Vince Cable, the Lib-Dem business secretary, has intervened in David Cameron's game, branding the Conservatives "seriously irresponsible" for promising a 2017 referendum.
Ignoring the growing clamour of voices that says a 2017 plebiscite is impossible, Cable, is talking to the The Independent, whence he chooses to make an issue over the "blight" on foreign investment in Britain. He thus warns of the "chilling effect" of the in/out referendum promise, saying it is delaying the economic recovery and putting 3.5 million jobs at risk.
He claims businessmen are now warning him on a daily basis that they would invest elsewhere to ensure they retained access to the EU's single market. "They say 'we are here because of Europe; we are not just here because of Britain'", he asserts.
Asked to name names, Cable comes up with the usual suspects, car-makers Vauxhall, BMW Mini, Ford and Nissan, adding that the same concerns were being expressed in the aerospace industry and City. British, Japanese, American, Indian and German firms had all voiced fears, he says.
This tedious little game, though, rest on three suppositions. Firstly, one has to assume that there will be that referendum, which Cable should know is impossible. Then, secondly, he must assume that the "outers" would win, which is by no means a foregone conclusion.
Thirdly, and crucially, Cable must assume that the end result would be that the UK outside the EU would no longer had access to the EU's Internal Market. Necessarily, we would be excluded from the trading arrangements that we currently enjoy. Nothing like the "Norway option" would be on offer.
On the other hand, the EU has been willing to agree a deep and comprehensive free trade area (DCFTA) with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, which encompasses full participation in the Internal Market, without there being any immediate question of EU membership.
It does seem, therefore, beyond the realm of probability that the UK would not be able to negotiate something similar on its departure from the EU. On that basis, the most likely outcome of a "Brexit" is that trading arrangements continue unchecked.
By now, in what should be a mature debate, we should be past the low-grade FUD that Cable has on offer. We really should be able to address the arguments for staying in and departing from the EU on a more adult level, without having to put up with the tedious repetitions that Cable is resuscitating.
Sometime, one wonders whether the game is about boring us all to death, with the same mindless scare stories, forcing us into the position of ending the debate rather than suffer the tedium of yet another dire warning about losing our ability to trade with the rest of the EU.
The trouble is that Mr Cameron and his merry men are not much better, which means we have to suffer this endless round of tedium, instead of addressing the real issues attendant on our membership of the EU.
But then, one might surmise that if the pro-EU faction cannot come up with some more interesting and imaginative arguments for remaining in the EU, that itself tells its own story. A construct which relies on endless repetition of the same tedious FUD can't have very much to offer.
If we were to run with the herd today, we would be getting excited about Merkel's visit to England, attended upon by much ill-informed speculation and comment about her intentions regarding Mr Cameron and his fatuous EU reform agenda.
In the lead for the moment - but not for very long, I suspect - is this totally vacuous comment by James Kirkup, who blathers: "But will Mrs Merkel sign up for the entire Cameron agenda, including the (pretty ambitious) timetable for EU treaty change signed and sealed by 2017?"
What will escape most commentators is the rather obvious fact that the EU currently boasts 28 members and that, in order to initiate the treaty revision procedure under Article 48 of the TEU – necessary for any meaningful reform – a simple majority is needed, i.e., 15 member states.
Thus, as we remarked with Hollande a little while back, it is not within Mrs Merkel's gift to grant Mr Cameron his wish of a treaty negotiation. And, even if she could (and wanted to, which is another matter), any changes proposed could be vetoed by any one member state, either at the signature or (in effect) the ratification stage.
On the other hand, we have been led to expect that Mrs Merkel would be concentrating on a bid to keep the UK within the EU, to which effect we can expect in the near future the usual doses of FUD to be trickling through the legacy media, all aimed at keeping us plebs in our place.
In her address to both houses of Parliament, in a lacklustre, technocratic speech (transcript here
in German), Mrs Merkel did not fail to disappoint. "We must make the European Union a better place … a strong EU needs strong institutions and strong member states representing our common interests united and confident in the world", she says ... all batting from the same hymn sheet?
On the euro, she says: "A stable, competitive European Union can combine economic success and social responsibility on a permanent basis. This requires the eurozone countries to complement the monetary union with a strong economic union, which is equipped with a clear and sustainable architecture.
"Only through a closer and more binding economic policy coordination can they prevent in the long term entering a severe crisis. That limits the contractual foundations of economic and monetary union which, in my view, must be specifically adapted and expeditious in order to sustainably stabilize the monetary union".
In English, she then told the assembled worthies, "Some expect my speech to pave the way for a fundamental reform of the European architecture which will satisfy all kinds of alleged or actual British wishes. I am afraid they are in for a disappointment".
Then she went on to say: "Others are expecting the exact opposite and they are hoping that I will deliver the clear and simple message here in London that the rest of Europe is not prepared to pay almost any price to keep Britain in the European Union. I am afraid these hopes will be dashed too".
Meanwhile, we must suffer endless drivel from supposedly "eurosceptic" MPs and others, most of them still oblivious to the reality that "reform" is simply not an option. Why we have to go through these endless rituals is quite beyond me, but I do wish they would get it over with and start focusing on the real world.
We even have Nicholas Watt, chief political correspondent of the failing Guardian
perpetuating the myths. He writes: "The speech appeared to be designed to inject a dose of reality ahead of the negotiations, in which the prime minister hopes to introduce widespread reforms of the EU if he wins the 2015 general election. Cameron would then hold an in / out referendum by the end of 2017".
For once, the Telegraph cartoon
has it. In the short time between my publishing it and being told to take it down, you can enjoy it here.
The great labour is complete and I have just received an e-mail from the IEA confirming receipt. The qualifying word count is 19,999 against the competition word count limit of 20,000 - I could kick myself for leaving out the last word.
I wrote to one of my sponsors saying that, after three months of unremitting work, with not a single day off (apart from Iceland), I proposed to take half an hour off. He very kindly wrote back, suggesting that I go mad and take three-quarters of an hour. But I can't think what I would do with the extra quarter of an hour.
In the meantime, I really have enjoyed all those e-mails and phone calls, which invariably start with: "I know you're busy, but ...", just as I'm trying to grapple with the innermost secrets of the Pressure Equipment Directive and the International Financial Reporting Standards. But, no more. 'Tis done.
I'd like to thank everyone who has helped. The list is huge ... but especially The Boiling Frog for his brilliant support, to Mary Ellen Synon for her perceptive comments, and the many others who contributed - some just as much, if not more - directly and indirectly, plus, of course, the staff of the IEA.
At this point, Mrs EU Referendum wanted to convey a message, and wrote this for us. She says:
Thank goodness the Brexit entry has gone. I can assure you his "nibs" has put 100 percent effort into this, from day one in November 'till half an hour ago. It would be nice if all this effort is rewarded. However, just to be chosen to participate is pretty damn good in my book!
It's just occurred to me, that there is another report I need to do, one that's going to keep me a little busy, for a few months. "Brexit 2, the sequel", anyone?
So, for all the support, advice and input for all the folk who helped, thank you from the bottom of my socks. I will be very pleased to be going back to Mrs EU Ref instead of Mrs DIY. Back to reality tomorrow, Richard ... the list of chores awaits you.
Yesterday was the day that we received news that Britain has lost a legal challenge to EU powers to ban short-selling in key test case. This, we were told, had major implication for the City of London's financial services.
The Government was seeking to have annulled Article 28 of Regulation (EU)
No 236/2012 on "short selling and certain aspects of credit default swaps", giving power to the EU's Paris-based European Securities and Markets Authority in 2012, to intervene in national financial authorities in "exceptional circumstances", order to police financial markets. These powers were, our local government asserted, "unlawful" and an "institutional revolution".
The ECJ dismissed the UK's action and awarded cost against the government, arguing that Article 28 was designed to improve the conditions for the establishment and functioning of the internal market in the financial field. It must therefore stand.
What is particularly poignant about this, though, is that it came at the same time that the Financial Times was reporting that British banks had launched a "strong intervention" in the debate over the nation's membership of the European Union, calling for closer ties with Brussels and urging the government to raise its game in order to make the single market work.
