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 EU exit: an absence of thinking

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The minimal coverage given to Owen Paterson's Heritage speech tells its own story, but even our venal media should have made something of his responses to questions. As it is, only Huff Post picks them up, having Paterson say that "we would lose an 'out' referendum" because his "optimistic vision" has not been explained. "And 'out' is frightening", he added, "it's unknown and people will hang onto nurse".

Paterson's view is that, "we have to go the whole hog, get back to the trade arrangement, but we need time to explain there is a positive destination". He thinks we have "the most spectacular future outside the political and judicial arrangements [of the EU], embracing the trade, commercial and economic aspects", he said. "But at the moment that has not been explained".

"There is a protest party", Ukip, that has done no absolutely no work on the detail [of how to leave]", Paterson told the Americans, "and they are being attacked, quite rightly, for that because their image is backward looking and negative".

As a result, those like him agitating for the United Kingdom to leave the EU needed more time to persuade voters it was a good idea.

There, writ large, is precisely the predicament we're in, on which we elaborated recently, on the back of the YouGov poll that put the "inners" ten points ahead for the second month running.

By coincidence, yesterday we saw the publication of the British Social Attitudes Survey, which very much confirms the YouGov findings. It has 57 percent wanting to continue with EU membership, with only 35 percent wanting to withdraw.

As with YouGov, when a more nuanced question is asked, offering different options, the position changes. Those who want to leave the EU drop to 24 percent, while those who would like to see an attempt made to reduce its powers stands at 38 percent. Only 18 percent want to leave things as they are, ten percent want the EU to have more powers, and four percent want a single (European) government.

The Social Attitudes Survey thus sees most people as being "eurosceptic", defined as wanting to leave the EU, or seeing it with reduced powers. But therein lies the fatal confusion – the "reformers" are not "outers" and it cannot be assumed that they will vote to leave the EU in any referendum.

Here, Paterson's point has particular force. The "eurosceptics" are split between leavers and reformers, and – of the former – there are irreconcilable splits between different groups and sub-sets, and no clarity of vision from the main players.

If there has been any change, it is that these splits are being recognised, although there are no indications that different factions are prepared to debate the issues – or even explore the issues dispassionately.

Thus we have the likes of Ruth Lea arguing for the "WTO option" without troubling to explain why she has suddenly deserted the Swiss Option. And we also have Roger Helmer who tells us that UKIP cannot accept any deal, even an interim deal, that doesn't give us control of our borders.

This is the man who is confident that the UK could negotiate a free trade agreement with the EU but, like so many of his ilk, he simply doesn't do detail.

Presumably Mr Helmer expects the UK to work within the provisions of Article 50, so one assumes that he would be content to wait the ten or more years that it would take the negotiations to reach an agreement. And, all the while we would remain in the EU, paying the contributions, fully committed to freedom of movement – just because Mr Helmer doesn't like interim solutions.

On the other hand, if we went for the "Norway option" they hate so much – or "model" if you must – we could be out in two years, ready to negotiate a longer-term solution, which would include dealing with the vexed question of freedom of movement.

Meanwhile, the FUD flows and the lies proliferate. They are easy to rebut - although far too difficult for the aristocracy.

And that is perhaps the underlying problem. The eurosceptic "aristocracy" have long ceased thinking. And they are, of course, far too grand to debate issues with mere mortals - or get down in the weeds, where the real fighting is going on. Thus, their arguments are fixed in aspic, going nowhere and inspiring no one.

Along with Ukip, they are set to lose us the referendum – if we let them.


Richard North 27/03/2015
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 EU referendum: losing it before we even start

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Published yesterday was the latest YouGov poll on EU sentiment, and it does not make good reading. The ten-point lead for the "inners" established in February is maintained – at 46 percent in favour of remaining in the EU as opposed to 36 percent who would vote to leave in a referendum.

Faced with renegotiations and a recommendation from Mr Cameron that we should stay in, the percentage supporting the EU rises to 57 percent, with only 21 percent wanting to leave – much the same as it was last month.

If there is any consolation to be taken from these figures, one could at least observe that the "Ukip paradox" is broken – the phenomenon where, as Ukip popularity increased, support for leaving the EU declined. As it stands, support for Ukip is currently declining – down to 12 percent according to YouGov and a mere ten percent according to ComRes in the Daily Mail.

If Farage actually knew what shame was, now would be a good time to show it. His tenure as leader of Ukip has delivered what is, on the face of it, an unwinnable hand. Even if Mr Cameron gains a victory at the general election, and gives us a referendum, the chances of winning it must be slight.

Not a little of this must be attributable to Mr Farage's failure to ensure that his party produced a credible exit plan, on top of a clear vision of what a post-exit Britain would look like. Instead, he has ceded the ground to the charlatans of Open Europe and the like, who are so successfully muddying the waters.

OE is even now fielding its chairman, Rodney Leach, who has come out of the woodwork to tell Reuters that: "Transforming Britain into the deregulated, free trading economy it would need to become outside the EU sounds easy in theory, but in practice would come up against some serious political resistance within the UK itself", thus knocking down the straw man of Open Europe's making.

Even Roger Helmer is beginning to realise that OE is not batting on the same side but, having given this Europhile think-tank such a head start, it is going to be very difficult to claw back lost ground – even if Ukip was capable of doing it, which does not look to be the case.

The essential requirement, though, is actually relatively simple – to the extend that Ryan Bourne, head of public policy at the Institute of Economic Affairs, has managed to work it out – even if his message is a tad inconsistent.

He nevertheless says that, if the outers want to win a referendum, "they need to neutralise the economic issue by showing that Britain would be no worse off outside". He adds: "The evidence suggests that, with broadly sensible policies, this is achievable".

That is actually straight from Flexcit (and about the only place you will see it), where the "Norway Option" combined with repatriation of the acquis offers a cost-neutral solution to leaving the EU, and buys time to negotiate a longer-term solution, once we have left.

What we must also do in this context is continually emphasise – as has Owen Paterson been doing - that the Single Market and the political baggage of the European Union are not one and the same. It is possible to leave the EU and remain in the Single Market – which is precisely what the Norway Option - or the "Norway Model" if you prefer – aims to do.

By this means, we can easily address the fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD), delivered by the likes of Standard Life Chairman Gerry Grimstone, who on the one hand tells us that, "leaving the European Union would be disastrous for Britain and harm its economy" and then in the same breath declares: "It would be disastrous for London and the UK if the UK were to leave the single market".

But it is a measure of the inadequacy of the "eurosceptic" response that we have Robert Oxley, campaign director of Business for Britain, condemning Grimstone for joining in "the scaremongering that life outside of the EU would be disastrous for the UK" – without any attempt to draw the distinction between EU and Single Market membership.

And, while Oxley bleats about the cost of "EU financial regulation", if he lifted his horizons somewhat, he would see from the New York Times that the regulatory agenda is global, with the sub-regional EU only marginally involved in primary standard-setting.

This, though, so much typifies the state of the anti-EU campaign. On the one hand we have the incompetence of Mr Farage and, on the other, the London-based think-tanks entertaining themselves with increasingly arcane and irrelevant arguments – much in the manner that climate-change has degraded into a tedious squabble between rival pundits.

Amid all this, too few people are focusing on what it actually takes to win a referendum. Even if some in Civitas are beginning to steer in the right direct, this is too little, and risks being too late. It leaves us ten points behind in the polls, and still prey to the charlatans who would have us lose the campaign before it even starts. If we are going to win, this is not the way to do it.


Richard North 25/03/2015
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 UKIP: "deep shock" for everyone

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This week, for us, began with an examination of the status of the referendum debate, of which Ukip no longer seemed to be part. The only substantive input was from Farage making foolish comments on a 2015 poll – which Boiling Frog has now thoroughly debunked.

But while we've been concerned with fighting and winning a referendum, and beating off the FUD, a representative of the supposedly anti-EU Ukip has been repatriating taxpayers' money into their own pockets. Yet, only a few months ago, Matthew Goodwin, the greatest expert on Ukip the world has ever known, was telling us that "Ukip's days of amateur campaigning are over".

Contradicting the great sage, though, we now have the BBC reporting: "UKIP in turmoil over general election candidates", the Guardian with, "Ukip faces crisis after suspensions and racism claims", and Channel 4 also talking of "turmoil". And that is but a small sample of the overall comment. 

