EU Referendum: no "wall of love"


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This wasn't even a proper European Council. Rather, it was an "International Summit" to discuss the Eastern Partnership with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine.

As such, there was no opportunity for formal (or any) negotiations on EU "reform". This was simply neither the time nor the place. And hence, it is hardly surprising when the Prime Minister sought to hijack the meeting for his own ends, he was forced to admit that his attempts to renegotiate Britain's relationship were not met with "a wall of love".

The Guardian, however, has Mr Cameron effectively pledging to make a nuisance of himself until he is heard. Yet, for all that, he has not set out a comprehensive list of "reforms" he is seeking.

Giving the game away, his aides are suggesting he may not want to reveal his hand publicly at any stage in the process, which is probably the truth of the matter. He will keep it deliberately vague, right up to a few weeks before the actual poll, and then bring out and array of "concessions", initiatives and declarations, all to fortify his "Heston moment" and give the impression of progress.

Having not set himself up as a target, by refusing to declare his hand in advance, he can then spin the results in the most favourable way, depriving his critics of the opportunity to compare promises with delivery.

In keeping with this strategy, Mr Cameron is keeping it vague, talking of such things as the UK's demand for an exclusion from the EU drive for "ever closer union", even though the moment the "British question" has been resolved, the "colleagues" will be seeking another treaty which will be aiming for precisely that.

Nor is Mr Cameron committing himself to a specific timetable. All he wil say is that the discussions "will take time". In his press conference after the summit, he said: "We've got to get our heads down, get on with it, have discussions and bring them to a successful conclusion". The meeting, he said, was "not the start of detailed negotiations but about making a start and setting out the issues and trying to explain to people what we want to achieve".

Nevertheless, it is very clear that Mr Cameron is still thinking in terms of bringing home his treaty. A British official source said the UK recognised there were "27 nuts to crack" – in reference to the fact there will have to be approval from every EU member state.

Mr Cameron argues that Germany has achieved treaty changes when it had problems with the eurozone and the UK deserves the same hearing for its complaints. Keeping up the momentum, he  is also to host Juncker at Chequers this Monday. This is all part of the theatre, as the Commission President has no direct responsibility for treaty change.

Meanwhile, the Guardian has been accidentally e-mailed details of the establishment of a secret Bank of England propaganda team, to work on costs of leaving the EU. This is operation "Bookend", led by Europhile former civil servant Jon Cunliffe. It looks like another attempt by the establishment to rig the debate, adding to the flow of FUD as it prepares to detail supposed "financial shocks" that could hit Britain if we leave the EU. 

Altogether, the Europhiles are risking there own credibility – not that they had much to start with. If they have nothing more than lies, deceit and scare stories, they may end up struggling to win this referendum.

Richard North 23/05/2015 link

EU Referendum: mind your own businesses


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"I don't tell you how to build aircraft so don't tell us how to run our country", says the Complete Bastard in a pithy response to the unwanted intervention by Airbus president Paul Kahn into the referendum debate.

Apart from the very real problems with the A-400M, one model of which recently crashed near Seville airport, ironically on Europe Day, the company has serious commercial issues with the A-380. There are strong indications that they have chosen to build the wrong aircraft for the market.

With such problems, one might expect the senior management to be focused on what they are paid to do – managing their company. But even if they thought this political intervention was appropriate, Khan needs to consider revising his pitch and coming up with a more imaginative set of lies.

A decision to quit the EU would raise doubts about Airbus's long-term future investments in the country, he says, apparently thinking that his audience doesn't have the skills or wit to look up the company investment patterns. Perhaps Khan, like his contemporaries, believes we are as ill-informed as he is.

Presumably, he believes we are incapable of remembering the words of his colleague Fabrice Bregier, the company chief executive, who last year said that if the exchange rate remained stable and the UK government continued to support for the development of the aerospace industry, "there would be no reason for Airbus to change our strategy in the UK".

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Clearly, also, Khan doesn't think we are capable of looking up his own company's website on China, to find that Airbus will have invested nearly $500 million in Chinese manufacturing partnerships by the end of this year, including building the first assembly line outside of Europe. The A320 final assembly line in Tianjin began operations during September 2008.

Of this, one has to ask whether a decision by China to quit the EU would raise doubts about Airbus's long-term future investments in the country. But silly me! China isn't in the EU, so it can't leave. And if being outside the EU doesn't affect investment in China, why should it affect the British operation?

The same might be said of the United States, where Airbus is building a $600 million manufacturing facility for A-320s at Mobile, Alabama, to add to its Wichita engineering operation, ready to produce finished aircraft by the end of this year.

This plant is all part of the $140 billion Airbus has invested in the US since 1990, working with hundreds of American suppliers in more than 40 states. So one has to ask whether a decision by the US to quit the EU would raise doubts about Airbus's long-term future investments in the country. But silly me! The US isn't in the EU, so it can't leave. And if being outside the EU doesn't affect investment in the US, why should it affect the British operation?

Any which way you put it, Khan's facile, shallow threats don't stand up to scrutiny, any more that do the vapourings of the Deputy chairman of that vast criminal organisation, Barclays Bank.

Interestingly, its co-criminal conspirator, Citi Bank, is also an energetic FUD distributor, recently asserting that, if the UK were to disengage significantly or completely from the single market the implications could be "dramatic". The UK population would face a drop in living standards as a result of lower wages or a weaker pound so that the same export performance could be maintained within the EU. 

Jim Cowles, Citi's chief executive for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, told the Financial Times of "mounting concern" among clients about their ability to continue using the UK as a regional hub if the country were to exit.

We've also been getting similar rhetoric from Deutsche Bank, another criminal enterprise that recently had to pay a $2.5 billion fine to settle the investigations into the Libor rigging involvement. It now faces a potential shareholder revolt over the poor management of the company, the profits growth, mounting regulatory fines, and restructuring plans.

