EU Referendum: flawed understanding


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One of the most prominent women in the Square Mile has suggested that the perils of Britain leaving the EU have been exaggerated - citing the "hollow warnings" about not joining the euro a decade ago.

This was Helena Morrissey, chief executive of Newton Investment Management, as reported by the Financial Times, commenting at the "Renegotiation, Brexit and the City" event in London, jointly organised by the City of London Corporation, Business for Britain and Business for New Europe. Its purpose was to "air the opposing points of view over Britain's EU membership".

What is depressing about this is that the FT describes it as both sides of the debate "fine-tuning" their arguments ahead of the EU referendum. Yet the idea of "fine-tuning" suggests that the arguments are all but complete, with only final adjustments to be made. But, to judge from Ms Morrissey's input, that is very far from the case.

Described as a member of Business for Britain, one of Matthew Elliott's business ventures, this woman would have it that the EU was turning out to be a "flawed concept" because it had monetary union without fiscal or political union.

Seemingly a small detail, the EU cannot be regarded as a flawed concept for this reason. The very essence of the single currency was to launch an incomplete construct in the knowledge that the stresses would create political pressures which would drive further integration.

This is the mechanism of engrenage, at the core of the so-called Monnet Method, relying on the doctrine of the beneficial crisis. It is not, as they say, a bug, but a feature. The European Union was designed to act in this way.

It is not as if this was arcane detail – it really is basic information, freely discussed in Brussels circles. Even the Financial Times was recently telling us that: "There is a comforting cliché in Brussels that the EU needs crises in order to progress".

So, in one short statement, therefore, Morrissey actually demonstrates her fundamental ignorance of the functioning the EU, standing up in front of her peers, parading that ignorance for all to see.

That actually tells us a great deal about the Business for Elliott coterie – who have in common the most profound ignorance of how the EU works. And this is why they consistently get the EU wrong. If you don't have a firm grip of the basics, then you will fail to interpret correctly the information that comes to you.

The resultant inability to see the wood for the trees is highly visible not only in the ranks of self-important pundits, but terrifying evident in much of the media coverage, with Fraser Nelson in the Telegraph retailing the empty prattle that has been doing the rounds in SW1, as if it was news, and something important.

Relying entirely on bubble gossip, the current legend has been that Osborne – having staked his reputation on bringing the EU "renegotiations" to a successful conclusion, is now regretting his intervention and is now looking for a way of cutting his losses.

According to the bubble-prattle, as retailed by Fraser Nelson, Osborne does have an alternative. He can return from Brussels saying that tried his best but, in the end, they would not offer Britain a good deal – so, with a heavy heart, he would have to recommend an "out" vote, then pushing for an early referendum.

These hacks still can't get their heads round the fact that we're looking at a "remain" vote but, that notwithstanding, there is no way on this side of Hades than either George Osborne or David Cameron are going to come back from Brussels and campaign for "leave".

In part, that is misdirection – propaganda that has been doing the rounds for months, pushed out by Downing Street to keep the gullible hacks busy and off the scent. In greater part, it is lapped up and regurgitated by the likes of Matthew Elliott, with the second Cummings panting in his wake, used to sell the idea of a spring referendum – an ideal means of keeping the sponsorship flowing.

All it takes is a little gentle prodding from the likes of Dennis MacShane, and the legend acquires a solidity that only the Westminster claque can deliver. This will then be locked in as the received wisdom for the next six months – until the hacks can find another hare to chase.

The more immediate problem, though, is that the hacks simply cannot cope with referendums, where power passes briefly from the political élites to the people, who become responsible for making decisions on issues which has been abandoned by the politicians.

Thus, we have the Times offering what it purports to be a serious piece of journalism, delivering "research" from the europhile Open Europe, "showing that 69 Tory MPs are likely to vote to leave the EU, while 203 could swing either way in the referendum".

This may be of interest to the bubble but, frankly, who else cares? In an electorate in excess of 45 million, the sentiment of less than 300 Tory MPs is a complete irrelevance. But there, writ small, is the evidence of the total failure of the legacy media and the rest of the bubble to cope with something they don't understand. They lack even the capacity to understand, and if the answers were painted on billboards in letters ten feet high, they still would not understand what they are being told.

Not anywhere are we going to get any sense out of the legacy media, and even Arron Banks is apparently losing his marbles by inviting Farage to quit Ukip and lead his campaign. If this was actually true, it would ensure that Arron would be able to do even more damage to the cause than he is already doing, killing his own campaign and completely marginalise his already faltering effort.

