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 EU politics: we assume too much

 Wednesday 16 April 2014

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The recent IEA "Brexit prize" submissions brought home to us the depth of ignorance of people supposed to be expert in matters EU. This actually stops you short – one tends to assume that people at least know the basics and when they don't, it is necessary to reassess.

But, if we need to be wary of the "experts", what about the ordinary public? According to YouGov, only 16 percent can correctly name the date of the Euro-elections, a clear 68 percent didn't know and 16 percent choose the wrong date.

Some 77 percent admit they don't know how many MEPs we have, and only seven percent actually got the figure right. And 93 percent couldn't even name one of their MPs.

Only 20 percent of respondents could get the number of countries in the EU right, 44 percent of people knew that Norway was not a member of the EU, 27 percent thought Ukraine was a member and 30 percent believed Turkey was in the Union.

So here we are then, getting excited about arcane details of the EU, nuances in the polls and shades of opinion. Yet the bulk of people don't even know the date of the election. We cannot assume that what drives us has any impact on the public, or they care about what we care about. For all our knowledge, we're flying blind.


Richard North 16/04/2014 link

 Brexit: publish or be damned?

 Tuesday 15 April 2014

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Following his thoughtful piece on the "Brexit prize", The Boiling Frog is carrying out a lonely campaign, seeking to get the IEA to publish the remaining eleven of the 17 finalists' submissions, so that we can properly analyse the results.

I reckon he could do with a little help on twitter, with tweets calling to "free the Brexit 11", with the message: "published or be dammed, or somesuch. To maximise their effect, tweets might be copied to @iealondon with the hashtag #brexitprize, and this link.

Something is certainly needed to counter this stupidity where Alan Murad, Acting Campaign Manager of Get Britain Out, has decided that Iain Mansfield has been "silenced", even though this is not the case.

We have an interesting social phenomenon here, where Murad reports the "silencing" because that is what he wants to believe, then allowing his belief to transcend fact. This has some implications for the way news in now disseminated, when belief systems are competing with hard fact, and in some cases gaining greater traction.

It is ironic, though, that Murad, who is quick to leap on any examples of EU propaganda that he can find, should be just as willing to promote his own propaganda, to spread the messages in which he chooses to believe. As scary is the number of people prepared to believe what they want to hear.


Richard North 15/04/2014 link

 UKIP: flawed Farage finally fights ferocious former fan

 Tuesday 15 April 2014

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Quick out of the gate today is Farage, defending himself against charges claimed to be levied by former senior UKIP officials. These involve pocketing cash paid by the European Parliament for office expenses, set against inflated costs of a building he was given, and occupies free of charge.

This was in The Times earlier today, which ran as its front page lead story, "Farage faces investigation into 'missing' EU expenses", declaring that he faces an expenses investigation into almost £60,000 of "missing" European Union funds paid into his personal bank account.

Once again, we really don't want to know the details. But if it turns out that Farage has been lining his pockets with EU funds, this would not be a surprise. He wouldn't be the first UKIP MEP to have done so, and it is unlikely that he will be the last.

Furthermore, if Farage is now being investigated for this, it isn't the only ongoing investigation, and nor is he the only UKIP MEP being investigated. There are so many going on, as well as other criminal matters under investigation, that one assumes it is only a matter of time before the UKIP leader gets his collar felt.

What is interesting politically though is that The Times felt confident enough to commit this story to its front-page lead, given the Farage propensity to employ the services of Carter Fuck and its clones, and the shadow of Leveson and looming government-inspired press controls. One assumes the paper would not have run the story unless it had been pretty confident about its sources.

However, while the source of the information is former office manager David Samuel-Camps, who worked for Farage until 2010, he now seems to have contradicted the paper's version of his claims, arguing that there is very little difference between his actual figures and those claimed by Farage.

Nevertheless, there is enough here to illustrate that, once again, someone close to Farage, formerly a loyal "fan", has turned against him in a very public way, being willing to talk to the newspaper in the first place. It happens to us all eventually, Samuel-Camps simply being one of a long and growing list of people who have seen the light. Sadly, there is no shortage of deluded replacements, each one thinking that, somehow, they are different.

