Log in

 EU exit: the Paterson speech

000a Times-024 Paterson.jpg

The actual speech text is here, delivered at 11am this moning. It is reviewed in The Times, in the Telegraph, the BBC, the New Statesman and elsewhere (140 reports and counting).

The essence of speech is that, instead of pussy-footing around, Cameron should cut to the chase and commit to invoking Article 50 the moment a Conservative government takes office after the election. With an electoral mandate, there is no need for a referendum.

Negotiations on a exit settlement should then proceed, using the "Norway option" as the base, involving joining EFTA and adopting the EEA agreement. Additionally, the entire EU body of law should be repatriated, to ensure legislative continuity, allowing for selective repeal and amendment as appropriate and necessary.

The loss of influence in leaving the EU is more than made up for by the restoration of our standing in international organisations such as Codex, UNECE, OECD, and many others, where we would be negotiating in our own right, determining standards which, under WTO rules, the EU is obliged to adopt.

In this, there would be no "fax democracy" as such. We would be sending laws down to Brussels – not the other way around.

The issue of "freedom of movement" is dealt with by dropping out of the ECHR and the EU treaties, so that we would only be obliged to grant freedom to workers, and not their dependents unless we chose to do so – plus restoring the ability to deport illegal immigrants.

Also, there would be continued measures to address "push" and "pull" factors, making the UK unattractive for unskilled migrants seeking low-paid work

However, Paterson reminds us that it took 40 years to progress to this stage of integration and we are not going to resolve all the issues in one stage. For the longer term, therefore, he argues that we would need to progress from the EEA to ensure a genuine Europe-wide Single Market, working on a truly intergovernmental basis.

One possible alternative, he suggests, is to strengthen the regional UNECE, so that it can administer the Single Market as an economic project rather than a political construct. Using that body, we would be able to negotiating directly across the board, cutting out the EU as the middle man, and substantially enhance the transparency of the system.

With a more durable European solution in place, we would be better able to promote our economic interests and we would also be able to take a lead in revitalising international trade. Free from the EU, says Paterson, we would have real influence on shaping the global regulatory models where true power lies.

The UK would have a key role in building transparency with enormous benefits to tackling organised crime, such as human trafficking, addressing issues of migration constructively.

In conclusion, Paterson adds, the Eurozone has already embarked upon a path that we can never follow. We are simply recognising that reality. We must either be fully committed to "Le Projet" or we must build an entirely new relationship.

The British people must be allowed to make that decision. Article 50 is the best method of making this happen. By this means we would forge ahead and resume our rightful place as a global leader. With our own independent status, working closely with our many allies, we would massively increase our influence.

As Churchill said, "We have our own dream and our own task. We are with Europe but not of it. We are linked but not comprised. We are interested and associated but not absorbed". He was right then and he is right now. Get this message across and the UK has a spectacular future as a flourishing world power.

Richard North 24/11/2014

 EU politics: the lies of Mr Maier

000a Telegraph-017 Siemens.jpg

When confronting our so-called "captains of industry" speaking about the merits or otherwise of the European Union, we have to deal with the possibility that many of them are either rather ignorant, or they think we are and are lying through their teeth to us.

We got this with Stephen Odell, CEO of Ford Europe. In July last year, he was bitching about EU regulation, apparently oblivious to the fact that most of the regulation affecting his sector came not from the EU but from the World Forum on Vehicle Harmonisation, hosted by UNECE.

Nevertheless, the Europhiles and the EU-supporting media keep trotting out such people, but whether it is Open Europe, the CER or the CBI, it is always a similar message based on the same profound misrepresentation of reality.

This time, though, it is the Telegraph, giving space to Juergen Maier, chief executive of Siemens UK and advisory board member of Business for New Europe. It is he, representing a company not known for its probity - a company that had to hire a firm of lawyers to investigate its own the web of corruption - who is stepping up to the plate with the usual diet of tosh, half-truths and downright lies.

As always with these people, he fails to make the distinction between EU and EEA membership, thus asserting that there is "a pretty wide consensus in business … such as the belief that the EU delivers very significant value to the UK economy".

This, however, is just one building block in what is quite evidently developing into a political argument, for Mr Maier goes on to concede that this EU "does not work as well as it could and needs to be reformed".

Then, with a degree of understatement normally reserved for the British, he introduced a note of pretend balance, telling us that, "there is some disagreement over how that reform is to be achieved, with one school of thought advocating a referendum".

That referendum, he says, "may or may not happen, at a date yet to be decided upon, with a choice between two unknown options". And this, the poor darling bleats, "is profoundly worrying for business leaders".

The "worried" Mr Maier then sits back and observes that the EU "will certainly change over the next few years", and then complains that "we have not been provided with any details at all about what our relationship with our largest market would be in the event of an 'out' vote".

The thing is, a company the size of Siemens, with its huge resources – a £3.6bn turnover and 14,000 employees in the UK – could very easily make some informed guesses. But that isn't Mr Maier's game. He wants to bitch about "uncertainty".

As we blink back the tears over the plight of this poor man, we are assailed by concern for his beleaguered "business persons". These poor people need "... to know what conditions they will have to operate in". As if this was the unique prerogative of these precious persons, he then tells us, "Businesses need clarity". 

For all that, Mr Maier offers a little bit of sense – in a limited way. "The benefits of remaining in the EU are often overlooked", he says. "Take regulation. We all know that new regulations and directives coming from Brussels cause squeals of anguish from some corners in the UK".

"But", he continues, "the fact is that EU regulation almost always involves replacing 28 national sets of standards with one, Continent-wide standard. This means British exporters only have to comply with one set of rules – hardly an example of suffocating red tape. This is a boon to business, not a burden".

As we absorb this, and ponder the sense in it, we wonder if Mr Maier is being deliberately obtuse.  I sometime wonder whether being thick is a necessary qualification for being a "captain of industry". 

This is a man who is happy to argue about the advantages of selling to a market of 500m consumers "without worrying about complying with 28 different reels of red tape". Yet Siemens is a global company selling to over a hundred countries. What is good for 28 countries, therefore, has to be better for four times as many countries. Companies such as Siemens don't just need to satisfy Europe. They need global standards.

No more so is this necessary than in the car industry and, sure enough, Mr Maier tells us to: "Take the car industry". Well, let's take the car industry. "There are 2,350 businesses in our automotive supply chain", says Maier. These are dependent for their prosperity on foreign-owned car manufacturers, half of whose exports go to the EU.

At Siemens, Mr Maier's wonks have calculated that 25,000 jobs in the supply chain are dependant on UK operations, many of which are in small or medium-sized British businesses that often export to the EU through this company.

But what this deceitful little man does not tell us is that the regulatory system depends on Directive 2007/45/EC, EU law on the face of it, but only on the face of it. This Directive actually "establishes a framework for the approval of motor vehicles and their trailers, and of systems, components and separate technical units intended for such vehicles". Leaping then to Recital 11, we see:
Consequently, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Regulations to which the Community accedes, in application of that Decision, and amendments to UNECE Regulations to which the Community has already acceded should be incorporated within the Community type-approval procedure either as requirements for EC vehicle type-approval, or as alternatives to existing Community law. In particular, where the Community decides, by means of a Council decision, that a UNECE regulation shall become part of the EC vehicle type approval procedure and replace existing Community law the Commission should be empowered to make the necessary adaptations to this Directive.
What this little gem tells us is that the regulator of record is UNECE, not the EU. Mr Maier's car industry needs global regulation and, within the limitations of that system, is getting it. And Norway is part of the body that makes the law. When it has helped decide what the standards are, they are faxed (or e-mailed) to Brussels, for processing under 2007/45/EC. 

"It is perturbing that those who claim that Britain would be better off out have not put forward a detailed alternative for what 'out' means", Maier now says. We have, of course, but the likes of Maier don't trouble themselves with detail, or look round them to see what is on offer. They prefer their lies.

"The average Norwegian pays more than half of what the average Briton pays for access to the Single Market, and is ruled by a 'fax democracy' where the government must implement regulations it had no say in", this liar says.

The average Norwegian doesn't pay that money for access to the Single Market. Not even an above average Norwegian pays that. Norwegians do pay €1.8 billion for Norway/EEA grants but these are not membership fees. They are voluntary contributions. Nor are the programme contributions part of the membership fees.

Reviewing the actual EFTA budget, the sum attributed to "EEA related activities" is €8,145,000. That is the membership contribution, out of the €22,369,000 total EFTA budget, of which Norway pays just over half (55.35 percent). In effect. Noway pays about €5 million a year for single market access.

However, after clogging us with his lies, Maier insists that "businesses can only make an informed choice if they are presented with a vision of what Britain would look like outside the EU". "This worrying lack of clarity from Eurosceptics", he adds, "combined with a growing realisation about the risks of leaving, means that I believe the voices of businesses large and small shall begin to be heard".

Then says the man, "the majority of them will be singing the same tune – that Britain will be better off staying in the EU and leading the Continent in carrying out the reforms that business needs to see".