With the Conservative Party conference coming up, though, we're going to get all sorts of inane reporting and idle speculation. For want of having anything intelligent to say, the hacks are anticipating a feeding frenzy they hope to engineer over supposed "Tory splits" on the EU. This will save them the trouble of moving out of their comfort zones and reporting on things that are actually happening.

Meanwhile, as Mr Brexit points out, we are being taken for a ride with misleading coverage from Hammond, which keeps the space filled between the adverts and the public in the dark. Yet, sadly, there are plenty of those who believe the theatre and look no further, sharing the flawed understanding of their self-appointed "betters".

Richard North 03/10/2015 link

EU Referendum: designation - the war of words


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The battle for designation took on another twist on Tuesday with the publication on Conservative Home of a self-serving eulogy from Mark Wallace, about his former boss Matthew Elliott, stressing his suitability to lead the "leave" campaign.

About the same time, we were criticising John Springford of the Centre for European Reform for not declaring a financial interest when propagandising about the Norway option. It is only fair then that we should note Mark Wallace was telling us that:
… it should be clear which organisation is best equipped to lead the Leave side. That organisation is the Elliott/Cummings campaign, and as long-standing supporters of Brexit we look forward to its launch
… without him disclosing his relationship with his former boss, and that they are very close friends and associates.

The omission brought a sharp rejoinder from Peter North - and deservedly so. There is no reason why Wallace should not speak up for Elliott, but not to declare his relationship is underhand.

Mind, the very fact that the eulogy appeared on Conservative Home says something. The website is part of the Message Space nexus, the operation set up by Paul Staines (of Guido Fawkes notoriety), and Jag Singh. Both are close friends of Elliott, and were co-investors in his Wess Digital enterprise, as charted by The Boiling Frog.

It is also the case that after Elliott had taken over the reins of the No2AV campaign, he appointed his friend and business associate Jag Singh as Digital Director, who then appointed Message Space - the company in which he had a financial interest - as the campaign's digital agency.

Singh himself was awarded over £30,000-worth of contracts in the immediate run-up to the ballot in May 2011 - paid to a Hong Kong bank - and Message Space was paid over £65,000, which including on 5 May – days before the poll – the biggest 1-day-blitz online ad buy in UK political history. One should note that Conservative Home - then under the proprietorship of Tim Montgomerie - was a major beneficiary.

After the campaign, it was interesting to note that Montgomerie awarded Elliott the accolade of, "probably the most effective political campaigner that Britain has produced in a generation". That was despite his having brought the No2AV campaign so close to the brink of disaster that it required the direct intervention of the Prime Minister to rescue it, thereby nearly achieving the impossible - losing an unlosable campaign.

Given past form, though, it now stands to reason that if Mr Elliott captures the much larger franchise for the EU "leave" campaign – worth up to £7 million – his operation could be similarly generous in rewarding its friends and associates with contracts and purchases. Con Home, in this event, might expect to gain additional advertising and cannot, therefore, be considered an entirely neutral player.

Responding to Con Home and Wallace, however, is a champion of Elliott's potential nemesis, Arron Banks, a man by the name of Raheem Kassam, editor of Brietbart London. Not a natural ally of this blog, he expresses himself in such terms that even Peter ended up defending him.

Kassam, at least, declares an interest: Wallace at one time got him a job at the Tax Payers' Alliance and he even got along with one of his best friends, Matthew Elliott. But, says Kassam, "as is the way with these things, if you don't play by their rules, they disown, disassociate, and all basically just diss you all round".

On the receiving end of this, Kassam claims to have been "far too often", and asserts that Arron Banks, UKIP and the Leave.EU campaign are now their main targets. And Wallace's piece, Kassam asserts, "is a very thinly veiled attempt to prompt people the way of Elliott's floundering Business for Britain campaign, which has aligned to it, the Conservatives for Britain, and Labour for Britain".

Elliott's campaign, Kassam believes, is haemorrhaging financial support – and is nowhere near the size of Leave.EU. "To be struggling financially with a skeleton staff", he says, "isn't exactly promising". Meanwhile, Banks is said to have a 50-person staffed call centre, as well as a fully fledged operation in place, with suggestions that he's spending just shy of half a million pounds a month. 