This event nevertheless gives us an entertaining headline (do you think I should apply for a job as a real hack?), and also gives The Times an editorial opportunity. Under the heading, "Political Class" – with the text sent to me by a wellwisher – it tells us that, "Nigel Farage's appeal rests on him being the anti-politician in a time of political disillusion, but the truth is emerging".

Not least of that "truth" is the number of people lining up, ready and willing to dob him in, just waiting in the queue for the attention of senior plods who are working on career-change ideas for Mr Farage.

The Times, however, is simply using this current story as a platform to assert that the appeal of Nigel Farage is based on a trick. That trick, it says, is:
…to appear as the politician who is not a politician. Mr Farage's most common and most effective shtick is to parade himself as the representative of the ordinary person against the gilded establishment from which the political class draws its recruits. It is a fraudulent prospectus and the sleight of hand is starting to show.
Noting that "a former senior UKIP official has filed a formal complaint about Mr Farage's conduct to OLAF, the body which investigates European Union fraud", it then observes how UKIP has made a great deal of the mess that the three main political parties got into over their expenses.

Mr Farage's comment in the wake of Maria Miller's resignation was typical of his attitude, it recalls: "Yet again, this is the political class looking after its own and letting down the electorate".

Yet this is the same Mr Farage who established the Farage Family Educational Trust on the Isle of Man to allow him to mitigate his tax liability, and who is now himself being accused of enjoying the fruits of a taxpayer-funded expenses system.

Cutting to the chase, the paper's message is that TGL's actions are not becoming of a politician who has styled himself as the anti-politics candidate, somehow above and beyond the allegedly low standards of the political class. Effectively, he is as we have been saying, just like the rest.

But, if UKIP's supporters will be quick to dismiss this as "smears" – and doubtless they have some justification - the Independent is recording a ComRes poll that has 51 percent of voters not believing that the Nigel Farage party offers a "realistic political vision", while 54 percent say they are not attracted by UKIP's "plain-speaking style".

In a way, this is possibly indicative of greater hurdles facing UKIP than is The Times, although the sum of these stories, and other recent attack stories, also suggests that UKIP is being deliberately targeted. But then, that is only to be expected, although going to war against The Times is probably not a good idea for a political party.

That, in itself, is no big deal. Any grown-up political party should expect some hostile publicity, and such attack pieces may simply indicate that the party is coming of age. On the other hand, the "one trick pony" aspect of the party makes it vulnerable. The attacks are mainly focused on the leader and damage to Farage is most likely to have a disproportionate effect on the party as a whole.

In this event, as long as there are disgruntled "fans", ferocious or otherwise, ready to come out of the woodwork, there will always be difficulty in controlling the agenda.


Richard North 15/04/2014 link

 Brexit: interesting coincidences

 Tuesday 15 April 2014

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A weekend of intensive work has delivered a partial but nonetheless detailed forensic analysis of the six IEA "Brexit" prize winning entries, which is too interesting not to share with you. Fill your bowls with popcorn, sit down and enjoy.

Regular ex-readers will recall that, when we first started realising that the IEA was playing fast and loose with its own rules, we suspected that all those entrants (like me) who had gone for the EEA option had been excluded. Then, when we saw all the six prize winners, this seemed to be confirmed. But this is only the half of it.

From our forensic analysis, what we are now seeing is that the winners – all of them – came up with the same very rare solution for their "Brexit" blueprints, which involved not only rejecting participation in the EEA but also seeking EFTA membership. Stay with me and you will shortly see quite how significant this is.

For a start., we first noticed this with Mansfield, who managed to win first prize with this interesting scenario. He wants the UK to join EFTA but entirely rejects the idea of EEA participation. And necessarily, for his proposal to succeed, EFTA members have to accept the UK's application to join them.

However, as we have pointed out, any member could veto British membership. It cannot be assumed that entry will be automatic. Yet, Mansfield does not seek to explore the views of EFTA members as to whether they would accept the UK and, if so, under what terms.