But this is a total non-sequitur. Mr Maier is getting his pound of [regulatory] flesh. Businesses have nothing to fear from leaving the EU. The "lack of clarity" is largely self-induced, brought on by obfuscation and mendacity by a man who should know better.

We should also get better from the likes of the Telegraph as well though, but we are not going to get anything from that quarter, any more than we are from Mr Siemens.

And this is where we have our own political point to make. To deal with the lying likes of Siemens, we need some serious heavy lifting, the sort of that the UKIP millions and its media access can give.

Instead of serious effort, though, we're getting this sort of garbage, while the party is preening itself over the result to come in Rochester and Strood.

Yet the battle to come is not going to be fought in high-profile by-elections but in a referendum. There, unless we defeat it in detail, the "lack of clarity" that the likes of the lying Mr Maier are so keen to disseminate will exert a powerful effect and we will lose the fight.


Richard North 17/11/2014

 Brexit: saving us from new ideas

000a CH-005 Tice.jpg

The tiresome thing about the burgeoning "debate" on EU exit strategies is that, on both sides of the divide, that debate doesn't even exist. The different parties are on transmit mode only. There is no exchange of ideas, no development and, most of all, no thinking.

Thus, we have Hannan still prattling on about Switzerland, as if its government was not in the midst of a constitutional crisis, following the 9 February referendum on immigration. And on the other hand, we have the luvvies in the Guardian, dribbling out their same dreary litanies.

"Norway is not a member of the EU but is a member of the European Economic Area, which means it is part of the European single market", says Larry Elliott. "But access comes at a price: Norway has to accept EU laws and regulations without having a say in how they are made", he adds.

Then there is that little matter of the end of the world that was supposed to happen on 1 November, that TBF forgot about, the classic displacement activity of a certain kind of "eurosceptic" - anything but address the grinding work of a serious exit plan.

Meanwhile, the Flexcit YouTube has done 1,700 views. That's a healthy number of people who have taken part in a virtual debate. Whether they agree with them or not, our viewers have voluntarily looked at some different ideas – which is more than our other protagonists are doing.

That is the only future for the debate – where it must happen if it is to survive. The rest is sterility, born of an overweening arrogance of people who believe that one set of ideas can last a lifetime, with no need to develop and adapt to a complex and changing situation.

Thank goodness we have men such as these. Without them, we might actually have to confront new ideas, new solutions and actually make progress. And that would never do.


Richard North 05/11/2014

 Immigration: getting the diagnosis wrong

000a Telegraph-030 Immig.jpg

It's almost comedic the way the hacks are trailing in our wake, this time Fraser Nelson who comes to the startling conclusion that leaving the EU wouldn't solve our immigration problem.

"The complex truth", he tells us, "is that the mass movement of workers affects every nation, which is why even non-EU countries like Switzerland and Norway have greater immigration levels than Britain. The United States controls its own borders (in theory) yet illegal workers remain a huge political issue. Immigration will always be a problem for any rich country – the more important question is how you handle it".

As recently as here, we were writing in precisely the same terms, but also arguing here, on 9 October, that leaving the EU, per se, would not solve our immigration problems.

The same point was raised by the "formidably briefed" Owen Paterson at the beginning of the month, and the end of last month, but we were also arguing the same point at the beginning of September. Our seminal piece, though, was in May of this year, when we argued for a "global solution" to immigration.

But now, months after the event, Mr Nelson comes waddling into the debate but, if he is behind the curve, his readers are more so as three thousand comments spiked with Ukipite vitriol take him to task for even suggesting that the UKIP mantra of leaving the EU is not the answer to all our ills.

This is not helped by The Dear Leader who gets it spectacularly wrong in declaring: "We should say to people who come into Dover from Calais and who claim refugee status, 'I'm sorry, you've applied at the wrong country, you've got to go back to France'. And that is what we should be doing".

This is typical of the ignorance of Mr Farage, and the inadequacies of those around him. All of them fail to realise that the reason we don't and can't and therefore don't send these asylum seekers back to France is nothing to do with the EU. It has everything to do with our own judges and the Human Rights Act.

The blockage stems from a case in 1999 when the Court of Appeal, headed by Master of the Rolls, Lord Woolf, found that France and Germany were not "safe places" to send refugees facing persecution "from forces other than the state", whence we could no longer return asylum seekers to either country. The then home secretary, Jack Straw, the Guardian reported, had acted unlawfully in ordering three asylum seekers to be returned to France and Germany. 

With some prescience, the Independent reported that Britain would have to accept thousands more asylum seekers. Hitherto, the government had relied on the Dublin Convention, that required that migrants applying for asylum within the European Union should have their application heard in the first member state in which they set foot. Now this had been set aside.

The ruling was described as "very important" by Anne Owers, director of the human rights organisation, Justice. She said the Government would have to review its Immigration and Asylum Bill which was based on the assumption that other EU states were safe destinations for asylum seekers, even though those states had harsher interpretations of the United Nations convention on refugees.

Straw did not leave it there. He took the case to the House of Lords, but the ruling was confirmed in the year 2000, just before Christmas, when barely anyone noticed. Nevertheless, the judgement is available online for those with wit enough to look it up – which evidently doesn't include Mr Farage's current advisers.

000a Telegraph-030 Immig2.jpg

With this, and other cases, the so-called "Dublin system" is creaking at the seams. To Germany and France, together with Austria, Greece has been added to the UK list of "no return" countries, while the EU has consistently failed to develop a coherent asylum policy.

For all that, asylum seekers are a very small component of our overall immigration burden, but the problem for policy-makers is that they grab disproportionate headlines, providing a living illustration of immigration out of control - a proxy for all the other immigration issues. And, with the Lords ruling have dropped out of the popular memory, the likes of Farage are milking the issue as part of the anti-EU campaign, adding to the government's discomfort.

The point though, is that this is not an EU issue. Whether we were in the EU or not, there would still be asylum-seekers queuing up at Calais trying to get to the UK, and we would still be dealing with the same legal constraints.

After all, the UK has not signed up to the Return Directive, so this law does not apply, and we are thus bound by ECHR judgements and the UN Refugee Convention. In so doing, we are dealing with the principle of non-refoulement which, outside the framework of the conventions, has become customary law.

As with so much to do with immigration, therefore, we have to look beyond the simplistic mantras, and explore the complexities that are clearly outside the grasp of the more virulent Ukipites. Aside from the few reasoned voices, their only contribution is to poison the debate, polluting the comment threads with their ill-tempered diatribes.

But, as the lumbering Nelson observes, Mr Cameron is also playing it wrong. In particular, we would aver, he is also failing to point out the source of our problems. But then Mr Cameron is compromised by his failure to address the ECHR and related issues, leaving him open to attack from the likes of Farage, who have never hesitated to disseminate their own brand of ignorance.

To a very great extent, therefore, Mr Cameron is the author of his own misfortune. He needs to up his game, even more than Farage. Ideally, they would both catch up, along with the Fraser Nelsons of this world, and then maybe we could have an informed debate that would actually get us somewhere.


Richard North 31/10/2014

 Immigration: they catch up … eventually

000a Immigration-027 euref.jpg

If EU migration is the problem, Switzerland and Norway are not the answer Since both Switzerland and Norway accept far more immigrants per capita than the UK, why do so many people look to them as the answer to Britain's immigration worries?

So writes the great sage Mats Perrson of the Europhile Open Europe, once again trailing behind this blog. We did it on 28 September and several times thereafter, including here.

These people are so far up their own fundamentals, they have no idea what is happening in the world around them.


Richard North 28/10/2014

 Flexcit: the Dawlish experience

Peter Troy, the Publicist Ltd, together with Anthony Scholefield and the Campaign for an Independent Britain (CIB) have funded the production of a film of the Dawlish Flexcit talk. Collectively, they have managed the impossible, turning a sow's ear into a silk purse. This makes the production surprisingly watchable, and extremely informative.

We hope that this film will have a long shelf-life, and it's very useful for me, in helping me tighten and refine my own presentation. In due course, I hope we can train a number of people up to give this presentation, so that we can increase the rate at which we expose people to the message. 

As part of The Harrogate Agenda programme, though, we are happy to offer this presentation to anyone who is prepared to host it - replicating the successful Rotherham workshop, organised last week by John Wilkinson, where a version of this talk was delivered.

Meanwhile, we see from the Telegraph that Iain Martin has written this:
Those of us who are moderate sceptics, who could be persuaded to vote for out in a referendum for an optimistic and outward-looking alternative, want answers, not shouting. Say this to many Ukippers and they will instantly start shouting at you about treason. It as though they are incapable of grasping that to win a referendum they are going to have to calmly persuade their fellow citizens of all races, creeds and convictions.
This is what Flexcit is all about, and if he was not so ignorant, and close-minded, Martin would already be familiar with it. But, like so many journalists, Martin is driven by "prestige", so he will wait for endorsement by one of the great and the good before he deigns to recognise its existence - and then will only report a fraction of what he is told.

For myself, I am quite happy to stay under the media radar. There are few journalists who have the wit and patience to understand what we are saying, and even a 31-minute video is beyond the attention span of most of them. And, at this stage, we can do without the sort of half-baked misrepresentation that the media will offer.  