"Last but not least, we are very concerned about of Deutsche Bank. It's not just the money. The findings of the regulators suggest very serious misconduct. It's something we think the management is responsible for," says one of the larger shareholders.

Yet Chuka Umunna, Labour's business spokesman, wants company managers tell staff about upsides of staying in EU, asserting that local and regional bosses are best placed to show workers the consequences of a possible Brexit.

Umunna himself, it rather appears, needs to spend more time with his own portfolio, and has clearly lost the plot in believing that our thieving and incompetent corporates have anything useful to add to the EU referendum debate.

Campaigners from both sides of the divide, and especially those in the proto "out" campaign, need to be telling businesses to mind their own businesses, and to stop interfering in matters that are not their business.

They may feel entitled to express concern about matters that directly affect their enterprises, and ask for their needs to be taken into account – and even support the sides that they believe represent their views, but they are not entitled to spread lies and scare stories in order to influence the debate.

And, in the final analysis, how we the people are governed is no concern of theirs. These businesses should be very, very careful about abusing their power and influence. Public patience is wearing thin.

Richard North 21/05/2015 link

EU referendum: a train-wreck in the making


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Where we lead, others follow, not that any of them have the balls to admit it. It's even got to the state where Booker has been instructed not to mention me in his column, and if he does put my name in, or mention EU Referendum, the references are removed.

We are, of course, used to this treatment. An earlier practitioner was Tim Montgomerie, who ruthlessly purged any reference to us from Conservative Home and banned me from the comments – even though he's been all over us when he wanted us to write for his news enterprise (for free), which he started up with Iain Dale (another one who has "unpersoned" me).

These people who now complain that we're so howwid to them, writing nasty things about them, forget their own history and their own actions. But, in boycotting us, they are making themselves look absurd to a growing number of people. All they are doing is excluding some of the best and most perceptive analysis on the EU and related matters.

Then we end up with Andrew Marr wittering in the New Statesman about how the pundits got it wrong – a man who would have benefited hugely from reading this blog. Then perhaps, he might have learned what questions to ask.

Courtesy of Scribblings from Seaham, though, we find that this overpaid pundit is now getting paid even more for telling us that he and the rest of his little claque got it wrong. He confides that he has been "sleeping and worrying" about how he does his job. But, despite that, he's still getting it wrong.

What the likes of Marr are going to have to do is be more discerning, and more challenging, instead of imbibing everything a politician says. There should be no place on the BBC website, for instance, for Farage's lies, as he asserts that: "I've put 20 years of my life into trying to get a referendum and now is not the time to walk away".

I sat across a desk from that man over a period of four years. He never then mentioned the possibility of a referendum, and has barely mentioned it in public until fairly recently, only agreeing to sign Nikki Sinclair's petition for a referendum when he was bounced into it.

Farage's game plan has always – since the very beginning – been the electoral route, initially trying to pressure the Conservatives into taking us out of the EU by damaging them in general elections. Then he had fantasies about holding the balance of power, and thus forcing a Conservative minority government into action, as a condition for his support.

Having recently spent most of his time and effort trying to prevent Mr Cameron getting a majority, and thereby honouring his referendum pledge, it ill-behoves Farage to claim he has been working for a referendum. He hasn't, he never has and, as a result, he and his party are totally unprepared to fight one.

For that reason, as well as others, Carswell is right. Farage is putting the anti-EU campaign at risk. And not only would he would alienate voters and condemn Eurosceptics to defeat, as Carswell avers, the man is a loose cannon who has even less idea of how to run a referendum campaign than he does a successful general election fight.

But just because Farage is the wrong man for the job, doesn't mean that Carswell's other ideas are any better. He argues that it would be better for the referendum "out" campaign to be run by a prominent business leader – which is precisely what we don't want. This is a very bad idea, at several levels.

First, we don't want a "leader" at all – whether a business person, a politician or even a sleb. We should not personalise this campaign – otherwise it becomes a biff-bam contest between our man and Cameron, the newly-successful Prime Minister. When it comes to reassuring the public, Mr Cameron will have enormous weight and authority – and "prestige". Our man (or woman) won't stand a chance.

Carswell himself talks about the campaign requiring, inter alia a "more collegiate style", and he needs to think this through, and get his brain properly wired. The term "collegiate" means what it says, and implies that we break away from the personality politics that the media so loves, and have multiple heads. Not least, this neutralises any decapitation tactics that might be tried.

But then the idea of a business leader is especially bad. This locks the campaign into an economic framework, which is the very last thing we want to do. That is partly why the 1975 campaign failed, as it got bogged down in discussions about the price of butter, and other petty details.

Blitzkrieg-style, we need to by-pass and neutralise the economic arguments, and take the high ground. Leaving the EU is about correcting a historic mistake, where we have vested power in a supranational authority, which is incompatible with our status as a democratic status. It is about how - and by whom  - we are governed. That is not the business of business.

This apart, there is a significant lacuna in the Carswell rhetoric – a failure to acknowledge that the designation of the "out" campaign does not rest with him or anyone else, but rests with the Electoral Commission, which will select the lead campaigner from the applications submitted.

In what is most likely to be a competition, with a number of bids for the lead, all Carswell (or anyone else, for that matter) can do is seek to form a coalition (or umbrella group), in the hope of winning the bid. Incidentally, I would most certainly seek to oppose an application that fronted a business leader at its head, on the grounds that it did not adequately represent those campaigning for the "out" proposition.

This, though, points to a greater flaw. All sorts – Carswell included – are coming out of the woodwork with their views of who is to lead the "out" campaign, yet I'm hearing very little discussion on how we should win it.

Watching all this happen the pundits are allowing themselves to be sidetracked by the biff-bam theatre, and thus falling into yet another trap of their own making. They also are failing to think about what it takes to win, and who has the best ideas in that department. As always, they go for the cheap and easy story.