Despite the improbability of Mansfield's scenario, however, we start to see coincidences stack up. A similar lack of curiosity about EFTA's views is manifest in Murray and Broomfield, the second prize winners. They propose that the British government should consider "whether the UK should use as its negotiating position a proposal to re-enter the European Free Trade Area (EFTA) alongside Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein". There is not the slightest hint that EFTA membership is anything other than an entitlement. And, like Mansfield, they "propose that HMG should reject any option of joining the EEA".

Tim Hewish, as third prize winner, then follows suit. He takes the position that that "UK future trade policy should not hide behind the EEA or have a complex arrangement like the Swiss". Instead, he believes that the UK should look for "a completely separate bilateral deal". So once again no EEA. But, as for EFTA, here membership is a "vital and rapid tool for the UK to secure FTAs with third parties". And not content with hat, he continues:
We see it as a gateway to join exciting [he possibly means existing] FTAs that EFTA already has as a quickstep solution within our three year plan. For the UK to conduct its own separate deal with all of EFTAs current FTA partners (which has taken them over 20 years to craft) would take considerable time. By joining EFTA, the UK would inherit trade deals under Article 56 (3) of the EFTA Convention.
In this submission, though, there is a slight recognition that that the EFTA membership is "first and foremost a political matter and would need to be discussed at the highest political levels and between all nations involved". There is also an acknowledgement that a UK application "may be subject to increased difficulty due to its perceived size economically, politically, and in terms of population".

That, at least, is closer to reality, indicating entry would not necessarily be automatic – the only one of six who even addresses this issue.

From field trips to both Norway and Iceland, I would concur that EFTA membership would not be automatic. Having had the opportunity to discuss this with a wide range of politicians and activists in both countries, it would appear that any response to an application would depend on many factors.

The political colour of the government's in power, their current relationships with the EU, and the attitudes of the European institutions and Member States to UK membership could be highly relevant, but there is possibly one over-riding factor which will shape the response.

Essentially, in Iceland and Norway both, there are varying degrees of dissatisfaction with the EEA agreement, but also a realisation that the relative power of the three EFTA/EEA members is insufficient to force a renegotiation.

British membership, therefore, is seen as advantageous, but only inasmuch as the UK's strength could add leverage to the EFTA/EEA combination, strengthening their hand against the EU. On the other hand, Britain seeking membership of EFTA for its own selfish reasons, without it being prepared to do some of the "heavy lifting", would not be looked upon favourably.

On this, I contacted my recent Icelandic host, Björn Bjarnason, former Justice Minister in the Icelandic government. He suggested that there was one possible option we could look at, but it would have the UK initially outwith EFTA and the EEA. This had the UK joining with Switzerland to help it renegotiate its bilaterals, coming up with a better deal than EEA members had, which would apply to both countries.

With that in place, Bjarnason said, a British application to join EFTA would be welcome, as it would help EFTA members to improve their relationship with the EU. A Britain thus able to increase leverage would be welcomed. A Britain seeking to join EFTA as a camouflage for something else would merely create political problems within the EFTA.

Nevertheless, none of our winners actually went for the UK-Swiss option. From Clements, the fourth-rated Brexit prize winner, all we see is this earlier sense of entitlement, with two identical - and somewhat presumptuous - references to a Britain which should "reinstate her association with the EFTA". Again, participation in the EEA is rejected.

It is exactly such an approach that, according to Bjarnason (and others), we would expect to be turned down by EFTA members. But that brings in Stephen Bush, at number five in the prize rankings. He considers that EFTA membership will be "close to ideal for Britain to join and she should apply to negotiate this in parallel with the EU negotiations". Again, there is no indication that EFTA members could tell Britain to get lost. Just as before though, we see a rejection of EEA.

Finally, we have Daniel Pycock. He bluntly argues for "access to the European Union's markets from EFTA (rather than the EEA)". This is a misunderstanding of the role of EFTA, as entry to EU markets is gained via the EEA rather than EFTA. The one is not an alternative for the other. And, with that, we have a full house - six out of six going for the "EFTA-only" option.