Bundling Elliott in with Dominic Cummings – a man who Elliott regards as one of his mentors - Kassam challenges Wallace's claims of them that they are "officially and decidedly for leaving the EU". Still up on the BfB website, in its FAQs section, he says, is the declaration: "Business for Britain is absolutely not about leaving the EU".

Of even more concern to some is the statement recorded by Isabel Oakeshott of the Evening Standard on 1 June this year. Elliott's Business for Britain is said to be encouraged that even hardcore federalists such as Jacques Delors and Giscard d'Estaing talk about the UK having "associate" status. "If the Government gets a two-tier Europe, we're very much in", Elliott said then.

However, Kassam and, in another Breitbart piece, Farage, are missing an important point. Business for Britain is not going to lead the "leave" campaign. Rather, Elliott has a separate company, the No Campaign Ltd, which he can use as the platform for an entirely new operation.

As such, Elliott can shed inconvenient BfB baggage, such as his statements on not leaving the EU. Like a moth emerging from its cocoon, he can metamorphose into a squeaky clean "leaver" – if that is what is needed to get Electoral Commission lead designation. If he gets it, he can operate with a budget capped at £7 million, instead of the £700,000 allowed to other (non party-political) registered campaigners.

Nevertheless, Farage questions whether, what he calls the "Tufton Street group", can "reach out beyond Westminster", not realising that Elliott is now a born-again leaver. And, having vacated Tufton Street and his job as CEO of Business for Britain, he now operates out of Westminster Tower on the Albert Embankment, the same site he used for the No2AV campaign. 

The Ukip leader is similarly behind the curve in complimenting Elliott for having good research staff, wrongly crediting them "with getting Tories to force a government U-turn on the purdah rules". It was one of this blog's readers who spotted the problem and this blog which raised the alarm, providing the research for Owen Paterson, who made the initial running in early June.

Typical of Elliott's style, though, he comes in after the event, with a fraction of the information and a limited grasp of the issues, to claim the credit. Typical of Farage's style, he falls for the hype.

But there's the big problem with Elliott and his "SW1 crowd". Assiduous in talking up their reputations and excluding outsiders (while stealing the credit for what others do), they are out of their depth when it comes to the EU. Dangerously, they have not the first idea of what constitutes a winning strategy.

And why he might not be as spectacularly incompetent as Arron Banks, all Elliott has shown in his earlier activities is that he has a grasp of basic tactics - even if he is someone pedestrian in their application - and has some management skills. He has never had to demonstrate that he has any grasp of the strategic needs of a "leave" campaign, and his offerings so far have been feeble. Furthermore, there is no one around him capable of giving him the advice he needs – not that he would understand it if given.

For my part, I look upon this growing train-wreck situation with dismay. Along with Peter, I take the view that Arron Banks is unlikely to deliver an effective campaign unless he substantially ups his game, which leaves the media and others – including Mark Wallace - arguing that Elliott is the only game in town.

But there is the Referendum Planning Group (RPG), made up from the Bruges Group, the Campaign for Independent Britain and others, including this blog. And while I am prepared to work alongside any organisation genuinely intending to fight to leave the EU, pursuing an application for lead designation through this group begins to look increasingly attractive.

Before that, it seems that we have to go through the Raheem Kassam's experience, finding that, "if you don't play by their rules, they disown, disassociate, and all basically just diss you all round".

The thing is, having voted "no" in 1975, I have committed too many years of my life to opposing the EU to allow Johnny-come-latelys, with a fraction of my skills and understanding, to dictate the terms on which I will fight. Most certainly, I will not be excluded for refusing to take directions from an organisation headed by a man who is manifestly not up to the job, but is up to his neck in what appear to be very dubious practices.

Come what may, I am part of this battle, and no one is going to decide otherwise. This blog, with its allies in the RPG, is a powerful weapon in the armoury. And I think I can validly use the term "we" when I say that we intend to see it used to maximum effect.

Richard North 01/10/2015 link

EU Referendum: the opportunity awaits


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Only someone with a slender grasp of referendum dynamics could believe that Britain's EU referendum was "potentially only months away", but that does not stop Jim Pickard and Sarah Gordon of the Financial Times writing in these terms.

The same duo also carelessly refer to the "out" campaign, adding to the list of witless hacks who have not been able to come to terms with the idea that this is a "remain-leave" campaign.