Hence, the strategy – and it is quite a deliberate strategy – is to stay under the radar, building our own constituency of knowledgeable people, before we break into the popular consciousness. In other words, we want to build on firm foundations and are not interested in the quick hit, only then to be forgotten. 

For those who want more detail, there is then the Flexcit book online. When that is finished, it will be published in hard copy, and then we will produce shortened versions in pamphlet (and even leaflet) form. We also hope to make a video, along the lines of the Norway Option - a video which is still a good primer.

In this, as you will see, we are playing the long game. If a referendum comes in 2017, we will be ready, even though we would prefer longer. Thus, unlike 1975, we will be able to go into a campaign with a fully-researched exit plan, one that is being field tested and can provide most of the answers.

And that is why I am confident that we have a winning strategy in the making.


Richard North 23/10/2014

 Flexcit: the immigration dimension

000a Guardian-009 immig.jpg

I promised yesterday to look at the immigration issue further, specifically taking in discussions in London, with parties who must remain unnamed.

The essence of what we were told reflected a widespread view that the "Norway Option", with EFTA/EEA membership, was not a viable proposition because it still required the UK to adopt the EU's freedom of movement provisions. Since immigration would be the main issue in the referendum, this would have to be addressed, with the WTO option preferred, without seeking a free trade agreement.

Our counter was that The Norway Option was only a temporary expedient, and that the longer-term settlement would seek to decouple trade and freedom of movement, reverting to controlled access of workers, admitting only those necessary to meet UK economic and social needs, and our remaining international obligations.

We also argued that leaving the EU, per se, would not solve our immigration problems. On the one hand, the bulk of our immigration was not mandated by the EU. It relies on the ECHR and, to an extent, the UN convention on refugees and other international agreements.

Further, we argued that simply blocking immigration would result in an increase in illegal immigration. Irrespective of EU membership, it was necessary to deal with the "push" and "pull" factors which drive migration.

To that extent, I averred, migration itself was not the problem – it was the symptom of multifarious (and very different) problems. Thus, to deal with migration, the specific problems had to be identified and picked apart. No one solution would work, so it was a question of chipping away at the edges, with different policy and enforcement strategies, the cumulative effects bringing down overall migration.

This, I then argued, would impact on migration from EU member states, even to the extent that we could do much more already to trim numbers, some of which measures Mr Cameron had already introduced, specifically in terms of benefit payments.

In this context, the influx of Polish workers was raised, whence I pointed out that many of the "pull" factors had economic implications which added to the draw, but which verged on criminality and could be addressed by existing law and more rigorous enforcement.

Specifically, I noted the tendency in some areas to accommodate incoming workers in poor housing, in breach of statutory density limits, the overcrowding enabling lower (although extortionate, relative to what was offered) rents to be changed.

Here, I argued, if statutory limits were applied, rental costs would increase substantially for the migrants, reducing the economic gain from their employment in the UK. This would have the effect of reducing the longer-term "pull" from low-wage countries.

This is but one example. Of many other issues, one is the failure of police to enforce re-registration of foreign-registered cars after they have been here for one stay of six months, or several shorter visits in any one 12 month period. For the some of the immigrant community, vehicle tax and insurance has become optional and often unpaid, again reducing costs and increasing the draw.

I pointed to many more examples of how enforcement failures gave immigrants the edge, but I have to say that much of this was disputed, ending with a somewhat obdurate insistence that returning control of our borders (a wholly misleading phrase) was the only way forward.

It is this extremely helpful now to have a piece in the Guardian which illustrates some of the malpractice going on, confirming exactly some of the points I have made – even if the same conclusions have not been drawn.

Re-inventing the wheel is hardly necessary, so I won't summarise the article here, but it is worth reading it. Tackle some of those issues, and you will have an effect on the locality where they were reported – Wisbech. In other areas, different strategies, or combinations, are required.

This, of course, does not gainsay the argument that leaving the EU and then, eventually, quitting the EEA and renegotiating a new free movement deal would not be advantageous. But it does re-affirm that, just because we are in the EU, does not mean that we are totally at the mercy of immigration from member states. There are things we could be doing, and these should be done.

Pretending we can do nothing is almost as bad as pretending that leaving the EU is the answer to all our problems.

UPDATE: News just in - tax loophole on foreign-registered cars to be closed. The scale is huge - we're talking about 100,000 cars, costing the revenue £20 million a year. What took them so long?


Richard North 09/10/2014

 Flexcit: putting the record straight

000a Consort-007 Workshop.jpg

On 18 October, we're holding another of our Harrogate Agenda workshops, this one in Rotherham at the Best Western Consort Hotel (pictured), just off the M1/M18.

Assembling at 10, we're testing a new format, with Neill Warry looking at the 1975 referendum and the lessons we can learn from it. Then we show the Norway Option video and, after a break for lunch, we go into a repeat of the successful "Flexcit" talk I gave in Dawlish, finishing off with an exploration of the Harrogate Agenda, and how it fits into the Flexcit scenario.

The format works with any number from about 10-30 people, although we prefer the higher number to cover costs. You can get more details by e-mailing Niall Warry (click on the link), and we look forward to seeing some of you there.

What makes this workshop, and the many more to follow, so urgent and important, is the likes of this from Andrew Lilico in the Telegraph, where he has it that David Cameron is promising to withdraw Britain from the European Union.

This, of course, is nonsense – and obviously so. But then this is precisely the sort of nonsense one might expect from the chairman of the IEA "Shadow Monetary Policy Committee". Anyone associated with the IEA is not going to be altogether when it comes to the EU.

Lilico is misinterpreting (or over-interpreting) a statement by Mr Cameron in his conference speech, when he pledged to put migration at the very heart of his renegotiation strategy for Europe. He would, he said, go to Brussels, and would not take no for an answer when it comes to free movement.

Actually, all Mr Cameron has in mind was a codicil to any forthcoming accession treaty, limiting the movement of workers from any new joiner, until GDPs come within certain limits and the wealthier UK is less of a draw.

This does not even require any EU treaty negotiations. It can be built-in to the accession treaty whenever one comes up – and none are planned for at least five years. The UK could have done this with Bulgaria and Romania, for it had (and has) a veto and can block any treaties not to its liking.

But, despite that, Lilico spirals off into a soliloquy about the free movement of people within the European Union, arguing that "there is no doubt that Britain would not be in the European Union if free movement were abandoned and hence EU citizenship withdrawn for UK citizens".

In a convoluted piece of logic, Lilico then argues that, because of the link between free movement of goods and free movement of persons, restricting free movement of persons would, in substance, be withdrawing from the Single Market and hence in substance withdrawing from the EU.

The substantive question is unambiguous, he says. The only thing left to consider is the semantic question – whether withdrawing from free movement would be called "withdrawing from the EU" or not. Since the EU is the zone of EU citizenship and EU citizenship means free movement, the answer must be "Yes – the UK would not be in the EU", he says, though we might perhaps still be in some other form of "Europe".

What then particularly concerns us is that Lilico posits that many schemes for "withdrawing from the European Union" involve continuing to participate in some other form of "Europe" – e.g., the "Norway option" of continuing to be in the European Economic Area.

With regard to the "in-out" referendum, we then get the argument that "out" hasn't normally meant "no Europe", merely "exiting the European Union". But exiting the European Union is precisely what any form of restriction on the free movement of persons entails, by definition.

If I now understand Lilico correctly, he is telling us that restricted free movement of persons cannot be called "Being in the European Union", even if we then remain in the EU, and Cameron's promise to restrict the free movement of persons decides that point unambiguously. It's an ambiguous form of unambiguity, but I think he means in "Europe" but not in the EU - or the other way around. I'm not quite sure.

On the other hand, by inference, I think we are supposed to take it that, even if we leave the EU, via the Norway option, thus continuing with free movement of persons, we only getting out of the EU but remaining in "Europe", while Mr Cameron will take us out of "Europe", even if we remain in the EU.  

It is this sort of confused thinking that we need to sort out, and that's why we're holding the Rotherham meeting and many more like it. Not least we need to lodge, face-to-face with a substantial constituency in the anti-EU movement, the full nature of the Flexcit plan, something which Mr Lilico clearly hasn't grasped.

In particular, we need to fix in the public mind that Flexcit is not the "Norway option". EFTA/EEA membership is simply an interim measure, enabling us to leave the EU. Only then do we start the real negotiations, with a view to building a genuine European single market, decoupled from the freedom of movement baggage. We aim to leave the EU and then create a new "Europe" as a community of equals.

On this, we found from the Dawlish experience that even people who had read Flexcit online had not fully appreciated its depth and subtlety. But after the meeting, they had something Lilico will never have – an understanding of the plan. 


Richard North 07/10/2014

 EU politics: the nine-point wonder

A joint post with Autonomous Mind 

000a Telegraph-002 Hannan.jpg

"Eurosceptics, say half-clever columnists, are 'unappeasable'. Bien pensant opinion holds that any concession made to critics of the Euro-racket serves only to excite further unreasonable demands. It doesn't matter what HMG brings back from the talks, we're told: Eurosceptics will whinge anyway, because whingeing is in their character. Right?"