Even the kindest of Ukip's critics, therefore, are having to admit that this is a massive own goal, now compounded by another ludicrous statement from Farage. This time, he is admitting that the party manifesto may not be published until 15 to 18 days before the general election, then confessing that he finds Ukip's lack of policies in certain areas "scary".

Despite this, he makes the incredible assertion that the delay is a "deliberate ploy" designed to build momentum in the final days of the campaign. And if that was at all true, then the promise of a fully-fledged manifesto for the spring conference was precisely what? Another "deliberate ploy"?

But for all the posturing of this foolish man, his party is floundering at 13 percent (YouGov), while Matthew Parris thinks "the Tories are going to win, and win well".

His forecast, he says, is based on a hunch. His evidence is anecdotal, his observations flimsy. But he believes the polling evidence for a stalemate result is flimsy too: flimsier than might be suggested by the news media's now-tedious obsession with every wobble on the graph and with the pollsters' ever-more-arcane attempts to sneak their way into the psychology of voters.

And that, for what it is worth, is my view as well. My "gut feeling" is that the "Miliband effect" will create a last minute surge towards the Conservatives, with the two-party squeeze pushing Ukip out of the picture, leaving Cameron with a small but workable majority. Whatever chance Ukip had of making a splash is long gone.

Then, we will have the task of fighting that referendum, for which Mr Farage and his peculating colleagues are completely unprepared. Then, people will begin to learn what a total waste of space the Ukip "experiment" has been, and then we will have to do the job for which Ukip was founded, and which it has long deserted.

And then, it won't only be Farage who will be in deep shock.


Richard North 21/03/2015
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 EU exit: the FUD of Grieve

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Two million UK citizens working abroad could become illegal immigrants overnight if Britain were to leave the European Union, former attorney general Dominic Grieve has warned. In assessing this claim, though, one should note that Mr Grieve is a practising barrister which must mean that, not only is he wrong, he must know he's wrong.

The status of treaty rights acquired while a treaty is in force, when that treaty comes to an end, is even dealt with in a Parliamentary briefing, and in much more detail by UN lawyers.

In short, these "acquired rights" – also known as "executed rights" or "vested rights" – do continue to apply to individuals. So firm are they embedded in the international order that they have acquired the status of "customary law", which means the principle does not need to be anchored by an particularly treaty, but stands alone as a fundamental principle of international law.

Thus, should it come to the UK leaving the EU, those persons who currently live in other EU member states, invoking the right to remain under the "freedom of movement" or "freedom of establishment" provisions of the treaties, will be able to retain that "acquired right".

There may be some details around the margins that have to be settled, but so absolute is this that there can be no question about Grieve's stance, which has to be an example of quite irresponsible – and deliberate - scare-mongering.

Nevertheless, Grieve is partly right when he says that, "The requirements of any free trade agreement would make British removal from the clauses dealing with freedom of movement impossible", then adding: that a "curious consequence" of this would be that "the single biggest cause of domestic irritation with the EU, immigration, would remain unaltered".

Certainly, we would have to concede some degree of free movement, and especially if we rejoined the EEA, although we would be in a far better position, given the "safeguard clause", which would allow us to suspend this provision.

Talking of the possibility of withdrawal, he then complains that: "There is... a total lack of clarity as to how a government would proceed to unravel a relationship that has developed in complexity over more than 40 years", adding: "Which parts of the several thousand pieces of EU legislation that are currently incorporated into our own statute law would be retained?"

We can answer that with Flexcit, except that Mr Grieve is more interested in rhetoric than he is in answers, so he can afford to ignore what we say. But, as Complete Bastard points out, he would be less able to get away with his fatuous points if Ukip had come up with a credible exit plan which addressed points such as these.

With some Ukip supporters telling us that such detail is not necessary, at least Grieve does us a favour by illustrating how important it is that we have a "campaign manual" which addresses the FUD. Doubtless, though, that lesson will be lost on Ukip – and most of the "eurosceptic" community – which seems to prefer to give the Dominic Grieve's of this world a free pass.


Richard North 19/03/2015
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 EU exit: all at sea with the think tanks

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There must be something in the water down in London town, affecting how people think, and certainly the performance of those organisations which – with increasingly less justification – call themselves "think tanks".

One of our more recent targets was Lee Rotherham's Civitas paper, and while I can "see where he is coming from" – in management-speak parlance - I fundamentally disagree with his strategy of testing renegotiation to destruction before we unleash EU withdrawal on the unsuspecting public.

This hasn't prevented us conducting a robust but friendly exchange, culminating in an lively argument in the Red Lion yesterday, where we ended up agreeing to disagree. I still think he is wrong, but I respect his reasons for promoting what I feel to be a flawed approach.

At least in this case, though, we have a paper which sparked debate – which is supposed to be the purpose of treatises published by think tanks. The point of publication is to try out ideas and argue them through, allowing them to fall by the wayside if they don't survive the scrutiny.

One can be forgiven for assuming, however, that that view is dropping out of favour. One gets the impression that the London think-tanks are on broadcast-only mode. Any conversation between them is private and us serfs in the provinces are supposed to genuflect before their greater wisdom and imbibe uncritically all they deign to hand down to us.

Certainly, despite some shoddy and very questionable work, the bulk of the think-tanks get an easy ride from the (London-based) media, being given a free pass to publicise their wares, with never a hint of criticism or even critical analysis.

Into that category falls much of the work from Business from Britain. There is nothing personal in our criticism of the think-tanks publications. Simply, we take the view that it does no-one any favours if we allow to go unchallenged work of questionable quality. We ourselves have to be our own most severe critics, because if we can't support our ideas in the rough-and-tumble of public debate, they are not going to survive the test of time.

Holding very similar views as BfB, but very much on the dark side, is Open Europe, which we have seen don false colours, allowing many to think it is a "eurosceptic" organisation, while assiduously promoting a pro-EU line.

This, not so very long ago, brought Witterings from Witney. Boiling Frog and Autonomous Mind into the fray, attempting to counter the poisonous disinformation of Mats Persson over the Norway Option, which continues to this day.

Yesterday brought us into the fray once more to deal with Open Europe with its quite blatant propaganda on the effect of leaving the EU on the financial services industry. Its form of propaganda is all the more dangerous, as it purports to offer a balanced view, attempting to lead the unwary into believing its claims that it is a non-partisan organisation.

Then, the latest recruit to the hall of shame is a frequent visitor to that location, our very own IEA which has just published a report addressing the "EU jobs myth".

On the face of it, any attempt to debunk that most egregious of myths – even to this day perpetrated by Gordon Brown - should be welcome. And, for the uncritical media (or the tiny fraction that could be bothered with this report), the effort is entirely sufficient.

It is also the case that our opposition is less bright than it would like to think, and does not engage seriously in debate – relying mostly on constantly repeated FUD. Against such lacklustre opposition, the IEA has done the necessary, but that is rather like applauding the England cricket team for winning the test series against Merthyr Tydfil primary school (second eleven).

For a more discerning audience, however, the effort, coming from the IEA's Head of Public Policy, Ryan Bourne, is less creditable. Not least, Complete Bastard rips it apart with consummate ease.

The point Bastard makes is that EU withdrawal (I hate the word "Brexit") must not be seen as a leap in the dark. We, the anti-EU movement must be able to offer a smooth, trouble-free transition from EU member to independent nation, otherwise too many people will take fright and we risk losing the referendum.

Yet Bourne does anything but that, far too easily conceding that there could be considerable disruption before the market settles down, and any lost employment is recovered.

This is simply something we cannot afford to concede but, in the hands of the IEA, it becomes necessary because, with almost endearing stubbornness, the Institute refuses to accept the validity of the "Norway Option", having rejected it on entirely doctrinaire grounds in its chaotic, dishonest "Brexit" competition.

This puts the IEA on the wrong side of the tracks, capable of doing more harm to the anti-EU cause than some of the more inept pro-EU organisations, which at least are obviously and openly on the other side.

Unfortunately, the anti-EU movement has to confront no end of these fair-weather friends. It cannot allow false nostrum to prevail, polluting campaign messages, which means that their authors must be disowned, and their errors rigorously exposed.

Nevertheless, some would have it that we should take a more emollient "big tent" approach, and accept a compromise view that keeps the anti-EU movement united. Advocates of this approach, however, need to consider whether their objective is to unify the campaigners, or to win a referendum. The dilution of the message may secure the former, but at risk of losing the bigger battle.

