Richard North, 21/07/2016  

The Foreign Affairs Select Committee has just published its latest report, this one entitled: "Equipping the Government for Brexit".

As to its substantive findings is what is a mere 18-page report, it agrees with the recent conclusions of the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy which decided that the Government's failure to engage in comprehensive planning for a potential Brexit before the referendum "indicated the prioritisation of political interests above national security".

The previous Government's considered view not to instruct key Departments including the FCO to plan for the possibility that the electorate would vote to leave the EU, says the Committee, "amounted to gross negligence".

It has, in the Committee's view, exacerbated post-referendum uncertainty both within the UK and amongst key international partners, and made the task now facing the new Government substantially more difficult. It then concludes that the lack of contingency planning inevitably means that the Government's plans are tentative and just emerging.

Outside the remit of the Committee, though, is the same failure of the official leave campaign "to engage in comprehensive planning for a potential Brexit". That, in my view, was equally negligent.

Some argue that the campaign was not a political party preparing for government, and therefore did not need to offer a "manifesto". But just the events of the last few weeks should serve to demolish that notion.

The very fact that the Government has failed to plan, and the former "leave" campaign is unable to step in with its own plan means that there is a dangerous and extended political vacuum, creating unnecessary uncertainty and opening the way for rushed, and ill-considered plans to take root.

The media's short-sighted refusal to acknowledge Flexcit hasn't helped – despite over 100,000 downloads, but you get a sense of what we're up against when Charles Moore plugs the sad little offering by Martin Howe, published yesterday, yet completely ignores the copy of Flexcit sent to him some months ago.

Mind you, the media has almost completely ignored Howe's efforts as well, signifying a general lack of interest in anything that is not redolent of "biff-bam" personality politics, and its inability to address issues of even the slightest complexity.

But the fact remains that, if the official leave campaign had supported Flexcit, when it was offered to Dominic Cummings in June last year, or had Arron Banks supported it – as he said he would – then we would have made a great deal more progress than we have. The debate would have been much more advanced.

As best, the failure to support a coherent plan has cost us months of delay – and some very great expense. At worst, the uncertainty and confusion might so damage the Brexit process as to cause it to fail.

That this is even a possibility speaks to the reckless lack of vision of the official leave campaign. The case for producing an exit plan always was sound, which is why we devoted such energy (and expense) into producing it. There was never any sound case for rejecting it.

There is even less of a case for continuing to reject it.

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