This is what Daniel Hannan is writing these days, enough to motivate Autonomous Mind to write up a commentary which forms the basis of this joint post.

For myself, I tend to ignore the lad. The world has moved on and our Dan is no longer in the forefront of the debate. But I see AM's point, in wanting to take this one head on. Hannan wants to convince us that his master David Cameron could bomb off to Brussels and come back with nine specific points that would convince "eurosceptics" to love the EU.

To achieve this remarkable piece of legerdemain, however, Mr Hannan has to carry out some intellectual contortions of his own. When commentators talk of "the Eurosceptics", he says, they seem to have in mind only Conservative and UKIP MPs, not the 70 percent of the country who say they want a trading rather than political relationship with the EU.

Thus does Hannan frame the debate by redefining "eurosceptics" – these now become an amorphous 70 percent of the country who say they want a trading rather than political relationship with the EU.

I'm not sure where this 70 percent comes from, but it reinforces my view that we must walk away from the term and call ourselves the anti-EU movement. That way there can be no misunderstanding.

However, even if he's attempting to convince the people he defines as "eurosceptics", if we didn't know better, we might think Mr Hannan is displaying a degree of naivety, or as AM would have it, a "frightening lack of even the most rudimentary awareness and understanding" of the issues.

Looking at these nine points selected to underline his case, Hannan starts with an "Autonomous trade policy"'. The EU's Common External Tariff impacts us badly, as the need for a common EU position on trade means all deals have to take account of a variety of other interests, says Hannan, who tells us that, while EFTA countries Norway and Switzerland have managed to sign a free trade deal with China, Britain is constrained by the EU and therefore cannot.

Surprisingly, though, there is a problem with this. The notion of the UK running its own autonomous trade policy, in a customs union, is plain nonsense. It is impossible, in every sense of the word you can imagine, to remain in the EU and have an autonomous trade policy.

Interestingly there is no mention at all of British self representation on the global decision making bodies and conventions, leading us to wonder if Hannan grasps their significance. In fact, he probably doesn't. But either way, suggesting that Mr Cameron should seek to secure trade autonomy, within the EU, is ludicrous.

Next in line, Hannan wants "Fiscal freedom". There should be "No financial transactions taxes, no green levies, no EU airport duties – and, for that matter, no harmonisation of VAT", because, he argues, "there should be no automatic transfer of revenue to the EU".

At this point, and we are only into the second of nine points, one is tempted to exclaim of Hannan, "Do grow up, Hannan!" He needs to look at Article 311 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the Union, where the "own resource" system is so embedded into the treaty system that messing about with the revenue transfer system would be impossible to unravel without treaty change.

As to VAT, that is an EU tax. Therefore, although Britain gets to keep some of what is collected, VAT results in automatic transfer of revenue to the EU. Rejecting harmonisation of VAT won't make a blind bit of difference to the practice of paying an EU tax.

Number three has Hannan seeking to disapply EU Citizenship. If our relationship is to be primarily economic rather than primarily political, we should scrap something that was created by the Maastricht Treaty in 1992.

Once again, though, this is one of the tenets of the Treaties. And you can't selectively disapply parts of the Treaty. Thus, Hannan's pay-off line vision that the return of stiff blue British passports would be a concrete symbol that things had changed is fantasy land delusion.

By now, though, we're looking nervously at the date of the piece, wondering if this is a re-hash of an earlier 1 April piece. In three out of three of his points, he is talking about treaty change. Hannan must know that this is not on, that it's not going to happen.

He doesn't stop there, though. Next is his sights is the Common Agricultural Policy'. Yes it's wasteful, immoral, bureaucratic and corrupting. But to imagine for even just a split second that Cameron could achieve its demise, or a British opt out from the CAP as a sop to Eurosceptics while remaining in the EU is ridiculous.

Number five is an opt-out from the Common Fisheries Policy. This is another pearler. "Britain should control its territorial waters out to 200 miles or the median line, as allowed under maritime law, making due provision for the historic rights of neighbouring states and entering into sensible multilateral agreements on total allowable catch", Hannan says.

It seems Hannan is weaselling here. He seems reticent to point out to his readers the concept of acquired rights and what this means for the prospect of controlling fishing in our waters. More to the point, though, the whole concept of the total allowable catch is the fundamental flaw of the CFP. We would come out of the policy – not that we can – only to perpetuate its worst aspects.

At this point, though, one begins to lose the will to live, and we've still got four points to go. Hannan wants "independent diplomacy", "Common Law, not EU law", "British Social Policy" and then, for his finale, number nine, the "Supremacy of Parliament".

Yes, here it is, the Hannan solution: "Sections 2 and 3 of the 1972 European Communities Act should be repealed or amended so that EU law no longer has automatic precedence over UK law on our own territory".

Our Mr Hannan thinks that Brussels regulations should be treated as advisories pending implementation by Parliament, and he thinks that Mr Cameron is going to play "go fetch" and bring that back from Brussels.

Yet, the most laughable thing we get is his payoff: "I don't want to be unreasonable", he says. "It might be that Britain is able to secure some but not all of these points. If I had to identify the most important ones, I’d say 1 and 9".

"But, unless I'm missing something", he concludes, "the government isn't pushing for any of them. Which means that, as things stand, the only way to secure them is to vote to leave and then negotiate them from the outside".

Hell will need to freeze over and Sam Cam will go ice skating on it before any of these ideas even gets close to being considered. Of course the government isn't pushing for any of them, for the simple reason that the transfer of such powers is impossible as they undermine the foundations of the EU itself.

The only solution to most of the areas above is to leave the EU, full stop. But then, should we have left, why on earth would we want to negotiate on the issues Hannan sets out? It would amount to the surrender of the powers we would already have recovered.

Just whose side is he on?


Richard North 03/10/2014

 Immigration: no easy answers - part I

Part 2 has been posted below this ... the comment thread here serves both posts

000a CH-001 Immigration.jpg

Conservative Home picks up on a Conservative fringe event, jointly hosted by British Future and ConHome, "provocatively" entitled "Immigration: How can we make promises we keep?" Interestingly, the four panel members, including Paul Goodman and Owen Paterson, all refrained from offering easy answers. They indicated that they would leave such disreputable behaviour to UKIP.

Nevertheless, Owen Paterson turned up to point out, in formidably well-briefed remarks, that leaving the EU and following the border control path of Norway or Australia would not guarantee lower migration.

He observed that immigration was "a huge recruiting agent" for UKIP, which was "quite ruthless" at exploiting the issue, then going on to point out that "we do need to have open borders to have a dynamic, thriving economy".

This was against the background of Reckless's defection, and his claim that unless we leave the EU we shall be unable to restrict immigration. This is quite wrong, Paterson averred. About 13 percent of the UK's population consists of immigrants, but the equivalent figure for Norway is 14.9 percent, for Switzerland it is 23 per cent, and for Australia, with its much-vaunted points system, the migrant level stands at 27 percent.

None of those countries, as we are well aware, is in the EU, which had Paterson arguing that, "there are no glib, easy, quick-fix answers". Copying Australia's points-based immigration system may sound to some like the answer, he said, but it’s it was "glib and Ukippish".

On this, Paterson is absolutely right, and in more ways than are immediately apparent, with Australia providing a fascinating example of how the superficial case made by UKIP – which wants to adopt the Australian system – falls apart the moment it is examined in detail.

The crucial thing to appreciate is that, as with every country, immigration policy is in determined by many factors, but especially strong drivers are geography, neighbourhood relations, and the state of the economy, both in absolute terms and relative to its neighbours.

The particular points to note with Australia though are its geography, and its neighbours – or relative lack of them, close to hand. The closest country at an equal stage of development is New Zealand, and that is separated by 925 miles of sea. Arguably, if Australia was separated by a mere 22 miles from a major continental land mass, its attitude to migration might be very different, specifically in terms of freedom of movement between close neighbours. 

And there's the rub. There is freedom of movement between Australia and New Zealand. New Zealand citizens are able to live, work, and study in Australia indefinitely on special "temporary" visas due to reciprocal arrangements between the two countries. New Zealanders settling in Australia are included in total settler numbers but are not counted as part of Australia's Migration Programme unless they choose to apply for permanent residence as skilled or family migrants.

In other words, between Australia and New Zealand exist more or less the same "freedom of movement" arrangements as exist between EU member states.

As for the points-based immigration system, this limits immigration visas to applicants who conform to certain criteria, and who have certain skills. Potential applicants have to stack up 60 points but basically, if you are under 50, can speak English and have a pulse, you can get in. There are so many "skilled" occupations almost anyone could find a fit, whether a cook, florist or community worker.

Even then, for an applicant who has no skills, there is the unskilled migrant entry scheme. Then there is the "family stream", where relatives of existing immigrants can join them, and then there is the humanitarian stream, for the substantial number of asylum seekers who are given entry.

