Richard North, 09/05/2016  

Michael Gove is at it again, vying with Alexander (aka Boris) Johnson for the most stupid assertion of the campaign. This came in a jaw-dropping intervention on the Sunday Marr Show, when the Justice Secretary declared:
The European Commission defines full membership of the Single Market as membership of Schengen and membership of the single currency. So the body that sets policy in Europe says that full membership of the Single Market requires you to be in the single currency.
This is complete tosh. It has absolutely no basis in reality. On the scale of one to ten for something that is true or completely untrue, where one is an off-the-wall barking mad invention, this has got to score about minus 5,000.

Not only that, this is exactly what Dominic Cummings told the Treasury Select Committee, whence he was completely taken apart, leaving observers aghast that anyone could offer make such a stupid, ill-founded assertion, much less, as Cummings did, make it with a straight face.

At least though, the Select Committee, in the form of Chris Philp, did take Cummings apart. But this time, Marr let it go without comment – leaving this incredible piece of nonsense standing, without challenge.

But this sets the tone for Vote Leave. As with their £350 million a week "savings" fiction, they set up their narrative – which has absolutely no foundation in reality. But then, come hell or high water, the narrative cannot change. They trot it out again and again and again, absolutely impervious to criticism, ridicule or any form of corrective. The Pope has nothing on the infallibility of Vote Leave - but then he has only God To rely on. Gove takes his briefings from Dominic Cummings.  

In so doing yesterday, Gove was completely oblivious to the fact he was perpetrating a fiction and making a complete fool of himself. But he and his fellow travellers in vote Leave are demolishing the credibility of the entire "leave" campaign, making it impossible for any sensible campaigners to fight alongside them.

Confronted with such stupidity, we are almost obliged in any reference to campaign issues, first to disown what is the official "leave" campaign. To avoid the taint of their mule-headed stupidity, we now have to issue a "health warning", stating that we cannot support or endorse anything of what Vote Leave says. It needs to be printed on all campaign material, rather like the warnings on fag packets, just to let people know we have nothing to do with them. 

We are thus in a situation where, as active campaigners to leave the EU, we are having to expend more of our energy undoing the damage done by our own side. For their part, never has any group been so inventive in seeking to undermine the "leave" campaign. As this rate, the opposition might as well wind up its operation. It cannot begin to match the destructive capability of Vote Leave.

This we see Michael Gove, this utterly stupid little man, bleat that, "we give more than £350 million to the European Union and hand over control of that money to the European Union every week", going on to assert: "That is a fact".

At least Marr challenged him on this, not effectively, but he did challenge him. But – as with all the other Tory wets that trot out the figure – Gove is unshakable. He sat there, a smug, pompous testament to the fatuity of the Vote Leave campaign, even to the extent of asserting that there was no treaty base for the rebate and, therefore, that we could not rely on it.

The level of ignorance here is truly remarkable. The so-called "Fontainebleau abatement", agreed in 1984 by Thatcher was implemented by the "own resource" mechanism which, as it stands, currently relies on Articles 311 and 312 TFEU, and regulations made thereunder (the MFF Regulations). They requires unanimous agreement before any changes can be made, so the rebate is entirely safe.

But, in, his parade of ignorance, Gove was only warming up. Asked whether we should be inside or outside the Single Market, he was confidently unequivocal to a degree that only the most profound ignorance can bring. "No", he said. "We should be outside the single market". To that he added: "We should have access to the single market but we should not be governed by the rules the European Court of Justice imposes on us, which cost business and restrict freedom". 

Here, on any list of things a "leave" campaign should not do, we have this firmly fixed as number two - right after "don't invade Russia". We do not say that we want to be outside the Single Market - not if we want to win. But then, does Gove want to win?

Fundamentally though, we are dealing with a man who doesn't even begin to know what he is talking about. The Single Market is a common regulatory area (CRA), defined by its acquis, which you must adopt in order to be part of it. If you don't adopt the rules, you cannot be part of it. This, actually, is a binary choice. You're in it, or you're not in it. Simples.

The point then is that, if a nation is not inside the Single Market and wants to trade with the EU, it must negotiate a separate agreement. This will give it access to the EU Member States' markets as a single bloc. But no-one outside the Single Market gains "access" to it. It is not a geographical entity, but a legal construct.

That renders absurd Gove's aversion to being "governed by the rules the European Court of Justice imposes on us". The "rules" are the Single Market. Furthermore, they are not so much "imposed" as agreed and, when it comes to the EEA (which is part of the Single Market), the Efta States are not bound by the ECJ.

Instead, Marr tasked Gove with comments made the previous day, where he proposed new legislation to amend the 1972 European Communities Act in the weeks after the referendum. This would "exempt the intelligence agencies from EU law" and "end the application" of the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

"Is that not breaking our international treaty obligations", Marr asked. "We're still inside the EU and unilaterally removing ourselves from the ECJ". Amazingly, Gove's answer was a "yes", but he was sure that this was a decision the EU would "respect". Never mind Article 50 - that was swept away in a single sentence.

Marr then returned to the Single Market question. Gove's idea, he said, would be that we would negotiate a new deal to be inside the Single Market. Asking: "Do you accept that that would come at a price?"

Never mind that the question was nonsense. Mr Gove's response, it has to be said, was pure, unadulterated gibberish, distilled to 99.999 percent purity. Focusing entirely on tariffs, he argued that the Europeans would have no more interest in raising new tariffs than we would, under which circumstances could continue unhindered. But if that is his idea of a post-Brexit trade deal, then God help us. 

And here, Marr's lack of grip really showed - the blind leading the terminally stupid. With Gove open to a devastating riposte on non-tariff barriers, he let it slide, failing to come back with the killer question or any question at all on this subject.

Fortunately, no one in the BBC – or in the legacy media generally – has shown anything like a sufficient grip of the issues to be able to carry out a competent interview. This is not bias as such – simply an ocean-going level of incompetence. Without skilled dissection, untutored observers might think that Gove's answers were merely woolly and, to and extent rhetorical. It needed a better man than Marr to expose his extraordinary ignorance, and the arrogance that comes with it. 

And, at the moment, it seems that the "remains" are as inept as the BBC. However, we cannot rely on them remaining so. Already, they're on top of this, asserting that: "Leave campaigners have gone from the naive to the irresponsible with suggestion UK should leave the Single Market". 

If Gove is the best Vote Leave has to offer (and who else do they have?), we are in serious trouble - deadly serious. We really would be better off with re-runs of the Muppet Show. None of the intellectual issues have been addressed, much less resolved. The case doesn't stand up to scrutiny and their advocate doesn't even begin to understand what he's being asked.

Furthermore, the idea that Vote Leave is quite happy with the idea of breaching international law is one, I would think, which is going to rebound on the campaign as a whole. The very last thing we need anyone declaring a willingness to ditch international law.

But then the last thing we needed was yet another train-wreck interview – even if that's becoming a Vote Leave speciality, with Gove at point. And while we all knew that Vote Leave were going to be bad, I don't think any of us appreciated just how bad that was going to be. That, at least, the Marr Show has demonstrated.

And the worst of it is that no one is at all confident that Vote Leave have reached bottom. They have nearly seven weeks to out-do themselves.

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