But there is also a generic failure, here, one which afflicts the eurosceptic movement as a whole. Devoted mainly to talking to each other, and telling themselves how awful the EU is, not a fraction of the effort is being directed at the main task which, as Boiling Frog points out, is fighting the FUD.

Instead, we're getting another episode of "The Egos have Landed", as Farage slurps up the love from his cult, and gears up to lose us the referendum.

We're already in a position to declare "we told you so", when what looks like being a train-wreck campaign fails to deliver. But, at this stage, that is a cop-out. We'll have to fight this battle through to the bitter end, before we can set out exactly why the campaign failed, in the hope that we don't repeat the same mistakes, yet again, next time round.

I am, though, getting sick to the teeth of the Kasserine Pass syndrome, where we have to fight through our "friends" to get at the enemy. Overall, I am reminded of the tugboat captain who, on the fall of France in 1940, was heard to remark: "Thank god for that - no more allies. Now, we only have to fight the enemy."

If it was only the enemy we had to fight, we could be sure of winning.

Richard North 18/05/2015 link

EU Referendum: the "wait and see" strategy


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Matthew Parris in The Times is coming out into the open, suggesting his own fudge on the EU referendum. He argues that both the "yes" and "no" camps (or "in-out") should get behind Mr Cameron's "renegotiation" and then, only in the event that the outcome is unsatisfactory should the "no campaign" pitch in and argue the case for leaving the EU.

This, in fact, is a meme which is being floated quite widely within the Conservative "eurosceptic" caucus, where it is argued that it is tactically vital to give Cameron full support for his attempted re-negotiation.

Politically, Tory MPs feel they cannot afford to be seen to be rocking the boat at the moment. They are right behind the idea of a referendum but they don't want publicly to make too many sceptical noises about Cameron's prospects.

Privately, however, they tell us that they all know that Mr Cameron will not come back with anything worth a row of beans. So, when they see nothing but cosmetic concessions, that will be the time for them to come out in the open. Then they will be free to point out how pitiful it looks when measured against all that fluffy talk of negotiating a "new relationship for Britain with the EU".

In the interim, these Conservatives say, activity should be confined to planning and setting up a grand "rainbow alliance", ready for action when the time comes.

In reviewing this strategy, however, one has to observe that, if it is supported by Matthew Parris – an ardent Europhile - there has to be something wrong with it. As such, we could hardly be expected to take strategy advice from the opposition, without thinking it over very carefully beforehand.

In this case, one can readily see that there is a huge trap awaiting the "wait and see" brigade. The self-denying ordinance, clearly, will only apply to them. While they sit on their hands, the "inners" will be rampant, stoking up the FUD, as they have been doing for many months. What Parris is suggesting gives a massive advantage to the "inners".

Even without that, though, the "Parris" strategy is still one that is guaranteed to ensure that we not only lose, but lose badly - for reasons which include the following:
1. It concedes the high ground, tacitly accepting that there are circumstances in which continued membership of the EU would be acceptable. It thus throws away our strongest suit - that there is a fundamental mismatch between the UK and the EU and that subordination to a supranational authority is not acceptable as a matter of principle.

2. It would fracture the anti-EU movement, creating even more of a schism than already exists. Those of us who are opposed to the EU on principle could not possibly endorse this strategy, which means that there would inevitably be divisions in the "out" camp. Not least, it is hard to believe that any Ukip supporter could get behind this strategy – yet the people who are proposing it are those calling for a "big tent" approach.

3. It hands the initiative to Cameron. If, like Wilson, Cameron finalises his deal late into the campaign, the "no" campaign will be on the back foot, having had to hold its fire until it has seen the details of the deal. That means that there will be insufficient time to argue the case, which in any case will be dangerously weak (see 1 above).

4. It turns the campaign into an argument about the finer details of our "relationship". This is exactly the way the Climate Change argument has gone, creating an exclusive, self referential clique, rehearsing arguments which have no traction with the general public. This is an argument we cannot possibly win - it will rely on prestige, and is one where the government can always trump anything and anyone we put into the fray.

5. It lacks vision. We would be arguing on Cameron's turf, for a very small and limited number of changes which, even if attained in their entirely, would not amount to very much. They would not constitute the "sunlit uplands" vision necessary to overcome the status quo effect, and thus accord with the Stokes precept. A more expansive vision would have no credibility, as the campaign would already have signified that it would accept a mess of potage.
Furthermore, it is unwise to assume that Mr Cameron will necessarily come back from Brussels with empty hands - or lacks the ability to talk up what he does achieve, and make it look more than it is.

In terms of the renegotiation, all but a very few seem unaware of the options open to Cameron, and his ability to present a plausible package. Using the Article 48 "simplified procedure", he is able to negotiate a new treaty within the timeframe afforded. If this is padded out with political declarations and then augmented by documented Commission Proposals and supported by the European Council, Mr Cameron will be able to present a very credible "deal" which will look very convincing.

To that effect, I fully expect most of the media - and especially the Telegraph and Times - as well as the Daily Mail to support the package and to advise its readers to vote for continued membership. Backed by the likes of Boris Johnson and most of the Tory "big beasts", the "outers" would be on the back foot, fighting to make up lost ground.

Thus, the best way of countering Mr Cameron's tactics – as I see it - is to get in early, warning people what to expect, in an attempt to pre-empt the propaganda and diminish it. To wait until he delivers his package, and only then to attack it, is leaving it far too late. It is a disastrously weak strategy.

With that, there is also another crucial element here. Despite some individuals assuming that they have a God-given right to nominate themselves as leaders of the "out" campaign, the designation of the "lead campaigner" for each of the propositions rests with the Electoral Commission.

Yet, as we have already pointed out, one (of two) of the qualifying requirements is that the putative leader of the "out" campaign must "adequately represent those campaigning for that outcome".

Here, though, Parris is recommending that the "outers" should only be committed to the fight if and when the renegotiations fail to deliver an acceptable outcome. Any organisation representing such a position can hardly pass the hurdle set by the Electoral Commission. Against a competitive bid, representing mainstream euroscepticism, it will be out on its own.