000a Australia-001 immig.jpg

On top of all this, there is a holiday worker scheme, and for those who do not qualify for permanent visas, there are temporary visas. Through either of these, workers can acquire points to go towards qualifying for a permanent visa, as work experience in Australia is weighted in favour of the applicant.

Looking at this in the round, one might conclude that a skills-based quota system works brilliantly, with just a few provisos. Taking from the Australian model, the skill-set has to be relaxed, it shouldn't be applied rigorously and there must be plenty of exemptions.

And that is why, for the 2014-15 programme, the Australians intend to admit 190,000 migrants. On a pro rata basis, this is equivalent to the UK admitting half a million people, making it an interesting choice as UKIP's poster child for its immigration policy.

As Owen Paterson says, there aren't any easy answers. And we should not pretend there are.


Richard North 02/10/2014

 UK politics: frankly, they are wrong

Conservative MPs who defect to the UKIP should be treated "with great respect", says Owen Paterson. He also said the party had to make it clear to MPs tempted to defect that "protest will not get you what you want".

Asked on Sky News how many more Tory MPs might defect after Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless he said: "I have no idea", adding: "They are misguided sadly. I think we should be respectful of their decisions - they have set a new constitutional precedent of standing down unlike Shaun Woodward and Quentin Davies who just pushed off to the Labour party".

Mr Paterson went on to say: "They are setting themselves up to be voted back which one has to respect and I think we should treat all those who are currently not supporting us with great respect. But we also have to confront the fact that frankly they are wrong".

"We have to politely point out to people – many of whom are good, sensible Tories – who are minded to support UKIP, that they are mistaken. We have to make really clear why they are mistaken in a polite, logical and measured manner and get them back".

He also hit out at Mr Reckless' suggestion that the UK could curb immigration by leaving the EU. "When you see Mark Reckless saying getting out of the EU would solve it, I'm afraid his facts are wrong". He pointed out that Switzerland and Norway have higher immigrant populations than the UK, despite not being EU members.

Asked if he might defect, Paterson says: "It's absolutely laughable. How am I going to deliver (my) agenda through any other organisation apart from the Conservative party?"


Richard North 29/09/2014

 UK politics: it's not about UKIP

Modern conservatism is not about dealing with UKIP, says David Davis. It's about returning to core values, and promoting policies to help conservative supporters.

He's right in one sense – that the Tories will never win an argument with UKIP. That party operates on an elemental level that has 2,000 supporters chanting "UKIP! UKIP!" in the manner of a football crowd. It could just as easily have been "Hail Victory!"

On the other hand, there is that other political strain – conservatism. And real conservatives can do something that UKIP can never do. Individually and collectively, they can develop policy, including – in the fullness of time – a credible exit plan from the EU.

With that in mind, I was asked recently to pen some observations about the Farage Party, and was able to suggest that the essence of UKIP is negativity. Members know what they don't like, and are united in mutual detestation of the things they abhor.

Beyond this stultifying negativity, though, they have no idea what they actually want, and could not even being to unite around common objectives. There is no common ground, no ideology that could help bind them into a political force. They agree on how much they hate certain things, but there is nothing at all to define UKIP as a political party.

Thus, UKIP may hate the EU, and indeed they are keen to express that hatred at every opportunity. But while the EU is often merely the EUSSR, when it isn't the Fourth Reich, the real hatred is reserved for the "political classes" who support it, the "LibLabCon" traitors, quislings and worse.

In terms of how real conservatives should deal with UKIP, therefore, the most obvious thing to do is accentuate the positives. Unlike UKIP, a real conservative has a vision of what society should be, what the nation should look like, and what is needed to achieve a fairer, better society for all.

As David Davis indicates, therefore, rather than attack UKIP, real conservatives should be stating their case more clearly. Over term, the leadership has betrayed its own membership, which is why so many Tories switched to UKIP in the first place, but this does not stop individuals holding the torch of real conservatism aloft.

Filling the gap is vitally necessary: even if UKIP did get power, it wouldn't know what to do with it. In the 20 years of its existence, it hasn't even been able to devise or publish a credible – or any – EU exit plan.

The reason for this strange absence, though, is highly revealing about the state of UKIP as a party. Even though it is effectively a one-man band dominated by Nigel Farage, at grass roots level it is disorganised bundle of embittered warring tribes.

Within this, it harbours a great secret of which few are aware, that Farage is in thrall to a hard core "Praetorian Guard". But they are not guardians of policy – rather they represent the reactionary inner core of UKIP which demands immediate, unilateral exit from the EU, the so-called "Ollivander" option.

To this sad, dysfunctional crew, the EU treaties are "illegal" and those who signed it are "traitors". Any idea of negotiation or agreement is an anathema. They would sooner see the British economy crash and burn, with ships rusting in port,  than accept a deal with Brussels.

So powerful is this group within UKIP that Farage cannot dictate a rational exit plan. To do so would trigger massive splits and blood-letting on a scale not seen since 2001. Then, dissent over the leadership tore the party apart, and triggered the series of events that has cemented Farage in place as the Supreme Leader ever since.

Then, no one was interested in the internal politics of UKIP. Today, such a rupture would not be so private, and Farage knows full well how slender his grip on power really is. He cannot dictate policy because he dare not.

For real conservatives (as opposed to the ersatz Cameronian version), this gives them one of their most powerful weapons against UKIP. For historical reasons, the official Conservative Party is committed to supporting the prime minister's attempts to renegotiate a relationship with "Europe", but even Mr Cameron has acknowledged that those negotiations could fail.

In anticipation of that failure, real conservatives need to do something UKIP cannot – entertain a serious, wide-ranging debate of what a post-EU Britain would look like, and then produce a comprehensive exit plan, setting out the steps needed to make the vision of an independent sovereign Britain possible.

At the very least, such a plan would show up Mr Cameron's weakness. For, if there is a credible alternative to EU membership on the table, one where the UK can continue trading with its European partners and co-operate on issues of mutual interest, then it would be much harder for him to say he had won a good deal from Brussels.

What goes for an EU exit plan then has equal force with the vexed issue of immigration. Following the collapse of the BNP, Farage has quite deliberately reinvented his own party as BNP-lite, in a bid to attract the Labour supporters that might otherwise have gravitated to his competition.

But, to appeal to the racist tendency that marked out the BNP, Farage had to present the party as anti-immigration, his only policy being to pull up the drawbridge and let in a tiny number of people on license. His party thus invokes images of the white cliffs of Dover, of a fortress Britain that harks back to 1940 when the UK was isolated and the Hun was ranged across the Channel. This is the UKIP vision of heaven.

In making its pitch, UKIP is in fact exploiting a global problem. There is not a developed country in the world that is not under pressure from migration, and many less-developed countries are also suffering serious problems: one just needs to look at Turkey and the flood of Syrian refugees and Kurds that has crossed its border.

As for migration from central and eastern Europe, after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the demolition of the iron curtain, does anyone think that, after nearly 50 years of separation, there was not going to be migratory pressure to the affluent West?

The EU aside, countries outside the EU, including Norway and Switzerland, have had to deal with massive inflows, and have had to deal with may of the same problems that we have had to confront.

Thus, while in the UK, migration level is 13 percent, in Norway it is 14.9 percent; in Switzerland it is 23 percent. In Australia, which is the poster child for UKIP's immigration policy, it stood at 6.2 million people (27.3 percent) in 2012, up from 4.7 million people in 2003 (23.6 percent).

Even outside the EU, therefore, we would have been troubled by the global wave of migration. In or out of the EU, the situation needs managing. UKIP has no answers to this – its immigration policy is as slender and as incoherent as its EU exit plan. Real conservatives, on the other hand, are in a position to host a genuine debate, on real answers to problems which so far has eluded the global community.

That is the singular difference between UKIP and real conservatives – answers. UKIP hasn't any, and has no ability to produce them, even though, over the next five years, its 24 MEPs will cost the British taxpayer nearly £140 million in salaries, overheads and expenses. For that money, all UKIP seems to be able to do is tell us what it doesn't want. Real conservatives, on the other hand, have the ability to answer the nation's needs.

Then, in one other issue above all else, the difference stands. While UKIP whinges about being in the EU, even the official Conservatives have outflanked them. They have promised an "in-out" referendum.

If UKIP members are genuine in their desire to leave the EU, then their options at the general election are obvious. But then they will have to confront reality: do they really want to get out of the EU, or do they enjoy hating it too much to want to leave? That is the choice they are going to have to make.


Richard North 28/09/2014

 Brexit: the Dawlish experience

000a Dawlish-026 talk.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Richard North 26/09/2014

 Scotland: the lessons for the EU referendum

000a Scotref-019 lessons.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Richard North 19/09/2014

 Brexit: the end of Civitas

000a Civitas-004 Lindsell.jpg

Jonathan Lindsell, Civitas EU research fellow has produced what he laughingly calls a "book" of 119 pages, in which his idea of "research" is to put statements to a small group of people and then to record their edited statements, without further elaboration.

