Sunday, 11 December 2016

Peter Wilding is playing with fire

The are a few types I can't deal with at the moment. There's the leftists who think anyone who doesn't agree with them word for word literally is Hitler. Then there's the kiptards who think anyone who advocates anything less than pushing the nuclear button is an "undemocratic fascist". But then you are always going to find morons at both ends of the spectrum.

Morons though are two a penny and mostly harmless. I've had one or two obsessive ones who hate my guts but that's only to be expected. But then I'm not making any friends in the centre ground either. Insofar as there is such a thing now.

There are some people like Gisela Stuart who people regard as a moderate middle of the road politician, but through her considerable ignorance, she is a hard Brexiteer and consequently a Brexit fundamentalist whether she knows it or not. As to those on the remain side, there are few who qualify as moderate. Leaving aside for a moment the profound implications of EU membership, which of itself is quite radical, attempts to defy a majority vote through legalistic subversion is pretty sturdy stuff.

So as immoderate as I can be, it rather looks like I am the centre ground in looking to respect the vote and seeking an amicable measured settlement that properly takes account of the fact we have been deeply integrated inside the EU for forty years.

There are some on the remain side who have pledged to respect the vote and through accident of verbiage rather than insight have aligned themselves roughly with my short term goals, but even then I can't deal with them either. Remaining in the single market can be viewed two ways. You can either see it a s spring board for a much larger and more ambitious single market, weakening the EU's control over it, or you can view it as Labour does, as a safe-harbour where we run to mummy and never let go of the apron strings.

To believe as they do you would have to be addled with europhile dogma which suggests that the UKs prosperity depends entirely on being in the EU and the EEA as a consolation prize for losing. It's hard to build alliances with people so completely lacking in ambition and vision.

I have argued that the EEA is necessary to buy us breathing space to sort out the moutnain of legal and technical issues in order to secure a stable Brexit, where we then take full advantage of our ability to speak as a nation in our own right. That does not mean that we are necessarily dependent on the single market. There's just no need to complicate things by seeking a messy bespoke agreement that does the same job.

If we are going to go to the trouble of leaving the EU then it must be with a mind to transform an old idea into something more befitting the modern world. Cowering in a corner will not do - but then neither will charging headlong out of the EU without a sense of purpose. In this, Peter Wilding of British Influence is exactly right.
The cult Hard Brexit religion, with its “flat earth” approach is as out-of-tune with reality as the old-guard Remainers who think the vote can be, as the Attorney General pithily put it “relegated to a footnote” in history. The people have spoken, but we need to ask: “what did they actually say”? No-one should assume that a narrow, theological approach to Brexit is either correct or has been mandated. It is absolutely right that the narrative of hard Brexit be scrutinised and weighed-up to establish if it is either desirable or necessary. It may prove to be neither.
By the same token, it is difficult to endorse Wilding in that he fully supports the Judicial Review of the Government’s position on the EEA. For starters we do not as yet know Mrs May's position and she has yet to put forth anything concrete, but as ever we find the devil in the detail. The EEA agreement brings a number of surveillance mechanisms into play which are necessary for the functioning of the agreement. Without a degree of re-working it simply doesn't function for third countries. You have to be in one column (Efta) or the other. To be party to the EEA agreement but not in Efta is theoretically possible but not without a process of negotiation. There is no automatic default position unless we remain in the EU.

To even bring this case marks a total misreading of what the EEA agreement is, which is really quite typical of the ignorance we see elsewhere. It doesn't stand a chance in court. In that regard, Wilding and his fellow travellers are not in a position to criticise anybody. Like the hard Brexiteers they advocate a course of action they have not understood for entirely ideological reasons. Though the EEA is most certainly the preferable outcome, one is mirror of the other.

All this case serves to do is sour the EEA option in the eyes of an already suspicious public while discrediting advocates of it - potentially making a hard Brexit more likely. Do these people ever stop for a nanosecond to think about what they are doing?

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