If therefore, the Conservatives feel the need to adopt the "wait and see" approach, they are best off forming their own party organisation, separate from the main "out" campaign. There can be no "big tent" as long as there is such a wide divergence of views - not that such an idea was ever a practical proposition.

Richard North 16/05/2015 link

EU referendum: Guardian peddling lies


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The Guardian is peddling lies - transparent and unequivocal. Its narrative is one of disaster for the academic community. Even the possibility that we'll vote to leave the EU would be a disaster for British science. The EU, it says, directly pays for much UK research and innovation, the paper tells us, and if we leave the EU we lose all that money (which we put in, in the first place).

Not to be swayed by tiny details such as these, the paper asserts that: "Given our public sector funding difficulties, and the understandably low priority research has in the political arena, we simply cannot afford to lose out on such a successful and empowering pot of EU money".

"Scientists love evidence, and the evidence is clear", the paper then asserts - thereby ignoring the evidence to the contrary. "Bluntly, if the UK were to leave the EU, we would massively and irreversibly damage an enterprise on which our future depends", it claims.

And so the inference goes that, if we leave the EU, the EU research funds dry up. But this is a lie - and totally contrary to the evidence. There is no requirement for a country to be a member of the EU for it to be part of its research programme. For heaven's sake, even Israel is part of the programme.

Those of you who have read Flexcit, will have picked up details on the Seventh Framework Programme and EEA members. It tells you that more than 2,350 Icelandic and Norwegian participants, including many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), were involved. Icelandic researchers contributed to 217 projects, receiving funding of nearly €70 million. The Norwegians took part in more than 1,400 projects, receiving €712 million.

If the UK leaves the EU and rejoins the EEA, it can continue participation in the research programme (currently Horizon 2020) without interruption. Even without EEA membership, it can participate – as does Switzerland. The Guardian is telling lies, indulging in outrageous FUD.

But this calumny goes beyond the Guardian and extends to a campaign website called Scientists for EU, where these propagandists can spread their lies.

This brings me to the broader issue that this piece illustrates. Talking yesterday to a senior politician, he observed that the "out" campaign should already have a rapid rebuttal unit up and running, to deal with this sort of thing. To my mind, it is an indictment of Ukip, which should already be equipped to handle false claims.

Perhaps that's the sort of thing that Carswell's short money could handle, but for the fact that it would doubtless be wasted.

It is this sort of thing, though, that leads me to believe that we will lose the referendum. I don't see that we have any real chance of winning - for many different reasons, but all boiling down to the fact that the "eurosceptic" movement is too fragmented, has no coherent vision and – with particular relevance here - has left preparations too late. The Norway "no" campaign had five years to prepare for their 1994 victory.

I think the best (and only) thing we can achieve is damage limitation - doing what we can to avoid losing too badly. If the gap is narrow, then at least we can claim some legitimacy in continuing the fight.

There should also, in my view, be a secondary objective. We should use the campaign to build a standing, non-party-political organisation on the lines of the Norwegian "no" campaign, better to equip us to fight a "treaty lock" referendum should it come.

That would be our real opportunity to force EU withdrawal. In the interim, though, we need to claw back the anti-EU movement from Ukip, and to organise it on a non-partisan basis, ready and capable to deal with the sort of lies the Guardian is trotting out.

That, maybe, is for the future, but what is so disturbing is that a newspaper can so easily trot out lies, without feeling any need to check the veracity of what it is saying. And if this illustrates how the referendum campaign is going to go, we're in for a long, hard couple of years.

Richard North 14/05/2015 link

EU Referendum: a stronger hand than appears


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Boiling Frog
has revamped his site, and added a new post further discussing the possibility of a Wilsonian fudge following the Cameron negotiations.

This is precisely the sort of thinking and analysis that we need if we are going to prevail, as we know well that the odds are stacked against us if Mr Cameron comes back from Brussels bringing what he claims is a successful deal.

And we should be under no illusions that the newly returned Prime Minister is fighting to win, apparently having paved the way somewhat with his EU counterparts. And the insidious propaganda also continues, as from the likes of The Guardian in the piece linked, which cannot resist having a dig at the "Norway option".

Norway is held up as the alternative model [to the EU], it says, "standing outside the single market and its decision-making bodies, but forced to comply with the rules". Never mind that within the EEA, we are in the Single Market. The newspaper goes on to assert: "For one of the world's largest trading nations to go down this route would be bizarre. The UK needs to help set the terms of trade, even when the bargain is tough".

Thus is the straw man erected, a classic example of how the exit scenario is belittled and misrepresented. We are going to get a lot of this, and only by joining forces to present a common theme will we have enough power and reach to overcome the distortions.

Another handicap we're going to have to overcome are some of the "Tory right" MPs, who really do not seem to have their act together.

Enter John Redwood, who has conceded that "a treaty change was not on the cards" – even though it is – but then demands the repatriation of banking regulation, oversight of member states' annual budgets and the need to "regain control of our borders", the latter requiring the treaty that Redwood concedes is not on the cards.

Redwood and his supporters are, quite obviously, spoiling for the fight, but they are hardly focusing on what it takes to win it. There is no principled stand here, no grand vision and no plan - just squabbling over the detail.

That leaves Mr Cameron well-place to outflank the opposition, appointing George Osborne as his lead negotiator, planning on bringing back just enough concessions to make the renegotiations look plausible.

With Jean-Claude Juncker telling Mr Cameron, "I stand ready to work with you to strike a fair deal for the United Kingdom in the EU", the stage is set fair for a theatrical gesture that will easily neutralise Mr Redwood's concerns.

Sooner or later, though, he must declare his hand to the "colleagues", as indeed he is being called upon to do, and then it will be our turn to dissect what will be a thin case, lacking entirely in substance.  