On the role of international organisations in agriculture, he chooses to quote "EU commentators such as Dr Richard North" who argue that, "like Norway, Britain would have a lot of 'upstream' influence on global organisations such as UNECE (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe) and the Codex Alimentarius Commission, which sets food standards, guidelines, codes of practice and advice.

Citing as background, a six-year-old blogpost (sending readers to the now redundant blogspot site), Lindsell then turns to Martin Haworth of the National Farmers' Union, to ask him if this might alleviate the problems of leaving. He gets the following response:
Not really. We'd definitely be a separate member of the WTO, but not a particularly influential one. As for the Codex and UN – those are important in terms of global trade but have no influence at all in terms of European single market.
I don't know what Lindsell thinks he's trying to achieve by spreading such ignorant trash. Not least, it contradicts completely his own narrative (on p.95) where he cites a KPMG report that notes the importance of UNECE and the World Forum for Harmonisation of Vehicle Regulations (WP29) in "influencing global harmonisation and mutual recognition".

This, we are told, "has implications for more than the Department for Transport: all UK departments will find, post-Brexit, that they gain (or regain) 'competences' that have been controlled by or shared with the EU for decades".

In other words, outside the EU, the UK would gain "upstream influence" though organisations such as UNECE, Codex and many other organisations, which, largely through Article 2.4 of the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade, are increasingly dominating EU single market standards.

Nevertheless, with such shoddy work, Lindsell is ruling out any idea of Civitas being a serious player in the "Brexit" debate, which will be increasingly dominated by the very thing he (and many others) dare not mention – the Flexit plan.

For sure, Civitas will continue to get an airing, because it has "prestige", and it is really interesting to see the lengths to which commentators such as he will go to avoid mentioning Flexcit. It really does terrify them that much.

But, in the event, the the trivial, rival plans that we have seen so far – and associated commentary - will dry up and disappear. They have no substance to sustain them.

That, at least, is my view. Witterings from Witney, however, disagrees - "slightly". The shallow outpourings of other, he says, will, unfortunately, continue as, (a) they control any debate and (b), are aided and abetted by a supine mainstream media who will not publicise any view that is outside the Westminster Bubble (Booker excepted).

Sadly, WfW may be right, although a feature of the current debate is its sheer tedium. We desperately need to see some new thinking injected, and for that you will have to go to Flexcit. As I see it, the cumulative wisdom of the many who contributed to the plan will eventually prevail, simply because it will be the only thing left standing that has anything new to offer.

Nevertheless, I do concede that we have a long way to go before the legacy media even begin to recognise the work. In a way, though, that is quite helpful. If they publicised it now, they would only get it wrong.


Richard North 05/09/2014

 Defence: tanks for the payoff

000a Handels-019.jpg

One could have predicted it, of course, but Handelsblatt makes it official. The Ukraine crisis has prompted European governments to reconsider the gradual phasing out of the main battle tank (MBT) - a weapons system which during the Cold War confrontation between East and West played an important role.

Vladimir Putin's "annexation" of Crimea and the concentration of Russian troops on the border with Ukraine have given neighbouring countries cause to to ponder, says Frank Haun, CEO of the tank builder Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW).

The demand for equipment such as the Leopard 2 had diminished in recent years in Europe, since the relations with Russia improved. Some 3,200 Cold War tanks have been sold to the armed forces of 16 countries, but in five years not a single new model more been made.

But now, for the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union, countries such as Finland and Poland are thinking about acquiring more tanks. As tensions rise in Eastern Europe, Poland, Finland, Norway, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania - all direct neighbours of Russia – are increasing defence budgets.

One development, though, would have Jean Monnet celebrating, were he still alive. Twp of the leading European manufacturers of armoured vehicles have just decided to merge, the German makers of the Leopard, KMW, and the French tank builder, Nexter.

Thus we are seeing the ultimate in Franco-German interdependence, the ethos which drove the creation of the EEC, thereby depriving former warring nations of the means of fighting each other. With a joint tank-making enterprise, we can now be assured that France and Germany will no longer be able to go to war with each other.

Instead, we have a new "regional champion" which, as a good European, will probably have its headquarters in the Netherlands, where it will manage an order book with a volume of more than €6 billion, including in the most recent order for the Leopard 2, which came from Qatar last year.

Nexter wants to provide the French Army with an upgrade for its Leclerc MBT, and wants to develop a light tank and a troop transport.

Apart from making Jean Monnet, happy, though, the consolidation of the European arms industry would have significant advantages. Currently, it maintains 17 active production lines for the manufacture of tanks, troop carriers and artillery.

In the United States, however, there are only two major producers. Through joint production in Europe, unit costs of equipment could fall by 30 percent. And therein also lies a significant issue for the UK, which could equally benefit from defence industry rationalisation, if we could ever agree a common equipment standard for the equipment we need.

In fact, though, we are already committed by treaty to seek such rationalisation – a treaty which lies outside the EU.

This is the treaty signed between the British government and five other nations – France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Sweden – on 27 July 2000. Described as a "Framework Agreement" between the six countries, it concerned "measures to facilitate the restructuring and operation of the European defence industry".

In Part 7 (Articles 45-49), the Parties recognised "the need to harmonise the military requirements of their armed forces" and set out a permanent process for "harmonised force development and equipment acquisition planning".

The Framework Agreement is an inter-governmental treaty and is thus not an EU institution. It does not have an office, secretariat or budget and relies on the parties to agree and deliver the work programmes. It was one of the first examples of closer European co-operation in the armaments field.

Crucially, the Parties agreed "to co-operate in establishing a long term master-plan that would present a common view of their future operational needs". This would constitute a framework for harmonised equipment acquisition planning and "orientation for a harmonised defence related R&T policy".

To that effect, the six countries have agreed to subscribe to a "detailed analysis of military capabilities and the national planning status and priority of equipment and system programmes", as well as co-operating "as early as possible" in the genesis of the requirement up to and including the specification of the systems they wanted to develop and/or purchase.

So far, we have not seen the full measure of this treaty, but the Franco-German merger is a step in that direction. And with British troops riding in German MAN trucks, it seems only a matter of time before we replace our ageing Challengers with Anglo-German panzers, ready for the coming war with Russia.


Richard North 19/08/2014

 Brexit: with friends like these …

000a Civitas-014 Conway.jpg

In setting the scene in his new book telling us how to get out of the EU - published by Civitas today - Dr David Conway is at pains to recall "what West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer reportedly told the French Prime Minister Guy Mollet at the height of the Suez crisis".

The background is to the joint incursion of France and Britain into Suez, at the point at which the United States "had forced them to abandon their military operation". Conway thus offers a verbatim quote, the source of which he references to Keith Kyle's book Suez: Britain's End of Empire in the Middle East, originally published in 1991, which is probably its first appearance in English translation.

This has Adenauer saying to Mollet:
France and England will never be powers comparable to the United States and the Soviet Union. Nor Germany either. There remains only one way of playing a decisive role in the world; that is to unite to make Europe. England is not ripe for it but the affair of Suez will help to prepare her spirits for it … Europe will be your revenge.
In fact, the original source is French Foreign Minister, Christian Pineau, who wrote it in his book 1956/Suez (Le temps des révélations) published in French on 1 Jan 1976 by Robert Laffon in Paris (p.191), twenty years after the event – of which there is no official record.

Initially, in the original version of this review, I misread the source attribution that Conway gave – a mistake easily made by the author's use of endnotes rather then footnotes, and my own eyesight problems (since addressed with a hospital visit - see also my Disqus comment), ending up in my accusing him of fabricating the source. For that I apologise.

However, I then went on to accuse him of "sloppy, dishonest … scholarship", which I do not withdraw. Conway uses a secondary source (which we all do occasionally, as a short cut – we use a secondary , but different source in The Great Deception for the same quote), but in this event he bases a major part of his argument on that single source. Given the pivotal nature of the quote, a reputable scholar would have gone to the primary source, and then triangulated with corroborative evidence.

As written, he uses this single quote as the foundation of an argument that the EU is a German-dominated construct, established with malevolent intent by Adenauer and thence developed with a view to constructing a Europe "free of British influence over foreign and defence policy irrespective of its membership status". Yet, even in the context of the Kyle book, the quote suggests that Adenauer was more anti-American than anti-British.

The immediate source from which the quote is lifted should have warned Conway to take care. Kyle explicitly notes that Pineau is working from memory twenty years after the event, on issues for which there is no independent corroborative record. Pineau's memory is sometimes demonstrably fallible, says Kyle.

Despite that, we see Conway towards the end of his modest book (of 157 pages), argue that Britain's best "negotiating tactic" is to adopt what he calls the "Adenauer gambit". With Adenauer established as the man in the black hat – primarily on the basis of the Pineau quote - it becomes legitimate to turn the tables on him (as a proxy for Germany), by leveraging the desire of the EU member states to secure agreement on one deal by linking it with another – in the manner that Adenauer secured early post-war recognition of West German sovereignty.

Conway actually needs to learn what a "gambit" is but, in terms of specifics, he is advocating a particularly inadequate idea by ex-UKIP and now Tory MEP, Campbell-Bannerman, as his preferred mechanism for leaving the EU, trading agreement on this in return for our agreeing to a treaty on the euro.

