Richard North, 11/09/2014  

000a Brexit-011 DCB.jpg

To his eternal credit, Witterings from Witney has been goading the erstwhile UKIP (now Tory) MEP David Campbell Bannerman (DCB) into publishing his entry for the IEA "Brexit" prize, which he is now done, with a copy posted online.

Alongside that, WfW has published a critique, concluding that David Campbell Bannerman may well be feeling a tad aggrieved that his submission did not make the final six – and rightly so, for it is no better or worse than those that did. Which means, like those, his too is irredeemably flawed.

WfW takes on the difficult task of showing how badly flawed DCB's work actually is – difficult because the work is so riddled with factual and legal errors that to do it justice would require an extremely long document – and it is simply not worth wasting that amount of time on it.

The fact that it is being criticised at all, though, raises an interesting conundrum for the eurosceptic "community". After all, DCB is "one of us", in the sense that he is committed to leaving the EU, subscribes to Better off out and has been an avid campaigner on leaving the EU.

On that basis alone, it can be (and is) argued, that DCB should not be attacked, and his work – if not entirely sound – is a step in the right direction, so we should not be dismissive of it.

On the other hand, though, we are in a no-holds-barred fight, and in order to win a referendum, the eurosceptic movement will not only have to be on top of its game, it will have to predict, and then pre-empt countermeasures from the opposition.

In terms of the general fight, we have consistently argued that the outers will need a well-thought-out and sound exit plan, as an essential part of the campaign. And in this, we argue that any plan is not good enough. It must be the best, collectively, that we can all devise.

If there are multiple plans on offer, what we can expect of the opposition is that they will seek out the weakest of them, and ignore the stronger submissions, then representing the plan(s) they choose as representing the best the eurosceptic community has to offer.

This is an extension of the classic "straw man" technique, misrepresenting your opponent's argument in order then to win it. And, for our enemies, the DCB plan presents an ideal opportunity, for it is a very bad plan, so easily demolished that it provides endless opportunities for showing how dangerous it would be to leave the EU. 

The essence of the problem we confront with DCB's "EEA-lite" is that he believes the UK can expect to rejoin EFTA, who will welcome the UK with open arms, while our negotiators move in to unpick the EEA agreement, dipping into it to take exactly what they want from it, without any reference to what the other EFTA members, much less the EU-27, might then expect. 

He then thinks we can adopt EU legislation for our export trade, in a "pick 'n' mix" fashion, while carving out changes to the "freedom of movement" provisions of the EEA agreement, that have already been declared by the EU to be non-negotiable. 

The "plan" is so much of a non-starter that we cannot afford to leave it, or the rest of the poorly formulated exit plans, on the table, unchallenged. Absence of criticism implies assent and if the likes of DCB produce their plans, and we don't point out their flaws, our enemies will use our silence (if it suits them) to imply that the plans have the general support of the eurosceptic community.

Where these plans would have some value would be if their authors offered them as contributions to the debate, and were then prepared to engage in debate, encouraging discussion of their works, arguing the point they make, and defending it against criticism, in an honest and open way.

And this is where the whole process falls down. So many of these people – of which DCB is a typical example – deliver their plans, ex cathedra, seeking to invest them with prestige and appeals to authority, while refusing to engage in debate, or defending their work.

As a result, we now have a number of poorly framed and wholly inadequate plans in existence, each with their own advocates and supporters, the net effect of their efforts being to give material support to our enemies.

Thus, if their authors are too grand to engage in a debate, we must do it for them, and clear out the rubbish. WfW has contributed to the process, and now The Boiling Frog has joined in. He observes that, if DCB's effort is the best the eurosceptic movement as a whole can accomplish, then we deserve to lose any referendum. We seriously need to up our game.

However, it is a measure of DCB style that he probably won't even deign to respond. Yet the WfW piece stands, to which I add my endorsement.


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