Richard North, 01/01/2016  
 


This, in a very narrow part of my life, will be the year of the boat – the year when HMS Poppy finally sails again and Mrs EU Referendum can have her dining room back.

Pictured is the partially completed funnel deck, complete with mast and ventilation cowls. The railings are individually fabricated, comprising 22 separate segments, with 38 superglued joints to 14 stanchions. And that's the easy bit.

In between, 2016 will also see an intensification of the referendum campaign. I've nailed my colours to the mast, here – and not HMS Poppy. In my view, there will be no ballot this year. If I'm wrong, I might as well be spectacularly wrong, but I stand by this one prediction.

If not already apparent by the time of the February European Council meeting, the "negotiations" will hit one or more obstacles and Mr Cameron will fail to reach an agreement. The media will claim "unexpected" complications and will wind down their expectations for a June/July referendum.

By then, I hope, HMS Poppy will be in the hands of its new owner, clearing the decks for the same charade to repeat itself for the autumn slot, bringing us to the end of the year without there having been a vote, with the media ramping up the drama for a spring poll – which will never happen.

Then, come late autumn 2017, as was always intended, we will be seeing the "British model" revealed to the expectant world, a form of "associate membership" which will have to be formalised in a new treaty, which is unlikely to happen 2022, by which time we will have had another referendum to ratify the treaty.

In the meantime, we have a battle to fight, the main part of which will be trying to stop our own side losing it. Bizarrely, most of our people seem to regard the campaign as an opportunity for self-indulgence, with not the least idea of what it takes to win, or whether some of their frankly crass, and often misconceived, activities are doing more harm than good.

Least of our problems is the "remain" campaign, which is proving even more inept than our own and, in any event, is simply a place-holder, waiting for Mr Cameron to make his pitch, which he will expect to carry the day.

If I had to make a prediction on the outcome, I would guess that Mr Cameron will win – simply because our side has failed to focus on an alternative vision, and convince enough voters that it is achievable. This will be compounded by too many of our people pushing an unplanned exit, which will drive voters into the Cameron camp.

That, however, will not be this year, although I would hazard that the battle will be won or lost in the next twelve months. Then we will either lay sound, intellectual foundations on which an effective public campaign can be based, or we will squander the opportunity by continuing to push mindless eurosceptic tropes.

And upon that will depend whether 2016 will be a good year. The one just past has been one of endless frustration, as we have lost eight months that could have been spent establishing and promoting an effective exit plan. But, in this vital task, we are little further forward, while our "noise-makers" continue to make every mistake in the book.

Thus, I will wish family, friends, readers and supporters a Happy New Year, but it is ours to make – or not. To add to the time already lost, we can walk away next December with another twelve months wasted, or we can be taking quiet pride in having laid some firm foundations, paving the way for a historic victory in 2017.

So there it is – Happy New Year. That is not a prediction. It is a request. Please make it so.






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