Successful campaigns, on the other hand, tend to be uncompromising, projecting a consistent, coherent message, with conviction and clarity. Small numbers often succeed with this, when larger numbers fail, and when they realise that they are there to win battles, not make friends.

Thus, it seems to me that we cannot give a free pass to the faint hearts and woolly minds of the London think-tank circuit. Their work, no more than anyone else's, should be immune from criticism and debate, even if they want to cast themselves as above the fray.


Richard North 12/03/2015
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 EU exit: Open Europe descends into propaganda

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Since the self-proclaimed "eurosceptic think tank" Open Europe has been outed, it has abandoned all pretence at neutrality and is now peddling blatant propaganda in support of its pro-EU agenda.

For us, the anti-EU campaign, its activities could cause us problems as, under false pretences, it has acquired considerable prestige as the "go to" organisation on EU issues. However, with its "cover" well and truly blown, the Guardian, in an article published Monday, was left to to describe it as a think tank, "which campaigns for a reformed EU".

What then follows is the type of FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) that we're going to have to deal with throughout any referendum campaign. Open Europe is now at the forefront of the battle as the pro-EU forces attempt to distort the debate. And, as always, their output is sucked up by the ever-gullible Telegraph.

Open Europe's ploy this time is to warn that "Britain would face an uncertain future outside the EU", via a series of reports which purports to examine the implications of a British exit.

The first such report, is a modest 17-page affair including covers and blurb, looking at seven sectors of the UK deemed "most at risk from Brexit". These are the automotive trade, chemicals and pharmaceuticals (actually, two very different industries), aerospace, capital goods and machinery, food, beverage and tobacco, the financial services and insurance sectors and the professional services sector.

It would be a kindness to call the work "superficial", but OE evidently feels it is sufficient to justify telling us that, should Britain decide to leave the EU, it would be able to negotiate trade deals with the EU on manufactured goods such as cars.

But, we are led to believe, financial services could be damaged by "barriers to entering European markets [which] could be increased by new EU regulations over which the UK [would have] no votes".

What makes this such blatant propaganda is not so much what is said, but what is left out. A full page on the automotive industry, for instance, fails to mention the role of the World Forum for Harmonisation of Vehicle Regulation, yet the existence of this organisation would play a vital part in any post-exit settlement.

What we do get though is a typical Open Europe meme, which has us losing out on "voting rights" (in the EU), something that is considered "problematic", but "could be mitigated by [an] increased say in global standard setting forums".

There, one sees a glimmer of recognition that there are such things as "global standard setting forums", so the lie comes in not telling us that the industry-specific regulation is produced by the World Forum and adopted by the EU – in which context the loss of voting rights in the EU would be irrelevant.

Perversely, Open Europe then tells us that, outside the EU, the UK could pursue "lighter and more tailored regulation not possible under EU membership", which is exactly the same canard floated by Business for Britain.

Yet the automotive industry is almost completely integrated with European manufacturers, so it is most unlikely that UK producers would want to diverge from the World Forum standards (known as UN Regulations) which the EU also adopts. OE, therefore, is suggesting something that is not really on offer.

The propaganda is at its most strident, though, when OE addresses the financial sector. Here, it tells us, the UK's "loss of voting rights" would have a "greater impact", "since barriers to entry could be increased by new EU regulations over which the UK has no votes".

What applies to the automotive industry in terms of global regulation, however, applies in spades to the financial sector. Already, the predominant driver of regulation is the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision. Further developments are being driven by the G8, its subsidiary organisation, the Financial Stability Board (FSB), chaired by Mark Carney, and the OECD.

This process of global regulation is set to continue and expand. The EU is increasingly the secondary processor of international "quasi-legislation", to such an extent that leaving the EU will have very little impact on the UK's regulatory position. In or out of the EU, we would still be fishing in the same pond. The loss of our limited voting rights on the EU Council of Ministers is completely irrelevant.

What Open Europe is doing, therefore, is ignoring (or drastically playing down) the effects of globalisation, in order to magnify a non-existent problem. It is thus downplaying the the impact of something which is transforming the UK's post-exit prospects, and which should be a game changer for the anti-EU campaign.

The irony is that, not only are the pro-EU shills hiding the truth, factions of the eurosceptic community are also conspiring to keep globalisation off the agenda. With the help of Open Europe propaganda, it is all the more easy for them to do this, ensuring that the public remain out of the loop. The only prominent figure banging the globalisation drum is Owen Paterson. 

If one was unaware of the Open Europe agenda, one might be tempted to dismiss their work as incompetent, lacking as it does the references to globalisation, but if the omissions in this case are deliberate, one wonders quite what motivates those supposedly on our "team" who are eschewing a winning argument.


Richard North 11/03/2015
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 EU Referendum: we need a better vision

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Some might suppose that we would "walk through" the latest Farage statement on immigration, except that the only question to ask is: why is this news? Making it up as he goes is not going to get Farage anywhere near a sniff of power, so his latest U-turn is of very little long-term relevance.

In fact the only thing of any interest that Farage managed to say yesterday was: "You cannot have anything in politics without people obsessing over caps and targets and I think people are bored of it".

Of real relevance in the longer term, however, is the vexed question of "over-regulation" which has been briefly in the headlines. But, except for those who are most engaged in seeking to "expand the envelope", the details would also be regarded as "boring" by most people.

Supposedly one of the skills of the media, though, is the ability to take ostensibly boring detail and put it into a context that makes it interesting, accessible and relevant – and even entertaining. But, such is the nature of the modern media that it is no longer up to the job – if it ever was.

This still leave the essential issues to address, which are very far from boring, and which strike at the heart of the way we are governed. One of those is that the blind mantra of "EU red tape" harming industry, one of those memes that has been doing the rounds for over twenty years.  It is one that, in fact, is way past its sell-by date and one which is no longer of any great service to the anti-EU movement.

For sure, there are many business interests which will complain about over-regulation, usually out of narrow self-interest. If there is financial advantage to be gained, they will argue against regulation, whether it is necessary or not. And if there is advantage to be gained from making the EU the whipping boy, then those self-same business interests will jump on any passing bandwagon.

Yet, for the ordinary voting public, the regulation of business is not that unpopular – most will be largely indifferent to it, or vaguely in favour. And, when it comes to the "banksters" and other malefactors, regulation is more popular than not. Anyone seeking to sell a ticket of cutting regulation on business is going to gain less traction than they might otherwise imagine.

On the other hand, there is some logic in the EU mantra of having 28 sets of regulation replaced by a single set. For exporters, trading across the Community, this does substantially ease business, it does promote trade and, even according to independent academic studies, does reduce costs. To that extent, there is some research to indicate that regulation is a trade lubricant, and the trade in regulated products is higher than in those where there is no regulatory control.

Furthermore, according to such studies, in certain sectors, differences in [national] standards do have a significant negative effect on trade - which is why, of course, industry spends so much time lobbying for regulation, and assists in it formulation, funding studies and providing sector experts. They are aware of what the WTO points out, that so-called "non-tariff measures" – some arising from the lack of harmonisation - "can be as trade-restrictive as tariffs, and even more so in the case of certain high- and middle-income countries".

As the other half of the Booker-North duo who virtually invented the "EU red tape" meme some twenty years ago, I perhaps have a better grasp of this than most. The issue has never been one of regulation per se. It was mostly one of poor regulation, our catchphrase, "the sledgehammer to miss the nut". Then, a major part of the problem was enforcement - the "Mad Officials" who misapplied the law or who were clumsy in its application, creating unnecessary burdens.  

Arguably, therefore – and this is precisely what I do argue – the "red tape" agenda is not going to win us the referendum battle. At best it will capture the support of some in the business community – and the opposition of others. With skilfully exploited FUD, the agenda could backfire on the "out" campaign. If we left the EU without making the appropriate provision, for instance, we would no longer have any hygiene control on food shops, factories and restaurants. 

Nevertheless, in campaigning terms, the arguments that the pro-EU lobby uses can be turned to our advantage. They argue that a single set of regulations for 28 EU member states makes for more and cheaper trade. This is not a problem. That effect must be even greater with standards common to all 160 WTO members, and that is where we should be.

Since so many standards are now made at global level, we would be far better off breaking out of the constraints of "little Europe" and rejoining the world, where we would have a much more powerful voice in setting the global agenda. The globalisation agenda, that so many seem to be determined to ignore, could work powerfully in our favour, and become a game changer.

