Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Voting to leave is the only way to reform Europe

David Cameron says we should stay in a reformed EU. He has yet to specify what those reforms will be, when he expects to get them and what the chances are of succeeding. He has been strangely silent on that. He has made a big noise about a peripheral agreement he secured shortly before calling the referendum, but I heard nothing that says the EU is to be reformed. His non-binding agreement does not amend the treaties of the EU. They do not restructure or reorganise any of the institutions nor does it return any powers to member states.

As it happens, had Cameron secured real reforms to the EU I would consider voting to remain. For instance, if Britain were granted the right of trade initiative without having to go via the EU, along with a veto on directives and regulations then that would be a considerable change in our realtionship. But I would also seek an exemption from the CAP and the CFP. We have no need of either and both would be improved by its absence.

I would also seek a genuine unilateral emergency brake on Freedom of Movement. Not one which required the approval of member states. I would also want an exemption from all labour laws. This does not mean that we wouldn't adopt EU rules but we would have the right to amend them. That would make EU membership tolerable - but I would have other demands before I was convinced.

That though would not be a reformed EU. That would merely be a reformed relationship with the EU. It would still be what it has always been A democracy dodging supranational entity without a sovereign parliament.

The problem with all this is that even to change our relationship in such a way would require a new EU treaty which would require ratification from all of the member states. This makes far too many concessions which would see all of the other members making their own demands. This is precisely why real reform was never on the table and the Prime Minister has lied to us. Repeatedly.

It is naive in the extreme to believe that the EU can be reformed to become what it pretends to be - a democratic multilateral cooperation platform. Only two kinds of people claim this is what the EU is. Fools and liars.

The truth is that the only way to get the relationship we want with the EU is to leave and join Efta. It gives us full autonomy at the top tables, a real say in the rules the EU adopts, more controls on freedom of movement, access to the single market and autonomy over fishing, agriculture, trade, aid and energy. It maintains close EU cooperation without being subordinate to it. It then becomes a partner instead of a superior.

Some say that the EEA agreement is suboptimal. They are right. It is. But Britain, as the fifth largest economy in the world, joined with our friends in Efta make the fourth largest bloc on the planet which is more than sufficient leverage to reform the agreement and perhaps even make some demands of the EU to reform internally.

Even in the first instance we get much of what we want while still keeping many of the alleged benefits of the EU. From there we have much more freedom to trade and more freedom to pick our alliances on global forums.

The bottom line is that leaving is the only way to reform the EU and it is the only way to get the relationship that David Cameron pretends he has secured.

If you are voting to remain because you have doubts about the risks, then be assured that the risks are slight since much of the scares are pegged to what happens if we leave the single market, not the EU. And we will stay in the single market even if we leave because our MPs will have it no other way. The EEA option is almost universally agreed as the most risk free option and the most likely path. The risks are massively overstated and we do not lose those core benefits.

What we also get is is the chance at a complete reappraisal of our domestic laws as we re-engineer and reintegrate core policy making. It will be the biggest shake up of UK democracy since world war two. And god knows we need that. I also strongly suspect it will reinvigorate democracy and consequently the media.

I see challenges and I see that there will be short term difficulties but ultimately I believe Brexit will be a shot in the arm for both trade and democracy and Europe will be all the better for it. Brexit does not mean the end of cooperation and it does not threaten the peace. We are not starting a quarrel with Europe, we are ending one.

Only when we have resolved these issues can we move on from this. Until the boil is lanced it will continue to keep British politics off balance and toxic. It will guarantee slow growth, continued divisions and bickering. Moreover, for as long as there is a threat of Brexit, investor confidence will not return. That uncertainty is actually more corrosive than leaving.

I say it's time to settle this once and for all and to get the reforms we really need. There is only one way to do that and that is to vote to leave. To say that we can reform it from within is to deny political and legal reality and ignores forty years of experience. It's like an aircraft designer deciding to suspend the laws of gravity in order to build the perfect aeroplane. Even Howard Hughes couldn't do that.

The establishment wants us to stay in the EU because it puts handcuffs on democracy and keeps them in their privileged positions without having to account for themselves. This is why they lie so intensively and continue to conflate the EU with the single market. They are liars and deceivers and they are holding Britain back.

I think Britain deserves better and I think we deserve to be treated better by our politicians. As much as Brexit is the much needed medicine our economy and our politics needs it is also a message to them that they serve us. We have nothing to lose by voting to leave. The only people who need live in fear are the schemers who did this to us in the first place. For that reason, I urge you to do the right thing on Thursday and vote to leave.

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