This was an initiative from the British Bankers' Association, which sent a submission on the Treasury review of competences, arguing that the current balance of powers between Brussels and London was "broadly appropriate".
The timing could hardly have been bettered, demonstrating as it does where the power really belongs, but such events hardly seem to impinge on the ideologues who assert that everything in the euro-garden is rosy.
Amongst those is the Citigroup, which has also written to the Treasury, adding its concerns about costs to the UK economy if Britain was to leave "Europe". Citi asserts 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, tells 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.
This, of course, is straw man territory, as no-one would sensibly argue for "significant", much less complete, disengagement from the single market.
Cowles's disingenuous remarks, therefore, make an interesting contrast with the views of the Airbus Group. UK Chief Executive Robin Southwell asserts that his company would never have achieved its success to date without a working and effective partnership of countries and companies within Europe.
"Any other economic model which seeks or offers to change the dynamic and advantageous characteristics which we presently enjoy - and believe are optimal to our delivering sustained growth and employment - would need to specifically address this quite proper challenge in a detailed and compelling manner," he then says.
Actually, those comments are fair enough, and that is precisely why we need to work up a "Brexit" plan, to ensure that valid commercial concerns are met.
In the FUD stakes, however, there is no dealing with this - Paul Polman, the Dutch chief executive of Unilever, blathering about the UK being better off staying inside the EU, rather "than kicking against the table" and voting to leave.
He says said the company could review its UK investment if Britain left the EU. "We will always look at things," he said, when asked whether Unilever could reduce its presence in the UK.
Unilever might employ 7,000 people in the UK and it is also a net exporter to the EU for its business, but this sort of ignorant polemic is entirely unconvincing. The man should mind his own business, instead of interfering with ours.
But what is interesting is the degree to which the europhiles are ramping up the FUD. One might think that these people are worried about the coming elections, as indeed is Mr Clegg, who is apparently going to argue that it is "vital" the UK stays in the EU when he addresses political and business leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Clegg is to say that membership is essential to cope with competition from countries such as China and India, apparently entirely unconscious of the irony that, while both Switzerland and Iceland have been able to sign trade deals with China, the EU has not been able to conclude deals with either China or India.
But then, the one thing we have learned about the europhiliac tendency is that they don't do irony. Perhaps, if they did, they couldn't be europhiles.
The New Statesman has recruited Robert Cooper, a former mandarin heralded as "one of the chief architects" of the EU's common foreign policy, his particular task at the moment to tell us why holding a referendum on leaving the EU would be "stupid",.
To achieve this monumental task, he offers three reasons, one of which is:
On a practical level, the main product of the EU is regulation. There is good regulation and bad regulation; but there is no escape. No one is going to buy British products that do not meet inter¬national standards. Those standards are set mostly by the EU or the US. If the UK wants to be at the table when the standards are set it has to belong to the EU; otherwise it will have to follow regulations that someone else has made.
That is as far as we need go, allowing us thus to observe that the great benefit of being "above the line" is never having to worry about being wrong. It is an unlimited license to produce any amount of ill-informed drivel, in the certain knowledge that it will always be welcome on the pages of the legacy media.
Any informed student of trade matters will, of course, be aware of the progressive internationalisation of trade regulation (often called globalisation), and any overview of US politics will quickly reveal as much unease in the United States about this process, and the loss of power entailed.
Equally, as far as the EU is concerned, we have charted for some time the degree to which trade regulation is initiated by international bodies, so much so that the EU has become a wholesaler and distributor of regulation rather than its initiator.
But that is no check of the Robert Cooper drivel factory. Here is a man imbued with the most profound ignorance, yet he feels qualified to pronounce on issues about which he clearly knows nothing.
Another person so imbued is Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, a legend in his own lunch hour, pontificating in the Telegraph
about parliaments needing an "emergency brake" on EU legislation.
Although roundly taken to task by Autonomous Mind
, this will have no impact whatsoever. Rees-Mogg is a fully paid-up member of the drivel factory, his birthright entitling him to produce unutterable tosh and to be applauded by his peers for so doing.
A junior member of the drivel machine, Mark Wallace
is given license by the Guardian
to ask, "Where are all the leftwing Eurosceptics?", complaining that the British Left has abandoned its "democratic tradition" of opposing the EU.
"With a renegotiation of where powers lie, and an in/out referendum likely to follow in 2017", he drivels, "we ought to see a return of that vanished beast: the leftwing Eurosceptic".
The thing he misses, of course, is that in the polarised politics of the Westminster bubble, the "left" is currently "pro-Europe" simply because the "right" is supposedly eurosceptic. But since all but a tiny fraction of the Tory eurosceptics actually support continued membership of the EU, the difference between left and right is academic. There is no difference between them.
However, the one thing that the drivel factory does, par excellence, is confuse the issues. We noted this a while back
, when the Europhile tactics started emerging. They rely, it would appear, on the three-legged stool of "renegotiation, reform and scare" - anything to keep peoples' minds off leaving the EU.
At the time, the right was pushing renegotiation and the left was going for reform, while all sides were free with the FUD, to scare us away from the prospect of withdrawal. Now the drivel merges into one amorphous mess, so successfully confusing the issues that the purity of the argument has been lost.
In due course, we might even see academic papers written on this remarkable weapon, the drivel factory that won the war for the europhiles. If during the shooting war, America became the arsenal of democracy, the legacy media have become the reservoir of drivel, intent on winning the war of words that will keep us in the EU.
And so far, with the drivel factory on overtime, it looks to be winning.
"Conservative politicians risk wrecking the recovery and threatening hundreds of thousands of jobs by 'pandering' to anti-European sentiment", says Danny Alexander, the man passing himself off as Chief Treasury Secretary.
Launching a pre-Christmas anti-anti-EU blast at his coalition allies, framed as an "exclusive" for the Independent, he rehearses the same weary dirge, telling us that foreign companies could abandon their plans to invest in the UK if Tories mounted "a crude anti-EU campaign ahead" of the European Parliament elections next May in an attempt to counter the threat from UKIP.
For those throbbing with anticipation at the prospect of more words from this being, more detail can be found on the Independent website, where Alexander asserts: "The fact that some senior Conservatives are arguing that Britain should vote to leave the EU is already unsettling investors and threatening jobs and growth. Further pandering to anti-Europeans would be bad for the British economy".
The newspaper is calling this a "pre-emptive strike", opening up a second divide inside the coalition, after Vince Cable did his best to sow discord in the ranks. Alexander, is telling us that, the Liberal Democrats would actually campaign in the elections as "the party of in" and be "unashamedly pro-European".
Actually, for the party to campaign on EU issues will in itself be an innovation. We recall Lib-Dem euro-election material that completely failed to mention the EU and concentrated entirely on domestic issues.
But, if that is to be the innovation, the content is to be more of the same as Alexander "discloses" that his party will repeat the same old FUD, putting "at the heart" of the Lib-Dem campaign" the threat to jobs in each constituency if the public voted to leave the EU in the referendum David Cameron has promised in 2017.
The Lib-Dems plan to cite long-discredited "research" by South Bank University on the "3.5 million jobs" canard, this time extending it to locate that jobs that they claim will be lost if we bug out of le projet.
For the record, the ten parliamentary constituencies with the most "EU-dependent jobs" are: City of London & Westminster (75,423); Birmingham Ladywood (27,499); Leeds Central (23,313); Holborn & St Pancras (20,253); Manchester Central (18,006); Sheffield Central (15,192); Glasgow Kelvin (14,030); Nottingham South (13,443); Islington South & Finsbury (12,824) and West Bromwich West (12,615).
Alexander wants us to believe that that, "A surge in anti-European sentiment in the Euro elections would send a shiver of doubt into the boardrooms of global companies that locate in Britain because we are a gateway to the EU single market". And so we can rejoice that, "With Labour confused on Europe, and the Conservatives divided", only the Lib Dems "will be campaigning at the European elections with an unambiguously pro-European message".