Nor does their story tell us much that we didn't already know - that one of the "leave" campaign groups is on the move. However the story does serve to confirm some details as it focuses on the "group likely to form the Out campaign", telling us that it "has hired staff, moved into new offices and is honing its strategy for a battle expected to be high in political drama".

Although Philip Hammond has cautioned against expectations that the referendum "would definitely take place in 2016", we are again referred to this "group likely to become the official Out campaign", and and informed that it is "taking no chances". It has already hired 15 people and moved into offices in Westminster Tower (home of the No2AV campaign). 

Although Dominic Cummings and other insiders have denied that Matthew Elliott would necessarily be the head, saying that the decision had yet to be made, the FT suggests that he has been appointed chief executive, vacating his role as CEO for Business for Britain. The group is now said to be looking for his replacement.

At number two, taking on the role of campaign director, the FT has Dominic Cummings himself, coincidentally publishing a blogpost which argues that "we need a campaign aimed far beyond the fraction of the population that already supports UKIP". The campaign that he has formed, he writes, "will go public shortly".

The communications team for this new grouping - under the title of Campaign to Leave - will be led by Robert Oxley, another transplant from Business for Britain, and Paul Stephenson, a former Conservative special adviser who worked with Mr Hammond and Andrew Lansley. He has been on the books since at least the beginning of this month.

The "exploratory committee" comprising interested parliamentarians from Conservative and Labour, with Douglas Carswell - which was supposedly setting the structure from the new group - is said to become the "parliamentary planning committee" for Mr Elliott's group, essentially a subordinate part of his empire.

According to the FT, the group staff will report to an as yet unnamed board, and their salaries have been capped. None of them will earn six figures. However, as The Boiling Frog points out, running a referendum campaign affords plenty of opportunities for personal enrichment, and to reward friends who can later return favours.

In terms of strategy, we are told that this group believes it must "work hard to get its message across to so-called A and B voters", which means avoiding the "classic" eurosceptic arguments "centred on immigration and the Brussels bureaucracy".

Their argument will have two main thrusts. The first is that "Britain suffers a loss of control from being in the EU, under the control of unelected politicians who cannot be thrown out". The second is that "the cost of being in the EU outweighs the benefits".

Interestingly, though, the Telegraph over the weekend had Charles Moore asserting that, only by convincing voters how "eurosceptic" he is, can Mr Cameron persuade them to stay in.

Moore has it that it is too late for the Prime Minister to say, "Actually, everything's fine in Europe. What's the fuss about?" He has to say, "Yes, it's pretty dreadful, but my negotiating skills have made it safe. We have a great new deal". If he pulls this off, says Moore, he makes the "leave" side look unreasonable.

It will take no great leap of imagination to surmise that Moore didn't think of this all by himself, but his appreciation of the situation is nevertheless spot-on. For his oeuvre, Cameron will agree that there is much wrong with the EU, out-complaining the eurosceptics - thereby neutralising both the points offered by Cummings.

Mr Cameron will then offer a new relationship – doubtless a heavily disguised associate membership – as his answer to the very problems that the Campaign to Leave and others have so assiduously highlighted for him. They will be paving the way for him to offer an attractive-looking settlement which outflanks the opposition.

However, with its pedestrian and largely uninspiring message, Campaign to Leave plans an official launch "within weeks", to add to the sum of tedium plaguing this issue. Perhaps fittingly, therefore, the organisers are not planning a traditional "glitz and glamour" press conference with famous names.

Despite this, and whatever the FT might think of Elliott's chances, the rival operation Leave.EU, with Arron Banks at its head, is still determined to pitch for lead campaigner status, when the Electoral Commission invites applications.

What Banks lacks in subtlety and experience – compared with the smooth Mr Elliott – he makes up for in determination and commitment. Not even his best friend will attest to Elliott's interest in getting the UK out of the EU, but no one can doubt Mr Banks's passion.

Principally, though, this is not about passion. The designated group will able to spend up to £7 million and, according to the commission, will be entitled to £600,000 in cash and kind, such as campaign broadcasts, a publicly funded grant and free mailing.

Crucially, designation is the turnkey to private donations, and gives access to huge flows of data. They become a valuable property for those collecting them, with substantial resale value. Loss of designation would substantially reduce the opportunities for data collection and the subsequent commercial exploitation of referendum spin-offs.

Thus, there is far more to this contest than simply who leads the referendum campaign. Data-mining is big business. Win or lose, this referendum presents massive opportunities for people in the right place, with the right access and the right skills – with everything dependent on Electoral Commission designation.