Prior to the launch of the IEA's Brexit Prize, it has to be said that exit plans offering the precise combination of seeking membership of EFTA and rejecting participation in the EEA have been rare. Normally, one sees EFTA/EEA treated as a single package, accepted or rejected as a whole, primarily because the EFTA membership is normally sought in order to gain access to the EEA.

It should be noted that EFTA membership is not required to pursue the so-called "Swiss option", as the Association played no role in the bilateral agreements between Switzerland and the EU. This we know from René Schwok, writing in an official EFTA anniversary book. In other words, the "Swiss option" doesn't need EFTA membership. 

In fact, the advantage of the bilateral route for Switzerland is that it allowed her to make her own agreements without being bound by the EFTA framework. Thus, the only advantage the UK would gain from the EFTA-only option would be the ability to tap into EFTA's existing trade deals. But if that was the sole motivation, it is unlikely that the UK would be accepted as a returning member.

Now, here's the rub. We wrote at the beginning of this piece that to see this "EFTA-only" option was rare. Actually, it's very rare. In the ordinary course of events, it's difficult enough to find a single paper suggesting this option. There's a good reason for this. It's not a viable option. Normally, we get the "Norway Option", which requires EFTA/EEA membership. Or we get the "Swiss option", which doesn't involve either EFTA or EEA membership.

In fact, so rarely is th "EFTA-only" option that, before the IEA Brexit competition, I haven't been able to identify a single paper advocating it. Doubtless they exist, but they are hard to find. It seems hard to beleive that the winners were getting their inspiration from the internet. 

So what have we got? We have six papers all offered simultaneously by Brexit prize contestants. Since all of them were in competition, we might assume that they did not consult with each other, nor discuss their submissions.

Thus, for each of the six papers, their writers independently came to the conclusion that this flawed (and rare) option offered the best prospect of attaining "the fastest benefits of lower trade barriers" (this, The Boiling Frog reminds us was a requirement of the competition). And all seven writers independently concluded that the "EFTA-only" solution was the winning idea - not that any of them gave it that label. 

Here, one might suggest that the odds of six papers offering the "EFTA-only" option appearing in the IEA's shortlist of 17 papers, drawn from nearly 150, are astronomical. That so many could get through must certainly be a very remote possibility.

But then, what odds should we offer for all those six papers, not only offering this rare option but also going on to be selected as prize winners? And what are the odds of all six of them being chosen, and only those six, with no other option chosen?  We don't even get the more conventional offering of a rejection of EFTA and the EEA. 

Every single one of the six winners insist that we join the EFTA and all six reject the idea of EEA participation. This, one might even say, is unique. I can't imagine the odds Paddy Power might offer if one had suggested this as a likely outcome for the competition. I hadn't even thought of the possibility of an "EFTA-only" solution.

Despite all this though, we have to accept that six "EFTA-only" solutions coming out of nowhere to take all six prizes was completely coincidental. It had to be, otherwise we would have to think collusion – that the organisers had given hints to the "winners" and the "right" answers had been plucked out for the judges to put in rank order, with no other submissions given a look in.

One has to recall that the original IEA plan was that only Mansfield's paper should be published in full. All the other papers would be summarised by Philip Booth, for a "monograph" that he alone was going to prepare - some time after the event. That's what Philip Booth told us. 

Thus, if there had been collusion, and rigged judging, we should never have been able to find out, because none of us could have done the forensic analysis needed to detect it. But since nothing untoward ever happened, I don't suppose that really matters. Why would we want to do forensic analysis?

Without making a fuss, we just have to accept that, out of nearly 150 papers submitted, six totally impractical offerings, identical in suggesting the same rare solution, all made it through to the front to scoop all the prizes. That has to be a coincidence. There cannot possibly be any other explanation.


Richard North 15/04/2014 link

 EU politics: advanced muppetry

 Monday 14 April 2014

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One of the refrains we get in the advanced muppetry from the anti-Article 50 brigade is that, while the negotiations are going ahead, the other side will exacts all sorts of terrible revenge against us, imposing trade sanctions and other horrors, all in retaliation for our effrontery in demanding to leave the EU.