Bannerman's idea is called "EEA-lite", which he suggests can be introduced as a cut-down form of the EEA Agreement, oblivious to the fact that, once you start breaking into the original agreement, the negotiations are thrown wide open and they could end up taking years - or even decades - with unpredictable results.   

When we get to the meat, though, we find Conway destroying his own case. He acknowledges that, outside the "context of negotiations needed to resolve the euro-crisis", "the prospect remains very small that Britain might be able to obtain some such new settlement as EEA lite".

This, of course, is what we have been trying to tell Campbell Bannerman, but that man is on "transmit mode" only. He simply isn't listening. However, Conway comes to his rescue with a tale that Britain is "about to acquire a rare window of opportunity". And since the EU is poised to launch a new treaty, that gives him the leverage that is so necessary.

But in his second example of shoddy scholarship, it is evident that Conway relies (once again) entirely on secondary sources, specifically, articles from The Daily Telegraph and Der Spiegel, to inform him on whether there might be negotiations on a new treaty.

And while indeed there were distinct signs of a treaty in the offing last year, a closer look at primary sources from this year strongly indicate that the idea of a treaty is firmly on hold. The "window of opportunity" no longer exists. Even if EEA-lite was a viable option, therefore – which it isn't – its prospects now are non-existent.

Here then, Dr Conway betrays a further lack of scholarship.  In his book, he has taken us laboriously through four options – the Norway, Swiss, Turkish and WTO options – only to dismiss each in turn as coming with "very substantial drawbacks". This is how he comes to recommend Mr Campbell Bannerman's EEA-lite. It is his fifth option.

But if there is no window of opportunity, Conway has nowhere to go. He does not have a fallback, which means that his entire endeavour of telling us how we should leave the EU is wasted. He doesn't have a way out.

His biggest mistake, though, is to have me as a "vociferous" champion of the Norway option (while Hannan is more gently a "fervent advocate" of the Swiss option). He thus completely fails to realise that I am not actually championing the Norway option as my exit plan. I am actually advocating an option that he hasn't even considered, despite it being readily accessible here.

What I have done, and what Conway should have done, is recognise that all options have "very substantial drawbacks", so we need an interim solution to get us out of the EU with minimal difficulty, thus opening the way to define a longer-term solution.

It is this concept of a two-stage solution which defines Flexcit, of which Conway seems completely unaware, and which "transmit mode" Bannerman chooses to ignore. Thus, Conway ends up producing a sterile, useless book, over which Bannerman then preens on Twitter, both of them driving hand-in-hand up a blind alley.

Probably, the only good thing about Conway's book, therefore, is the first part of the title – alluding to the lack of value of the production. With friends like Civitas sponsoring such low-grade material, we have another waste of time. It takes us no further forward in agreeing an exit plan and simply panders to a shallow ego on the back of flawed scholarship.

Fortunately, the europhiles – for the moment – seem just as crass, but we really cannot afford to waste time and effort on such flawed work.

Richard North 13/08/2014

 Brexit: money down the drain

000a LV-007 boris.jpg

Stephen Knight, who happens to be a Lib-Dem member of the London Assembly, is not too happy with Mayor Alexander (aka Boris) Johnson.

By making a "Europe" speech at Bloomberg, following the prime minister who used the same venue over a year ago, he says, "it was clear that the Mayor of London was sabotaging the launch of his Chief Economic Adviser's report on our place in the EU as a (re)launch pad for his political career".

That, Mr Knight, regards as something of a waste of money, helpfully informing us that Mr Johnson paid Volterra Partners £36,400 to provide supporting research for the report. And given that Dr Lyons is paid £128,472 a year for a four-day week, and picked up £14,376.83 in expenses during the last financial year, I guess we can add a few more grand to cover his contribution.

Then there is Nicholas Garrott, Lyons' economic assistant. He helped with the report, in addition to which the economics team at the Greater London Authority had their work incorporated. Then there was a "small steering committee", with four others, plus the labour of diverse PAs and the services of Helen Booth who (rather badly) proof read the report.

Putting it all together, it would not be unreasonable to suggest that this little enterprise cost about £100,000 – all to give Mr Johnson a backdrop for a career relaunch.

Just what a complete waste it all was comes with the findings of the report, which has Dr Lyons ruling out the Norway Option as "not being a suitable future option for the UK", and also the Swiss option which he marks down as "not suitable for the UK".

Yet, on one occasion, Mr Johnson tells us that, "we could negotiate a generous exit, securing EFTA-style access to the Common Market", while on another occasion, Lyons himself blandly informs us that the UK could leave the EU "and strike a new deal along the lines of those enjoyed by countries like Norway and Switzerland".

Not only does it appear that Mr Johnson hasn't read the Lyons report, I don't think Dr Lyons has either. And with the headlines focused on Mr Johnson's plans to return to the Commons, the debate about our role in the EU, complains Mr Knight, "gets swept under the carpet and reduced to meaningless sound bites".

For a hundred grand, or possibly even more, we really should have got better value, but then it isn't the first time money has been poured down the drain on a Brexit plan. It seems a general rule is beginning to emerge – the more money spent, the worse the plan.

By that measure, Flexcit is going to be pretty spectacular when it's finished - and another thing that neither Dr Lyons nor Mr Johnson will read.


Richard North 08/08/2014

 Brexit: the illiteracy of Lyons

000a Lyons-007 brexit.jpg

Gerard Lyons is chief economic advisor to the GLA and Alexander Johnson (aka Boris), and also an Open Europe board member. And this is the man who has just issued a "win-win" report on London's relationships with the EU, upon which Mr Johnson based his speech yesterday.

The report is 108 pages (linked to unlocked version), with appendices running to 130 pages, which can be accessed from the GLA website.

London taxpayers have funded this production, and they should demand their money back. It is a disgustingly superficial piece of work, technically illiterate, flying in the face of treaty provisions, written under the hand of a man who is as ignorant of the EU as his master.

It should not be the case that we should have to waste time dealing with this sort of rubbish. Amongst his many other failings, the man so completely misunderstands Article 50 that he suggests that, if it comes to leaving the EU, we should negotiate an exit without it. In an argument worthy of the UKIP kamikaze tendency, he suggests we keep it in "reserve", as a threat, or some such.

You really would have thought that if the GLA was going to produce such a work, it would have at least run it past a competent international lawyer, one who could have told these facile children something of the basics of treaty law, and in particular the meaning of lex specialis.

It is at this most basic, fundamental level that the report fails, an arrogant, time-wasting production where its authors assume they are in any way qualified to write of things about which they so obviously know nothing.

Lyons may be an adequate economic forecaster – his stock in trade. About that, I neither know nor care. But he is outside his sphere of competence when he pronounces on leaving the EU. He has nothing useful to say. His report is valueless.

Irritatingly, these people have blocked the copy and paste facility on the .pdf version of the report – despite lifting short extracts for review purposes being perfectly legal. This necessitates laboriously typing out excerpts, another example of the time-wasting arrogance of these people who cannot even assist a necessary review process.

Nevertheless, of the section where Lyons discusses the exit options for the UK, I have typed out sections on the "future relationship between Britain and the EU" (p.103 et seq), and append below sections of the text:
Comparisons are often made with the trade deals that Switzerland, Norway or Iceland have and the pros and cons of each. This is relevant as a benchmark for the UK, but the reality is that we are far bigger and more important economy than each of these countries, and so it is feasible the UK could negotiate a more suitable deal for both the UK and EU. The latter is particularly so given that the UK is such an important trading pater (sic) for them. This is not something the UK would have viewed positively in the past, but in the event of an exit it might work in the UK's favour, as a trade deal that penalised the UK would likely hit EU exporters to the UK, too. The UK trade deficit with the EU was £65 billion in 2013 and perhaps as many as four million jobs on the Continent may be dependent upon both British trade and investment.

The Norwegian option

This is not an option for the UK. The Norway Option is widely seen in the UK as not being a suitable future option for the UK, and rightly so. When this option is often discussed in the UK it is often overlooked that the terms of the Norwegian Option were negotiated in anticipation of joining in the EU, but its people subsequently decided not to join. Norway is not a member of the EU, but is a member of the European Economic Area. The one benefit is that Norway is not part of the common agricultural policy, but in most other respects this option would not be appropriate for the UK. As an EEA member Norway has access to the Single Market (which the UK would want) but it is subject to a rules of origin constraint to limit goods from the rest of the world accessing the EU via Norway and avoiding any necessary customs duties (that would not be appropriate for an open economy like the EU). Norway has to abide by EU rules, without getting to vote on them. Some call it diplomacy by fax.

The Swiss option:

The fact that Switzerland is neither a member of the EU or of the EEA and yet was able to negotiate a bilateral trade should suggest that the UK would be able to agree a far better deal if it chose. The Swiss Option is not suitable for the UK as it does not have full access to the services component of the Single Market. Switzerland earlier this year rejected the free movement of people element of the four freedoms and there has since been a focus on whether the Swiss deal will be negotiated.
Unlike the ex cathedra assertions made here, the contrary case is argued in full in my Flexcit report, in far more detail than Lyons could ever manage. I'm not going to take you all through it again. It's there for anyone to read, if they are so inclined.

