Richard North, 09/01/2016  
 


The Britain Stronger in Europe campaign, which insists on calling itself "Stronger In" – as opposed to the more obvious BSE – has (rightly) made a feature of the leavers' confusion over an exit plan, producing a deft compilation (above) which makes the point.

But no sooner has Leave.eu moved to remedy the mater, a teenage scribbler in the Huffington Post takes the low road to miss the point, while BSE strengthens its determination to lie its way through the campaign.

Responding to the announcement that Leave.eu is to adopt Flexcit as the basis for its own exit plan, this remain campaign immediately jumped the gun by looking at the original draft and assuming that this is to be the final version.

This, of course, is not the way things work. Leave.eu have asked me to submit a draft, which I have done. It is now online, under the title The Market Solution. But its status is only that of my submission. Leave.eu will look at, and then we will discuss changes. If any are needed to meet the greater objectives (and I am sure there will be some), I am quite happy to look at them, as long as they do not breach the underlying concept.

In the meantime, it is going to take a little time to get a working arrangement functioning. This is the real world and complex, grown-up issues take time to resolve.

Nevertheless, this did not stop "Stronger In" from issuing a press release claiming: "Leave campaign backs 'Still pay, No say' model for UK outside Europe", asserting that Leave.eu had "adopted the controversial 'Flexcit' model". This, they claimed, "would see the UK continue to pay into the EU budget and accept free movement of people - contrary to the UKIP position on immigration".

This is the moronic level of what passes for comment from "Stronger In", with its "Executive Director" Will Straw arguing that: "Leave.EU's new policy shows they accept EU budget contributions, would keep free movement, would keep all EU laws, but would remove the UK's influence over the most important economic regulations we would be forced to accept".

It doesn't seem to matter how many times we write that this is a multi-stage process, and that the first step is an interim – a stepping stone – to allow for an expeditious exit within the two-year Article 50 period.

This is not even a nuance. It is the central element of the plan, but one which our critics on both sides seem to have difficulty getting to grips with. Nor can the famed Will Straw seems to be able to cope with the idea that much of the regulation that we will keep in place arises from global or regional bodies. This is another area where comprehension so often fails.

Also, seeking to make trouble, the press release talks of a "dramatic split" from UKIP immigration policy, which they claim "will enrage many Eurosceptic allies. It is, they say, "laying bare the increasing divisions inside the Leave campaigns and highlighting the massive disagreements still raging about what they see as an alternative to membership of the EU".

Actually, what has been encouraging is that, apart from a few hard-liners, the Leave.eu initiative has been well received. We are, after all, totally at one in agreeing that immigration must be managed. The difference is that we see the need to leave the EU first, in order to achieve any long-lasting and effective policy improvements.

Predictably, "Stronger In" wants to see the division, picking out this "scathing" section, which states:
To ignore the interplay between policy domains is rank amateurism, something which is manifest in Ukip's refusal to consider remaining in the EEA because of the requirement to maintain free movement of labour. This is a party which has failed to declare what it is trying to achieve in policy terms, declaring only the aspiration of "managing" borders. Thus, this political party is prepared to abandon a proven and workable trade relationship because it interrupts an indeterminate process aimed at producing an undefined effect, with no specified outcome.
This, in fact, heralds a pragmatic approach. And there are plenty of people on our side who see the sense of taking the tactical steps necessary to achieve success, rather than risk all in seeking unattainable objectives to achieve an indeterminate effect.

However, "Stronger In" does observe that Vote Leave "is now the only major organisation active in the campaign refusing to clarify which model they back for the UK". That really does leave them out on their own, being challenged to "speak up and set out their alternative to EU membership".

The irony is that, as long as Will Straw is around, it will not make very much difference what we do. He will either misunderstand or misrepresent it, resorting to low-grade polemics which neither enlighten nor entertain.

Bizarrely, when it comes to Flexcit, Straw relies almost entirely on the two-page summary, which leads him to surmise that the plan "appears to suggest the UK re-joining the EU, by the EEA countries being given what sounds like full member status".

This is what he actually takes from my description of the third stage of Flexcit, "which involves initiating negotiations to transform the EEA into a genuine, Europe-wide single market, with common decision-making for all parties".

This rather underlines my point about Straw's complete inability to understand what has been written. Fortunately, in the Herald, we get a Leave.EU spokesman saying: "Will Straw's gross misrepresentation of Flexcit ... betrays his woeful understanding of life outside the gilded cage of EU membership".

Indeed it does. "Far from having to 'pay with no say', countries like Norway and Iceland participate in hundreds of EU committees, helping to shape the Single Market regulations which they apply", says this spokesman, "retaining a veto where they find them particularly objectionable". Moreover, we are told, "they have full control over their agricultural policies, external trade and fishing waters, unlike EU members".

And then we get the point that evaded Mr Straw: "In any case, Flexcit sees the EEA as a stepping stone rather than a final destination". And that really is the issue. To get a lot, we have to give a little. The final outcome is what we have to keep in sight, with the eventual objective of redefining the entire post-war settlement.

In what is then a very fair representation of what I actually said, I am cited as saying that: "BSiE clearly haven't read Flexcit, from their comments. They don't seem to have understood what's written in it anyway. The idea of 'No say' is a complete lie, as even within the context of Efta and the EEA there are structured negotiations and consultations built into the system".

I add: "The Norwegian-style model would only be a staging post towards our endgame of going back to Winston Churchill's original vision of an arrangement covering the whole of geographical Europe under the banner of the UN Economic [Commission] Europe in Geneva, with nations co-operating as equals in a 'European village'".

Those people who have taken the trouble to read Flexcit and have the sense to understand it will realise that we are being far more ambitious then simply seeking to extract us from the EU. That, as I keep saying, is only the start of the process. We're playing the long game. We aim to achieve far more and end up far better placed than we could from just grabbing what we can get and running.






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