I wonder if Mr Alexander can begin to appreciate the level of wild enthusiasm with which we greet this news. How can our cups not flow over with him telling us that, "Pro-Europeans in Britain have been too quiet for too long", then assuring us that, "Next year is an opportunity to make our argument heard, and the Lib Dems will make sure we take it"?
Clearly, the Lib-Dems are serious in their madness, determined to commit electoral suicide. They have decided not to try to hide their enthusiasm for the EU project but to make a virtue of it, attempting to appeal to the estimated 20 percent of the electorate seen as pro-European, including many in the top AB social group and business community.
Great Leader Clegg thus says that the UK is entering "a critical phase" in its relationship with the EU and has appointed Michael Moore, former Scottish Secretary, as his adviser on European business. Moore will report by next summer on how businesses engage with the EU and the issues they face. We honestly can't wait.
Goldman Sachs has said it would move much of its European business out of London if Britain leaves the European Union.
Frankly, I cannot think of a better reason for leaving the European Union. No great loss
One of the absolutes in the minds of many who call themselves "eurosceptics" is the belief that the EU will go to any lengths to keep the UK in the Union, to the extent that they have even convinced themselves that Article 50 is a "trap" designed to prevent us from ever leaving.
However, a new poll, published in the Observer today (with more details here) indicates a certain lack of enthusiasm for Britain's continued membership, so much so that they may even be glad to see the back of us.
This comes from a "landmark survey" of more than 5,000 voters in the UK, Germany, France and Poland, carried out by Opinium for the Observer newspaper.
Amongst other things, the polling company finds that just 26 percent of British voters regard the EU as, overall, a "good thing" compared with 42 percent who say it is a "bad thing". In Poland 62 percent approve of the EU, and only 13 percent think it bad. Germany scores 55 percent good and 17 percent bad, and in France 36 percent go for good and 34 percent bad.
Significantly, though, when voters of the three mainland countries are asked about the UK's contribution to the EU, there is little enthusiasm for us, and little to suggest they will go out of their way to keep us in. Just nine percent of Germans and fifteen percent of French people think the UK is a positive influence on the EU. Even further east, the Poles can only muster 33 percent in support of the UK.
By contrast, when it comes to accommodating Mr Cameron's pretensions about renegotiating the treaties, only 16 percent of German and 26 percent of French respondents back the idea of a special deal being struck for the UK.
This brings us to the idea of Britain leaving the EU, a prospect that does not appear to worry our "partners" very much. Just 24 percent of French voters said a UK exit would have a negative effect, compared with 36 percent of Germans. Only the Poles could manage a small majority of 51 percent to say that we might be missed.
The findings lead the likes of former Tory foreign secretary Malcolm Rifkind and deputy prime minister Nick Clegg to call for an "urgent fightback" against spiralling "anti-European" sentiment, with Rifkind suggesting that there needed " … to be a serious debate about the real benefits of – as well as the real problems about – British membership of the EU". Without that, he reckons, "we could do serious damage to Britain's interests".
Clegg, on the other hand, declares that next year's euro-elections represent a key test and attacks "those intent on taking Britain out of the EU". He thus says, "Everybody knows the EU needs reform. But simply carping from the sidelines and flirting with exit undermines British leadership in the EU, fails to deliver reform and leaves Britain increasingly isolated".
Bizarrely, the man holds that the debate about Europe is no longer about who is for or against reform. "Everybody agrees on that", he says. "It is between those who believe we can lead in the EU and those who want to head for the exit". The Lib-Dems, he declares, will be the leading party of "in".
Obviously feeling the pressure, Clegg wants to challenge UKIP and large swaths of the Conservative party "who want to betray Britain's vital national interest by pulling us out of the world's largest borderless single market, on which millions of jobs depend".
As always, therefore, there is the attempt to elide EU membership with participation in the Single Market, with the usual dose of FUD about jobs. This is mirrored by Labour MP and former Europe minister Peter Hain. Predictably, he urges "pro-Europeans" to stand up and fight.
"This is a wake-up call for British pro-Europeans that Britain", says Hain, "especially if the Tories win the next election – is heading for an exit from the EU which would be an utter disaster for British jobs, prosperity and influence in the world". But, he then says, "it is equally a wake-up call for the Brussels Bubble, which is totally out of touch with Europe's citizens".
John Major has praised his successor for his current handling of the EU, but then tells him he must be "smart enough" not to make impossible demands in his renegotiation of Britain's EU membership terms following a Conservative general election victory. He should instead negotiate "with the grain of evolving views" in Europe.
This is according to the Guardian, reporting on him speaking at the Institute of Directors. But he goes on to say that "... the British position is far stronger than many believe – not least due to the significant personal alliances the prime minister has formed with his European counterparts – though the manner of our negotiation will be key".
Major also issued a stark warning of the dangers of leaving the EU. "The EU would be diminished. The UK would be isolated. I am no starry-eyed Europhile but it would be a lose/lose scenario: a truly dreadful outcome for everyone".
"Of course, we would survive, but there would be a severe price to pay in economic well-being, in jobs and in international prestige", he added, telling us that: "In a world of seven billion people, our island would be moving further apart from our closest and largest trading partners, at the very time when they, themselves, are drawing closer together. This makes no sense at all".
Britain would have to negotiate its exit which could cost billions, and then could find itself still having to pay for access to the single market.
Then we get to the FUD on Norway. As a non member, Major says, it pays 80 percent per capita of what the UK pays as a full member. "It would still be obliged to implement EU regulations but would be unable to defend the City, or any other sector, from harmful new legislation, while inward investment to the UK would fall away".
This pig ignorance is from the man who brought us Maastricht and, in forcing it through the Commons, all but wrecked the Conservative Party. And it is from that debacle that UKIP emerged, now to trouble his successor so grievously.
Thus to have praise from Mr Major, or even advice, is not necessarily a blessing. But the man, it seems, has some ambitions in taking a more role of making interventions that help Downing Street. If that intervention is "helpful", one can only assume the meaning of the word has been redefined.
As the immigration issue grips British politics, we are seeing several interesting phenomena, not least the intervention of Romania's Foreign Minister, Titus Corlatean.
He does not expect a "flood" of migrants from his country to come to Britain after 1 January and attacked the way the immigration debate had been conducted in the UK. He has thus called on Mr Cameron to reject "the xenophobic and populistic and once again sometimes racist attitudes which are promoted by some other British politicians".
Meanwhile, Downing Street has said the Government is still looking at what more action could be taken on benefits for immigrants. The Prime Minister's Official Spokesman says: "The Government is taking action. Of course we are looking at what more can be done".
Asked when the Prime Minister's thinking in this area would become clearer, he declined to provide any timescales. The spokesman was also asked what the Government's stance would be if the next steps contravened EU law. He would only say: "The Government acts within the law".
That is going to be the crunch issue. Within the framework of EU law as it stands, the Government has no scope for manoeuvre in tackling its own defined target issue of cutting benefit opportunities for migrants.
Thus, Mr Cameron can either reject EU law, and take the consequences – which would probably give him a short-term poll boost, or he can try a fudge, only to be ripped apart by the commentariat, probably taking a hit in the polls and possibly giving UKIP a boost.
There again, Mr Cameron could perhaps have a secret weapon up his sleeve, ready to unleash on the unsuspecting migrant population, solving for once and for all what has hitherto seemed an intractable problem.
Up to press though, we have had no news of Mr Cameron's consultation with the tooth fairy, but it is going to take something of that nature to pull this particular rabbit out of the hat. We wait in awe for the magic trick, to end all tricks. This is going to have to be pretty spectacular.
The last week or so, I've been getting stuck into writing our "Brexit" submission for the IEA. It is really hard going but, because it is a competition, and I'm determined to put up a good show, it would be unwise of me to reveal too much of our hand just yet.
The emphasis on writing, though, did not stop me picking up on last week's YouGov poll which put sentiment on leaving the EU on a par with staying in, representing the end point in a continuous, year-long decline in support for leaving.
Despite the importance of the news, it has been largely ignored by the legacy media and only now, five days after the event, does the Telegraph get round to publishing an analysis on the poll result – also published on the YouGov website.