And even then, we may het help from unexpected quarters. "There is a limit to how far we are willing to go — and we're on the UK side. We're not looking for treaty change", says a senior EU official. "But", he continues, "the reforms we back will be for Britain, not a favour to the leader of a party trying manage his rebels. He must be careful, he can't let emotion get the better of him and ask for too much because the continent is fed up".

Another thing we have going for us is that we seem to have a better grasp of Mr Cameron's range of tactics, than even the great Wolfgang Münchau, who labours under the impression that treaty change "can obviously not happen under Mr Cameron's timetable".

It is quite entertaining to discover how such ignorance pervades even the pro-EU camp, with Münchau failing to realise that the "simplified procedure" under Article 48 is an option.

The blind lead the blind on both sides, it seems – which is hardly a surprise to us. As the the usual suspects pontificate, their narrow perspectives and failure to grasp the issues fortify their ignorance, leading them to offer flawed conclusions.

By contrast, we have more and better cards in our hand than might at first appear, and the knowledge and skills to use them wisely.

Richard North 11/05/2015 link

EU referendum: defining the battlefield


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One grows to love the overweening arrogance of the London-based politico-media claque who, because they were blind-sided by the developments outside their foetid bubble, grandly assert that "no one" predicted the Cameron victory.

This total lack of self-awareness almost defines the bubble, and it is that as much as anything ensures that its denizens not only get it wrong, but will continue to get it wrong.

That much is going to be the case, in spades, during the EU referendum campaign. Not least, most of the pundits have a very slender idea of how the EU actually works, or of its politics, and they have next to no understanding or appreciation of the global trading system, and how it relates to the EU.

As the referendum campaign develops, therefore – and we see the torrent of words published by the self-same claque which predicted there would be a hung parliament – the only thing of which we can be totally sure is that the comment will be driven by the most profound ignorance. Most of it will be wrong.

It is in the nature of the self-referential claque, however, that it is an exclusive club. Its coprophagia ensures that no new idea will ever sully their stagnant minds as they recycle the same limited input and excrete it for others to consume. And that knowledge is one of ten points we need to build in to our referendum campaign, if we are going to win.

Again and again and again I hear people tell me they never believe anything that read in the papers (or hear/see on the broadcast media), only for them to regurgitate in various forms, with different levels of belief, exactly what they have seen and heard. Campaigners must be on guard against this. The media (even those apparently on-side) are not our friends, and nothing they say can be relied on.

The next point of which we need to take account is this. From their pedestals of profound ignorance, the claque will try to take possession of the debate. They will want to own it, to use it as their plaything, with no commitment as to the result, and no concern that they may adversely affect an outcome that they may profess to support.

As with the general election, we will find the London-based media and the politicians trying to assert – and certainly implying – that they are the debate, that they are its sole custodians. This we cannot allow, and have some powerful weapons at our disposal.

Here, not only do we have the internet, with the social media and all that goes with it, but we have the local media, including the letters columns, which are much easier to access than the nationals. But we also have many other options which we must develop and explore. Communication is not the monopoly of the claque and we must make use of the resources available to us.

Particularly important in this context is a third point – the way the campaign will be fought. What we will be seeing is an attempt to define the contest in economic terms. We already see this with the pro-EU CER, which has been quick to re-launch its 2014 pamphlet on "the economic consequences of leaving the EU".

The media will follow this lead. Some journalists (and politicians) will do so because they believe the EU is an economic construct, and do not understand that it always has been (and still is) a failed experiment in political integration.

Others, and especially those in the business sections, will run this theme, not only because most of them know nothing of the EU as a political entity, but it keeps them within their comfort zone. They stick to what they think they know.

We also expect the London-based think-tanks to pile into the fray, even though most have very little to offer. The pro-EU bodies such as Open Europe will readily push the economic arguments, as this distracts from the political nature of the EU, and legitimises the call for reform. They will be bolstered by any number "useful fools" who fall into the trap of joining in the economic and business argument. 

Unless we take steps to prevent it, the debate will go the same way as climate change, to become the plaything of a narrowly-focused claque, arguing increasingly arcane points. The discussion will get mired in "angels on pins" detail, driving the general public away.

Here lies great danger. We cannot win the argument by discussing economics (and nor do we want to). For every claim that we will save money, there will be counter-claims about how much withdrawal will cost. Eventually, if that is all that is on offer, the public – unable to judge the merits between the cases, and utterly bored and confused – will vote to stay in.

Therefore, we must shape the debate and focus attention where it matters - on the important issues. We must sideline the economic issue, and marginalise those who argue either way, for added costs or for extravagant cost-savings.

This is where Flexcit comes in. It sets out an exit plan which is economically neutral. Economics, therefore, not relevant to the debate. Leaving is about the politics – this is a political issue, not an economic one. It is about how we are governed. Withdrawal becomes a celebration of nationalism and a reversion to intergovernmental relations, with a rejection of supranationalism. How we dress our concepts up for popular view has yet to be decided, but these are the issues – not a sterile debate about pounds and euros.

Fourthly, we are going to have to address the Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD), which is going to be the lynchpin of the pro-EU campaign. To counter the FUD, it has already been suggested that we have our own acronym, based on Hope Assurance Confidence and Knowledge, allowing us to HACK IT. Such simple devices will be of inestimable value.

The crucial issue here is that most of the FUD will be based on the deliberate (and sometimes unknowing) elision of the Single Market and membership of the EU. We have to convey to a wide audience that the two are not the same.

In fact, the Single Market isn't even the EU. The area defined by the territories of the 28 Member States is the "internal market", the customs union. The Single Market defines the 31-member EEA. In our Flexcit plan, we aim to continue our membership of it. And with that, most of the FUD ceases to have any relevance.

That brings us to point five – we need to banish the false prophets. We are not going to succeed in countering the FUD if our supposed allies are offering their own nostrums which contradict what we are offering. Classic here is the Ukip exit scenario which eschews continued membership of the Single Market on the grounds that it requires acceptance of freedom of movement.

