Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Arron Banks: flailing and failing

Time and again Arron Banks was warned to watch his own message for consistency. Now it bites him back. The very last place we wanted to be is having protracted debates over unknowable economic metrics trying to divine the true cost of Brexit. Thanks to Banks (and others) this has now become primarily an economic question and we cannot win it on the basis of the figures presented by the Leave campaign.

The point of Brexit is that the EU is not a free trade area. It is a government - and one which we do not want to be ruled by. Any case that places immediate separation as the priority on economic grounds is going to lose. You would have to have some pretty convincing evidence to show that more barriers and the possibility of tariffs makes trade healthier for the UK.

As it happens, I probably could make that case but not by casually throwing Mexico and Canada into the ring as examples - and clearly by way of referring to a junior aid sat behind him for factoids on free trade deals, this is a man who in a very real sense does not know what he is talking about.

What we got from Tice and Banks was a series of suppositions and assumptions which looked unprofessional and flimsy. The panel weren't buying it and I wasn't either. In this regard Rachel Reeves and Helena Goodman will have come away feeling reassured that staying in the right choice. Neither Dominic Cummings or these two bozos have any definitive answers and nothing that sounds particularly credible. If I didn't know what I know I would be voting to remain on the basis of what is presented by these two.

That said if the panel were anywhere near as sharp and informed as they should be on a matter this critical they would have mercilessly driven a horse and cart through their entire case. I would have. Again we see the usual monomaniac fixation with tariffs while completely ignoring the many areas of legal, scientific and technical cooperation, customs channels and processes. All in their own way massively more significant than tariffs. So we really are looking at the blind leading the blind. Between them they have no expertise and wouldn't know where to look for it.

Had Rachel Reeves pressed Banks on non-tariff barriers and areas of EU cooperation his entire case would have folded. So the question is, why does she know so little? She is, after all, paid quite well to know such things and has research staff to do that very thing for her.

Though I would like to see Britain leave the EU the job of MPs is to give expert witnesses a thorough cross examination, and yet what we see is amazing naivety from both camps on what the EU is and how it works. If this is the standard of select committee hearings on matters of critical importance it is little wonder we get such poor decision making from Westminster.

But ultimately the fault lies with Banks. It is simply not good enough to ask for a complete dismantling of the post-war settlement without being able to offer a coherent idea of what the benefits are, and at the very least you should be able to articulate how it can realistically be done without hurting the economy. Instead of that we got delusional waffle. What we've had from the Leave campaign is utterly shambolic.

The fact is that we have been saying for decades that the EU is not a free trade zone and is something of far greater depth and significance, yet now we are only weeks away from the vote, we are, for reasons that escape me, pretending that a quick and dirty trade deal somehow unpicks forty years of integration. Madness.

I suppose it was a fair gamble that MPs would be ignorant enough to let it slide, but the point is that there will be bloggers, columnists and opinions formers watching this with interest to see if Leave does have a credible case. On the basis of what we have seen thus far, you could be forgiven for thinking there isn't one. What we can say for certain is that if we want an adult exploration of the issues, Westminster is the last place you would look for it.

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