Needless to say, Kellner, husband of Baroness Ashton, puts on his own spin, with his piece headlined in the Telegraph: "Britain is learning to put up with Europe". The hard reality of life on the outside is weakening the eurosceptic case, goes the sub-head. Britain doesn't like the European Union, but it's prepared to go along with it.
However, while that top-line spin may be highly debatable, that does not make either the poll or Kellner's more general conclusions wrong. The latest findings, he says, reflect a gradual shift in underlying sentiment (see graph below).
Last year, YouGov conducted twelve surveys in which it asked people whether they would vote to leave or stay in the EU. The gap between the two sides never dropped below ten points; on average, 48 percent said they wanted to leave the EU while 32 percent said they wanted to stay in.
The pattern this year has been different. Leaving aside the blip in opinion around the time of the Prime Minister's January speech, most of the YouGov surveys since February – and all since mid-August – have reported leads of less than ten points. Much of the shift has taken place among Conservative supporters. Most of them still want to leave the EU, but not by such massive margins as a few months ago.
Kellner reminds us that, since the beginning of this year, his polling company has regularly asked people about the consequences of leaving the EU. The results have shown no clear trend. Voters have been evenly divided on the economy, jobs and prosperity; few think Britain's influence in the world would increase if we left the EU. There, he avers. nothing in these figures to explain the narrowing of the gap since the summer.
On the other hand, if the hype on immigration
is to be taken at face value, we might expect opposition to the EU to be hardening around now, says Kellner.
We have found repeatedly, he says, that a huge source of resentment towards the EU is Britain's inability to keep out immigrants from other member states. The final, transitional, curbs on people settling her from Romania and Bulgaria end in January. This prospect has prompted many news stories and much debate in recent weeks.
The latest YouGov poll
for the Sunday Times
shows how much Britons dislike this state of affairs, with 70 percent wanting to end the right of EU citizens to come to Britain.
Only 31 percent of respondents accepted the argument put forward by some economists and business leaders that immigration in recent years has been good for Britain's prosperity; 57 percent think our economy, and not just social harmony, has suffered.
However, when YouGov
asked people what should be done about immigration from the EU, something curious happened. Says Kellner, we gave people three options – support continued free movement because there is nothing wrong with it; put up with it because we need to obey EU laws even though we don't like it; restrict the right of EU citizens to settle in Britain, even if this means breaking EU laws.
By far the biggest group, 42 percent, wanted Britian to break EU laws and change the rules; 22 percent were happy with the present system, while 20 percent thought we should put up with them even though we don't like them. So, while the present system was disliked by three-to-one, voters were evenly divided (42 percent each) on whether Britain should defy the EU or not.
Kellner thinks these findings provide a clue to the gradual shift in attitudes to EU membership. It has nothing to do, he asserts, with positive enthusiasm for the EU. This remains in short supply.
Today, he says, the question that the referendum debate implicitly poses is, not "do we love the EU? " but "should we put up with it?" He suspects the public mood has shifted not because the positive case for British membership has gained in appeal, but because, as the prospect grows of a referendum in the not-to-distant future, the dangers of departure loom larger in people's minds.
That would be the status quo
effect kicking in, and it's a bit early for that. Nevertheless. Kellner says it's not that more people than before think departure would, say, be bad for jobs, but that this issue influences voters more than it did when a referendum was a more distant prospect. The prose of economic calculation is beginning to count for more than the poetry of sovereign pride.
As a result, the man asserts that more of us think we must put up with the EU, despite its faults, rather than take the risks of leaving the club. Indeed, this is roughly the signal that Cameron and William Hague have been sending, as they make clearer than they have in the past that they want Britain to stay in the EU.
Kellner then at least has sufficient humility to qualify his findings with the phrase, "if this analysis is right, then both sides have clear challenges".
Opponents of the EU need to persuade people that (for example) the Confederation of British Industry is wrong, and that leaving the EU would actually be good for jobs and investment. Supporters of the EU need to persuade voters that there is a positive case for the benefits of membership, not merely a negative case for grudging acceptance that it is the less dangerous of two unattractive options.
The man is surely right when he says that "both sides have clear challenges", but his analysis is perhaps not as complete as it could be. Returning to the immigration issue, clearly a lot of people agree with the UKIP diagnosis – which the party mistakes for support – but they do not agree with its solutions, such that they are.
Tactically, I think Farage has got it wrong – badly wrong. People share common cause with UKIP about the effects of mass migration, but it is not the vote-winner he thinks it is.
As to the anti-EU sentiment, it may be that the result is a statistical blip, but it does follow the trend and accords with other polls. And that means UKIP is losing the argument. If anything, there is an inverse correlation between the support for UKIP and support for leaving the EU. With the modest increase in support for UKIP, we have seen a decline in the enthusiasm for leaving the EU.
Now, Kellner might interpret the slippage as meaning that more of us think we must put up with the EU, despite its faults. But there are plenty of other interpretations. Not least, as UKIP has reinvented itself as an all-purpose political party, it is gradually vacated the field when it comes to arguing the case for leaving the EU.
Moreover, it has consistently refused to offer a credible (or any) exit plan and it has been way behind the curve on the Article 50 debate. It press effort is abysmal, and it is not making any serious attempt to counter the FUD generated by the other side.
Contrary to Kellner's assertions, therefore, we could simply be seeing a reflection of the inadequacy of UKIP as a campaigning force. Having usurped the position as representing the anti-EU movement, it has actually walked away from the battle and is now losing the argument.
Although Mary Ellen Synon's views on the timing of Cameron's referendum were highly illuminating, very recently the prime minister was forced to concede that we would be looking for a "substantial re-writing" of the treaties before a referendum would be called.
That changes the calculus, making a treaty convention a requirement and adding years to the referendum timetable. Thus did I open my talk to the Bruges Group with an explanation of why a 2017 referendum is no longer a realistic proposition.
After next year' s euro-elections, the first task of the MEPs will be to approve a new Commission and it will not be until the end of the year that they will be in a position to organise a convention. Thus, we don't see that starting until, most likely, the spring of 2015 – the start almost coinciding with the start of the UK general election campaign.
From there, we cannot expect an IGC starting until early 2017 and not complete until the end of the year, with the signing the following year. Only then can the ratification process start and, under the UK "referendum lock" provisions under the European Union Act of 2011. And that will be a "yes-no" referendum.
The good news is that a treaty referendum will be easier to win, especially as the "colleagues" will be running the show and will insist on piling in new integration measures. And if that is in 2018, an "in-out" could follow soon after, but my best guess is that we're looking at some time after the 2020 general election.
At the best, therefore, we have eight of more years to prepare for the fight and, it was with this in mind that I devoted the next part of my talk to jam, ignorance and other things, in a lead up to taking the "Norway Option" and Article 50.
The "jam" story, of course, is the "Clippy" McKenna saga, the lady who found herself unable to label her apple-based jam as "jam" because the sugar content was too low. The crucial point was that "Clippy" had been caught by the Jam and Similar Products Regulations 2003, which implemented Council Directive 2001/113 EC.
It was that which allowed Vince Cable to bring an amendment of the Regulations into the ambit of his "Red Tape Challenge", promising to cut the "EU nonsense", while the media turned up the outrage over "barmy" EU regulations.
However, the Directive and the UK Regulations were actually implementing Codex alimentarius standard STAN 79-1981, which we would have implemented whether we were in or out of the EU. But the really interesting thing was that neither Vince Cable, George Eustice, the minister piloting the amendments, MPs nor the entire media corps showed any awareness of this additional layer of global governance.
Most technical food standards are now set not by the EU but by Codex Alimentarius, under the aegis of the Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO), part of the United Nations, based in Rome.
The trouble is that this top layer of government is virtually invisible. It hides in plain sight, obscure, dispersed and largely unknown. We met it when we were working on the "Norway Option" film, interviewing Bjorn Knudtsen, the chairman of the Codex Fish and Fisheries Product Committee.
With fisheries being a vital economic interest to Norway, it has ensured is plays an active role in the formulation of the rules covering the marketing of fish and fisheries products worldwide, not just in the EU/EEA area.