Again, this is where Flexcit comes in, pointing out that it is perfectly possible to control immigration (and asylum seekers) which permitting the free movement of workers within the EEA. But there needs to be more. A successful campaign cannot afford to adopt a "big tent" approach with an alliance of players that has each doing their own thing. 

There needs to be a unified approach and strict message discipline, otherwise the likes of the BBC will pick those with the weakest arguments and promote them mercilessly, destroying the "out" campaign in the process. The "inners" have the status quo. The don't need to win - all they have to do is avoid losing.  It is for us to make the winning case - their role is to pick holes in it.

On that basis, we cannot take a passive view of weak plans. They are as dangerous to the campaign as the opposition's propaganda. They must be dissected, attacked and disowned. And, to that effect, we are going to have to be careful with our choices of allies. In terms of a formal organisation, a small unified group will be better than a larger group of discordant voices, insistent on promoting their own ideas.

A small formal organisation, however, does not mean that the campaign should be small. Point six tells us that we should never forget that a referendum is a decision of the people, not the politicians. The campaign, therefore, must be a people's campaign - not a toy for the posh people in London. Primarily, the formal organisation should be an enabler – helping the people fight, pointing them to the tools they need and guiding them on how to use them to best effect.

That point cannot be emphasised enough. This must not be a top-down campaign, feeding the egos of high profile leaders and celebrities, providing career platforms for ambitious wannabes. The people need direction – not leadership. The campaign must be facilitated, not possessed. 

This brings us to point seven, in which we must be clear about what we are fighting for – and remove the baggage. This is a campaign to secure our withdrawal from the EU. We should not allow it to be hijacked by other interest groups, whether it is libertarian idealists, free traders, anti-regulation zealots or climate change "deniers". Primarily, we are looking to free ourselves from the embrace of the EU. Everything else takes second place.

Point eight requires of us that we should complete the intellectual portfolio. We are well advanced with preparing the exit plan, but we are going to have to think through certain aspects to conform with point six. Then there are two other elements. We need a "vision statement" – a short but well-crafted word picture, setting out the outcome for which we are aiming for in leaving the EU. This is the "sunlit uplands" that satisfy the Stokes precept, giving an idea of what the UK would look like, five, ten and twenty years after withdrawal.

The other element of the trinity is the negative case – coherent and comprehensive arguments as to why the EU is not for us. But it is important for the case to co-ordinate with the exit plan. We cannot, for instance, argue for leaving the EU because of the "huge burden" of regulation that comes with membership, if we are then to tell people that withdrawal will not bring relief from that burden.

For our ninth point, we must develop a first-class intelligence capability in order to determine and pre-empt the opposition's moves. We also need a rapid response capability, to disseminate our findings and give timely warnings.

Most importantly, we must be able to monitor closely and report on Mr Cameron's "renegotiations", analyse them and neutralise the propaganda. For instance, while we know he cannot achieve a full-blown treaty change, but he can fudge it, using the "simplified procedure" under Article 48. Combined with political declarations and bundled with Commission proposals, he can deliver what appears to be – to the uninitiated and the media – a substantial package.

Only by re-empting this ploy, and then spreading information about it, can we show the public that they are being misled.

Finally, much of this will depend on point ten. The campaign will be led by two designated "lead campaigners", one for each of the propositions - "out" and "in". These are designated by the Electoral Commission, and have special status, privileges and public funding. If we are to be able to run an effective campaign, we must gain the official "out" campaign designation. That we are working on – of which more later.

In effect, though, this defines the battlefield. The referendum, I believe, is winnable but only if we refuse to allow others to dictate our tactics and define the battlefield for us. We the people, must choose the ground on which we fight. We must take control of our own destiny. But that also means getting involved, and not waiting to be spoon-fed by an ignorant, politico-media claque.

Richard North 10/05/2015 link

EU referendum: the invisible revolution


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The FUD continues unabated, as the Guardian reports that HSBC, Britain's biggest bank, has issued "a stark warning about the economic risks of the UK pulling out of the European Union", citing the economic uncertainty created by the risk of the UK going alone.

The Times is playing the same game, with scary headlines, proclaiming that HSBC has threatened "to quit City over fears UK could leave the EU". This comes as the bank has revealed it was threatening to move its headquarters out of London to another country, a threat that has not impressed Mark Gilbert of Bloomberg.

Writes Gilbert, there's a saying used to call the bluff of someone who threatens to flounce out of the room during an argument: "Don’t let the door hit your backside on the way out". That sums up, he says, how the UK should react to the bank's threat to move its headquarters to a different country.

The real issue, we also learn from Gilbert, is nothing to do with the EU, but the increased bank levy. And threatening to leave in a fit of pique every time there's a threat of increased regulation or a nudge in taxation smacks of teenagers threatening to run away from home because a curfew is too early or household chores are too tedious. HSBC is becoming a bore by regularly trying to blackmail the Treasury.

But, in terms of using blackmail, the Guardian and other media outlets which are running the EU meme are every bit as guilty, exploiting public ignorance and fear to sell a false bill of goods.

The point that the likes of HSBC and their media fellow travellers choose to obscure is that the banking industry is global and so, increasingly, is its regulation. In fact, there has been what has been described as a "Cambrian explosion" in international regulatory co-operation which has transformed the regulatory environment. This means that pulling out of "Europe" would not make any difference to the trading environment - power is no longer geo-located in Brussels (if it ever was).

Conveniently, the extent of this transformation has been charted by the OECD and by researcher from Arizona State University. And in their documents we see this helpful chart (below) which sets out the structure of global financial regulation. 

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Readers will observe the focal position of the Financial Stability Board (FSB) and the remarkable number of organisations that make rules, set standards and co-ordinate regulation within this crucial field. But they will also note the relatively inconsequential position of the EU, which is a downstream organisation when it comes to framing regulation.