But as with 1975, there is more at stake what than the wealth of the participants. There is a greater sense of a battle being fought out in the corridors of power, long before the question is put to the electorate, making the "battle to lead" the crucial contest that will have a massive influence on which side is eventually victorious.

In that sense, depending on which group gets the designation may depend the outcome of the entire referendum.

Richard North 28/09/2015 link

EU Referendum: the noise level increases


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Front page wrappers, expensively bought by TheKnow.EU – now rebranded as Leave.EU - demonstrated last week that Mr Banks was centring the early shots of his campaign on immigration – exactly the Ukip line and the one which we think will damage the cause.

On the other hand, the rival campaign, fronted by Matthew Elliott and Dominic Cummings, has been remarkably quiet, although Mr Elliott's business interests and associates are undergoing some scrutiny from The Boiling Frog and by the newly-minted Vote to Leave blog.

The revelations have Mr Banks remarking archly that he "didn't realise that it's a business and not a cause" for Mr Elliott's operation, indicative of the acrimony being directed at an operation which is clearly the favourite of the legacy media.

After assuming that Mr Elliott was a shoe-in to lead what was originally set up as the "no campaign", this has brought the editorial-writers and sundry other media pundits huffing and puffing into the fray, with The Times sternly pronouncing about "sceptic schisms", telling us that: "The No campaign will not win public consent if it is dominated by Ukip”.

Such pundits might themselves garner a little more credibility if they got to grips with the idea that there is no longer going to be a "no" campaign, it having been supplanted by "leave", reflecting the Electoral Commission's latest recommendations on the question.

However, it would be far too much to expect editorial-writers to be au fait with such detail, especially this one who his keen to dazzle us with his erudition, as he expounds on what Sigmund Freud referred to "the narcissism of small differences".

This, we are told, is the tendency of closely allied people to engage in constant feuds, a characteristic which we are led to believe has been closely observable in Ukip's ranks since the general election, and "now threatens to spill over into the No campaign in the European referendum".

Such is the writer's grip of events, though, that he (or so we assume) mistakenly describes how "Nigel Farage heatedly argued in a corridor with Douglas Carswell, Ukip's sole MP, at the party's annual conference". But there was no such confrontation. It was actually between Carswell and Arron Banks, described in our earlier piece.

In what I suppose we could call "the narcissism of small errors", we thus see another example of the legacy media building up to its usual cacophony of errors, in this case assuming that only "small differences" separate the two protagonists in the designation battle, represented by Banks (with Ukip) and Elliott – largely supported by Conservative Party interests.

That divide, in fact, is huge, and almost certainly unbridgeable – yet it is also the case that neither side actually represent anything the uncommitted voters will be interested in. With Banks and Ukip hitting the immigration button, and the Elliott caucus equally missing the point with sterile economic arguments, both declared sides are spiralling off into their own fantasy campaigns, which have long lost any grip on reality.

That leaves The Times totally missing the point, as it pompously declares that what it insists on calling the "no campaign" will "fail to inform, let alone win public consent, if it sides with a sectarian campaign that is indifferent to policy seriousness and the face of modern Britain".

It took one of the comments on the piece to remark that it was the role of the legacy media to "fail to inform", a task it has taken on with apparent enthusiasm, joined by the likes of the Economist. It too has just noticed that there are (at least) two games in town, coming up with the leaden headline, "The two worlds of Out" – another one who hasn't realised that we are about to be embroiled in a "leave" campaign.

Anyhow, to the Economist, "Ukip's latest row illustrates the cultural rift in the anti-EU movement". On that basis, it informs us that: represents the brassy populists who rant about immigration, political correctness and metropolitan elites. Europe, for them, is about identity, about an organisation that, as well as fleecing British taxpayers, forcing metric measures on honest British grocers and banning their straight bananas, is sapping the country's distinctiveness. For Britain, by contrast, is the calmer, more professional side of the movement: pin-striped types who, on measuring the economic advantages and disadvantages of EU membership (the organisation claims it will judge David Cameron's renegotiation on its merits), tend to the view that the country should quit and instead intensify its relationship with the emerging markets.
Once again, we have a pundit who does not understand that neither side adequately represent what will be the real debate, which will actually define the question that the electorate will answer – different, as is so often the case, from the actual question on the ballot paper.