The way the system works is that there are dozens of international "standards setting" organisations which produce "soft law" (so called "diqules") which are handed down to member states such as China and the United States and, in our case, Regional Integration Organisations (RIOs) such as the EU.
If the international organisations are the "manufacturers", the EU becomes the "wholesaler and distributor", packaging and processing the laws for "retail" distribution to the Member States.
The point at issue, though, is that in the setting or "manufacture" of standards, Norway gets a greater say than the UK which, as part of the EU, gets one twenty-eighth of the EU vote, which acts on a "common position" agreed by consensus.
Thus, in our interview with Bjorn Knudtsen, as far as he was concerned, when it came to formulating food standards, Codex is the "top table". So, when David Cameron tells us we must be in the EU on order to stay at the top table, he is wrong.
But there is not one "top table". There are many, and they are not in Brussels. For instance, there is the FAO in Rome, UNECE in Geneva, the OECD in Paris, ICAO in Montreal, the BIS in Basel and the UNFCCC in Bonn.
Norway is, in fact, a supreme player at these "top tables", exercising huge influence on a global stage, equal with the EU. Thus, we don't need to be in the EU to enjoy such influence. On the contrary, leaving the EU would, for us, represent a massive restoration of influence, putting us on an equal footing with the EU.
Everything we have been told by David Cameron and others about the need to stay in the EU is the opposite of the truth. Getting out of the EU would improve our position immeasurably.
The question, therefore, is not whether we should leave but how, and the answer is Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. And here, we really need to get past the opposition to its use.
We need to recognise that the Article does not create the right of a Member State to leave. It simply recognises the Vienna Convention right, setting a negotiating framework and obliging the remaining Member States to negotiate. And the treaty break can occur at any time an agreement is reached, but the default position is automatic exit after two years, in the absence of an agreement.
However, to unravel decades of integration, it is most likely that negotiations would take a lot longer than two years, so the best idea is to use EFTA/EEA membership as a halfway house. That protects the Single Market, it offers stability and predictability and it reduces the impact of FUD, countering the status quo effect, making a referendum more winnable.
But, by then distancing ourselves from the EU, the "double coffin lid" of global government is revealed. With that, we have to go back to Churchill's 1948 vision of a hierarchical structure of global governance. As constituted, the ramshackle system that has emerged lacks visibility, accountability and any element of democracy.
Fixing that is a very necessary part of creating a post-EU settlement and we need to open up a debate on where we are going in our post-EU world. Therein lies our ultimate freedom from the European Union.
"Britain's European Union exit is looking more like a mirage", reads a Telegraph headline on a piece by Sue Cameron. It makes for an entertaining read, if for no other reason than to illustrate how far behind the curve the legacy media is on this issue.
Cameron starts with reminding us of an event I couldn't even be bothered to record - John Major predicting that the public will vote to stay in the EU. He may well be proved right opines Cameron, which gives her the launchpad to rehearse issues discussed on this blog so many times that we have lost count of them.
The thesis we are treated to is that the "colleagues" will not allow the British a treaty for the purpose of renegotiating our relationship with Brussels. Therefore, David Cameron will have to do a Wilson and stage a faux negotiation. And, given the willingness of the British public to be fooled, Sue Cameron, they will vote yes to whatever they are offered.
In support of her thesis, Sue Cameron tells us something I didn't know. During the 1975 referendum campaign, a young journalist called Peter Kellner, now president of YouGov, uncovered a secret Labour Party analysis showing that Wilson's claims about renegotiating a new deal for Britain were fatuous.
The story was splashed in the Sunday Times, she says, but it made no difference to the outcome, thereby giving the lie to the fact that we did not know that the negotiations were fudged.
As far as it goes, the Sue Cameron thesis is sound, but it is also hopelessly incomplete. For sure, there is no question of there being an IGC set up specifically to allow the British to unravel the treaties. But, where she goes so wrong is that there is still going to be an IGC. But before that there is going to be a treaty convention.
We know this because, amongst other things, the European Commission has said so. We also know that this must be. The project is incomplete and it must go on to completion. There will be another treaty.
And, for reasons we have already discussed so many times, the process cannot be complete in time for the British to have a 2017 referendum. And, when the time comes for a referendum, as it must, the question will not be "in-out?" but "yes-no?". That alone will make the event very different from the 1975 referendum, and it will be eminently winnable. Unlike 1975, the status quo effect will be in our favour.
Sue Cameron posits that the best hope for "eurosceptics" is that Ed Miliband squeaks in at the next election, calls a referendum where he half-heartedly leads a "yes" campaign – and loses. It would certainly help us to have Ed Milband in place, and it would indeed be a "yes" campaign that he would lead – "yes" to a treaty. Sue Cameron is getting a little confused.
Again as we have discussed so many times before, a "no" vote to a new treaty would put us in the "exit lounge" and set us up for the next referendum, the real thing. That one, despite John Major's prediction, we actually have a good chance of winning, because we will already be halfway there.
Just how long it will take the legacy media to catch up with this scenario is anyone's guess, but they are really taking their time. When they do, of course, they will be full of themselves for their cleverness in "discovering" what we have known for so long, but that's the way they work. Nevertheless, it will be nice to have them on board when they finally catch up.
With this year's Conservative Party conference upon us, we see the BBC's Andrew Marr joining the throng of busy commentators who are asking how Mr Cameron will be dealing with "the threat of UKIP" and the bigger problem of "Europe".
Under the Marr spotlight, the prime minister decides to focus on the EU referendum, telling us that the only way we are going to get one is if he is put back in No 10 Downing Street, so that he can "deliver on his promise". Voting for UKIP isn't going to do that.
Marr points out that UKIP members actually want to get out of the EU. This triggers an exchange that has Cameron declaring that his goal is "to renegotiate our relationship with Europe". As the exchange develops, we see assertions made which have a profound impact on the shape of events to come and, in particular, the timing of any referendum.
Setting the scene. Mr Cameron launches into a tirade of dismissive rhetoric, which shows how he might be playing the "game" in the months to come. Referring to his renegotiation, he tells Marr: "People have said to me, this is all impossible, you're not going to be able to do it".
Then he launches into a box-ticking exercise that could almost be said to be truculent. "They also said, you can't cut the European budget. I have cut it. They also said you can't veto a European treaty. I did veto a European treaty. They said you'll never get out of the bailout mechanism. We got our of the bailout mechanism".
Actually, so far as the 2013 budget goes, we've seen a humiliating increase, with more to come. And, as regards the multi-annual period starting in 2014, that allows a notional reduction but also incorporates changes to the payment structure and also allows for reviews which will end up with us paying more.
As for his treaty "veto", there simply was no veto. It was a phantom veto which never existed. And then, people have never said that he Cameron could not veto a treaty – of course he can. But there was in the instance claimed, no treaty to veto, so there cannot have been a veto.
Not does the baillout mechanism offer Mr Cameron any comfort – this is a straw man argument. No one ever said that the UK could not end the commitment made by Gordon Brown, when the EU terminated its temporary European Financial Stability Facility and created the permanent rescue mechanism, the European Stability Mechanism. It needed to be done, and was done. But it does not end UK involvement in bailouts though the IMF and the Balance of Payment Facility.
Clearly, therefore, Cameron is living in his own fantasy construct. Logic is not his strong point. Having done all these amazing things, there can be no possible barrier to him doing yet another such thing.
Andrew Marr, to give him some credit, is unimpressed by these amazing things. He has been interjecting to ask Mr Cameron how "radical" he intends the renegotiation to be, and he returns to the subject. "Does it mean, for instance, ending the free movement of peoples", he asks.
Cameron responds by telling Marr there are two elements to the renegotiation. In the first instance, he wants to be focusing on "changing the European Union as a whole, because it's become too anti-competitive, too anti-enterprise, too bureaucratic. It needs to change if we're gonna compete in this modern, global world".
Nothing is offered has to how he intends to achieve this miracle, before he moves on to the next miracle: "changing Britain's relationship with this organisation".
To award the European Union the anodyne label of "organisation" is an interesting choice. If he Mr Cameron called it what it is, the supreme government of the UK (and the other member states), changing the relationship might look a little daunting. But, this is a lot easier.
