Richard North, 13/01/2016  

After the debacle of the IEA "Brexit Prize" in April 2014, when the Institute changed its own rules mid-competition and then awarded the first prize to a bizarrely shallow submission, something of the reasons why my entry was rejected now become clear.

These emerge from a report in the Daily Telegraph from Michael Deacon, parliamentary sketchwriter, commenting on a speech about "why we must vote to leave the EU" by Nigel Lawson at King's College London.

"Rarely, even in the field of Euroscepticism", wrote Deacon, "have I heard someone speak with such cloudless certitude". The question put to him about any downside to leaving, suggested that, if there was, "it is trivial".

But, when asked by a journalist whether the UK have to go on permitting freedom of movement in order to remain part of the single market, Deacon wrote that: "Lord Lawson peered at his inquisitor. He looked like a hawk that had detected a bad smell".

"That's a complete non sequitur!" he retorted. "Nonsense! It is ludicrous! A complete nonsense!", wrote Deacon: "I don't think he said the words 'piffle', 'poppycock' or 'bunkum', but they can't have been far from his lips. The certitude remained contentedly intact".

The point, of course, is that Nigel Lawson headed the judging panel for the IEA competition, and it is thus inevitable that he would have rejected any submissions that pointed out that the UK would have to go on permitting freedom of movement in order to remain part of the single market.

It says a great deal about Lawson, however, that he could not bring himself to read on, to the part in my submission where we seek to abolish the EU's Single Market. The idea is to replace it with a genuine, Europe-wide single market, administered from Geneva and properly integrated into the global trading system.

With the demise of the EU's Single Market, it follows that the principle of freedom of movement, which is an integral part of the EU construct, also falls. This would allow for a complete renegotiation of the arrangements for enabling labour mobility and visa-free travel throughout the continent.

By then, with us firmly established outside the EU, without the constraints of Article 50 and working with EFTA and other allies, we would be negotiating from a position of strength. As such, we would be able to define a far more attractive settlement than we could do under the time pressure of negotiating an exit.

The essence, therefore, is to decouple talks on our exit from more complex matters. We get the problems of securing our exit out of the way so that we can concentrate fully on the substantive issues, and achieve a better overall result.

This is a far more visionary approach than trying to cobble together an exit agreement that retains a semblance of market access, while running roughshod through freedom of movement provisions. This simply creates new stresses and anomalies, without dealing with core issues.

However, as were the finer details of the nature of the ERM beyond Lawson, so is any idea of a sophisticated approach to dealing with the complex issues of immigration and asylum, which are taxing every developed country in the world.

But not only does this explain Lawson's unconscionable behaviour as an IEA judge, it also goes some way to explaining why Mr Elliott's Vote Leave Ltd is behaving in such an irrational way over the issue of an exit plan.

With Lawson supporting their operation, and acting as president of the allied Conservatives for Britain, his malign influence over the operation will be another factor preventing it offering an intelligent solution to the problems attendant on leaving the EU.

Sadly though, this blathering fool is not the only one who is having difficulty coming to terms with the inherent conflict between freedom of movement and market access.

And even for those who understand the point, there is there is still a massive over-emphasis on stage one of a multi-stage plan. Even now, it has not properly registered that the exit stage is simply a short-term means to an end, leaving the subsequent stages as the crucial elements which will provide for a longer term solutions.

Neither do those who reject the idea of continued EEA participation seems to understand that the EEA Agreement embodies so-called "safeguard measures" which enable unilateral suspension of EEA provisions (such as freedom of movement), should the need arise. Analogous to the "emergency brake", which has been under discussion, this is already an option open to us should we go down the EFTA-EEA route.

Furthermore, there seems to be an almost wilful refusal to accept that the bulk of immigration in this country – and that which imposes the greater stresses on our infrastructure and public services – comes from outside the EU and owes nothing to EU treaties.

When we add the impact of legacy provisions arising from Empire and Commonwealth, and the combined effects of the ECHR and the 1951 Refugee Convention (with the 1967 protocol), EU treaty provisions become the lesser of our many problems – not least of which is the long-term incompetence displayed by our immigration services.

Unfashionable though it may be to take an analytical approach to problems, addressing real issues rather than offering sound-bite solutions, it is this approach which is going to resolve the immigration issue.

The blathering of the likes of Lawson really does not help. He should have been put out to grass years ago. For the rest of us, as The Sceptic Isle points out, it is time to choose.

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