Monday, 14 March 2016

Brexit is the safe, moderate, reasonable course of action

The EU debate is distorted on both sides. We are looking at two extremes. One side wants total sovereignty - the other wants a total surrender of it. Neither of which is a workable proposal for Britain. Fortunately the Brexit headbangers won't get it all their own way. We will stay in the single market, but we will regain our voice at the top tables and take back control of fishing agriculture, energy, trade and aid.

Brexit delivers the best of both worlds and reforms our relationship with the EU in ways that Cameron couldn't. An EEA/Efta deal means we get all the things Cameron pretends he got: an end to ever closer union, a real emergency brake on freedom of movement - and a genuine return of powers. In that regard, the only moderate, safe thing to do is to vote to leave.

While the Leave campaign doesn't have a plan - reality tells us we will get a deal very similar to Norway - because that's the path of least resistance for both sides. What the Remain camp can't tell us is what EU membership looks like in ten years or how much influence we will have when it takes our place at all the top tables where the rules are made.

The Remain campaign can't even tell us if the EU will stay in one piece as their vanity currency problems tear the fabric of the EU constitution. They have no answers because even the EU itself does not know. In that regard - Brexit is actually more predictable and certain than staying in the EU. I wouldn't risk staying in.

I only see Brexit as a positive. To take back control is to renergise our politics, turning it to matters of greater daily significance, causing a return of the displacement activity back to councils where it belongs. It sees only a revitalised democracy and increased participation. That is why I am voting to leave. It is the only vote in my lifetime that will ever deliver meaningful change.

And isn't that what we all want? You all know it doesn't matter who you vote for at the election because nothing really changes. And why do you suppose that is? What has been the one constant throughout? EU membership.

We don't want or need a supreme government for Europe, we don't need an EU gun to our heads to obey international rules and regulations - and we are safer if we have real democracy. There may be challenges from leaving the EU - but we are a first rate nation and we will find a way through. We always do. Business whinges about uncertainty - but true democracy can never offer total certainty - and nor should it. By their logic we should cancel all elections.

In the end, the concerns of multinationals are not really our concern. Who governs us is really none of their business. The risks of Brexit are overstated and they are bluffing when they say they will leave Britain. When the rules stay more of less the same and we are safeguarded against most tariffs, there is no competitive advantage to quitting the UK. They may find our new found trading agility will give them the edge.

Personally I refuse to be blackmailed by tax dodging corporations who have no loyalty to Britain. They forget they are in Britain because we are a modern, liberal, trustworthy country that sticks by the rules. That is ultimately why Britain is the best place to be. If they want to clear off, then fine - because that will make room in the square mile for those smart operators who know that Britain free to choose its own trading alliances is one that will thrive. 

The fact is we are a crossroads. We can stay with the familiar - but it offers no lasting certainty - and I don't like the direction it's going in, taking more unilateral measures, taking shortcuts, breaking its own rules and using sticking plasters instead of reforming its institutions. It can offer us no real protection against the ravages of globalisation and I don't see that iron-clad workers rights are of any use if you have no job at all.

I certainly don't see our labour laws as conducive to an agile and vibrant labour market. Without a fluid labour market, we all end up staying in crappy safe harbor jobs we hate because we're afraid to take risks. What sort of life is that?

There is real scope for reform if we shake off the dead hand of supranationalism and once again we can show how real recovery is done. We are long overdue a bit of economic radicalism to get things moving again and we can't afford to wait years for the EU's lumbering big ticket trade deals. We will get ahead by making thousands of small increments globally, opening up new markets and investing in the developing world. We showed Europe how to do it in the eighties and we'll do it again. But first we need to be able to go our own way. 

We have a real opportunity here. We have one chance of a lifetime to break with the post-war settlement, to let go of the past and to reshape our economy to meet the challenges of globalisation. We have a rare opportunity not only to take our democracy back but also to enhance it. We can have those reforms we want and we need not lose the best of what we have. 

Brexit does not have to be a choice between Europe and the rest of the world. Where does it say we can't have both? Where does it say that Brexit means an end to European cooperation and friendship? Why do we have to make everything binary? Why should we choose between two groups of ideological extremists when we can have the best of both? 

We can have the benefits of harmonisation and cooperation but also the protections of democracy. We can have it all if we want it. But first we have to leave the EU even if it means unfortunately siding with Boris Johnson. I don't like it either, but sometimes you just have to do what's right. And leaving the EU is the right thing to do. We all want change - and Brexit is the only way we are ever going to get it. 

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