To this we patiently, if wearily, respond that any such action would be contrary to the provisions of the Treaties, and with the EU being a rules-based organisation, we could insist that it obeys its own laws, even taking cases to the ECJ if necessary.  The EU could not, therefore, take any retaliation.  

The very essence of this approach is the doctrine of pacta sunt servanta - treaties must be obeyed – to which the British government subscribes, as one of the essential foundations of the international order.

What value is there then in the director of the "think" tank Civitas telling us (via Brietbart in this instance) that the Westminster parliament should unpick EU laws, declare the UK Supreme Court to be the country's highest authority, and challenge the EU to "do its worst".

Sadly, the Barclay Beano is on the case as well. It has the Muppet saying that the UK has a "moral duty" to give the Supreme Court power over the ECJ. MPs, we are told, can achieve this by passing a simple one-line amendment to the 1972 European Communities Act to declare that UK law is superior to EU law.

"Should we wait patiently for the referendum promised for 2017? Should we re-negotiate in the hope that something good might come of the process? Or should we take more rapid action?" Green posits in supprt of his proposition, a move he says would amount to a "unilateral declaration of independence ... without tearing up all EU laws and regulations in one go".

This, of course, is in complete breach of the Treaties and the provisions agreed thereunder yet that, according to his actual report, is precisely what Green is writing. Thus, here we have a situation once again where North is on the outside looking in, commenting on the stupidity of his fellow man. And who do you think is going to get the shitstorm?

But the very obvious point is that, with the prospect of Article 50 negotiations in the offing (which are the natural outcome in the event of us winning a referendum), the very last thing we want to be doing is advocating wholesale disregard for treaty and allied provisions. In due course, we will be reliant on the good faith of our partners and their own compliance of these provisions.

One almost wishes, therefore, that the likes of Dr Green, before they wrote anything, were obliged to carry out a sort of "due diligence" – assessing the likely affect of their statements. "The EU has usurped our power to uphold liberal civilisation. We must take back our independence, even if there is some inconvenience in the short run. It will be worth it", he says.

For this Green might just have used common sense and judged that his efforts might be better directed towards calling for the UK to invoke Article 50 to get us out of the EU. Virtually anything might be better than his silly ideas, and it is all very well for him to write glibly about "inconvenience" but is that really his adult assessment of the consequences of structured breaches of international law?

Has it not occurred to this man that there is actually a procedure by which we can take back our independence, one which requires nothing more that a notification to the European Council to trigger? Is it not far better to leave using the proper procedure, if we don’t like the rules, rather than than stay in and break them? Yet, in his 105-page publication, there is not a single mention of this option.

However, this is the London metro-élite speaking, and us provincial oiks are not permitted to comment on the wisdom of our betters, no matter how facile their pronouncements. Green must be flattered as a brilliant commentator: his words should be treasured and his book kept by your bed. After all, you never know when you may be called short in the middle of the night.


Richard North 14/04/2014 link

 Ukraine: where is Hygieia?

 Monday 14 April 2014

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Pandora, of box fame, is so well known, that her action in opening the forbidden box to let loose its ills and pestilence on the world is part of normal, everyday conversation.

Fewer people, however, are aware that Pandora had a sister, or so my personal legend goes, the one I prefer to believe, whatever the errors (who said legends were supposed to be true?). In my legend, her name was Hygieia, and so mortified was she at the action of her reckless sibling that she pledged her life to undoing the damage she had done. Fanciful or not, it is from the name Hygieia that the modern word "hygiene" stems.

When it comes to Ukraine, therefore, the earlier events can be equated to the rashness of a Pandora, with the EU cast in that role, recklessly meddling in things it didn't properly understand, unleashing events that it could not longer control. And even if Mr Putin was lurking in the box, one can hardly be accused of supporting the contents because one deplores the action of opening the lid.

