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EU Referendum: another strategic misstep

2015-12-31 06:50:16

Yesterday saw Vote Leave make a fool of itself over the costs of regulation, then compounding its error with facile and misleading estimations of the amount of law in force in the EU.

It claims a "staggering 714,709 pages" are currently in the acquis, repeating the same amateur mistake it has made so often - taking the total laws promulgated over time instead of the laws currently in force. The point, of course, is that as new laws are brought in, many replace others, consolidating or repealing them.

As it stands, the number of EU laws is relatively stable, standing at 23,076, up from 20,868 EU acts currently in force in December 2013. But the figure is irrelevant anyway. For what it is worth, the number of laws on the UK statute book stands at 101,2777 over four times the EU number.

The point here is that numbers, per se, mean nothing. What matters is the nature of the law, its source, and how it is applied. And in purely volume terms, the actual number of EU laws means very little. So much is of international origin which we would have applied irrespective of EU membership, and which will continue to apply even after we leave the EU.

In campaigning terms, it doesn't make sense to talk up the volume of EU law if, when we leave, there will be very little if any change and we end up with just as much law as before we left. Doubtless, the "remain" campaign will point this out, disadvantaging a "leave" campaign which has made an issue of it.

Much the same applies to the question of EU contributions. Given that we agree payments on a seven-year cycle, it is likely that we will remain committed to making full payments until the end of one cycle, and possibly one more.

Then, as has been brought to light by the arguments over the Norway Option, if we were to agree a relationship with the EU similar to that enjoyed by Norway, we would be paying over at least half of what we are currently paying and possibly more.

Add to that the EU payments, for CAP and other functions, and the actual savings on out EU contributions will be relatively modest possibly as little of 4 billion per annum, and then only after a transitional period.

Again, therefore, it makes little sense in campaigning terms to talk up an issue as a problem if we then are not able to deliver much in the way of relief once we leave. Yet again, the "remain" campaign can make mincemeat of our claims.

Yet, this is precisely what Vote Leave is doing, in the Express and the Times, talking up the cost of EU membership, heedless of the fact that leaving the EU will deliver very little in the way of savings. And in the Telegraph, we have Matthew Elliott still bleating that 2014 contribution was 19.1 billion - thus counting in the 4.9 billion rebate that is returned to us.

From another perspective, it also sends out the wrong message, defining the anti-membership case as an economic rather than political issue. That leaves us vulnerable if Mr Cameron is able to promise a reduced contribution (as part of an associate membership package), as we will not be opposing membership as a matter of principle.

This flawed approach, however, is typical of the people involved with Vote Leave. As we saw, Cummings focused on the economic issue during his Business for Sterling days, Elliott used cost as the basis of his failing No2AV referendum strategy, and now we see the same theme in use again making the Cummings-Elliott duo something of a one-trick pony.

Such is their arrogance, however, that nothing critical  - either in private or public - will ever have an effect on them. These self-declared campaigning "geniuses" consider themselves totally beyond reproach. Neither do they believe in consultation, or in coordinating their activities with other groups.

Under such circumstances, all we can do is publicly distance ourselves from their incompetence making a declaration that they do not speak for us and that the claims made are "not in our name".

Vote Leave is acting with all the strategic and tactical acumen of a bull in a china shop, and we cannot afford to be seen to have anything to do with them. We did not ask them to take on the "leave" campaign and, as they are dong more harm than good, we can only make out concerns very public and very clear.