On top of this, since global business is carried out on an intergovernmental basis, the benefits to be gained from working together do not carry with them the price of loss of sovereignty, and we are no longer subject to the rule of institutions such as the ECJ.

The point thus, in terms of campaigning, is that we must question the old arguments, the old mantras and the same tired old strategies. If we are going to have the slightest chance of winning, we need fresh ideas and new ways of presenting them. "Globalisation" is one of those ideas. As a campaign tool, EU "red tape" is a relic – we need a better vision.


Richard North 05/03/2015
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 EU referendum: timing and other matters

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Yesterday saw the director general of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), John Longworth, reportedly throwing a spoke into Labour's wheels by saying the best way to end political uncertainty over the UK's relations with Europe is to hold an early referendum.

The call was quickly endorsed by Boris Johnson but, for once, we got some sense on the issue in the form of John Holland-Kaye, chief executive of Heathrow airport.

Talking to the Financial Times, he said: "We need to have a proper discussion about the benefits or not of being part of the EU", remarking that, "We've actually had this sitting over our heads for years, for decades. It's not a trivial choice and we need to have enough time to have a proper debate".

Longworth had been arguing that holding a referendum as soon as possible after May's general election, rather than the current plan of 2017, would reduce uncertainty for business, so the candour from John Holland-Kaye is all the more welcome.

Ed Balls – still the shadow chancellor – also spoke to the BCC (which was holding its annual conference), saying that that politicians should not flirt with the idea of Britain leaving the EU. They should not put party political interests above the national interest. "We have to reject the Luddite view of those that think we can cut ourselves adrift from the EU and go it alone".

Nevertheless, he too rejected Longworth's call for a quick referendum. "Setting an arbitrary timetable for a quick referendum [does not help] the prospects for us having meaningful reform from our European partners; those reforms are going to take time", he said.

Downing Street has also intervened in the question, stating that there are two practical obstacles to an early poll. In the first place it is likely to take up to two years to pass the legislation to enable the referendum to be held because the Tories expect that they will have to invoke the Parliament Act to override opposition in the House of Lords. The prime minister also believes it may take more than a year to negotiate "wide-ranging reforms".

Despite John Holland-Kaye's views, though, no one is actually giving any signs that they are prepared to have a sensible (or any) debate. In fact, the opposition's idea seems to be to repeat the same old FUD, never engaging in the issues and never allowing any outsiders into the debate.

That said, we've taken the opportunity to post the latest version of Flexcit, not yet complete by getting to the point where it is very nearly finished.

This version (v.20) is substantially re-ordered, with an entirely new chapter on asylum policy, and many other additions which bring the page count to 375 and the number of words to 147,000 – rather longer than the original IEA submission which ran to 26,000 words.

As a .pdf file, the work is fully searchable, and it will make a significant contribution to the debate, even though the media and many others will quite deliberately ignore it. Yet, on the basis of the ongoing dialogue that has run for over a year now, we are convinced that the flexible, multi-stage approach is the most cogent way of devising a credible exit plan.

One addition we expect to make is to turn the admirable work by The Boiling Frog on telecoms into a chapter, whence the first full edition of Flexit will be essentially complete.

Now comes the urgent task of putting together plans for an "out" campaign, in anticipation of the Conservatives winning the general election and Mr Cameron returning to office. Although the likelihood of us winning the campaign is low, I still think it is winnable, so long as certain pre-conditions are met.

The first is that we have a credible exit plan in place – and that is very close to completion – and the second is that we have a broad-based "out" campaign led by a coalition of existing anti-EU groups, willing to get behind the plan.

Here, the greatest obstacle to success is going to be the determination of a few individuals to take over the campaign, so it is vital that the existing players get together to work on a functioning campaign.

Then, of course, we will have to confront the problem of an indifferent and inadequate media, which is probably not capable of reporting on a sophisticated plan like Flexcit without getting key details wrong. That, though, is a problem for the future. Before we address that, we have to deal with those who would seek to exclude us from the battle before it even starts.


Richard North 11/02/2015
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 EU regulation: a litany of untruth

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Reuters has an article on the report of the House of Lords EU Economic and Financial Affairs Sub-Committee. That Committee has been delivering its views on "the post-crisis EU financial regulatory framework", and the legend we are supposed to believe is that Britain's clout in the European Union is weakening just when plans for a capital markets union present a "golden opportunity" for London's financial sector.

Efforts by Europe to strengthen banking rules to avoid a repeat of the 2007-09 financial crisis are "admirable", the Committee said, but it criticised the costing of the impact of the new laws and noted other flaws, saying Britain needed to retain direct involvement in decisions that affect one of its most important economic sectors.

It does seem, though, that this largely Europhile committee is misleading itself, the media and the public at large – effectively ignoring the evidence placed before it.

For instance, there was Professor Simon Gleeson who told us that, if you look at the totality of the European response to the crisis, with the exception of banking union the Commission proudly announced that it had 40 different items of legislation. Of those, all of them, said Gleeson, with the exception of one and the partial exception of another, follow policies that were already being implemented in the UK.

Had Europe not existed, he continued, every single one of those directives would have been implemented here for exactly the same reasons that they were implemented at the European level, because they were part of a globally considered response to the crisis.

The Committee itself asked our witnesses whether the main elements of the EU financial sector regulatory framework would have been enacted in the UK irrespective of its membership of the EU. Sharon Bowles, Lib-Dem MEP described as "rubbish" the "all-pervading notion that in the absence of EU regulation there would be no regulation" in the UK.

In her view, a UK-only regulatory framework would have been more stringent, as the UK Government's push for tighter regulation over the CRD IV/CRR negotiations demonstrated. She said that the UK had "blindly followed" the Basel agenda, and pointed out that the UK had often led discussions at international level, for instance with regard to bank recovery and resolution.

Andrea Leadsom MP, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, stressed that the UK had played a significant leadership role in the development of international standards. Consequently many of the reforms would have been enacted even if the UK had not been in the EU.

Prof Gleeson said that, of the 40-plus pieces of legislation, with one or two exceptions: "Had Europe not existed, every single one of those directives would have been implemented here for exactly the same reasons that they were implemented at the European level, because they were part of a globally considered response to the crisis".

He pointed out that at FSB/G20 level most of the policy input came either from the UK or the US, so "we are making policy for ourselves through a very long and devious route".

Professor Kern Alexander, University of Zurich, noted that the UK was an important participant in FSB discussions on international standard-setting, and in the Basel III discussions on capital requirements. In terms of EU legislation, the UK had spearheaded both the Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive and the deposit guarantee scheme revisions.

In other words, when it comes to financial regulation and the UK, the EU is an irrelevance. The necessary regulation is made at an international level and the UK would have adopted much the same regulation in or out of the EU.

As the Committee was told, Mark Carney is Chairman of the Financial Stability Board, so the UK will always have its seat on the Basel Committee, the FSB and things like that. As a major player in financial services, it will always be highly influential, and does not need the EU as a power broker.

Cutting through the FUD, the UK will not suffer from a departure from the EU. It is a global power in its own right. It sets the agenda and the EU follows.


Richard North 03/02/2015
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 Brexit: Moore equals less

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There was never any doubt, in my view, that the "no"campaign would win the Scottish referendum, and for very predictable reasons. So one can only stand back and admire the chutzpah of Charles Moore who was telling us that Salmond was going to win and is now gravely instructing us on the lessons we must learn in order to avoid following in Salmond's footsteps and losing an EU referendum.

Actually, this also underlines the total isolation of people like Moore who, locked in their tiny, self-referential Westminster bubble, are completely oblivious to the fact that there are real people in this world who have been asking what we need to do to win an EU referendum, and have been coming up with the answers, long before he even begun to think about them.

For all that, I suppose it does no harm to have the man tell us that, in a referendum "people get frightened", and that, although "they admire passion", it also "makes them suspicious … They start to ask questions”.

If Moore was up to speed, he would be talking about FUD, and he would also be specifically identifying the fact that Salmond had not produced an effective exit plan, to answer the FUS, and to address issues such as which currency an independent Scotland would use.

As it is, Moore stops short with the observation that, in the end, Salmond painted himself into a corner. "In the end, he could not answer the boring, difficult, important question". In a European referendum, Moore then goes on to say, "comparable questions will arise". These "might be about free trade with Europe and being shut out of markets, or about the exact terms of our subsequent relationship with the EU".

