Richard North, 28/04/2014  

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In good time this morning, the two reports from The City UK are available for study. They can be downloaded from here and here.

For all their length, coming to 164 pages between them, the first skim suggests that this is more of the same. Of the first volume, written by economist Dr Rebecca Driver, we are told that the study is based on "literature review", rather than "primary research".

What is startling is that Chairman of The City UK, Gerry Grimstone, is thus able to tell us that this enables the report "to cover a much broader range of issues than it would be possible to capture within a model based approach". So, it seems, the alternative to derivative recycling of other people's work is the "model based approach".

Here, one has to ask: whatever happened to original thinking, based on conventional analyses of a mix of existing and new data? Why is it that the "original research" has to be "model based"? In the minds of these people, is there no other way of doing original research?

That said, the "literature review" is highly selective. Clearly, Dr Driver has not read Flexcit, where she would have found some original research. She could have found it very easily had she wanted to, but she really does not want us in her private debate.

These people (from both sides of the divide) do so much want to keep the debate tightly contained within the parameters they set. The one thing they cannot allow is the debate to be widened out, lest it becomes apparent that there are other alternatives, better than anything they have thought of, which might actually have a chance of working.

As we see so often, therefore, this current initiative is an attempt to control the debate, rather than expand it. Fortunately, as long as this blog exists, there will always be a channel for original thinking.

Original thinking you will certainly not see in the second City UK document either. By corporate lawyer Clifford Chance LLP, it offers the same low-grade derivative repetition, not very much more than Open Europe had to offer, nearly two years ago. But the options offered for leaving the EU are the ones they wants us to consider. And as long as we obediently trot down the pre-ordained path, there will never emerge a workable exit plan.

That said, one of the least favourable exit options identified in this volume, is the idea of "bilaterals + EFTA" (illustrated top), an option I have only seen stated with any clarity in two reports, once in 2011 when EFTA enthusiast Hugo van Randwyck, wrote a Bruges Group pamphlet entitled, "EFTA or the EU?".

The next came last February, advocated by Bootle's Capital Economics in their Nexit plan, only to have the same, very specific combination emerge in all six finalists in the IEA Brexit prize.

As it happens, the case against this combination is unarguable - a variation of the "Swiss option", it doesn't even work for the Swiss. The IEA must ask itself, therefore (but won't), why it picked six finalists all offering this option, one of the least attractive and one which is almost (actually, delete "almost") guaranteed to fail.

If these two reports do nothing else, therefore, they consign the much unlamented IEA Brexit prize to the dustbin, brushed aside with contemptuous ease, over £100,000 of sponsors' money completely wasted.

Still, that rather conveniently clears the way for Roger Bootle – former IEA judge and then advisor (after complaints about his lack of impartiality) on the Brexit panel. He can now tell is in today's Telegraph that we should "renegotiate the EU treaty and be prepared to leave", preparatory to telling us tomorrow how should we leave.


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