EU Referendum

EU Referendum: the strategic position


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If the Telegraph is going to act as a portal for EU propaganda, it would be more honest of it to declare its position, and then for the financial interests of its contributors to be identified.

Thus, as he in turn writes a thoroughly dishonest piece about the Norway option, it would have helped if it had been pointed out that John Springford's employer, the Centre for European Reform, was routinely receiving operating grants from the EU.

The particularly disgusting nature of Springford's contribution, though, is the way he returns to an issue without in any way recognising the flow of argument on the subject, simply repeating the same sterile mantras, such the claim that Norway has "to sign up to all of the economic rules governing the single market, but they have almost no say over those rules".

Another tedious but false claim and is that they must pay into the EU’s budget. Norway's budget contribution, Springford claims, is 87 percent of Britain's, on a per capita basis. The correct figure for Norway's annual liability is more like 20 percent, of which less then half is managed by the EU.

The point, though, is that it doesn't matter how many times we give the details, and how many times we correct the lies, the enemy keeps repeating them, without any attempt to engage. And never mind that the purpose of the Norway option is simply to provide a half-way house, on the way to full extraction. This is not ever mentioned.

But this, as John Redwood points out, is part of a continuum, where the enemy refuses to engage on points of detail, a phenomenon with which we are entirely familiar and one which we have come to expect.

Our response, of course, should be to take a similar line – also refusing to engage. We have nothing to gain by seeking fights with the foot soldiers in a sterile war of attrition, when the enemy general has yet to take to the field and forces have not been committed to the schwerpunkt.

And this is where strategy should take a hand. The idea of getting down in the weeds and battling over value for money, or whether we get to make our own laws, is utterly flawed – especially so when the enemy tactic is to agree with our complaints, and even to seek to outdo us. A litany of failings, and lurid examples about how terrible the EU is, will achieve nothing other than to create a platform for our enemy to launch his own offensive.

In this, we expect (and have consistently predicted) that Mr Cameron will seek to sell us a new relationship with the EU. He has made no secret of this, and the nature of EU politics is such that we can see that his options are very limited.

In terms of a counter, it is open to us to prepare the ground, but the strategic reality is that the Prime Minister has the initiative. And until he declares his hand, we cannot go full-frontal into a counter-offensive. We might end up with the equivalent of storming a hill, only to find the casements empty and the enemy entrenched in positions many miles distant. 

This is not like previous referendums, and particularly not like the North-east regional referendum, or the AV bun-fight. This is a far more complex contest, where there is far more at stake and where the enemy has yet to put his cards on the table. It is one where the official "remain" campaign is a decoy. The real enemy is the Prime Minister - and behind him is the entire might of the European Union. The self-nominated "leave" groups are out of their depth.

Our most productive stance, therefore, is to watch and prepare. Time spent on preparation is never wasted. Not least, there are thousands of willing activists who would benefit from training, and we also need to be building and developing our own, independent communication networks, for when the legacy media desert us. These are our defence works, which need to be ready for the day when the enemy attack is launched.

Perhaps the best parallel is the Soviet response to the assault on Kursk, when the High Command knew the German attack was coming, and used the time to prepare a defence in depth. Then, when the attack had been contained and neutralised, the counter-attack was launched.

This three-step response is what we need to be setting up. We prepare the ground, so that when Mr Cameron announces his plans for a new relationship – a heavily disguised associate membership – we are able to reach the public, independently of the establishment media, and destroy the illusion that this is anything new or advantageous. 

Only then can we counter with our own vision, offering the electorate a lasting relationship that we can all live with - but that presupposes we have a coherent vision, and a credible plan to put it into effect. Rolling it out must wait its turn. To act prematurely, or out of sequence, is to invite defeat.

If we gauge things right, when it comes to the ballot, the question that will actually be answered is whether the electorate prefers Mr Cameron's vision, or ours – and whether they have the confidence that ours is achievable and safe.

For us, therefore, there are just three tasks we need to focus on: to prepare for the assault; to contain it; and then to mount our own counter-offensive. Anything else, apart from the obligatory skirmishing, is a waste of effort, giving ground to the enemy. We will be fighting battles we cannot win, to achieve effects which have no strategic relevance.