As to the detail, Mr Cameron is keen to offer an example, the phrase "seeking an ever-closer union". That is not what the British people want. That's not what I want, he says.
Marr immediately asks whether Cameron intends to take the offensive phrase "out of the treaty", to which we don't get straight answer. "Other people can sign up to an ever-closer union. Other countries can, but Britain should not be in an ever-closer union and I'm determined to make sure we get out of that", Cameron says.
Now we come to the crunch point. "To get out of that would mean a full treaty renegotiation because it is at the heart of the treaty that we have signed at the moment", Marr observes. It isn't as simple as that because, if we take Cameron's objective at face value, he is suggesting that he is after a treaty change specific to the UK. That seems hardly likely.
Either way, though, Cameron is conceding that there has to be a treaty renegotiation. Furthermore, he is "convinced" one has to happen. "I became prime minister three years ago", says Cameron, reverting to his earlier formula: "People said there won't be any treaty renegotiations. I think we've already had three", he says.
Technically, that might be right but these would be minor and incidental changes. Marr asks if his treaty changes will mean a substantial re-writing of our relationship with the rest of the EU. "Yes", says Cameron, before Marr move on to talk about the Human Rights Act, letting the prime minister off the hook.
But Cameron has already let the cat out of the bag; he is going for a treaty renegotiation. We've been here before, but this is the first time I recall Mr Cameron agreeing that a "substantial re-writing" is involved.
For him, there is now no escape: a treaty convention is inevitable. This will take two years from inception to final report and the launch of an IGC, at which Mr Cameron will make his pitch. As we have discussed earlier, this shifts the outcome to 2018-2019. The timetable for a 2017 referendum simply falls apart. It cannot be.
Something has to give. Either Mr Cameron is lying about a treaty. He is just going through the motions, and does not want a full-scale renegotiation, hoping that a fudge will be sufficient to get him his preferred referendum answer. Alternatively - as he now claims - he is going for broke. And in that case, he just cannot have his referendum on schedule.
Andrew Marr clearly did not realise it but, had he understood the implications of what he had been told, he would have had a scoop on his hands.
Courtesy of The Boiling Frog and Sean O'Hare on our forum, we see that Nigel Farage has accepted the validity of Article 50, acknowledging that it is "the law of the land" (1st question in on the above video). This was during the conference Q&A session, when he was asked if he believed that there could be an amicable rather then acrimonious divorce with the EU. Confronted with this, he told his audience:
The one problem is this, that under the current treaties, under the Lisbon treaty, the only mechanism by which we can withdraw is Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty. Now Article 50 can be cited to renegotiate a relationship or to lead through to a divorce that takes two years.
It is the case, of course, that if the "colleagues" failed to negotiate in good faith, the Vienna Convention on the law of treaties could be invoked, so Mr Farage's caveat is perfectly in accord with international law.
I have difficulty myself in recognising the legitimacy of Article 50 because its part of a treaty that should have been put to a referendum but was actually bullied through by parliament. So I have a little difficulty, nevertheless I have to accept that it is the law of the land.
I would say this, if legally what we have to do is to enter into full divorce proceedings, by using the legal Article of that treaty, we will do so in an open and amicable spirit.
But if we find during the course of that time, that frankly we are being had over a barrel, and having the Mickey taken out of us and not being treated fairly then at that point we would have to declare UDI and say to hell with Article 50. Then it would not be amicable. So I accept that there are circumstances under which it would not be amicable, but it would be our intent that we want it to be amicable.
This statement by Farage thus represents a major turnround for UKIP, a victory for the "Northists" and a complete rout for the "trappists" and other naysayers, not least Prof. Stephen Bush, Rodney Atkison, Gerald Batten, Tim Congdon, Ashley Mote, Idris Francis and Torquil Dick-Erikson. But it also reflects the strong support for the idea of using Article 50 from Christopher Booker, who has referred to it many times in his column, including here, here, here and here.
Generously, Autonomous Mind pays tribute to this blog, which has referenced the Article over 200 times, but he should not neglect his own substantial role, and we are both very conscious of the huge contribution of The Boiling Frog and the continuous support from Witterings from Witney. We even saw Helen Szamuely pile into the fray and, of course, a film is in the making.
Had we had a halfway sensible media, it too would have picked up the Article 50 theme and run with it. But while it was explored by the Commons Library, and recognised by the IEA and the Bruges Group, with a reference from the Foreign Affairs Committee and William Hague, there has been no significant media attention outside the Booker column.
Therefore, the pivotal nature of this turnround will be unappreciated by the legacy media. That, however, in no way diminishes it. So many important things that happen these days, the media scarcely notices. We should take nothing from the silence.
From now though, we can put to bed the "magic wand" approach to leaving the EU, and thereby deprive the enemy of a major FUD opportunity. We can thus take some comfort that, despite the UKIP conference train wreck, something of substance has been achieved.
It is a measure, perhaps, of the state of play in the Brexit debate that while Tony Blair extols the virtues of staying in, UKIP leader Nigel Farage goes public on HS2, branding it a "ludicrous vanity project".
The term "vanity project" has been a important part of the Farage toolkit when attacking the EU and its works, so it is rather appropriate that the UKIP leader should now use it to mark his transition from anti-EU campaigner to all-purpose politician.
That transition, noted by us last Saturday has been picked up by Autonomous Mind, who has been consulting his own high-level sources within UKIP. They, it seems, readily confirm that which has long been evident – that Farage is reinventing his own "vanity project", converting it into a dustbin for the Middle England protest vote.
Fortunately for us, the europhiles have Tony Blair on their side and to judge from the comments on his piece in the Evening Standard, the less he has to say on the EU (and anything else for that matter), the better it would be for his cause.
Even within its own terms, Blair's argument seems incoherent. At one, he concedes that the European Union is the world's largest economic market and biggest political union and then argues that we should stay in it for economic reasons. It is "not actually about big power politics", he asserts.
This, of course, is from a former prime minister whose government took us to the brink of economic collapse, a man who brought WMD to its degree of prominence in the English language and who so misjudged the situation in southern Iraq, liberated by British troops, that we had to suffer six years of insurgency and abject military failure.
What comes over very clearly now is that the man's judgement has not improved in the slightest, not that this matters to him. This is a man with a mission and any lie will do. Thus he pours water on the idea that other EU members are going "blithely" to agree to us remaining members of the Single Market after leaving the EU. This, he tells us, "betrays an ignorance of the political pressures of other member states that is frightening".
What is really frightening though is the idea that Britain can be a member of the Single Market without being in the EU. Blair thus has to play down the "Norway option", where EFTA membership gives the country access to the Single Market, via the EEA, without being a member of the EU. This is too dangerous even to mention.
Instead, the former prime minister seeks to present the "eurosceptic argument" through his own personal filter. It is, he says, based on two "delusions". The first, he says, is that European integration will not work, and the second is that that, even if it does, Britain will not want to be part of it.
The ploy, however, is transparent. Blair is trying to position the EU as an argument about economics, but he is also having to deal with anti-EU campaigners who frame their opposition in terms of politics. His response reveals the real Blair.
Britain cannot at present conceive that it would want to be part of any integrated Europe of the future, he tells us. "But in a world in which countries are coming together in regional blocs because they know they need the security of a bigger unit as the vast powers of the East rise, we would be foolish to say 'never'".
That is the globalist speaking, and that is what Blair really wants. Readers of my piece yesterday will have seen the chart on world governance, referring to the EU, ASEAN, NAFTA, MERCOSUR, and SADEC. People like Blair want the world organised in a nice, near hierarchy, with the UN at the top, regional blocs at the next level and then the nation states at the bottom. Individual states should not have seats at the top tables.
The only thing is that this agenda is never openly declared, leaving FUD as the basic tactical weapon. The Blairites want to keep us focused on the economics so that they can frighten us with stories about impending economic doom. But the issue really is about power, so that is the last thing they want to talk about. Blair's economic emphasis is really cover for his global ambitions.