Over the weekend, therefore, the general public is not very much the wiser on the issues, but instead sees an unedifying squabble that could so easily be equated to bald men fighting over a comb.

We are fortunate therefore that - unnoticed by the warring tribes and the self-obsessed media – there are other strands of the argument and independent thinkers and activists who have a better handle on the issues. When the time comes, they will be able to address the scenario presented by the Prime Minister.

For the moment, all the warring tribes have achieved is an increase in the noise level – with a great deal of time and money expended to absolutely no effect. Almost nothing of the last few days will reside in the public memory when voters go to the polls in two year's time, recent events thereby demonstrating the unending capacity of the anti-EU movement to fritter away its resources to absolutely no effect.

But, while we see the legacy media catch up with what we've known for many months, that Mr Cameron's renegotiations are going nowhere, the issues that will confront us in the referendum are becoming clearer by the day.

There thus remains the comforting thought that, while the rival factions play their games, we are better prepared for the fight than we have ever been. When the children have finished squabbling, the grown-ups will be able to move in and do what is needed.

Richard North 27/09/2015 link

EU Referendum: the battle for designation


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Although I had some hint of what was going down yesterday, and was quick off the mark reporting it, I had little inkling of what was to follow.

Centre stage – exactly as the legacy media likes it – the whole thing has degenerated into an unseemly squabble between Arron Banks and Farage on the one side and Douglas Carswell on the other, typified by this report in the Guardian.

The spat came after a public confrontation in a corridor at Doncaster racecourse, where Douglas Carswell was claimed to have been "appallingly rude and provocative" towards Arron Banks, over his campaigning group, Leave.EU. This ending up with Banks, in front of journalists, accusing Carswell of being "borderline autistic with some mental illness attached".

Actually, given the exceptional skills often exhibited by sufferers, I personally do not see "borderline autistic" as an insult – although I do recognise that many would find it highly offensive. Perhaps I myself – as many have accused me of being – am "borderline autistic".

This, though, is yet another "foot-in-mouth" outburst by Banks who is entering politics without, it would appear, the personal skills that would enable him to survive and proper in what is a hostile environment, with unique characteristics unlike anything he will encounter in business.

The trigger for the exchange in this event was Carswell saying he intended to continue supporting Matthew Elliott's rival for Britain campaigning group, rather than Banks's operation.

This, incidentally, had Nigel Farage accusing his only MP of having residual loyalties to the Conservatives, and was enough to enrage Banks, who told Carswell that he would already have been sacked if he had worked for one of his companies.

Following the dispute, Carswell told the Guardian: “It’s really important that we build a united campaign and a good place to start with that is to unite Ukip. And a good place to start with that is not to suggest that Ukip MPs who don't fall into line get ousted from Ukip. I think this a serious, important politics and it is too important to be reduced to a squabble at Doncaster".

Farage then went on to accuse for Britain of being a "talking shop in Tufton Street" and failing to be sufficiently clear that they definitely want to campaign to leave the EU. "The fact is", he claimed, "Mr Elliott's group do not advocate leaving the European Union".

"They might do one day", Farage added: "It's a bit like John Redwood, who has been a Eurosceptic for 25 years who says we must wait to see what Dave comes back with. Our view is that is absolutely hopeless and allows the prime minister to set his agenda. It is wholly unacceptable".

Remarkably, this had the Guardian actually defending Elliott, saying that "for Britain" is preparing an "out" campaign after being unconvinced about David Cameron's aims for renegotiation. Publicly, it wishes Ukip and Leave.EU all the best but behind the scenes, senior Tories want to keep Farage away from their "EU-out campaign" over fears he could put off swing-voters.

In fact, Elliott and his supporters are planning to launch in October the "Campaign to Leave" – reflecting the proposition expected to be on the ballot paper, giving him something of the high ground, and leaving Mr Banks with the unfortunate label of the man who called Douglas Carswell "borderline autistic".

Potentially damaging his own brand even further, Banks had already decided to feature immigration and "border control" on his hired Ad-van, putting him alongside Ukip in making this a key issue for the referendum campaign.

Even then, the damage was not complete. As the Times spread the news about Banks, the Telegraph intervened, picking up a claim from Banks that the Electoral Commission will find it hard not to designate the group that Ukip decide to endorse, and Carswell will either have to leave or also support it.

