Brexit: the need for accuracy

22/08/2018  


Doubtless, there are those who positively embrace the prospect of a "no deal" scenario and the chaos it will bring, perhaps as a vindication of their personal belief that Brexit was a bad idea or even for the opportunity it presents for overturning the result of the referendum and getting us back into the EU.

From my point of view as a campaigner for a more rational form of Brexit, I would tend to share a view that the worse the "no deal" outcome, the better – if it then focuses minds on seeking something closer to that which I would prefer.

However, my alter ego the analyst seeks to establish as best I can the likely events attendant on the different Brexit outcomes, the "no deal" scenario getting a considerable amount of attention of late owing to its prominence and the increasing concern that this is the direction we are headed.

In my previous post, I referred to my own personal learning curve. From looking at the strict application of international law, I wrote, one moves on to look at the politics and, eventually, one is able to merge the issues and come to a more nuanced assessment of what might be real world responses.

Obviously, the assessment will change over time but, clearly, the idea that the short-term effects of "no deal" might be less visible than at first anticipated comes as a disappointment to some. They preferred my Armageddon version of the "no deal".

Yet, logic alone would suggest that the UK government, even at its most inept, is not going to see food supplies turned away from the ports while supermarket shelves are empty and people are going hungry – not if there is a way out.

For all his expertise in EU law, George Peretz QC in his article in the Telegraph didn't see a way out. In his book, if the UK needs to ease the logjam at the ports by waiving tariffs and checks on imports from the EU, it will also have to waive them for imports from (for example) China and the US in order to avoid well-founded claims of discrimination.

My view, expressed in my piece, is that if it needed to do so, the UK would waive the checks on goods from EU Member States without incurring any penalty. As long as it maintained the status quo, any aggrieved contracting parties would have difficulty demonstrating "nullification or impairment", and any action against the UK would be unlikely to succeed.

Peretz counters that the UK Government has always had a firm policy of complying with its international obligations, whether enforceable or not.

That, he says, "is a real constraint on policy", adding that "there will be real political consequences for the UK if it proceeds in a way that is in breach of its WTO obligations". Such conduct, he avers, "is not consistent with the Government's stated aim of being a leading free-trade voice in the WTO".

But what he missed was my reference to the UK deciding to invoke the national security exemption, whence its lawyers would doubtless be able to keep any complainants tied up in the minutia of international law and WTO precedents so that, by the time anything was resolved – if, indeed, it was – the crisis would have been long past.

My first reference to the national security exemption was a fortnight ago, set out in GATT Article XXI, which allows any contracting party to take any action it considers necessary "for the protection of its essential security interests", taken in time of war or other emergency in international relations.

In terms of interpretation, the WTO itself makes it very clear that "every country must be the judge in the last resort on questions relating to its own security". The Contracting Parties have no power to question that judgement. The exercise of Article XXI rights constituted a general exception, "and required neither notification, justification nor approval".

To an absolute, unqualified degree, therefore, this constitutes a "get out of jail free" card for the UK. In invoking Article XXI, it would not be in breach of its WTO obligations. It would be working entirely within the framework of the Agreement.

Interestingly, when the US applied a trade embargo against Nicaragua in 1985, citing the national security exemption, it was referred to the dispute panel. It concluded that it was not authorised to examine the justification for the United States' invocation and therefore, "could find the United States neither to be complying with its obligations under the General Agreement nor to be failing to carry out its obligations under that Agreement".

Incidentally, the Republic of Ireland could also invoke Article XXI in respect of the border with Northern Ireland – even if the consequence was to have the EU install customs checks between Ireland and the rest of the EU.

That Mr Peretz missed this aspect of WTO law is perhaps a reflection of the fact that he is not an expert on the WTO. Neither am I, for that matter, but I am a competent researcher and analyst and the application of Article XXI emerged during my wider studies of the WTO Option.