Then, just as the debate gets really interesting and important, and the real issues begin to emerge, the leader of the largest anti-EU faction in the UK departs the field to complain about HS2. If I was a europhile, I could hardly begin to believe my luck.
Following his intervention in January, when he was calling for the UK to remain part of the EU, but on renegotiated terms, Lord (Simon) Wolfson is back in the fray. This time he is working up a case for the Evening Standard, in preparation for the coming debate on 9 September.
We must radically reform the EU or prepare to leave it, says the headline under which writes the noble shopkeeper – he of the retailer Next. The legend is that Britain benefits hugely from the Single Market but we need to halt Europe's rush towards a federal state.
This is total garbage – totally total. The European Union is never going to give up its "rush towards a federal state", which means that Wolfson should be heading us towards the exit.
But this time, he is adding layers to his argument, asserting that "the debate about Britain's place in Europe is in danger of being hijacked by two dangerous extremes". On the one hand, there are "those who argue that we should pull out, regardless of the economic consequences". Those are "needlessly reckless".
But there are also, "those who say we must simply accept the EU's ever-increasing political and economic costs". Those are "just as bad, if not worse".
The slyness of this is not immediate apparent, but what the man is doing is framing the debate – artificially constraining the argument and pointing us in the direction he wants us to go. At this time, he says, the debate should not just be about "in" or "out". Instead, he tells us, "our politicians should be fighting for a better European settlement, a looser Europe based on free trade — an EU most of us would want to remain within".
The point here is that the debate isn't just about "in" or "out". It should also be about how
we get out, and under what terms. But Wolfson wants us focused on what he defines as "the heart of this debate" - his heart. This is " the enormous trading benefits the EU brings to the UK". If we left, says Wolfson, "British goods could be more than 10 percent more expensive to European customers. This blow to our competitiveness would damage exports and jobs would be lost — the EU accounts for nearly half our foreign trade".
Now, this simply doesn't follow. It only becomes true if we adopt the "needlessly reckless" option of pulling out "regardless of the economic consequences". If we sought EFTA/EEA membership and retained our membership of the Single Market, there would be no blow to our competitiveness and no jobs would be lost. Wolfson is creating a straw man of his very own.
But the man is nothing if not sly. Having so carefully constructed his straw man, he further distorts the argument, by creating yet another. Ignoring completely the EFTA/EEA "Norway" option, he graciously concedes that we could "mitigate some of the damage if we were able to negotiate free-trade agreements in place of full EU membership".
This, though, is damage that Wolfson wilfully embraces by setting aside an option that would completely remove it. Instead, he offers us the sop of a partial answer, but only so that he can knock it down.
These (free-trade) arrangements allow the two-way flow of goods between trading blocks, unencumbered by import duties, says Wolfson. Europe is a net exporter to the UK and such arrangements would be in their interests. So scare stories about losing three million jobs wildly exaggerate the threat.
And now comes the downside. "Nonetheless, exiting the EU would still come at a price. Our current membership gives us a vote on rules governing the entire European market. Without a say on these we would find our EU trade subject to damaging regulation over which we had no control".
Without saying so directly, this is the "fax law" meme – in spades. The man does not even attempt to cosy up to the truth. Not for him, losing influence. This is a "no control" scenario, worthy of the very best the BBC has to offer
- a naked, unadorned lie.
The lie isn't enough for the shopkeeper, though. "And while free-trade agreements might well help manufactured exports", he says, "they would not help the City and our other service industries".
So does he ladle on the hurt. "London’s pre-eminence in European financial services is deeply resented by its Continental competitors. Those suspicious of 'Anglo-Saxon' finance would quickly regulate to lock us out of their markets — our most valuable industry could suffer a crippling blow, one which would affect the entire country's prosperity".
This is pure FUD. But it would not happen, not with a careful Art 50 negotiation, membership of EFTA/EEA and rigorous application of WTO agreements. Add Basel III common standards, and the impact of our departure on the City would be minimal.
But still our man isn't finished. Remember that he has eschewed the Norway option. Now he lays on the FUD, highlighting problems that would not exist if we adopted the Norway option. This is dishonesty in spades.
Says Wolfson: "Our ability to move freely within Europe’s borders and our access to affordable European imports is enormously beneficial to UK consumers. Reduced access to the Single Market would push up prices and limit choice in our shops. Protectionism, that absurd but seductive belief that the restraint of foreign goods can make us richer, is a sure-fire road to ruin".
You can see why the likes of Wolfson so desperately need to ignore the Norway option – why they need to push the "no control" meme. Take those two crutches away and their arguments fall apart.
But, with the FUD in place, Wolfson allows us a brief glimpse of a vision of hell. "Yet whatever the EU's economic advantages, we must not allow ourselves to sleepwalk into a federal Europe", he says. And then pretending to be a good guy, he "despairs" of those who talk of preserving our "influence" by not rocking the boat. These terrible people are "plainly weak".
And now comes the message from the sponsor. "Europe desperately needs reform, and it will not happen without a little boat-rocking", he says.
Thus, the tortuous and almost certainly unsuccessful process of reform, which will require an IGC and the unanimous agreement of all 28 member states, is reduced to a "little boat rocking". Who could possibly object to that? It is so easy when you protect the truth with a bodyguard of lies.
"Without reform Europe will continue to become more bureaucratic, less democratic, less efficient, and much more expensive", Wolfson goes on to say. The implied "promise" is that with "reform", Europe will miraculously become less bureaucratic, more democratic, more efficient and much, much cheaper.
Wolfson, though, is nothing if not clever. He knows he needs some "dog whistle" issues to throw to the anti-EU brigade. "The EU debate is not, and should not be, just about money", he declares. "It is also about liberty".
In a litany that could come from the lips of Farage himself, we are told that, "The EU is not a democracy. Most power resides in the unelected Commission and part-time Council Of Ministers. The political aspirations, cultures and economies of Europe are simply too diverse to be governed centrally". So, says Wolfson, "if the EU continues its march towards federal government, it will become Big Government of the worst kind: out-of-touch, divided, profligate, and tyrannical".
All that is going to change if Wolfson has his way. But change is always implied, never promised overtly. If it was an up-front promise, Wolfson would have to tell us how it would be brought about. But because it is not overt, the impossibility of the task is not evident. And it is shrouded with platitudes.
"The task at hand is great", says the man, in a script that could have been written by Peter Sellers. "If we are to succeed in changing Europe we must do much more than negotiate the odd concession and rebate. We must re-define Europe's central mission".
"In place of the deeply undesirable goal of ever-increasing political union, the EU must have a new simple, clear objective: free trade — the unimpeded movement of goods, services, capital and people. Only once we have redefined the EU's purpose can we hope to roll back damaging regulation and cripplingly high costs".
This is BS. No one should be able to say with a straight face: "once we have redefined the EU's purpose". It simply isn't going to happen – not Wolfson nor anyone else can tell us how it is going to happen. Not anyone in mainstream EU politics is going to accept that the EU's purpose needs redefining, or will be redefined.
Yet here is the Evening Standard
allowing a man to indulge in unrestrained fantasy. Promising a moon made of green cheese would be just as unrealistic. But this man even has the nerve to say that, "the process of change has begun". It hasn't. Change requires an IGC. This is all or nothing: IGC or bust – and it's going to be a bust.
Without admitting that, Wolfson tells us the decision, whether to stay in the EU or chart our own course outside, "is finely balanced". Says our man, "If the EU cannot change, and will not temper its headlong rush to an expensive, unwieldy federal state, then we should leave".
Yet there is no "balance", fine or otherwise. The rush to the "federal state" is the very object of the EU. We should leave. But Wolfson will not allow that: "we are not at that stage yet", he says. Evidently, more fantasy Europe is needed: "The British Government has the chance to make a difference. It should take heart from the fact that, if successful, it will be laying the foundations of a better Europe, not just for the UK but for all its peoples".
And so, with that final dash of fantasy, we get the peroration: "Ministers must be clear in their thinking and bold in their demands". What is it about these hard-headed businessmen that turns their brains to jelly when they confronted with the EU? And how can Ministers be clear in their thinking, when Wolfson can't think straight?
