Monday, 8 February 2016

The time has come to ignore the Leave campaigns

This piece in the Guardian by Jacek Rostowski, economist and former finance minister of Poland, can do the Leave side a lot of damage. He argues that the Brexit camp is "selling a Pollyanna vision that will never exist".

He observes that their argument is based on a fictional agreement that would permit the UK to opt out of the free movement of people, end EU budget contributions, extend regulatory opt-outs and allow access to Europe’s single market. He adds:

For most European observers and officials this just won’t happen. No country has full access to the single market without making a contribution to the EU budget and accepting the four freedoms – and no such exception would be made for Britain. Campaigners assume that on Britain leaving, the EU’s remaining 27 members would be intent on helping. This is paradoxical given that the same people campaign to leave on the basis of these states’ unwillingness to accede to British demands for reform.

He is, of course, absolutely right. The EU might well be willing to help us come to an amicable agreement that causes as little disruption to both parties as possible but to assume they would do us any favours at all in severing our relations in the most brutal way possible is absurd.

And while thus far there has been nothing in the Guardian that has struck me as potent, with its penchant for publishing rabid europhile dogma, it is this kind of measured thinking that has far more potential to damage the Brexit cause.

It wouldn't be if the Leave campaign had a workable plan, a realistic set of aspirations and a vision that would make it all worth the hassle, but instead we have Leave.EU pretty much advocating the Suicide Option.

A more pragmatic approach would leave the remain side with little more than petty problematising but Arron Banks seems utterly determined to offer them an open goal. Certainly they are not advancing any counter arguments to this line of attack, not least because it would upset their Ukip base too much. They would turn seriously nasty. As usual.

In this, the ghastly Louise Mensch and her dimwitted ilk have precisely zero reason to assume Vote Leave is any better, since their model is almost exactly the same, and are therefore equally incapable of mounting an effective counter attack. This is the "genius" of Dominic Cummings at work.

So, as predicted, the Leave campaign is far up the garden path and down the cul-de-sac and now the intellectual case for Brexit is being gradually eroded among opinion formers.

That leaves us Brexit bloggers out on our own in advancing a more sophisticated plan. We can state the best possible case we can but the reply is always "ah, but that's not what most of you want is it?" - and the answer is, sadly no, most Leavers seriously do want the most risky, most dangerous path out of the EU.

Day by day, drip by drip, word gets out that Leavers are a bunch of crazed fanatics who haven't thought it through and don't have good answers to tough questions. That is not to say such answers don't exist but there's fat chance of the media reporting them, especially when the so-called Grassroots Out campaign could not be any more bubble obsessed if it tried.

On Sunday we had Julia Hartley-Brewer asking "Who will speak for the sane, well-informed eurosceptics?", which is a fair enough question, but as far as prominent Leave figures go, there seriously aren't any. Meanwhile the lack of media inquisitiveness leaves hacks blissfully unaware that the Brexit blogosphere exists, and apart from one or two polite mentions from hacks we've helped out, we've had no media enquiries or invites from the main campaigns.

We have had plenty of empty promises from Arron Banks, but nothing we have advised him on has been heeded or adopted. It's like dealing with Jekyll and Hyde ... two completely different people with no connection with each other. On the one hand, we get all the smiles and glad tidings and on the other, we get a torrent of air-headed bilge that completely contradicts anything we say or do.

It could be that we have massively overestimated the value of a Leave campaign and it will prove to be just white noise. In which case this contest for the lead designation is merely a bit of fun that could shaft a band of particularly odious Tories. If Banks manages that, for that alone he deserves a knighthood - even though Leave.EU is an embarrassing trainwreck.

At this point we had better just hope fortune is on our side because we are collectively doing nothing to improve our chances or our standing in the public eye. It certainly won't be the Leave campaign that wins it. It will be the Prime Minister losing it.

In this regard, he is doing us every favour he can. And then with this morning's Telegraph having France flatly contradicting the PM on the matter of "the Jungle", as much as it looks like the EU doesn't want us to stay, we might start wondering if Mr Cameron is trying to lose.

However, I am still working on the assumption that Cameron still does very much want to win and so he will need time to recover his credibility. He will need a bigger rabbit to pull out of the hat and he needs the nine week media cycle to pass so all of the latest developments drift from the public memory. This is why I am now convinced we won't be seeing a referendum this year.

If that is the case, I'm going to have to train myself to completely ignore the main campaigns and though it will be tough, I will have to refrain from commenting on their ritual idiocy. I will instead have to focus on finding more likeminded bloggers who can extend a more reasoned and sensible message.

We don't have time to build an effective campaign organisation, but we do have time to cultivate our Brexit blog attack squad. Hits on this blog and LeaveHQ have been progressively climbing and the growth rate has been far better than any previous attempts at blogging. That tells me that there is an appetite for serious analysis and original arguments, and maybe, just maybe, there are enough of us out there to make a serious difference. If not, it's game over.

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