As to his expertise on the EU, he takes exception to what he considers to be my criticism of him "for not being a specialist in EU law", whereas what I do assert is that "having taken cases to the ECJ … does not make him an expert in the wide sweep of European Union affairs".

That lack of broader expertise on EU matters was certainly visible in what I regarded as a superficial account of the impact of post-Brexit border controls. His analysis, I charged, was "pretty superficial and in some areas so incomplete as to be misleading".

Peretz claims in his defence that, in a 1,000-word article, one can hardly be anything other than superficial but what I particularly had in mind was his assertion that: "UK live animal exports will face compulsory veterinary checks at the EU border".

From a real expert one might expect to learn that, given a "no deal" Brexit, there will be no veterinary checks at all at the borders. Live animal exports (and the export of products of animal origin) will be prohibited outright. And that accurate version of the state of the art is shorter than his rendition.

Why all this matters is that, when cautionary tales about the effects of a "no deal" Brexit are so easily dismissed as "project fear", it is vital to present as accurate a picture as possible of the potential effects.

This is especially necessary as the legacy media seems intent on overstating the case. Only yesterday, for instance, we saw in The Times an article headlined: "No-deal Brexit could leave hospitals with drug shortage, say NHS chiefs", a claim that can hardly by sustained.

Here, we have pointed out many times that the problem comes because the EU no longer permits the free circulation of medicines when the holder of the market authorisation is established in the UK. But since that will hardly be a problem for the NHS, which can also procure medicines from the EU, the real losers are the EU Member States which will need to find alternative suppliers.

The same applies to chemicals, where the UK will continue to recognise REACH, and motor vehicles. In the latter case, type approvals issued by regulators in EU Member States will be valid in the UK whereas the type approvals issued by the UK regulator will not be valid in EU Member States.

With the possible exception of aviation - where I do not see how the EU can circumvent the problem of aircraft fitted with UK certified parts which cease to be validly certified after Brexit – many of the headline issues currently being paraded by the legacy media are open to mitigation by the UK government.

If I was advising the UK government (which I am not), in the event of a "no deal" Brexit, I would be suggesting that it concentrates on the headline issues and makes sure they don't happen. With a modicum of planning, and the use of the Civil Contingencies Act, there is no reason at all why there should be a logjam at the ports or queues of lorries on the M20.

With that under control, there will be no food shortages – other then those arising from panic buying (which is a distinct possibility) – no shortages of medicines and none of the more lurid consequences that the media might devise.

But that is not to say that the consequences of a "no deal" Brexit will be benign. What could very easily be a collapse of the UK's export trade with the EU could have a devastating effect – even if it takes a few months to become apparent. That alone is reason enough to avoid a "no deal".

The danger is that, if the short term effects are debunked, people may be misled into thinking that a "no deal" outcome is harmless. And with that, I don't think anybody could rightly suggest that George Peretz has got the full measure of a "no deal" Brexit. It the public are to be properly informed via the legacy media, somebody else will have to add to his work.



Richard North 22/08/2018 link

Brexit: lawyers at large

21/08/2018  


In a my professional capacity as an expert witness, I've met and worked with quite a few barristers in my time, including QCs. Some have been good, some mediocre and some bloody awful – an embarrassment not only to their own profession but to humanity in general. The number who have been outstanding I can count on the fingers of one hand.

By itself, therefore, the title QC means very little other than its holder has attained a degree of seniority as a barrister and, if still practicing, is capable of reading and evaluating a brief and arguing a case in court. It does not imply any great (or any) expertise in any specific subject.

Lawyers acting outside their own areas of speciality have no claim to expertise and their opinions are no more valid than any other person working in the field. In some respects, the limited horizons or prejudices of lawyers may handicap them in understanding issues beyond their immediate experience.

When it comes to individual lawyers, therefore, I take them as I find them, and where they encroach into the land of Brexit, their work must stand on its merits, especially as they are well-capable of talking nonsense with the best of us.

