one look at Grassroots Out and their mouth-breathing followers and conclude they're a bunch of dinosauric, halfwit bores with no idea what they want or why, or how to make it happen. And can you really blame them? No. Because it's absolutely true. Name one prominent eurosceptic with up to date arguments, realistic expectations, a coherent message and an exciting vision. Try to think of just one. Go on.


If you said Daniel Hannan, go stand in the corner and face the wall. 

For this reason, for the moment, we are staying in the EU - because we have the wrong sort of eurosceptics. We need energetic visionaries. We've got boring whingers. What we need is Euroscepticism 2.0 because there is no cure for this state of Euro-ennui.

If our movement collectively looks to John Redwood for intellectual leadership then we really are a waste of oxygen aren't we? Since the eurosceptic aristocracy have produced nothing of value in the last twenty years, and can't deliver victory then we need to dispense with the lot of them and start over. Until we have some original ideas we are just wasting our time. This is not 1975 anymore. The EU is no longer fit for purpose, but then neither are eurosceptics. 

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