The problem now is that, when Crimea broke away from the rest of Ukraine, you just had to look at a map to know that could become the new status quo only with the very greatest of difficulty, and only with huge efforts directed at improving stability in the region.

That that was not to be became quickly evident, from the growing rhetoric of the "west", with bellicose words and actions from NATO, the European Union slipping into its "headless chicken" mode, and the United States working with its usual competence in its foreign relations, for which it is justly famous.

As a result, we have a mess, entirely predictable although, in this case, not predicted by me as I was too busy elsewhere – and it takes no skill to predict a train-wreck when the locomotive has already left the rails.

Fortunately, the military impotence of the "west" precludes any serious direct military action – which underlines the stupidity of the US military despatching warships to the Black Sea, and makes the deployment of four British Eurofighters to points east almost comedic. I am sure the Russians are wetting themselves, if only from laughter.

Nevertheless, the situation is very far from funny. As always, when politicians exercise their natural inclination to spread their incompetence as far as it will reach, people end up dying and things get broken. It is no different here. As we see the inevitable break-away of eastern Ukraine, there is a lot more misery to come.

To an extent, one could almost take the line of "wake me up when it's over", so predictable is the outcome. For all its fine words, the "west" is not going to step up to the plate and help clean up the mess it has made. You will not find a Hygieia anywhere in the ranks of western statesmen.

Thus will the people of the Ukraine suffer. But then, as we have already observed, it is always the people who suffer, which perhaps has lessons for us when we chose our own leaders. Those lessons, however, are rarely properly understood, so it is going to be a long, bloody time before the curtain finally falls on this particular tragedy.


Richard North 14/04/2014 link

 UKIP: is the noose tightening?

 Monday 14 April 2014

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While UKIP supporters have been celebrating what appear to them to be meaningful poll results, for the second time in a week, we see a story in the legacy media about the woman accused of being Nigel Farage's mistress – Annabelle Fuller.

Earlier stories on this affair have been shrugged off, and even used to reinforce Farage's "Jack-the-Lad" image, but the story last week had an edge to it. This will not be quite so easy to shrug off, as this week points to an altogether much nastier outcome.

The first of the current tranche appeared in the Sunday Times yesterday, and the story has since appeared in the Mail. And, while it is not our intention to rehearse the details here - to be honest, I'm not at all interested - there are a few salient points that emerge.

Firstly, although the initial activities which led to the current reports were relatively trivial, they have since escalated. We are now seeing criminal investigations undertaken by the Police, not so much into those activities as to the attempts to cover them up. There is now the possibility of conspiracy charges and prison sentences.

The relevance of this has not escaped UKIP-watchers, as this is by no means the only incident which is being re-investigated by the Police, where conspiracy charges are being considered. Furthermore, some are about as close to Farage as Miss Fuller is claimed to have got.

Up to press, the UKIP leader had enjoyed a charmed life, seemingly invulnerable to investigation, despite proliferating accusations of an increasingly serious nature. But, with a number of serious journalists designated to unearthing details of Mr Farage's "colourful" past, and the number of investigations in progress, led by senior Police officers, you get the sense that something out of the ordinary is set to happen.

That said, since the Farage Party (#cultofFarage) is now enjoying greater prominence, it was always going to be the case that its leader was going to come under more scrutiny. The thing we might observe, though, is that Farage didn't need to make it so easy for them. And once the dam bursts, we could well be seeing a torrent of adverse publicity. 

Other sources have suggested that this may break before the European elections, but I am not convinced that this timescale will hold. On the other hand, neither am I prepared to bet that the Teflon will stay intact. We're beginning to see some fairly substantial flakes, and once it starts wearing off, it rarely takes long before things start to stick.

And this alone suggests that the current poll ratings may not be quite as significant as some think, particularly in terms of predicting performance.


Richard North 14/04/2014 link

 Quotes of the day

 Sunday 13 April 2014

The current funding round for the EU budget ends in 2020 with a new six-year cycle due to commence in 2021. (p.16) 

It's a seven-year cycle. The current cycle is 2014 to 2020 inclusive.

Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty sets out that an FTA should be agreed within two years. (p.16) 

It doesn't. 

Quoted from: Old Friends, New Deals: The Route to the UK’s global prosperity through International Networks, Tim Hewish, IEA Brexit Prize winner, April 2014.

Richard North 13/04/2014 link

 Booker: Brexit prize a gift to Europhiles

 Sunday 13 April 2014

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Although the original plan was to do it big, Booker decided in this week's column to give the IEA's Brexit competition the attention it deserves in the legacy media – i.e., very little indeed. A badly organised and failed competition deserves to slide quickly into obscurity, which it already seems to be doing.

Thus, writes Booker, whoever put up the £95,000 in prizes offered by the IEA for the best essays on how Britain could hope to exit the EU might wonder whether they got value for money. He picks up on the Financial Times piece that we reviewed, noting journalist John McDermott's view verdict of the winning entry: "If this is the case for Brexit, I worry for Eurosceptics".

Picking up on the detail of the "essay", we see that the "most likely" scenario offered by Iain Mansfield's muddled paper was that, while we might lose £9.3 billion a year in trade by leaving the single market, we could make £2.1 billion by increasing our trade with the rest of the world, save £2.5 billion by repealing various regulations, and end up £1.3 billion better off.

This entry, writes Booker, may accord with views expressed by several of the judges, led by Lord Lawson, that we should not even stay in the EEA, thus excluding ourselves from the single market.

And, in talking fancifully about how much we could save by not having to obey all those EU regulations, none of the winning entries seemed aware that so much regulation now derives from global bodies above the EU that we would still be stuck with it anyway.

Any Europhiles who read those pretty dismal papers, Booker concludes, "could rejoice that, if this is the best the Eurosceptics can produce, the battle to stay in is already won".

The interesting thing, though, is the treatment of this issue by Booker's commentariat. His number two is a climate change story headed, "No A-level for 'climate change denier'". This retails "Brainwashing about global warming" that "percolates throughout the education system". Predictably, this swamps the comments. "Brexit" hardly gets a look in.

This maybe reflects something of the bigger picture. Even those who profess an interest in EU affairs are more comfortable with complaining about the "EUSSR", its "tyrannies" or some such. Rarely do they creep out of their comfort zones to address the difficult and complex issues of how we leave - the nuts and bolts mechanics.

But given the opportunity to fulminate on climate change, this easily takes preference, leaving "Brexit" a cold and lonely orphan. There is our crisis point. Unless we can energise this debate, and get some real momentum behind it, we are truly lost.

That, in the final analysis, may turn out to be the most damaging aspect of the IEA's shambolic handling of the Brexit competition. A significant amount of money has been spent, huge effort expended and the result has been to poison the well, closing down rather than opening up the debate. This, we really cannot afford.


Richard North 13/04/2014 link

 Forums: the art of the political insult

 Saturday 12 April 2014

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Sometimes a comment thread is too good to consign immediately to oblivion - hence me reproducing this extract from the Hannan blog (slight visual changes made). In general terms, one must avoid the use of ad hom, but one must nevertheless observe that the political insult is a much under-rated art form.

Speaking of comments and forums, incidentally, we have made some changes to the forum. Despite the offers of moderation help to deal with the spam applications, they are getting to such a level that we have decided to close the forum to new applications, except by prior appointment. All you need to do is ping me an e-mail and we can open a window to let you in, at a mutually convenient time.

With that, and because we have the open Disqus comments, we also decided to make it a closed forum. In practice, that makes very little difference. Only forum members tend to read the threads anyway. Our traffic figures show that public (non-member) participation is very low.

The effect of this is that you can afford to be more candid with your comments (although obeying all the rules of decency, etc), and matters can be discussed which you would not necessarily want to broach on a fully public forum. As of now, therefore, you will have to log in in order to read the forum comments.

That does, of course, leave Disqus, which is turning out to be something of a success. Our many regular ex-readers seem to be enjoying the opportunity of the easy access, and we enjoy having them here, not reading the blog.


Richard North 12/04/2014 link