But this paper also adds that doubts have emerged over the legitimacy of the anti-EU umbrella group claimed by Banks, after Lord Lamont, vice president of the Bruges Group "and one of Leave.EU's alleged supporters", issued a statement denying claims that he backs it. He said: "I was surprised to be told it was being claimed I supported the Leave.EU campaign. I have had no contact with this group whatsoever".

Another senior anti-EU campaigner is claiming, according to the Telegraph, that Ukip was in "chaos" and warned that the split raised questions about Mr Farage's motive for backing the Leave.EU group. This is also supposed to throw into disarray Ukip's claim to have cross-party backing for the new campaign – a condition said to be required to win Electoral Commission endorsement.

Here, of course, there is no such requirement. Where there are two or more applicants for designation, the Electoral Commission chooses the group that represents to the greatest extent those campaigning for the proposition. All things being equally, cross-part support helps, but it is only one factor that the EC will take into account.

As it stands, both the Banks and the Elliott operations have their strengths and their weaknesses. But if Banks insists on continuing to damage his own brand, not least with a crass website, riddled with errors, he stands to give the game to Elliott.

Thus do we see the most important preliminary skirmish of the campaign being fought out. The official designation will have a massive effect on the battle and perhaps even determine the outcome of the referendum. But with the stakes so high, this is an issue which is far too important for the sort of games we are seeing at the moment.

Richard North 26/09/2015 link

EU Referendum: the gathering of the clans


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Working out of from the seventh floor of Westminster Tower, an unimposing office block on the South Bank opposite the Houses of Parliament, a new team, which claims to have room for 100 staff, is set to go to work on the EU referendum campaign, soon to be formally launched as the "Campaign to Leave".

So far, aside from some limited publicity, all they have to show for their efforts is a website, yet to be activated but registered to one Thomas Borwick, one of three sons to Lord Borwick and Victoria Poore, the latter a Conservative London Assembly Member and Deputy Mayor of London and, since 2015, MP for Kensington.

Young Thomas's wider allegiances are hinted at by the address he gives for the domain registration – 55 Tufton Street, SW1P 3QL. This happens to be the home of Business for Britain, prop. Matthew Elliott, a man often seen as the putative leader of what was originally going to be the "no campaign".

In anticipation of this, Mr Elliott on 10 June had registered the domain, this one from the address 3 Albert Embankment, which just happens to be the postal address of Westminster Tower.

The purchase of the domain rights enabled Mr Elliott to use the e-mail address [email protected], an address shared with young Thomas who boasts the e-mail, thomas.borwick@nocampaign – thus more closely linking the pair in this enterprise, another of several more links which bind them together in a loose network which takes in Paul Staines, of Guido Fawkes blog fame, and the sole director of a Hong-Kong investment company who has funded several of their enterprises.

Still identified by Bloomberg as Business for Britain (although this has indicated it will be folded into the new campaign), we are told that this is one of three separate "leave" groups that are launching in September and October.

Mr Elliott says the campaign will be ready for a March referendum, believing that a "snap" contest would allow the prime minister to capitalise on his post-election authority and to take advantage of a divided opposition Labour Party to swing the result his way.

Elliott sees it as essential to persuade voters that leaving wouldn't pose the economic risk cited by groups including the Confederation of British Industry. "The CBI wants to campaign for in, but their membership is divided just like the rest of the business community, so they really should stay out of the debate", he adds.

"Many of the entrepreneurs that I speak to are concerned that the burden of EU regulation is costing them business and preventing them from expanding and creating jobs. That's why we need to take back control of our own economy from EU politicians", he also tells Bloomberg.

Meanwhile, as Mr Elliott and his team enjoy their fourth month as leaseholders of their prestigious London address, the remnants of a self-proclaimed "army" gather in Doncaster for the Ukip conference, with their leader proclaiming that the weekend will see "a show of eurosceptic solidarity".

Having prematurely kick-started the campaign last June - also falling for the trap of assuming there could be an early referendum - Farage has been rewarded with minimal press coverage and declining interest in his party.

At his conference, however, there will be representatives from the For Britain Campaign – another of Mr Elliott's operations – and The Know.EU, set up by former Ukip donor Arron Banks. Also present will be "Better Off Out" and its parent organisation, the Freedom Association, which will for a time share a stage with senior Ukip politicians.

Ironically, the first appearance of The Know.EU on a Ukip stage could also be its last – anywhere. Like Mr Elliott with his "no campaign", Mr Banks has also been caught out by the change in the referendum question recommended by the Electoral Commission, from "yes" and "no" to "remain" and "leave".