But this is all part of a much bigger picture, which goes under the classification International Regulatory Co-operation (IRC), as charted by the OECD.

Not only has it recorded a staggering proliferation of organisations involved, the OECD, after an initiative launched in 2010 has identified eleven "mechanisms" of IRC, ranging from the formal and comprehensive to the informal and partial.

These run to harmonisation through rule-making by supranational or joint institutions such as the EU, treaties between states, regulatory "umbrella" partnerships such as the Canada-US Regulatory Cooperation Council, and intergovernmental organisations such as the ILO, OECD and WTO.

The territory also includes regional agreements on regulation such as APEC and UNECE, mutual recognition agreements, transgovernmental networks such as the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, national requirements to consider international standards, incorporation of international standards in national law, soft law instruments and dialogue/information exchange among regulators and stakeholders (see diagram below).

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The UK government is fully involved, as is the US government, where IRC is subject to a Presidential Executive Order, with action directed through the Office of Management and Budget. And it drives trade relations between the US and Canada.

Yet, while writ of IRC is dominating the global regulatory environment, it is almost completely invisible to the media, to most politicians and commentators. This means that most of what we are told is superficial to the point of misleading. The way we are governed has undergone a revolution – an invisible revolution - and the media is not even close to putting us in the picture.

Instead, it gives succour to the propagandists, who would have it that the "Europe" of which they know so little is one which is essential to UK trade, unwilling or unable to recognise that, in this changing world, we can live without the political ambitions of the EU, and do better on the global stage, outside the EU.

The point they cannot seem to cope with is that globalisation has now advanced to such a stage that the original justification for having the EU running the European trading bloc has long since expired. "Europe" isn't working, and we need now to look for a new settlement, of which IRC is a major part. 

But the media will never get close to explaining this. Their journalists do not have the intellectual architecture which enables them to understand what they are seeing, which leaves them fundamentally unable to report what is actually happening. The revolution to them will remain invisible, because they have no mechanisms with which to see the events around them.

Richard North 25/04/2015 link

Blair: Europe - "a very good reason to vote Labour"


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Legacy media reporting of Blair's speech yesterday is all over the place, but then over 3,000 words is a little bit difficult to summarise, so this is hardly surprising. Sound bites are more the media's style.

Unfortunately, however, Tony Blair's speech at the Xcel Centre in Newton Aycliffe has some substance, and some good clues on how the coming fight over the EU might be played out - so we need to look at it in a little more detail. 

For starters, the former prime minister offers a commentary that, turned around, we could use to our own advantage. He tells us:
Elections should never simply be about an exchange of rhetoric, the laying out of policy positions or the cacophony of the campaign. They should also be an investigation and a decision about our ambitions as a nation, who we are and where we're going.

For me Europe is an important litmus test. I believe passionately that leaving Europe would leave Britain diminished in the world, do significant damage to our economy and, less obviously but just as important to our future, would go against the very qualities that mark us out still as a great global nation.

It would be a momentous decision.
By way of illustration, we could just as easily say that leaving "Europe" would enhance Britain position in the world, strengthen our economy and highlight the very qualities that mark us out still as a great global nation. I guess it's how you tell 'em. And, on this, Blair is telling us that, should the Conservatives be re-elected on May 7th, they are committed to holding a referendum to decide whether Britain remains in the European Union. Referring to the Scottish referendum, Blair raises the spectre of nationalism - "a powerful sentiment". Let that genie out of the bottle, he says, "and it is a Herculean task to put it back. Reason alone struggles".

That in itself sounds terribly profound, but perhaps someone should tell Blair that nationalism has never been healthier, and never more has the nation state prospered. In 1945, 51 states were members of the United Nations. Membership rose to 152 in 1979 and to 194 today.

But in Blair's distorted mind, the EU referendum carries the same risk of resurgent nationalism. For that reason, he says, should the Conservatives win, the prime minister will be spending more energy, will have more sleepless nights about it, be more focused on it than literally any other single issue.

Mr Cameron, Blair asserts, knows the vastness of the decision. He knows the penalty of failure. He knows exit will define his legacy. And, following the Scottish referendum, he knows the perilous fragility of public support for the sensible choice.

It is this passage which the Telegraph makes out that Blair is saying that the "public can't be trusted to make 'sensible choice' on EU".

Myself, I don't see it. "Trust" is not a word Blair used anywhere in his script. He is warning about the attraction of nationalism and the fragile support for the EU. And he is right to be worried – given the paucity of his case.

Nevertheless, Blair believes the referendum will be "a huge distraction" for the country – and for Cameron. It will take precedence over the NHS, education, law and order, the lot, even though he doesn't really believe we should leave the EU.

The referendum was a concession to Party, a manoeuvre to access some of the UKIP vote and a sop to the "rampant anti-Europe feeling" of parts of the media, Blair asserts. This issue, touching as it does the country's future is too important to be traded like this, he says, then continuing:
It is greatly to Ed Miliband's credit that he resolutely refused to make that trade. He faced down calls to follow the Tory concession from parts of the media and many inside our Party. In doing so, he showed real leadership. He showed that he would put the interests of the country first. He showed that on this, as on other issues, he is his own man, with his own convictions and determined to follow them even when they go against the tide. I respect that.
This the man, though, who joined with President Bush in invading Iraq to depose Saddam Hussein and then "forgot" to prepare plans for administering the peace. This is the same Tony Blair who – like so many Europhiles – doesn't understand the distinction between membership of the EU and participation in the Single Market.