That, of course, applies to George Peretz QC, who fancies himself as a popular expert in all things Brexit, even if his general cv does not attest to expertise in matters to do with the EU. He claims experience in the areas of public law, regulatory and tax issues, "with particular strengths in competition, VAT, agriculture, freedom of information and pharmaceuticals". And despite having taken cases to the ECJ, that does not make him an expert in the wide sweep of European Union affairs..

Still less is Mr Peretz an expert in matters to do with the WTO, which is a specialist field in its own right, and so complex as to encompass many sub-specialities which have their own band of experts.

Nevertheless, that has not prevented the Telegraph turning to Peretz for an opinion on the application of the so-called "WTO Option", to counter the recent propaganda from IDS, also published in the Telegraph.

As an aside, I don't see the point of a newspaper publishing these completely contradictory articles, without coming down on one side or another. Otherwise, it is just another example of cheap "he says, she says" journalism, leaving the bemused reader to choose between the two.

Turning to the Peretz article, if one it to take it as the sort of thing that a reasonably intelligent layman could produce, then it's not too bad – and certainly doesn't embrace quite as many errors as the equivalent piece by IDS.

Thus we get a pedestrian and somewhat formulaic exposition of how border controls will apply to UK goods being brought into the EU post-Brexit, although it is pretty clear that Mr Peretz has only skim-read the summaries and not delved into the details. His analysis is pretty superficial and in some areas so incomplete as to be misleading.

Furthermore, like so many lawyers with no particular knowledge or practical experience of a particular subject (and in common with the archetypal barrack-room lawyer), he tends to take a legalistic view of the written word, and thus interprets the powers and actions of the WTO as a legal construct.

What few lawyers seem fully able to grasp is that most international bodies are as much political as legal constructs – and in many cases more so. Treaty law, as it applies to them, is not the law in the rigid sense that statutes are applied in domestic courts. It is subject to vagaries of political expediency and the obvious problems of enforcement the affect a body which, in the case of the WTO, has no direct enforcement powers.

The "nuances" of international law – if you like to call them that, start to become important when we start to consider the impact of the WTO's non-discrimination rules to the EU and also to the UK in a post-Brexit environment.

Rightly, Peretz argues that these rules "make it hard for the EU to give the UK benefits that it doesn't give other third countries". In other words, he says, they "reduce the ability of the EU to waive or modify its rules and procedures for the UK’s benefit".

But, in the manner not of the intelligent layman but of a lawyer handicapped by his professional bias, he is entirely wrong in asserting that the rules will have equal impact on the UK. Says Peretz the lawyer, "Equally, if the UK's policy response to the problems of 'no deal' is to waive tariffs and checks on imports from the EU, it will also have to waive them for imports from (for example) China and the US in order to avoid well-founded claims of discrimination".

Noting that this is "unlikely to be politically attractive" (as well as potentially hazardous), what he doesn't take on board is the very nature of the WTO as a body dedicated to facilitating international trade.

As such, the WTO relies on negotiation as its main tool and regards the treaty law as a adjunct, to be used when all else fails and then only to achieve an effect. It is not a legal authority which regards the rule of law as a sacred principle or any part of its duty implementing the letter of the law.

Reflecting this, many of the WTO treaty provisions (and their predecessors in GATT) are not actionable merely on evidence of a breach. The WTO Agreement sets the additional test of requiring the aggrieved party (or parties) to have suffered injury – known in technical terms as "nullification or impairment".

Given this requirement, one can imagine a post-Brexit UK which, in order to keep goods flowing and to prevent the ports being clogged, decides to maintain its existing checks on what were EU third countries but decides to waive checks on EU produce which, until very recently it did not check at all.

In those circumstances, where the UK is maintaining the status quo, one has to ask whether any of the erstwhile third countries are materially disadvantaged. And, if they feel they are, their option is to go through the dispute procedures, potentially taking several years before an actional judgement is made, which in any event only allows the aggrieved parties to impose sanctions which have an effect on the target county similar to the damage originally sustained.