If the Get Outers shake their fists like the wartime cartoon and shout "Very well, alone!", they might be chaired through the streets of Clacton, but they will lose.

Well, the funny thing is, we'd already guessed that. After all, in Dawlish, I was going through precisely these issues, having worked this out all by myself – along with the thousands of others who have come to exactly the same conclusions. And all by our little selves, we've worked out exactly the same thing that the great Charles Moore is now so earnestly telling us, that the status quo won.

From there on, though, Moore actually gets worse. The Get Outers, he says, "will need careful answers to everything – sober, statistical, dry, backed up by graphs and experts, business people and think tanks, women with professional careers, not just blokes in the pub".

But actually, that's the least thing we need, and if that is the way we approach the referendum campaign, we will most certainly lose. We really do not want to be trading points with the Europhiles, getting bogged down in interminable detail, boring everyone to death. We don't want to revel in the FUD – we need to neutralise it.

That's what I was saying in Dawlish. By offering a properly thought-out exit plan, we sideline the minutia and the petty-fogging details, by taking the high ground. We don't argue about whether leaving the EU costs us three or four million jobs – we by-pass the argument completely, with an exit plan that has us staying in the Single Market.

Moore, however, is determined to show that he has no real idea of how to fight a campaign, no demonstrably no ability to read one. He wants to tell us that, while the Get Outers have some advantages over Salmond, and "the two sides over Europe will be much closer together when the starting pistol is fired".

But he hesitates to make this last points, "because nothing should be done to induce a sort of pre-complacency". The present state of affairs, he says, is that there probably won't be a referendum and, if there is, the insurgents probably won't win it".

Pompous to the last, he tells us that: "Only if they really accept the magnitude of the task will they find the resources to prove this prediction wrong".

The thing is, Moore almost certainly thinks he's up with the leading edge of thinkers when he gives us the benefit of his stunning insight. His sort cannot even begin to understand that we are way ahead of him, and got to where is where he is now, years ago.

What the man doesn't appreciate, therefore, is that if we don't get a referendum in 2017, which looks less and less likely, we will be preparing for one in 2022, which we will have a better chance of winning anyway.

We have long known that we will only win it if we are better prepared than Salmond was, which is why we have been working on an exit plan for a year, and why we are already running workshops and seminars. And that is why, when it comes to it, we are actually going to win the referendum. And the likes of Moore will be the last to realise.

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Richard North 27/09/2014
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 Brexit: the Dawlish experience

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Travelling five hours on a Cross-Country train from Leeds to Dawlish, arriving late because of a points failure, and then finding the technology doesn't work because my computer wouldn't interface with the high-tech television screen, it not exactly the best way to start a talk on how to leave the EU.

And yes, I could have got an earlier train, but that would have been peak travel, adding £150 to the already exorbitant cost, or an overnight hotel bill to add to the train fare. So, a last minute dash, followed by a 20-minute taxi ride to the Langstone Cliff Hotel in Dawlish, had to suffice.

For all that, it worked. Under the CIB banner, joint-funded funded by the CIB and Anthony Scholefield, and organised by Peter Troy, the idea was to take the message of how to leave the EU outside London, to new audiences, and speak to them direct, by-passing the media and the established political parties.

Although Flexcit has been published online since March, with the latest version just posted, trying out the ideas in front of a live audience is a valuable experience and one which is an essential part of refining the message and learning how to present it.

On the day - reflecting much of the online feedback and the experience of earlier meetings - what I found necessary to emphasise is that the exit plan is complicated. Furthermore, there is a limit to the extent that one can simplify it, before you are misrepresenting the entire process.

If we look at a telephone from 40 years ago, and look at the latest devices, there is a huge leap in the degree of complexity – matched of course by a massive increase in capability. What has happened with telephones has also happened with government and we could no more go back to the simple Bakelite telephone than we could go back to the far more simple style of government which prevailed in pre-EEC days.

Secondly, one has to stress that the exit plan is primarily a tool for winning a referendum. Unless we can reassure voters that leaving the EU is a safe and ultimately rewarding experience, we are unlikely to succeed in convincing a majority that it is worth leaving the EU.

Thus, while there are many different options for arranging an EU exit, we are not free agents in this matter. We have to go for the plan that plays best to the uncommitted in a referendum campaign and, while this might no be (and most certainly isn't) optimal, it is better to advance a plan that will attract popular support, and win the referendum, than to opt for ideological purity and thereby ensure we remain in the EU forever.

It is in this context that the "Norway option" comes. It is far from ideal but, in preserving our continued participation in the Single Market, is the best tool for neutralising the torrent of FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) that we can expect the opposition to exploit.

The third point to stress is that "Brexit" is not the end point of the process, but the beginning. It is once we leave the EU that the negotiations really begin in earnest, so the finer detail of Article 50 exit agreement doesn't really matter. The important thing is to get out – almost on any terms. Very quickly thereafter, we begin to shape the final settlement.

That then brings us to the fourth element, the post-exit settlement. That requires the UK to reshape the Single Market, turning it into a true, European market, breaking the grip of the Brussels-centric regulatory machine. This is done by embracing and enhancing regional and global organisations, and by adopting better and more refined tools, to improve the global trading system.

This is where much of the complexity lies, first in understanding how the current system works, and then reshaping it to perform the same functions – but perhaps more efficiently – outside the EU. That is what globalisation is all about, and that is where we need to be, the "continuous" bit that makes Brexit into Flexcit.

With that, what people are also learning is that politics can be fun. For a day's outing, the 35-plus that attended found it an entertaining, challenging day, from which we all learnt and all benefitted.

The size of the meeting was optimal - that's the number we wanted, and that's the way we are going to reach people. Before the referendum, we need hundreds of such meetings, and have plans to make them happen, with the possibility of sponsorship to make a Flexcit film to act as a force multiplier.

The next meeting is in Rotherham on 18 October (a Saturday), and you can get booking details by e-mailing Niall Warry. That will be a Harrogate Agenda programme, and thus will include Flexcit and much more. Numbers are to be held to about 30 and we look forward to seeing some of you there.

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Richard North 26/09/2014
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 Brexit: refreshing the FUD

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The torrent of FUD in the Scottish referendum from business enterprises is now having unwelcome repercussions on the EU referendum prospects.

Fortified by the apparent success of his own efforts and those of his business colleagues in turning the tide of independence movement, Sir Mike Rake chairman of BT and president of the Confederation of British Industry, now feels similar interference on the EU issue is legitimised.

With the Scottish referendum out of the way, EU membership is now Rake's biggest concern as a businessman and as the CBI's president, and - he says - the effect that withdrawing from the single market would have on British industry and jobs.

"Our biggest concern on the EU is that many members of Parliament are considering committing to vote to come out whatever happens. Business would see that as extremely irresponsible", he says, telling us that business should make its views known on the political issues of the day.

When it comes to how we are governed, this is crossing the line. Business is perfectly entitled to express its views on matters which affect it, but it has no business interfering in matters where its interests are not at stake.

The point here, of course, that leaving the EU does not necessarily involve or require withdrawal from the single market. In arguing that we should stay in the EU, Rake is propagandising about how we should be governed, which is not the business of business.

To an extent, that was the same issue in the Scottish referendum. In that case, business intervention achieved the "right" result, but it looks as if there is a price to pay. Through this campaign, FUD has been refreshed, and legitimised. We are going to find it harder to defeat it.

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Richard North 22/09/2014
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 Booker: Eurosceptics must not make the same mistake

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"Some 40 years ago, having observed a common pattern to several high-profile elections in Britain, the US and France", writes Booker, "I coined what, in a playfully journalistic way, I called "Booker’s law". In each case, six months before election day, one side had looked to be well ahead in the polls".

"As the day neared, however, the gap closed, to the point where we were being excitably told that it was 'too close to call', 'neck-and-neck' and 'going right to the wire'. But then, in each case, the easy winner turned out to be the side that had looked likely to win six months before".

Last week, as he wondered whether Scotland would again follow this pattern, he reflected on how, from the success or failure of either side, we could draw at least one clear lesson. If the "yes" vote had won, as many have pointed out, the lesson would have been that this was a further terrifying indictment of how, in recent decades, we have all felt betrayed by Westminster's political class.

Somewhere in the Nineties, a fearful gulf began to open up between politicians of all the major parties and the rest of us. Right across the policy spectrum, and certainly aided by the ever-increasing amount of our law that was coming from Brussels, our politicians seemed to have floated off to another planet, no longer capable of speaking in language we could relate to.