Over half our trade is with "Europe", he says. There are millions of UK jobs dependent on access to the European markets. Not joining the euro was one thing. Leaving Europe altogether is quite another thing. He goes on to say:
There is, in my view, also a complete under-estimation of the short term pain of negotiating exit. There would be a raft of different Treaties, association agreements and partnerships to be dis-entangled and re-negotiated. There would be significant business uncertainty in the run-up to a vote but should the vote go the way of exit, then there would be the most intense period of business anxiety, reconsideration of options and instability since the war.
Then, digging himself in deeper, he says:
The Tory campaign talks of chaos should Labour win. Think of the chaos produced by the possibility never mind the reality of Britain quitting Europe. Jobs that are secure suddenly insecure; investment decisions postponed or cancelled; a pall of unpredictability hanging over the British economy. And for what? To satisfy the insistent Euro-phobia of a group who will never be satisfied.
And there, writ large, is not the prospect of chaos but the need for "Flexcit". We must have a credible exit plan on the table, one which takes account of the uncertainties and will ensure that there is no chaos. We need to put charlatans like Blair back in their boxes, neutralising the FUD and regaining the initiative.

But Blair does raise points which have to be taken seriously. He says:
There is a beguiling notion that upon Britain voting to leave, the rest of Europe would be in an amenable and friendly frame of mind in the consequent negotiation. They would have, it is said, a shared interest, in making it as amicable as possible.

Excuse me, but get real. As a result of our decision every other European Leader would be faced with big choices about the terms of Britain's relationship with Europe now as an outsider. This they would regard as a wholly unnecessary diversion from the critical domestic challenge of recovering their own economies. They will believe that Britain wants to have the benefits of the single market without the responsibilities. They will be determined to prevent that. Norway and Switzerland both are obliged, as the price of their access to Europe's market, to accede to a series of European rules even though they cannot influence their drafting. The rest of Europe will be vigorous in ensuring Britain gets no special treatment. This will be a horrible process. Don't be in any doubt about that.
Here we go again with the "no influence" meme but, that aside, Blair has a point. The EU is not going to roll over and give the UK a free pass – and we're only a third of the way into the speech.

And again, we're in no-man's land, as Blair rubbishes the very idea of a referendum – the man who offered us a referendum on the European Constitution – only to have his successor resile. But he does allow that: "We should have a referendum if we seriously believe that getting out of Europe is a national priority if our terms aren't met". If we don't, he adds, "then it is a completely unacceptable gamble with our future".

At this point, as one so often does with Blair speeches, one loses the will to live, so we bounce over the homilies about Britain's role as a "global player". We saw what happened in Iraq when Mr Blair staked his claim for that role. We need no lessons from him.

Blair claims that this current "alliance" with Europe was sought half a century ago by the then leaders of our country because "they knew that without it, Britain could not maintain its influence and its power. And of course it involves ceding or pooling some sovereignty. But it does so in order to gain sovereign power over decisions that in the reality of 21st Century geo-politics we will only exercise in concert with others".

Yet that is a gross misreading of history, again about which we need no lessons from Blair. He wants us to believe that globalisation is "blurring national boundaries and forcing integration on the world" – when, in fact, globalisation is bringing a renaissance to the very idea of a nation. The power is draining away from sub-regional cul-de-sacs such as the EU, and back towards the nation states.

But Blair, locked into his "little Europe" paradigm, wants to play with "reform". The movement for change in Europe would benefit hugely from British input and leadership. Nationalist forces in Europe – see the National Front in France – are surging everywhere, he says.

One recalls, though, the end of his tenure as British prime minister, when he had lost faith in the idea of influencing the EU. And it was very obvious at the time. Mr Blair might have a short memory – we don't.

For those who believe we can do just as well out of the EU, if not better, Blair turns the argument to Ukip, and asks whether they represent the standard bearers of an open-minded culturally tolerant Britain. "Are creativity, innovation and curiosity about what we can learn from the world their hallmarks?"

That's a clever argument: if you want to leave the EU, look who represents the "out" case, he is saying. "We know what this movement to wrench us out of Europe is based on", says Blair. "You can see it on display when Mr Farage swiftly moves the debate to immigrants".

So, if we're to take anything home from the Blair speech, it's that we need a credible exit plan, that Ukip is not a good representative for the "out" case – and there is very little else we can learn from Mr Blair.

But then Mr Blair thinks that Labour and its Leader took a "brave decision" when they decided not to yield to pressure for a referendum, but instead chose to "make the principled and intelligent case for Britain in Europe".

I've yet to hear this "principled and intelligent case" for staying in the EU – mostly, what we get is FUD, to which Mr Blair is no stranger. He wants Labour to win on the 7 May and, for Labour, under Ed's leadership, to be the Government of our country on the next day.

Should that unlikely event happen, the government of our country will be as it was the day before – in the hands of the EU and the European Commission. But if Mr Cameron wins, we at least get a referendum. That, for what it's worth, is a brave decision, and that's why I won't be taking up Mr Blair's invitation to vote Labour.

Richard North 08/04/2015 link

EU referendum: the propaganda continues


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Ruth Sunderland writes for the Daily Mail, telling us how much car makers are entitled to a voice in the debate on "Europe".

"Chief executives in the sector might not rush to sign up for a Labour Party advert on the subject, but they are terrified of a Brexit", she writes. "Feeling on the subject is so strong that the industry last year commissioned a report by accountant KPMG itemising in detail the risks to the sector".

"So far as the car makers are concerned", we are told, "membership of the EU is vital because it ensures free trade across their biggest single export market. Some 49 percent of UK-made vehicles are sold elsewhere in Europe, without any tariffs or regulatory barriers".

And there we go again – this continued attempt to elide membership of the EU with participation in the Single Market. If only everyone in the eurosceptic community could focus on the essentials, then we might defeat this type of FUD.

One wonders whether there is any real determination in some quarters to win this coming contest.

Richard North 01/04/2015 link

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 link

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 link

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 link

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 link

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 nostrums to prevail, polluting campaign messages. 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 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 the 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. Their "secret weapon" is the realisation 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, cannot be immune from criticism and debate, even if they want to cast themselves as above the fray. And if they produce rubbish, it must be treated as such.

Richard North 12/03/2015 link

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 link

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 link

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 link

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 link

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.


Richard North 27/09/2014 link

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