One can easily imagine the situation where the UK will take the political judgement that it should waive WTO rules. And even if it is later found to be in breach, such modest sanctions as may then apply – some time in the distant future – are nothing compared to the damage that might otherwise have been caused.

Similarly, if the UK decides to invoke the national security exemption, its lawyers will doubtless be able to keep any complainants tied up in the minutia of international law and WTO precedents so that, by the time anything is resolved – if, indeed, it is – the crisis will have been long past.

Understanding this has been part of my own personal learning curve. From looking at the strict application of international law, one moves on to look at the politics and, eventually, one is able to merge the issues and come to a more nuanced assessment of what might be real world responses.

Sadly, Mr Peretz is only at stage one, which means that his response in the Telegraph, while helpful, is not that convincing. He is able to point out some of the perils of the WTO Option, but is unable to offer a balanced view.

What needs to be conveyed, and with some urgency, is that – beyond the short-term effects - the main impact of a WTO "no deal" Brexit will be to cripple our export trade with the EU – slashing the current £270 billion of goods sold to a fraction of that level, a level unknown and not possible to estimate.

For very obvious reasons, the UK will be less inclined to restrict EU imports – not only will it have less legal justification, in a country which is only 60 percent sufficient in food, it cannot afford to turn away supplies from EU Member States – and will not find it easy to source alternatives.

Crucially, this means that many of the headline effects of Brexit will not materialise – or are capable of mitigation to such an extent that they will scarcely register as much more than minor perturbations. The really damaging effects will be longer-term and far less visible, the cumulative effect discernible only from periodic trade statistics.

This makes it very easy to dismiss the more lurid or theoretical claims as "project fear", thereby imparting a false sense of security as to the real effects of the WTO option.

Peretz's concluding point is that "leaving the single market and the customs union, without any replacement FTA and without transitional measures, would be a sudden and serious deterioration in our terms of trade with our major trading partner, with very serious impacts on UK businesses ranging from large car manufacturers to Welsh farmers exporting lamb to jobbing musicians (as well as on UK citizens living in the EU, an issue not mentioned by Duncan Smith)". WTO rules, he says, "do not alter those conclusions".

Apart from the irrational injection of the "customs unions", he is not wrong in what he says, but the case has yet to be made in the legacy media as to precisely why the WTO Option will be quite so harmful. For that, a lawyer is probably the wrong person to ask.



Richard North 21/08/2018 link

Brexit: things that should not need to be said

31/12/2016  


Says Jean-Claude Piris, former head of the EU Council's legal service, it will be "totally impossible" for Britain to wrap up a trade pact with the EU within two years. Such a deal would comprise "thousands of pages and hundreds of articles" and there was no chance of it being ready before a scheduled Brexit in 2019.

Mr Piris says that a UK-EU trade deal "could take up to 10 years" because of the complexity of the task, but added that he hoped it could be concluded more quickly. "We could do it in maybe five years, I don't know".

"The important thing", he adds, "is that clearly there is a gap of a few years between the date where the UK is withdrawing from the EU and the date where this agreement comes into effect, perhaps five or six years".

Piris calls this the "WTO gap", when we would have to fall back on WTO rules as the basis for our trading arrangements. And that, in his view, would be "a catastrophe for the EU" but mainly for Britain because it did nearly half of its trade with Europe. To avert that catastrophe, he says, the UK will need a transition deal.

However, when it comes to working out the detail, Piris is less than clear. He suggests that there are [only] two kinds of transitional deal that might be used to bridge the gap, the first of which would see Britain staying in the single market for a few years.

This, rather unfortunately, would require Mrs May to sign up for a limited period to existing obligations including the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and free movement of people - both of which she has said are red lines in her negotiation.

The second option Piris has on offer is "much more modest" (his own definition) where Britain negotiated to stay in the customs union, similar to the deal enjoyed by Turkey.

"That would mean the territory of the UK would be in the customs union and you benefit from the whole of the EU's trade policy including all the agreements we have done in the past and the ones we are going to conclude soon with Japan and so on", he says.