Never was this alienation more obvious than in this recent campaign when, at the last minute, our three party leaders – David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband – all rushed up in a panic to Scotland, with such extraterrestrial ineptitude that it seemed that "Team Westminster", as Alex Salmond so aptly called them, had become his most powerful weapon.

But if, despite this, Mr Salmond was still to lose, it became clear that his own fatal weakness was that he so obviously didn’t have a plausible "exit plan" to convince voters that an independent Scotland could prosper.

To not one of the key practical questions did he have a convincing answer, from what would happen to the currency or our Armed Forces, to the future of North Sea oil. "With one mighty bound Scotland will be free" was all he had to offer. As it turned out, the vacuum at the heart of that fantasy was a key factor in his losing the day.

But we can see exactly the same fatal flaw in all those who clamour for Britain to leave the EU. Not one of the recent flood of half-baked pamphlets produced by "Better off Outers" has shown any grasp of the complex issues that would be involved in making this possible.

And without a plausible exit plan, any In/Out referendum campaign would be successfully dominated by a tidal wave of what my friend Richard North calls "Fud" – fear, uncertainty and doubt – about how Britain outside the EU would lose “three million jobs” by being shut out of the EU's single market.

A properly worked out case to show how Britain could indeed thrive outside the EU (and still have full access to its single market) has no more been put by the Eurosceptics than Mr Salmond could explain how Scotland might happily survive outside the UK.

Now we have got this terrifying diversion behind us, one of our next priorities must be to come up with a properly worked-out strategy whereby our now still United Kingdom can sensibly separate itself from the increasingly dismal mess that is the European Union.

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Richard North 21/09/2014
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 Scotland: the lessons for the EU referendum

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Looking at the failure of Mr Salmond to carry the day on his independence campaign, we have already ventured the possible causes, so much so that further analysis is almost like shooting fish in a barrel.

In the first instance, the "yes" campaign's exit plan - despite its length – was terribly slender, relying on unproven (and in some cases unprovable) assumptions – such as continued Scottish membership of the EU, and the ability to continue using the pound.

Therein lies the point of Flexcit, which stands for flexible response and continuous development. For our primary exit pathway from the EU, we suggest EFTA/EEA membership (the "Norway Option"), but we recognise that this might not happen, so we have a fallback position, with our so-called "shadow EEA".

Lacking flexibility, Salmond didn't have a fallback. So when key people (including Barroso) said Scotland couldn't stay in the EU, he had no alternative, and was forced to bluster, the argument degenerating into a "yes we can, no you can't" squabble that he could never win.

In fact, Salmond could have adopted roughly the same strategies we have, with Notre Europe setting out his options.

Lord Ashcroft lists issues which influenced voters, with 15 percent citing the EU issue as a reason for voting "no". On that question alone, it is conceivable that satisfactory answers could have brought Salmond his victory.

On the issue of the pound, even more were influenced, with 57 percent citing this as a reason for voting "no". But with Salmond claiming that the pound was "Scotland's currency just as much as it is the rest of the UK's", he could have, at the very least, taken note of Irish independence and come up with ideas of what to do in the event of a refusal of the (remaining) UK to co-operate.

The same goes for tax and spending, pensions, the NHS, defence and security, and the other matters raised. But these should have been discussed years ago, the questions raised and answered long before they were to become issues in a referendum.

Salmond had not done the early preparation, though, so when the FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) started to fly, he was unprepared, lacking the in-depth treatment these issues need. The short time of the campaign was too short for him to work up the answers, and then deliver them convincingly, which meant that the FUD prevailed.

Therein lies our lessons for the EU referendum. Defenders of the status quo can and will rely on FUD, and to counter it we need to be properly prepared – and well in advance. And it isn't just a question of defeating the FUD. We have to drive past it, in order to plant our own narrative.

One other aspect which has been raised is the personality of Salmond, and the similarity of his approach with a well-known "eurosceptic" leader. Both tend to come to the party unprepared, relying on bluster and force of personality to make their points, without in any way mastering their respective briefs.

In the Scottish referendum, this cut no ice, and in the EU referendum it is unlikely to do any better. And, in this event, Salmond has paid the personal price, preparing to stand down as leader of the SNP at an annual conference in November, when he will resign as Scottish First Minister.

With him is likely to die his obsession, as did Quebec independence in 1995, after the independence movement lost by a margin of just over one percent.

David Cameron certainly thinks so, declaring that the question of Scottish independence has been settled for a generation. "There can be no disputes, no re-runs, we have heard the settled will of the Scottish people," he says, doubtless hoping that, if we do have an EU Referendum, he will be able to say the same thing of us all.

One can only hope that the Scottish referendum is taken as a warning by the anti-EU movement. If we follow the path of Salmond, we could be following him in defeat.

Meanwhile, before we even get there, Owen Paterson, who was sacked as environment secretary in the July cabinet reshuffle, has called for the recall of parliament - currently in recess for the party conference season - and said the "chaotic" narrow "no" vote "undermines" the UK.

He described the promises made to Scotland as "rash" and "unacceptable", saying that the preservation of the Barnett Formula for calculating Scotland's share of cash, was "unfair". "It's such a lopsided settlement, it cannot last," he added.

"It is unfair Scottish politicians will continue to vote on taxes raised from the English, while voting special tax raising powers to Scotland alone … Such a lopsided constitutional settlement cannot last; it is already causing real anger across England. If not resolved fairly for all the constituent parts of the UK for the long term, it will fall apart".

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Richard North 19/09/2014
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 Scotland: saved by the FUD?

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In a classic response to a challenge to the status quo, we have seen the establishment pour out a torrent of FUD, indicative of exactly what we might expect at the tail end of an EU referendum campaign, if the "out" camp ever looks like winning.

So transparent is the tactic that it had the Sunday Herald lifting the lid off it, noting that the "no" campaign had described it as "Project Fear", even though the official title of the London government's rebuttal document was "United Kingdom, united future: Conclusions of the Scotland analysis programme".

This has had the "yes" campaign producing its own rebuttal (pictured top), after Mr Salmond had already produced his 670-page exit plan. And now, Sunday Herald columnist Iain Macwhirter thinks the FUD isn't working (examples below).

So many Scots refused to heed the warnings of press, politicians and banks, he says, because this has been a truly bottom-up movement, that rose from obscurity in drafty halls and internet chatrooms; ignored by the establishment and ridiculed by the press; dismissed by polling gurus like Nate Silver who said a Yes was "almost inconceivable".

It has, Macwhirter asserts, been mediated through new-fangled social media and old-fashioned word of mouth. The internet has given anyone with a computer the ability to correlate, often in real time, what they are being told is going on with what is really going on. This may be the first election in which the mainstream media ceased to be the mainstream. 

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Perhaps, he then says, the atmosphere before the 1945 Labour election landslide was similar to this. That was the last time that ordinary people in this country took charge of the political process by the scruff of the neck and demanded radical change. Certainly, 1997, the year of the Labour landslide and the devolution referendum, was a non-event by comparison. There was none of the optimism, engagement, cultural and political - the fun. The Scottish people have entered history, not to pick a fight with England, but to have a party.

If Scots take the momentous step of voting "yes" on Thursday, the shockwave will be felt across the world, Macwhirter concludes. In Europe, governments will look at regional movements like Catalonia in a new light. America will watch in amazement as the old country disintegrates, concerned about the strategic implications for NATO of Trident moving elsewhere.

In England, he tells us, social democrats, who have felt excluded from British politics for that last 30 years of neoliberal economic hegemony, will gain renewed hope that it is possible for people to challenge the political and economic establishment.

In my view, though, it is more likely that the status quo will prevail. My expectation is that, for the "yes" campaign to win, it needed to be 10-15 points ahead in the polls, and climbing. And, when the "no" campaign wins, we will be able to say that Salmond's 670-page "exit plan" was not good enough to check the FUD, which was allowed to flow unchecked.

If, on the other hand, the "yes" campaign wins, we can agree with Macwhirter that it was because their campaign has been a truly bottom-up movement, that rose from obscurity in drafty halls and internet chatrooms; mediated through new-fangled social media and old-fashioned word of mouth.