Six days after I broached the subject of the role of "social media" in the defeat if Mr Cameron's Syria motion, Sue Cameron in the Daily Telegraph is addressing the same issues.
Predictably, though, her focus is on the reaction of politicians, with her telling us that the Coalition's defeat over plans for military action has underlined as never before the voters' distrust of the elite. "It is changing the balance of power in Parliament", she writes, "showing the extent to which ordinary people can use social media to bring their will to bear on MPs, prime ministers and presidents".
This is, in fact, an extremely limited perspective, because, as I wrote nearly a week ago, social media, and not forgetting humble e-mail circulation, is by-passing the self-appointed "opinion makers". I noted that people now had the mechanisms to discuss developments and share their opinions without relying on direct intervention from traditional media.
What this amounts to is that the selection monopoly of the legacy media has been broken – the chatterati now has to compete like the rest of us to get its views heard.
"The implications are huge", Sue Cameron writes, adding that the "politicians are only just beginning to comprehend the change". But, if the politicians are at least waking up to the phenomenon – and some are – the same cannot be said of the legacy media. There is no indication in Sue Cameron's article that she understands that her industry's monopoly is broken – or is being broken.
We saw something of the incomprehension in the howls of rage over the weekend from establishment commentators, partly recorded by Autonomous Mind, who noted the reaction of Andrew Roberts, complaining that "Hideously amoral Little England has stepped through the looking glass", and the hissy fit thrown by Malcome Rifkind.
Then there was that extraordinary outburst from Matthew d'Ancona
on Sunday, who dismissed the Commons vote as: "A nauseating, preening and grubby carnival of inaction".
But if these people don't have the first idea of what is happening to them, we can take heart. For, while they preen and clatter, their voices are less influential than they have ever been. Not for nothing have I stopped calling their trade, the Mainstream Media (MSM). That accords them too much weight and authority – they are the minority opinion: "legacy media" is a far better description.
What we can learn from this, though, is not at all clear. For sure, when there is a relatively straightforward message that the public wants to communicate to its representatives, the "social media" works. And when we want to challenge the legacy media, as The Boiling Frog
shows, even twitter has its uses.
An EU referendum, though, is a different matter. There, we are not so much trying to communicate with a limited number – the many talking to the few – so much as trying to convince each other. And we won't have the media to ourselves. There will be strong competition from the europhiles. They have the advantage in the simplicity and directness of their messages, which relies almost entirely on FUD. – a genre ideally suited to the social media.
This should underline to us that there are two elements to communication – the message and the medium. We have the opportunity of fighting a referendum campaign, in which the legacy media monopoly is broken, but that will be of little avail if we cannot get our message right. This is why I've expended so much energy on the Batten nonsense
, but there is still a long way to go.
In the forum
, I write of talk of "illegal treaties" and "traitors" being a turn-off for a great swathe of the population. The essential thing, I write, is to determine what message the unconverted will respond to. Preaching to the converted, with a message they (or some of them) want to hear, can drive away the people we need to win a referendum.
Thus, while we can rejoice in the prospect of being able to reach a wider constituency through the "new media" (a term which I prefer to "social media"), we still have to craft our message. And that is going to be the harder part of our task.
All of a sudden, the Evening Standard is running a FUD story, telling us that the bosses of investment bank Goldman Sachs are warning that European banks will relocate onto the Continent from London "in very short order" if Britain exits the European Union.
Michael Sherwood and Richard Gnodde, the co-chief executives of Goldman Sachs International, say they would have to make plans to relocate swathes of staff from the capital so they could maintain their access to the European economy.
This, of course, is from a bank that maintains a strong presence in Switzerland, which just happens to be outside the European Union. It even went so far as to open up a Geneva branch in the spring of 2001, in addition to its Zurich head office, to service clients from Latin America, the Middle East and Southern Europe – which just happens to include EU member states.
In other words, this is corporate BS, but the proximate cause is that the Standard is running a major debate on the motion, "The City in Europe: Will it prosper if Britain leaves the EU? ", and it wants to attract publicity for this FUD-fest.
The members of the panel are: Business Secretary Vince Cable, jail bird Vicky Pryce, captain of industry Sir Martin Sorrell, entrepreneur Luke Johnson, Tory backbencher and author Jesse Norman and German-born Labour MP Gisela Stuart. The debate is being held in partnership with the City of London and the Centre for London and is sponsored by GVA, will be chaired by the BBC's Jon Sopel with an introduction from the Lord Mayor of London.
Not to be left out, though, Reuters has joined in the fun (extract, top), recruiting Roger Gifford, the Lord Mayor of London, to spread the message of fear.
"There is a risk that those foreign exchange desks would move, and that might apply as much to JP Morgan or Citigroup as it does to Deutsche, and equally for all the expertise that is there for project finance, structured finance, commodity dealing and the legal side which is so strong here", says Roger Gifford.
"If the UK was not in the European Union and there was some rift with Germany I cannot see why the German authorities would not be suggesting to the management of Deutsche Bank that they should have their primary operations particularly for foreign exchange back in Germany rather than London", he adds.
Then we see the propaganda line emerge. Gifford, who heads up the British operations of Swedish bank Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken, says it was mistaken to believe Britain could operate alone outside the single market. In a patronising comment, he tells us, "There is a different reality today - let's not be silly", adding that at least 90 percent of the major financial institutions in London wanted Britain to stay inside the EU.
But here we go again. Despite "Brexit", it is quite possible to negotiate a settlement that keeps Britain in the Single Market, for the time being – unless the ECA loons get their way. So, the FUD only works if you go for the nuclear option and pretend that there is no better way of organising an exit.
Its funny really, how the extreme "outers" with their ECA repeal meme seem to be working in concert with the europhile tendency, doing everything they can do maximise the FUD quotient. But all it takes is Art 50 and the London FUD comes falling down. But don't tell Gerald Batten. He gets terribly miffed.
I know a lot of readers think I should never criticise Nigel Farage. Others think I have disqualified myself as a commentator because I have an axe to grind.
However, given the amount of work I am putting into the putative EU referendum campaign, I think I'm entitled to comment on any other player who is also in the game. And this one is telling Public Service Europe that a defeat in the 2017 referendum would be a personal end of the road.
"No free country ever willingly gives up the right to govern itself, and the independence argument won't die, but it will have been put back for a long time," Farage adds, but "If we reach that point in 2017, I will have been doing this a long time and if I haven't succeeded then I haven't succeeded".
That said, he then goes on to tell us: "I genuinely think that a referendum on this subject would be just like the debate on whether we should join the euro. The more air and the more publicity it gets, the more likely it would be that our side of the argument would win".
From that several points emerge. Why is it necessary for Farage to concede a point to Mr Cameron on the referendum, when there is not going to be a poll in 2017. Why does he thus have to undermine other commentators, who say there will not be a referendum?
True, in the main interview, he is asked to imagine there is a referendum in 2017, "as farfetched as it might seem at the moment", but that is simply an avoidable trap. Farage has been around long enough to know that one should never concede the ground to the enemy. There is not going to be a referendum in 2017.
Then, why also does he have to undermine those who say the greatest problem in fighting a referendum will be the status quo effect. Given the volume of FUD being thrown about, why cannot Farage concede that, on current form, the more air and the more publicity the EU referendum gets, the greater will be the danger that we lose when we finally do have a referendum?
Thus, it would be so nice if tables were reversed, and Farage was asked to note that there were other players in the field. It would also be nice if his supporters occasionally recognised that, when he made tactically dyslexic comments, he should take a bit of stick .
And nor is this an academic issue. Hugo van Randwyck, a Bruges Group supporter, notes in the comments that UKIP could get even more votes if it offered an incremental approach in referendums.
Noting the recent opinion poll which showed 71 per cent of those who expressed an opinion, preferring the EFTA/EEA option for staying in the Single Market, he compares that with the 48 to 52 percent in favour of leaving.
Farage does't own this campaign and he is incapable of fighting it effectively, the very least he could do is not undermine the other players – especially as it looks as if he is preparing to bail out. If we're going to have to clean up his mess after him, we could use a little help. COMMENT THREAD