Richard North, 23/06/2013  


I think we've given the "Article 50 debate" a fair airing, putting the case for using this Article, the arguments spilling over into the Booker columns and in a useful series of posts by Boiling Frog and others. In the public domain, though, it's really been Booker who has kickstarted the debate, telling us that Article 50 is "the only way" to tackle the "EU mess".

But, according to UKIP economic advisor, Tim Congdon, we should not be doing this at all. Having recently published an article in Standpoint, he has attached a copy to a round-robin e-mail, the text of which is here, with an edited version appearing in this month's eurofacts.

According to this e-mail, the Article 50 debate is "unfortunate", and any idea that it is the only hope for our leaving the EU is "rubbish". Congdon complains that he has had "numerous discussions with UKIP supporters about the irksome and irrelevant article 50", and that such discussions are "a waste of time".

"Too many people are conned by this sort of thing", he says, emphasising that it, "is devised by the EU bureaucracy to divert us from our one and only goal, which must be full independence". And by this he means "full independence from the EU, just as Australia, Canada and over 150 other countries have".

Here, one has to acknowledge that this is no democrat talking. The democrat welcomes debate, is happy to discuss the issues and uses the opportunities afforded to convey the message. And Congdon not only seeks to suppress debate, he does so on the basis of entirely spurious reasons, and without a scintilla of evidence.

In this, what troubles me most is the constant refrains for unity amongst eurosceptic campaigners, the sub-text of which invariably points towards the "dissidents" getting behind the UKIP leader and supporting the UKIP message - never the other way around.

Insofar as there is a UKIP message on Article 50, Congdon seems to speak for the many.  This would appear to be the message I must get behind.  Yet how could I possibly support something which is so wrong-headed? And, since he goes out of his way to promulgate his message, how can I even ignore it?

Thus, when it comes to "splitting", or the dilution of effort of which so many complain, who is actually responsible for creating the schisms? Congdon must know – and if he does not, he should – that I have been one of the leaders in the field on Article 50, and that Booker and I speak as one on the subject.

To dismiss our views on Article 50 as "rubbish" – and that is what he is doing – is a studied insult, and an insult to someone who knows far better than he the background to this provision.

Some of this I explained in an earlier piece, based on original research and from interviewing Alterio Spinelli's political advisor. This information checks out, but I doubt Congdon has done me the courtesy of reading it.

Yet, if we take it further, we can look at the more recent history of Article 50, noting that it was introduced in the European Convention on the Future of Europe – the opening session of which was on 28 February 2002 (pictured). And, unlike Congdon, I was there on that day and followed the proceedings, which finally drew to a close in July 2003.

If he follows the same evidential trail - of what started off as Article 59 of the draft European Constitution - he can see for himself that there is no way it was "devised by the EU bureaucracy", whether to "divert us from our one and only goal ... ", or for any other reason.

So, if we are to aspire towards unity, what am I supposed to do? Am I to fall in behind Congdon, and agree with his toxic intervention – or should I expect him to look at the evidence, argue his corner and thus come to a better and perhaps different conclusion, on which we can both agree? 

And there is the rub. Congdon says that discussions are "a waste of time". He, the advisor to The Great Leader, hath already spoken. My options, therefore, are to agree with him or to keep silent. In the interests of unity, I am not allowed a contrary view – even if it is far better informed. To express it is to be a "splitter".

The one advantage of that, I suppose, is that if we lose a referendum campaign – should we ever have one – we will at least be united in our loss. But is that our objective? Or are we in this to win, relying on open debate, criticism and discussion to project the message, rather than an exhibition of cult-like obedience and discipline?

Given that choice, those in our midst advocating unity at all costs should give some time to thinking about what they really want.

comments powered by Disqus

Log in

Sign THA

The Many, Not the Few