And if that is the case, then perhaps we have a chance of winning an EU referendum. But even then, we will still note that the "yes" campaign had to deliver a 670-page "exit plan" and fight off the FUD. To that extent, we have a case whichever side wins, although my mind is still set on the "no" campaign winning, primarily because of a failed exit plan.

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Richard North 15/09/2014
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 Brexit: these people are not our friends

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The Daily Mail and others today are reporting that the boss of one of the UK's biggest companies has said Britain should leave the European Union if it cannot renegotiate a better deal with Brussels.

This is Dr Nigel Wilson, chief executive of insurance giant Legal & General. He, we are told, has become the first boss of a FTSE 100 company to publicly suggest quitting the EU. He argued that the UK economy is "underachieving" by focusing too much on Europe rather than faster growing markets.

Legal & General is also a major investor in infrastructure projects and Wilson is complaining that his firm has "wasted" £150million "on complying with one European directive called Solvency II", which is making it more expensive for insurance companies to invest in infrastructure.

He thus articulates his "personal view" that the EU "has simply got too big now and it's very difficult to work with". He would like to see the UK "turn outward more towards the world".

That itself is rather strange, given his comments on the "Solvency II" package. Although of EU origin, this complex regulation on capital requirements in the insurance industry, running to 155 pages, has considerable international dimensions.

Specifically, Directive 2009/138/EC implements recommendations from the International Association of Insurance Supervisors, the International Accounting Standards Board, the International Actuarial Association and nine other agencies alongside the World Bank and the IMF.

Furthermore, there is considerable overlap with the International Financial Reporting Standard (IFRS) and, with future developments under Omnibus II, we are seeing a gradual convergence of financial regulation on a global scale.

This makes the recent upsurge of concern about the EU from city sources rather puzzling. Financial services is nothing if not a global industry and regulation is increasingly being tackled at a global level. The EU, increasingly, is a downstream player, no longer initiating measures – as it was doing until fairly recently – but responding to global standards-setting initiatives.

But then one finds the Legal & General has been particularly active in lobbying for "an appropriate outcome in the UK on Solvency II". With Directive 2014/51/EU coming into force, one can see this as a form of special pleading, positioning the company to get a competitive advantage from recent regulatory developments.

Looking more closely at what Dr Wilson is saying, one then sees that he is not making a direct, unequivocal call to leave the EU, but simply setting up an option in the event that the UK can't do better out of the EU than it is at the moment.

For Dr Wilson, the price will undoubtedly be "an appropriate outcome in the UK on Solvency II", for which his support for continued membership of the EU will be assured.

In essence, what we are seeing – as we saw yesterday with Mr Johnson and his sidekick - is a variation on the Cameron/Open Europe "renegotiation-reform" ploy. That leaves it wide open for a latter day conversion to the cause, when the a fudged "reform" is dropped on the table.

One sees recent events, therefore, as game playing – the corporate world exploiting public concerns about the EU to its own advantage, then to fall into line when a referendum looks certain, backing continued membership.

Even if these players were genuine about leaving the EU, though, the "outcome" they would be looking for is not one we would particularly enjoy. In the whole of his 108-page report yesterday, Open Europe board member Gerard Lyons used the word "democracy" once, and that was only because it was in a quote from David Cameron.

Corporate Britain thus is not interested in the things we are concerned with. Its interests are not our interests, and its conditional calls for quitting the EU do not make it our friend. Without hesitation, they will ditch any vestige of euroscepticism if it suits them, leaving us to fight the battle on our own.

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Richard North 07/08/2014
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 Michael Fallon: and how is he a eurosceptic?

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We are being told by Michael Fallon, the new Defence Secretary, that Mr Cameron has created a "Eurosceptic Cabinet" to prove to UKIP voters they can change the EU.

This is from a man who, according to Wikipedia, was active in the European Movement as a student and the "yes" youth campaign in the 1975 referendum and has never since given any serious indication that he is opposed to UK membership of the EU.

More recently, writing for Conservative Home on UK membership of the EU, he stepped away from both the status quo and the idea of leaving, backing David Cameron who had "rejected the defeatism of both approaches, and has set out a path for a reformed Europe".

In other words, Fallon – although counted as on the "right" of the party - is just another woolly Tory Europlastic, supporting the standard "reform" fudge, with absolutely no intention of seeing us leave the EU. Only in the debased sense of the word can he be considered "Eurosceptic" but, by any rational measure, the man is a dyed-in-the-wool Europhile.

If Mr Fallon is an example of this "Eurosceptic Cabinet", that he thinks it is going to woo UKIP voters back to the Tories, then he is not just mistaken – he is seriously deluded.

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Richard North 16/07/2014
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 EU referendum: vultures circling the corpse

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Blogged by Purple Scorpion we learn of the doings of Dominic Cummings, more than a decade ago campaign director of Business for Sterling, now emerging to tell us how to run the coming EU referendum "no" campaign.

In a report for Business for Britain, "reformists" and wannabe leaders of the "no" campaign, Cummings reverts to exactly the device which probably lost the Conservatives the last two elections – the infamous "focus group". It was devises such as those which had election campaigners chasing after the supposed opinions of "swing groups" in order to decide how to pitch their messages.

The fact is, of course, is that there are no defined "swing voters" in a potential EU referendum. The last time we had one was in 1975, so one can hardly look at a single group and see what, if anything might have changed their mind since last time.

What Cummings has done, therefore, is take "swing voters" who voted for Mr Cameron in 2010 and might change their mind, using them as a litmus test of how to gauge the message to potential voters in a referendum which we might see in 2017.

In terms of campaign design, of course, this exercise has almost no value. This cohort cannot be taken as representative of the nation as a whole. Nor does it have any particular relevance to a national referendum. We are not talking about a limited number of marginal seats on which elections will turn, but the sum of all the votes cast by the nation, where it is the majority option that counts.

Thus, all we are getting is verbatim extracts of opinions given by people collected to talk about a referendum, giving some colour to an otherwise drab subject. More importantly, it provides a re-launch platform for Mr Cummings, which will stand him in good stead when he, Matthew Elliott and his London gang of think-tankers make their bid for the campaign millions on offer from the Electoral Commission.

This is what they did with the North-East region referendum, swanning up from London to Hoover up the money. While the locals had to fight the campaign unaided, the maestros schmoozed with the donors, telling them how lucky they all were to have them, then writing books to tell everyone how clever they were in winning the poll.

Now history is set to repeat itself. As a referendum begins to look a likely proposition, the smell of money and kudos is enough to bring the gold-diggers and careerists out into the open, the pack leaders adorning themselves with the "CEO" title to mark their own importance. Bless!

Unfortunately,  these are the people, if we let them, who are going to lose us the referendum. Not one of them has the first idea of what they are fighting for or how to pitch a winning campaign.

Cummings, with the benefit of his magical mystery focus group, for instance, tells us that "the combination of immigration, benefits, and human rights dominates all discussion of politics in general and the EU in particular". 

It doesn't, of course. But this is a man that thinks the "biggest change in the EU debate since Brown announced in 2003 that we would not join the euro" is that "people now spontaneously connect the issue of immigration and the EU". It is no coincidence, though, that Cummings is the man that walked away from his paid position in Business for Sterling in 2002, and has taken little interest in the EU ever since. 

He is evidently a man who seems to have missed out on the Lisbon Treaty altogether. But now there is a whiff of money, he's back, ready to take is place in the ranks of the paid CEOs, prepared to fight to the last expense account.  

Setting up his pitch, the born-again Cummings now rushes to give us the benefit of his newly found wisdom, gravely telling us that an "out" campaign would "not have to focus on immigration". It is a massive factor that needs no reinforcement, he says. Rather, the campaign would need to neutralise the fear of leaving and focus on what could be done with the money saved by leaving, both as a positive message and as an answer to the fear of lost trade.

So, from the giant intellect of this great campaigning genius, this is what we get: "neutralise the fear of leaving". Yet, if Mr Cummings had read our lowly blog (which he is far too grand to do), he would have discovered, with not a CEO in sight, that we had managed to work this out over eighteen months ago, all by ourselves. A successful campaign, we said, would be:
…. exploiting the status quo effect and the perceived importance to British economy of the totemic Single Market. In this context, the "out" campaign will only succeed in a referendum if it is able to neutralise the FUD.
This, we said at the time, is a sine qua non, having raised the issue of FUD in January 2013 and pursued it ever since, even labelling the phenomenon with the "FUD" buzzword, something that Cummings hasn't invented yet - although he will.