If Lyons ever read it, he would doubtless disagree with it – in the unlikely event that he managed to understand it. But these people don't read anything outside their own bubble. They isolate themselves in their squalid little bunkers, feeding off their own collective ignorance, bolstering their confidence and authority by rigorously excluding anything which might challenge them. They don't engage in debate – they simply ignore anything they don't want to hear and assert that theirs is the only truth. 

Lyons thus goes on to build his facile, stupid little document with the offering of a "UK Option", in which he tells us:
There is no reason why the UK needs to be constrained by the deals other countries have with the EU. As the sixth biggest economy in the world, a country with whom the EU will wish to trade, and also as an economy that has the potential to the biggest in Western Europe, even larger than Germany within a generation, the UK should have the ability to forge a favourable deal. As President Barroso acknowledged in April 2014, the UK is different. Some provision for either full service sector access or with limited barriers is critical.

The UK negotiation should be framed with one possible intention being little EU influence in the realm of anything other than specific goods and services regulation to allow exports into the EU market. As far as possible, the conduct of the British government, people or business should be removed from EU control or influence. Otherwise the benefits of leaving are undermined over time and it would be a case of short term gain dragged back over time by a regulatory heavy model.

Single Market membership via the EEA means that many negative aspects of European membership remain. This means the relationship with the Single Market needs to be reframed in a bespoke negotiation.

Thus the most likely UK option has to be a comprehensive free trade agreement, with its negotiation improved by the threat of Article 50 – clearly the UK would push for full market access. It is unlikely that this will be granted. Whilst it is not optimal to lose full services market access, the UK competitive advantage in services means that Europe may impose some barriers to market entry.

On the flip side, a bespoke negating (sic) relationship will give the UK the broadest possible operating environment from which to pursue its post exit future. UK business would decide to mirror EU regulations on products and services to allow ease of selling into the market – but these would be business decisions, not something imposed by a centralised bureaucracy. Existing social and employment legislation would need to evolve to suit the UK's domestic needs.
Thus, this man would have us going to Brussels, outwith Article 50, "negating" (sic) a bespoke agreement, without even attempting to suggest a timetable. He does not explore the political environment in which an agreement must be forged, and he obviously has no idea what might be achievable. There is not the slightest recognition that these will be difficult negotiations, in which the other parties will have their own expectations.

On the basis of a superficial, almost trivial appraisal of the state of the art, however, he concludes:
In conclusion, this section looked at the consequences of a UK exit from the EU. Leaving the EU would lead to considerable near-term uncertainty, but as we have outlined here for the UK economy to be successful it would also lead to the need for a clear framework of policy planning, in order to both create a future enabling environment for business and a clear strategic vision for the economy. As our earlier economic scenarios demonstrated, the future performance of the UK economy will not be determined solely by whether it is in the EU, or outside. If the UK were to leave the EU, our economic scenarios suggest that the path ahead would differ considerably if the UK adopted the inward looking path in contrast to the far more desirable, outward looking scenario that we have called One Regime, Two Systems. Outside the EU, the UK can no longer look to blame Brussels and Europe for any economic problems. The UK would need to realize its potential standing on its own two feet and seeking to position itself well in a growing global economy. London, as an open, dynamic capital city, would have much to gain in this scenario. Overall, if the UK can take a lead role in reforming the EU, or if it pursues an open and business friendly approach outside the EU, then it can succeed. It is a win-win situation.
What screams out from the likes of Lyons, therefore, is the arrogance. He with Mr Johnson, his master, is intellectually idle. They are complacent, in that they expect their substandard work to be accepted without demurral, but above all they are arrogant. They believe they can set the terms of the debate without even taking the trouble to learn the subject, not in the least attempting to show respect to their audiences by arguing their cases honestly and thoroughly. We deserve better than the low grade rubbish they are offering, but they feel it is quite good enough for the lowly plebs - criticism from whom they will ignore.

The believe that, despite their shallow, narrow perspective and their ignorance of the wider debate, they have the god-given right to decide our futures. Implicitly, they expect us to trust them to handle our most vital affairs, without them even taking the trouble to offer credible explanations of the options open to us .

In time, through diligent, patient work, we will show these people to be the charlatans that they are – and reciprocate the contempt they show us, in giving us shoddy, poorly researched and valueless arguments. But at least the likes of Lyons have done us one small service. They have shown us with absolute clarity that the establishment is not the place to look for a workable EU exit plan.

But then, I suspect, we knew that already.


Richard North 07/08/2014

 Brexit: Johnson – living on another planet

000a Johnson-006 Bloomberg.jpg

We already know that Johnson is imbued with an ignorance of a profundity that only an expensive private education can buy, but one wishes he would not be quite so keen to parade it at every opportunity.

The particular opportunity of the day is the delivery of a speech at the Bloomberg headquarters in London, a significant venue as this is where Mr Cameron made his 2013 speech promising an in-out referendum.

First on the agenda for Mr Johnson is to thrill the collective hackery with a promise that he will seek re-election as an MP in the 2015 general election. His speech, however, attends the matter of renegotiating terms with the EU, and is seen as an attempt to destabilise David Cameron, presumably as part of a grand strategy to support a leadership bid in mid-2015 after Mr Cameron stands down, following his failure to win the general election.

But before anyone looks to this buffoon for leadership, they should look at the detail of his speech which, in essence, shows that he does not have the first idea of what he is talking about.

On leaving the EU, for instance, Mr Johnson tells us that, "we could negotiate a generous exit, securing EFTA-style access to the Common Market", thereby confirming that reputation for the most profound ignorance imaginable.

The point, of course, is that EFTA does not have access to the "Common Market", better described as the Single Market. The "NIL" group (Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) have negotiated access through the EEA agreement, while Switzerland has negotiated a series of bilateral deals, which owe nothing to either EFTA or the EEA.

This confusion we picked up on Sunday - which incidentally confirms that Johnson doesn't read the leading independent anti-EU blog, therefore making him less well informed than many of his voters.

Needless to say, the distinction between the deals forged by the "NIL" group and Switzerland is not academic, and nor is it trivial. As an illustration, we just have to take one of the examples Mr Johnson gives in his speech, where he seeks to portray the burden of regulation imposed by the EU. 

"Take the waste framework directive", he says, "that means all small businesses have to register as waste carriers if they want to transport a small volume of non-hazardous waste in their own vans – such as a nursery wanting to take grass cuttings or compost, they have to register as a waste carrier".

The point here is that, if the UK adopts the EEA option, it will find that the waste framework directive is part of the EEA acquis, so if Mr Johnson wants access to the Single Market via this route, he will have to accept the directive as part of the package.

However, if he goes down the Swiss route, the negotiating team will be dealing with such issues on a case-by-case basis, but then it took 16 years for the current level of agreement to be reached, one that is currently under review. Would Mr Johnson have our Article 50 negotiations lasting 16 years – or more?

The plot then thickens, because the requirement for businesses to register if they move their own waste did not arise specifically from the waste framework directive. In UK law, it only took effect this year, but as a result of an ECJ ruling after a case in 2006 taken against the Italian government.

Since the ECJ has no jurisdiction over the EEA agreement, arguably, this ruling could be ignored and Britain outside the EU could choose to interpret the framework directive in its original sense, and exempt businesses carrying their own waste from registering.

Necessarily, that will be for the lawyers to argue, but if we step back from the law and look at the practicalities, we find that all that is required is for businesses to register their details online, for which there is no charge imposed. This is a one-time registration that does not need renewal, and takes about 10-15 minutes.

In other words, one wonders what point Mr Johnson is trying to make. What is the big deal? And what is the point when he picks on the "EU Driving Regulations" for vehicles over 3.5 tonnes, which impose a complex web of restrictions on driving hours?

How are we supposed to solve the construction boom in London and get small firms coming to the market when we have regulations like that, Mr Johnson asks, the hypocrisy of his question almost defying imagination.

Talk to small builders in London, though, and drivers' hours are the least of their problems. What really troubles such firms are the costs of operating with Mr Johnson's congestion charges, and the huge burden of inflexible parking restrictions combined with the predatory activities of local authorities.

All Mr Johnson's speech does, therefore, is highlight the actions of an ignorant man trying to make political capital out of issues about which he knows next to nothing. And a man who does not even have a grasp of the basics is hardly one who can be relied upon to guide us through the labyrinth of an EU exit campaign, much less provide leadership.

In truth, Boris Johnson has nothing to offer us on the EU. One view is that he is promoting a reform package that will be impossible to achieve, simply to wrong-foot Cameron and give himself a political boost.

What he should realise is that people generally have had enough of posturing politicians, using peoples' concerns to further their own careers. Johnson's carefully contrived image is beginning to wear thin, and his attempt to use the EU as his own personal plaything are entirely unconvincing. The issue is far too big and much too important for Mr Johnson's games.

We really can do without them – and him.


Richard North 06/08/2014