Piris is slated as "one of the EU's most eminent lawyers", which goes to show that even prestige cannot prevent people getting it wrong. He of all people should know that Turkey is not in the EU's customs union, and neither would staying in it (if we could), give us access to the EU's external trade deals.

Whatever Piris might think, there is no scenario where negotiating a customs union with the European Union could serve adequately as a transitional arrangement. Only some means of continuing in the Single Market would suffice, which is best achieved by the Efta/EEA option – something Piris does not mention.

Nevertheless, the man is not alone in his predictions of "catastrophe" for the WTO option. He is effectively supported by Matthias Wissmann, head of the German automobile industry association.

Writing of the forthcoming negotiations, he argues that the core question remains unresolved: how does Britain manage to end EU membership on the one hand, and on the other hand to continue to benefit from the country's previous EU membership?

Is it realistic, he asks, to choose only three from the four freedoms of the EU - free movement of persons, goods, services and capital, while limiting free movement of persons? Brussels, he says, has already made it clear that the "four fundamental freedoms" cannot be put at risk.

Yet, he says, there is a deep reciprocal dependency between Great Britain and the EU as well as Germany. And from a German perspective, the British are also strategically important: they are the voice of market economy, competition, as opposed to representatives of a "transfer union". Without London it would be even more difficult for Berlin in Brussels to stand up against the other EU countries.

Wissmann thus declares that a hard Brexit would be a "mission impossible". The EU and the UK would face "massive negative effects" if Britain left the Single Market.

This is more or less a repetition of his warning in October, when he was suggesting that car makers were likely to move production to low-cost EU countries in eastern Europe if the UK was no longer part of the Single Market.

Currently, though, Wissmann thinks that the Brexit talks must centre on the UK remaining in the internal market and in the customs union. It should accept the basic freedoms and make a financial contribution to the EU budget in return for unimpeded access to the internal market.

What thus we seem to be seeing is Continental figures playing catch-up – still years behind and not yet focused on the issues, telling us things that should not have to be said.

But, for all the determination of the chatterati to ignore the Efta-EEA option – or to damn it with faint praise – it isn't going away any time soon. In a welcome intervention, George Peretz argues that it is now up to our democratically elected politicians to decide whether the EEA is the right option.

Of course, the government should be mindful of whether that delivers what the electorate, or at least the bulk of it, wants (or is prepared to live with as part of a compromise).

But, he says, that electorate includes not only the unknowable number of "leave" voters for whom the EEA delivers what they wanted, but also the over 48 percent who voted to stay in the EU, and who can reasonably be supposed to prefer that option to options that seek to sever the UK further from the rest of the continent.

Politicians may – properly – decide that, on its merits, the EEA is not the right way forward. But that argument on the merits cannot properly be shut down by false claims that that option is foreclosed by the 23 June vote.

As a matter of basic constitutional principle, Peretz concludes, it is the job of elected politicians to represent, and take into account the views of, all their voters - not just the subset who happened to agree with Vote Leave's views on the single market – whatever they were.

Gradually, I think we are seeing a merging of ideas, which may eventually get us there, freezing out the zombies who would have us crash the economy just to sate their stupidity. The "transitional deal" is definitely on the agenda. All we need now is a consensus that Efta-EEA satisfies this need.



Richard North 31/12/2016 link

Brexit: the darkest of games

25/07/2016  


Those with memories that go back to the IEA Brexit competition in 2013-14 will recall that not one of the six finalists advocated the Efta/EEA option. All of these finalists "coincidentally" went for a then little-discussed Efta-bilateral option, the only six to have done so. And they all got a prize.

All those who advocated the Efta/EAA option were excluded from the final list – my submission included - even though a number of us had been originally shortlisted. Then the rules were changed, and a new shortlist of the shortlist was prepared. We found ourselves ousted from the competition.

