Richard North, 11/04/2014  

Despite being unwilling to publish online the remaining five of the "Brexit" prize winners, committing only to publishing them "in due course", the IEA unexpectedly published them yesterday evening. With the overall winner leading, the line-up of the six winners is:
  • Iain Mansfield: here.
  • Iain Murray and Rory Broomfield: here.
  • Tim Hewish: here
  • Ben Clements: here
  • Prof Stephen Bush: here
  • Daniel Pycock: here
The preliminary indications are that these remaining five are, if possible, worse than Mansfield's essay. As expected, all rule out membership of the EEA, confirming our suspicions that anyone submitting a solution based on the EEA had been ruled out - effectively an undeclared condition imposed by the judges. 

But this is now way, way beyond an argument about a competition. We are now joining a battle for the very heart and soul of the anti-EU movement - its direction and value - a battle between the rational mainstream and the lunatic fringe which is very much in evidence here. Collectively, these "lunatic" submissions are a joke, but a very dangerous one for what they represent. 

For us, what you might term the "rational" wing, this is the worst of all possible outcomes. The papers represent the sort of "euroscepticism" that we all thought we'd left behind years ago, with its narrow-minded "little-Englander prejudices, its total lack of comprehension of how governance, and international systems work, all based on schemes of total unreality. 

What we have here meets and surpasses the very worst expectations of every red blooded europhile - and indeed of the "rational" eurosceptic. If the opposition wanted to parody the anti-EU movement in the cruellest possible way, these are the papers they would have written. The enemy has just been handed the gift of virtually unlimited ammunition to use against us.

On the other hand, if the IEA wanted to sabotage the anti-EU movement, this is how it would have gone about it. I can quite see why it was so reluctant to publish them, and why none of the owners would dare step up to the plate when challenged. To be associated with work of this calibre would be positively embarrassing to anyone with any ambitions of scholarship, and in some cases to those with basic literacy skills.

Even in terms of detail, many of the graphs are cut and pasted, with no indications of source - apparently plagiarised without any attempt to claim fair use. Most of the submissions are riddled with spelling errors, and other typographical mistakes and unfortunate grammar. At least one is so short - the body only around 6,000 words - that it is below the minimum length. It should have been disqualified on those grounds alone. Others play fast and loose on their summaries, which are supposed to be restricted to one page. 

As a group of us discuss and compare notes, the word "fantasy" is most often used. Without exception, none of the schemes are politically or practically - and in some cases legally - possible. Many are riddled with factual and technical errors, some of an embarrassingly basic level. One entrant even betrays a failure to understand basic principles such as the acquis communautaire. Without exception, they all demonstrate profound ignorance of structures and nature of the EU and how it works. 

All the schemes proposed would fail. In so doing, they would all cause huge damage to the nation, massive disruption to the international order, and impose enormous costs. Yey not one of the authors have exercised anything remotely like a sense of responsibility - what in other circumstances might be called "due diligence" - which would suggest they had exercised due fare in formulating their plans, or showed any concern for the prosperity or well-being of their fellow citizens.

This is the intelligent eurosceptic's worst nightmare. We have taken a step backwards into the dark. It is going to take a huge amount of work to recover from this folly. But one thing is for certain - the days of the IEA as a serious organisation must be numbered. As for the judging panel, their dereliction is staggering. What were they thinking of, to permit such unmitigated rubbish into the public domain, apparently in our name. 

This also raises serious questions as to the intellectual capabilities of some of our supposed "key" eurosceptics. If these are genuine submissions, representing the élite of the movement, then we are in no position to fight a campaign or win a referendum. Years of idleness, the decades of lack of leadership, and the lack of rigorous intellectual discipline, seem to have atrophied brains.

Even without intervention by ourselves, we can assume that all sensible people will decisively reject the thrust of the ideas presented. Once the contents of these papers have been communicated to ordinary voters, and the implications explained to them, they have nowhere to go. Thus, any exit plan constructed on the lines proposed by these six would ensure that we could never win an "in-out" referendum. This makes the people who offer these nostrums dangerous to the movement. Only once their harmful potential is recognised, and their influence neutralised, will we be able to make any progress at all. 

In the short-term, we must distance ourselves from these papers, their authors and the IEA. The words "not in my name" come to mind. They do not speak for us, they do not represent us and we do not agree with what they have to offer. When we come to leave the EU, it will be on rational terms, and you will not see any of those in the IEA's current submissions.

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