Some 18 months after the event, therefore, we have a Jonny-come-lately waltz in to tell us what must be done. Sadly though, it is only in the way an exasperated England fan might instruct his team how to win: score more goals than the oppostion, stupid.  But when it comes to exactly what needs to be done, all we get from the maestro is: "There are various ways in which this could be done but these lie outside the scope of this report". Clearly, the fee was insufficient and needs topping up.

That is actually classic Cummings. In fact, it is characteristic device of the golden boys. They swan around the London circuit oozing supercilious confidence, blithely informing their sponsors that the answer is soooo simple - something must be done, dressed up with vacuous jargon and last decade's marketing buzz-words. And they are the ones to do it, for a fee of course.

In respect of the EU referendum campaign, though, there is an inbuilt trap which none of these golden boys have even began to realise exists. Much less have they any idea what to do about it, .

The problem is the very real conflict between the need to get out quickly, preferably within the initial two years afforded by Article 50, and the overwhelming requirement to protect the Single Market – the only way we are going to neutralise the FUD – by continuing to participate in the EEA.

Here, the trap is, of course, Freedom of Movement, which is an integral part of the EEA. Forget trying to release ourselves from it. It is entirely non-negotiable. Thus, on the face of it, we can either deal with immigration or we can "neutralise the fear of leaving". But, on the basis of what we are being offered by the likes of UKIP, we can't do both.

If fact, we can have our cake and eat it. Freedom of Movement is a red herring. The idea of "regaining control of our borders" is an empty mantra. Unless we are to adopt a North Korean style of government, with totally sealed borders, restrictions on immigration would be subverted by illegal immigration, asylum seekers and family reunification, none of which are resolved by leaving the EU. And then, none of those already here can be sent back.

With that, of course, we have not yet officially started the campaign. And, as we know from 1975, sentiment can not only change, it can completely reverse. With a huge humanitarian crisis in the making, where more than 5,000 migrants have been picked up by the Italian navy in the past 48 hours in several rescue operations between Sicily and North Africa, the sentiment can change here as well.

There are those who would sink the boats of migrants, coldly committing murder in the process, or return desperate men, women and children from whence they came, only for them to perish en route or be locked away in camps when they make landfall. But that is to invite a backlash which could leave the "no" campaign flat-footed. The immigration card needs to be played with the very greatest of care.

On the other hand, there is a way of squaring the circle. That is what this post, this one, this and this are all about, options which some readers are too stupid to understand. We avoid the simplistic, empty mantras and address the "push-pull" factors, dealing with the causes rather than the symptoms. Migration is a symptom. Let's deal with the causes.

All of this, necessarily, requires a far more  greater knowledge and understanding of the issues than we have seen to date, and a more sophisticated campaign, with a. But the likes of Cummings play down the need for  knowledge – if only because they lack any grasp of detail. 

Mr Cummings thus stresses that the tiny cohort with whom he chose to spend his time, "know almost nothing about the mechanisms of international trade, the EU's Single Market, the EU's Customs Union, and the interaction of all these complex systems with global regulation".

This means, he says, that discussions about the relative merits of the EU's or EFTA/EEA trading arrangements are not only distinctly foggy in Westminster - they are completely unintelligible to these people, who have not heard of EFTA or the EEA.

In his own condescending way, he tells us that the arguments that are discussed among the tiny number of genuinely knowledgeable people - "the sort of arguments analysed by those who entered the IEA competition" - have no grip on these people, who have none of the knowledge necessary to make sense of them.

In Mr Cumming's tiny little world, therefore: "All discussion of these issues rapidly runs into the sand and talk returns to immigration".

However, as I have already pointed out, the campaign has not even started yet. And in the 1975 campaign, many people very quickly understood what the three initials EEC meant. By the same token, by the time the 2017 campaign is over, a similar number of people will become familiar with the EEA, and the related concept of the "Norway Option".

Where Cummings and his London friends fall down, of course, is that they rely on what they read in the legacy media. And because the "smart set" can't get their brains round complex issues, they think the electorate is going to be similarly vacuous. They will want a "Janet and John" campaign that insults the intelligence, and deals with none of the substantive issues.

What will be needed, though, is for the case to be fully worked out. That is what Flexcit is for. Not one in a thousand will read it, any more than the average Christian reads the Bible, or the average football fan reads the 148-page FIFA manual on the laws of the game. But, if FIFA needs 148 pages to play football, to deal with something as complex as leaving the EU is going to need a lot more.

Then, and only then, will we know where we stand, and have the wherewithal to devise a strategy. And only then can we simplify the case. But having a full version as backup means we will have all the important angles worked out. We will rarely, if ever, be caught out and, as far as the Europhiles go, we will be ahead of the game. Meanwhile, campaigners will benefit from the knowledge that their campaign has substance, and will derive their confidence and will to win from that.

All Cummings can offer, by way of an "obvious idea" though, is "to develop a roadmap and the framework for a new UK-EU Treaty 'Wiki-style'". Such decentralised movements have achieved astonishing things in science and could in politics, he says.

This again is typical of the breed. Apparently plausible, especially to those who have no experience of campaigning in the real world, any such device would immediately become a target for opposition hackers and trolls. Massive effort would have to go into defending something which, by the time it had been savaged and disrupted, would not be worth defending anyway.

Nevertheless, that is not going to make any difference to the "smart set". The referendum is a game for them to play, with careers and names to make, and money to dribble through their fingers as they play. The only thing that won't worry them is whether they win or lose. The game is simply for playing - for as long as the cheques roll in.

FORUM THREAD


Richard North 01/07/2014
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 EU politics: euro-FUD to the rescue

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The superb Mary Ellen Synon picks up on the ridiculous Sajjad Karim, former Lib-Dem MEP, who defected to the Tories in 2007. Retailing a classic scare story, he is claiming that, if Britain left the EU, it could be forced to surrender its seat on the United Nations Security Council.

It couldn't. But, without needing to go into the details, we have an answer to such absurd claims: "euro-FUD" - or #€FUD for Twitter users (courtesy Man in Shed). This is the most sensible and effective response to such stupidity, and it puts us way ahead of where we were in 1975.

To have a simple, pithy put-down for these Muppets is a powerful weapon in the right hands. For instance, every time we hear the "3-million jobs" claim, the answer is "euro-FUD!" Loss of Foreign Direct Investment? Euro-FUD! All our laws come by fax? Euro-FUD! 

The original acronym was coined by marketers but, in M E Synon's capable hands, it reaches a wider audience. Mr Karim, she writes, wants to spread Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. That's all that has to be said.

FORUM THREAD


Richard North 21/06/2014
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 EU politics: Airbus anti-FUD

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Not traditionally this blog's favourite company, it has suddenly leapt up in our estimation following the comment of Airbus's chief executive Fabrice Bregier. Our new hero robustly tells us that, if Britain voted to leave the EU in a referendum, that would not be a reason for the aircraft manufacturer to remove its operations from the UK, where it employs 10,000 people.

With any number of business "leaders" joining the exodus scrum, these comments make a refreshing change from the Europhile dross who have been campaigning against an EU exit.

The crucial issue for Airbus is that 90 percent of its market is outside Europe. Thus, competitiveness is the top priority for the company, Bregier said at a company event in Toulouse yesterday. "In the UK", he said, "I will look at two parameters: the exchange rate between the pound and the dollar and the second one is the UK government continuing support for the development of the aerospace industry".

As it stands, Airbus was "very pleased" with the support it was getting from Cameron's government. He does not believe that would change if Britain left the EU. "I believe that if these two parameters are stable there would be no reason for Airbus to change our strategy in the UK", Bregier added.

The company's 10,000 employees in Britain are engaged in developing and making wings, fuel systems and landing gears for Airbus aircraft and, in a telling comment, Bregier also said that, "we have no intention to duplicate all this expertise".

And that is something that none of the Europhile exodus crew tend to mention. Building up an experienced workforce, capable of handling high-end production processes, is no easy thing. No manufacturer would lightly disperse a team and take on the task of starting afresh.

It helps here, also, that aircraft are usually priced in dollars, so the tribulations of the euro are less important than they might be to other manufacturers.

Nevertheless, Mr Bregier's comments are a useful reminder that the game is a lot more complex than the FUD-merchants would have it. EU membership is only one of many issues that influence a UK presence. Other factors are far more important.

FORUM THREAD


Richard North 13/06/2014
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