That the head of the judging panel was Lord Lawson is no coincidence. This is a man who has consistently opposed the EEA option. And it is quite obvious that the IEA Brexit competition was rigged, unfairly to discriminate against those who offered the EEA option as a solution.

However, unlike most of the other discarded competitors, I did not take the rejection as final. I continued work on my draft, which is now in its eighth edition as Flexcit. But merely to have been so persistent has provoked the enmity of the eurosceptic "aristocracy" who, almost to a man (and woman), oppose the Efta/EEA option.

Amongst those are the group of "eurosceptic" Tory back-benchers, including Bill Cash, John Redwood and now the rising star, Steve Baker - all considered to be on the "right" of the party. They detest the idea of the Single Market, with an ideological fervour which defies any rationality. And because they have no rational base for their beliefs, they treat disagreement as tantamount to heresy.

These people don't fight fair. They attack the messenger, in my case briefing against me personally in a most disgusting fashion, all with the view of discrediting my arguments without ever having to deal with them.

Sadly, they've been aided and abetted by people whom I should have been able to rely upon as allies. But, since early days, just to exist and try and do one's work conscientiously, is to attract enemies.

In Ukip, in an attempt to neutralise the growing claims that our Party was racist, I recruited two Kashmiri Muslims to stand for Ukip in the 2001 General Election, only to attract the rabid hostility of a fundamentalist Christian group who effectively ran the Yorkshire region.

Writing The Great Deception, one might have thought, would have gained an amount of support, but it attracted a huge number of enemies in Ukip, as we failed to support the Rodney Atkinson theory that the EU was born of a Nazi plot.

My hostility to Nigel Farage, of course, has built up an extra cadre of enemies – his loyal fans who will hear no ill against their leader. I am supposed to give my unconditional backing to a man who had seriously damaged me financially and politically and who, to this day, briefs against me with a collection of well-worn lies.

Then, as we began to focus on leaving the EU, we looked seriously at Article 50, only to meet the sub-group who we have come to call the "trappists", who insist that the Article is a "trap" and that we should immediately repeal the ECA.

My subsequent support for a phased withdrawal from the EU has then built its own band of detractors, to add to the others, to which we must add the Cummings-Elliott nexus who, for their own thoroughly dishonest reasons, excluded me from the official leave campaign.

It may occur to the dispassionate observer, however, that my enemies have in common things which would lead them to be hostile to me, entirely unrelated to my own personality. After all, with the idea spread about that I am "difficult to work with", can anybody say that with a straight face after seeing Dominic Cummings in action? 

As to my critics, one only has to observe the discourtesy with which Steve Baker treated me (along with the rest of the Treasury Committee). He doesn't say so, but he completely disagrees with my position. But instead of having an open debate, he abused his position on the Committee to shut me out. The other witnesses were given twice the time I was allowed, drowning out my input.

But if that is the way these people work, there are others who have been taken in by the hostile propaganda. Some have argued that the Flexcit message would do better if it was detached from its primary author, and promoted separately as a concept by different people.

I've not entirely agreed with that view – not least because it is based on the false premise that I am the problem rather than the message. But I tolerated some independent initiatives before the referendum, simply to avoid any public display of disharmony.

This has been particularly the case with Roland Smith. But he has stretched tolerance to breaking point and beyond. With Sam Bowman of the Adam Smith Institute, he has produced a progression of posts, through which he has gradually sought to take ownership of the Flexcit agenda.

In work which quite evidently relies on Flexcit and the EUReferendum blog, Smith has only ever once admitted that his writing "borrows from the North plan". But in his latest evolution, published on Friday last, he offers a "collaborative effort" which once again "borrows from the North plan". Yet it is attributed to a group of authors led by himself, with no attribution to myself, the blog or Flexcit, or any recognition of the origins.

Sadly, in an (unsuccessful) attempt to make this "interim option" just sufficiently different from Flexcit to avoid a charge of outright plagiarism, Smith has introduced a number of errors, while also failing to keep up to speed with the EEA/Liechtenstein solution on freedom of movement.

