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Richard North, 03/12/2012  


Times 474-lea.jpg

Britain has three options on the EU, says Rodney Leach, skulking behind The Times paywall (see above - click to read). There is "more Europe", exit or renegotiate. And since "more Europe" has become unthinkable, the effective option is exit or renegotiate.

This is clever – Rodney Leach, as the powerhouse behind the europhile Open Europe, is no fool. But he is also badly wrong. The effective option is not "exit or renegotiate". What Leach has done is attempt to frame the debate. By thus limiting the options, he sets the tone of the debate and steers it in the direction he favours.

In fact, though, there is another option: negotiate and exit – using Article 50 of the TEU, one of which he is fully aware but somehow avoids mentioning.

Bearing this in mind, we move on to Leach's secondary assertion. It is not the eurozone that is the "core" of Europe, he writes, but the single market. Advocating a "new, flexible model for EU integration", he then asserts that "the UK would remain a full member of the customs union and single market and maintain its vote on making Europe's trading rules".

The up-side of this approach, he claims, is that would "limit Brussel's involvement in areas such as policing and crime, fisheries, farming, employment law and regional policy".

Leach, of course, does not say that this requires a completely new treaty and, like all of his ilk, he does not specify how the rest of the EU members can be brought to the negotiating table, or how he will ensure that a new treaty can emerge, when every single member has a veto. Nor does he inform his readers that it is possible to stay in the Single Market without being in the EU.

Merely, in a fundamentally dishonest assertion, he says: "The EU's institutions would be adapted so as not to discriminate against countries who have chosen to be less in integrated". Likewise, "the UK would not vote on EU laws that did not apply to itself".

One really does get tired of all this, yet Leach positions himself as one of a band of "moderate eurosceptics". They "want to stay in the EU but might want 'out' if the Government can't negotiate a changed relationship". Needless to say, there is no such thing as a "moderate eurosceptic". You either want "out" or you are in – there is no halfway house.

His own dishonesty, however, does not stop him having a pop at UKIP. Nigel Farage, a caption to one of his pictures says, "makes entertaining TV, but this issue deserves real analysis". That is as maybe, but you will only get fantasy out of Leach and his boys and girls in Open Europe, who are plugging the "fantasy Europe" for all they are worth.

Leach also tries to fit Germany into his fantasy scenario, painting a picture that no reader of this blog would recognise. But then, his beloved Open Europe has been consistently wrong in its own analysis of the march towards further European integration.

In due course, the Leach bubble will burst. But, in the meantime, his fantasy bolsters the Conservative fantasy, which stems from the same wellspring. Leach, therefore, could end up costing the Conservatives the election, if his fantasy convinces David Cameron that he need not act firmly on the EU.

In that, Leach and Farage have a lot in common. Maybe they should get together.

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