While Booker's piece on the use of Article 50 to extract us from the European Union was remarkably well received, inevitably it aroused the slumbering custodians of the true "eurosceptic" flame. Some of these have already lurched into action.
Mostly, they are familiar names, such as Torquil Erikson, a Rome-based English language teacher. He has managed to post a comment on Booker's site which is both patronising and wrong, exhibiting an advanced paranoia which is wondrous to behold.
Referring to the two-year allowance for negotiations in Article 50 as a "waiting period that a withdrawing state must wait before it can consider itself sovereign once again", Erikson postulates that in this "enforced waiting period", we would still be in the EU and subject to all their decisions.
Warming to his theme, Erikson then tells us that Eurocrats who "do not like us already" would use this power against us. Already many of their decisions have crippled us, destroying our fishing, decimating our agriculture, and now threatening our financial services industry. This process, he says, "would accelerate during the two years. At the end we might well be free, but we would be naked and impoverished".
Other readers would have the Eurogendarmerie storming the British Isles to enforce their masters' will, a "paramilitary groups" which is "NOT accountable for their actions". They are, we are informed, "are able to kill people if they deem it necessary and will NOT be charged under law".
Such foetid hyperbole is all directed to the one outcome: immediate repeal of the European Communities Act 1972, effectively abrogating the EU treaties and casting us adrift from the malign Europe of the eurosceptic imagination, ready to launch ourselves as a free and independent nation on the global market.
Some of the errors behind Erikson's assumptions were immediately pointed out on the Booker comments, but it is not Erikson's style to acknowledge or respond to them. Instead, he circulates his original comment, unaltered, to his groupescule friends, seeking their approval.
He is joined by Ashley Mote, who accuses Booker of ignoring the "practical consequences". The fabled two years, Mote asserts. "would be used by the bureaucrats to mount a huge and sustained PR campaign in the UK to warn the people of the UK of the terrible consequences of leaving".
Then, echoing the Torquil Erikson scenario:
… any and every EU regulation and directive which has been passed into UK law would be nit-picked over and reinforced with threats of fines and prosecution. Any interim activity planned by the British government would be examined microscopically for any apparent unlawful activity, and again policed with threats. It would be a logistical and administrative nightmare for the then UK government.
Mote, in between court appearances, has been an MEP, so you would think he would know something about the workings of the EU. But, as we suspected at the time, he has never let such knowledge sully his brain.
Even if his fevered imagination was founded in fact, does he not know how long it takes for the Commission to start infringement proceedings, and how long it takes to get a case through the ECJ? By the time the first case reached Luxembourg, we would be long gone.
But locked in his haze of ignorance, there is only one way Mote would have us leave: "Repeal the European Communities Act, 1972, which took us in. We are immediately free. No further discussion, except perhaps about practicalities".
The thing about these people is that they do not change. Through the twenty years of the contemporary movement, no facts, arguments or information have ever been known to affect them. Their arguments are locked in as solid as fossils in the stones found on Dorset beaches, the same now as when they were first thought of. Never mind the fact that, the day after we abrogate the treaties, trade stops - and much more besides.
Looking at the consequences, any sensible person will readily accept that, for an orderly departure from the EU, negotiations are necessary. And if the EU has set down a procedure for these (which we agreed), then it would be absurd for us not to pursue it – bearing in mind that, if the negotiations collapse, we leave anyway and the provisions of the Vienna Convention still apply.
Further, the only way we are going to bring a majority with us, to support our exit from the EU, is to convince people that leaving the EU can be achieved without major disruption and cost, and that existing trading agreements can continue – for the time being at least. The Article 50 route is the logical path.
In rejecting the negotiation route, and advocating the "sudden death" scenario, the particular group of eurosceptics represented by Erickson and Mote is not only being unrealistic. It seems almost as if they are determined to fail, intent on frightening off the middle ground that we need to win an "in/out" referendum.
They not only want to leave, but do it in the most damaging way possible, thereby doing their best to ensure that withdrawal from the EU is never actually achieved. In their own way, these people are more dangerous than the europhiles. At least with them, we know which side they are on.
UPDATE: Your Freedom and Ours
has linked to this post
, arguing that self-styled hard core members of the eurosceptic group live in a "parallel universe".
It is difficult to disagree with that assertion. At a certain level, "euroscepticism" is more akin to a cult than a political movement. Its "high priests" are dedicated to immediate withdrawal, without compromise, negotiation or any interim stages – this objective having been elevated to the status of a mantra that brooks no variation.
Withdrawal on such terms would, of course, be catastrophic, and such dogmatism provides endless fuel for europhiles to assert that the "europhobes" are unworldly and completely unrealistic – which indeed the "hard core" is. Their ideas further weaken a movement which, in any candid assessment, must emerge with a reputation for consistent and unbroken failure.
Confronted with such a record, most sensible people would consider changing tactics and adopting different approaches. But through twenty years or more, the "hard core" retains the same beliefs and assertions that it started with, sticking unyielding to the exactly the same tactics they first thought of. And then they wonder why they don't progress.
Some will assert that different "factions" should avoid disagreement, as "we are all on the same side". But we are not. There are only two sides – winners and losers. The hard core are losers, and take pride in their status. For once, eurosceptics need to be winners, especially now that victory is in sight.
Blowing it on dogma, for the sake of ideological purity, doesn't cut it.
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