He thus makes space for the predators to move in and damn his work with faint praise. That is the problem generally with cheap rip-offs. Superficially, they may look the same as the originals, but they are not as well-built and easily fall apart with only gentle use. This is why, of course, counterfeits should be avoided.

Significantly, one of Smith's co-authors is Dr Kristian Niemietz, who recently wrote an article for the IEA, headed, "Saving Brexit from the Brexiteers: why free-market liberals should support the EFTA/EEA option".

Dr Kristian Niemietz is the IEA's Head of Health and Welfare. He is seemingly obviously oblivious to the irony of his own Institute's rejection of the very same option when it was handed to them on a plate during its Brexit competition. But at least Niemitz in his own writing links to Flexcit – even though he doesn't mention it by name – an indirect and grudging acknowledgement of the source of the idea.

No such acknowledgement comes from Smith's other co-authors, Prof Steven Peers, George Peretz QC and Prof Simon Hix. Interestingly, the only time we seem to have heard about the EEA from Peers at such length is in a blogpost published on 24 June, the day after the referendum. So similar is this to the first stage of Flexcit – first published over two years ago – that it would be for him to show that he managed to dream up an almost exact replica all on his own, divorced from any external influence. 

At least the other two, Peretz and Hix, come to the subject anew, with nothing more to contribute to Smith's effort than their names. Hix in a YouTube presentation published on 30 June, effectively dismissed the option. His favourite response to it was: "please could I have a unicorn". Tellingly, he then went on to have a quick sneer at Flexcit, lumped in with fictional options.

All that aside, though, Smith's plagiarism presents me with a problem. Whatever justification he might have had before the referendum no longer applies. But when I have ignored it, he treats my silence as assent, and becomes more and more brazen in his theft.

At the other extreme, I do not want to waste money on formal action – that would serve little but to make a small band of lawyers even richer than they are already. And since I have offered the Flexcit free of charge to those who were prepared responsibly to promote it, I have suffered no financial loss.

In this case, though, Macmillan's "events, dear boy, events", are providing an answer. While Smith and his friends are so anxious to establish their ownership of a sub-standard version of Flexcit, the events of the past few days are rapidly making their efforts redundant.

When you look at the posturing of the Tory backbencher dinosaurs, and the actions of the Government in seeking to secure a Brexit settlement, even their rip-off version of Flexcit is so massively sophisticated in relation to what our protagonists are able to deal with, that it is totally beyond their comprehension.

On the one side, we have government agencies dealing with the mechanics of Brexit at an almost childishly superficial level, and on the other we have dinosaur Tories unable to see beyond their simplistic mantra of repeal the ECA", played to the repetitive counterpoint of "free-trade, free-trade, free-trade".

To such simple souls, the idea of an interim solution – presupposing a future end game which encompasses dimensions not already on the table – is so far beyond their comprehension that we all might just as well be speaking in tongues.

In context, Flexcit was intended as a referendum tool, designed to provide reassurance to wavering voters that there was a post-exit plan, and that leaving could be safe and largely cost-free. It was not intended for these people and doesn't speak to them. 

Now the referendum is over, Flexcit as originally drafted has largely done its job. I am already having to rewrite it to deal with the new political realities as they emerge. That a group of plagiarists now want to copy the old version is, in its way, very flattering. But it is largely a waste of time. The situation is changing faster then they can copy my work.

The important point, however, is that the work produced by Smith and his friends should not be confused with Flexcit. Although based on our work, they have introduced too many errors and are too far behind the curve for it to be taken seriously. If they want to market their sub-standard rip-off, they may as well get on with it, as long as they don't pretend it is Flexcit.

And while they play their games, we have to deal with the far greater threat, where the Tory dinosaurs, led by the likes of Steve Baker, are locking horns in a battle that has the potential to do far greater harm that Smith's petty theft.



Richard North 25/07/2016 link
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