Mr Banks has responded by bagging the "Leave.EU" domain. At the moment it points to his current site, but presages a full-blown name change which is shortly to follow, together with a new campaign direction.

Alongside that, his campaign has appointed the powerful US-based strategist Goddard Gunster, to manage the campaign strategy, giving a powerful boost to the anti-EU forces.

Specifically, they claim to bring "fresh ideas" to the table and, all-importantly, "recognise the importance of making this a campaign about the issue, not personalities". The approach reinforces Mr Banks's determination that his should be a people's campaign, not dominated by politicians or celebrities.

With that, Leave.EU is planning to bring Ukip together with other veteran Eurosceptic organisations including the Democracy Movement, Global Britain and the Bruges Group, with Banks saying: "We are putting past differences aside to build a truly cross-party campaign for the people and not dominated by politicians".

Banks admits that the groups have not been "the best of friends in the past", but he stresses that the referendum campaign cannot be won "from inside the Westminster bubble".

If the alliance holds together, this and other moves may well place Leave.EU - operating from Milbank Tower on the north bank of the Thames, and from offices in Bristol - in poll position to gain lead designation from the Electoral Commission, making it the official "leave" campaign.

For once, the "bubble" may be left on the margins.

Richard North 25/09/2015 link

EU Referendum: delaying the poll


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Since the beginning of the year (and before), most often on the basis on no evidence at all, and even in the face of categorical denials from No 10, diverse pundits have been confidently predicting an early referendum.

A prominent claim appeared in the Sunday Times last February, with the paper focusing on Matthew Elliott and his Business for Britain (BfB), who was "making contingency plans for a 2016 vote". That month we also had the Daily Express making a fool of itself with a front page story predicting an early EU vote.

At one time or another, though, virtually every media outlet has had a punt. We've had the Guardian in May, just after the election, the Telegraph joining in the fun in June and the Independent playing games in July. This was followed by speculation in The Times that George Osborne wanted to wrap things up early. Then, most recently, the Sunday Telegraph decided to warn us of a "snap referendum".

Currently, though, the legacy media seem less than enthusiastic about picking up a Reuters report, conveyed by Yahoo News, telling us that Foreign Minister Phillip Hammond sees the referendum schedule "tight for Britain to vote on EU next year".

This is echoed by Bloomberg, telling us that the UK expects to begin "serious" talks on its role in the European Union in December, and if those discussions take more than six months, then a referendum "may not happen until 2017".

This was from Hammond, who warned that EU Member States nations would not even begin to consider the "British question" until after October's elections in Poland. That means that the European Council meeting at the end of the year will be the first chance for in-depth discussions.

Says Hammond, if the UK can settle on a deal with the rest of the Member States by May or June, then the referendum "could still take place next year". If talks drag on "through the summer", he adds, then the vote probably would be pushed to the year after.

The Foreign Secretary also says that treaty change will "probably" be needed, but Britain would not push for that to take place immediately "if it can get a binding commitment to enact the changes later on".

This now all begins to stack up, adding to the growing volume of evidence supporting our assessment that Mr Cameron will hold off until he has a treaty change to offer, which will not be announced by the "colleagues" until the second half of 2017.

Elsewhere, other analysts are reading the same runes, whereas the BBC can only offer the weak observation that Mr Hammond "played down talk of a quick renegotiation deal" and the Mail grudgingly manages to acknowledge that the late start of negotiations are ""limiting the chances of an EU referendum in early 2016".

No doubt the legacy media are loathe to give up their games, but it is looking increasingly as if we are in for the long haul. That has Farage and other campaigners launching prematurely, with a real risk that some lose momentum as activists see no immediate end in sight.

That already seems to be problem for Ukip which is reported to be having difficulty filling conference seats. Other campaign groups might also have difficulty motivating activists, as the timescale extends. Nevertheless, the idea of associate membership is breaking cover, allowing a chance that, when the campaign really takes off, we might be better prepared.

In this case, delay might be to the advantage of the "leave" campaign, although only if the time is used wisely, in order to maximise the eventual effect.

Richard North 24/09/2015 link

EU Referendum: misreading the polls


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After he had spectacularly failed accurately to predict the result of the general election, in early March forecasting that Ukip already had four seats in the bag, it is interesting to see that Matthew Goodwin has reinvented himself as an EU referendum pundit.

But it says something of The Times that they are employing him to interpret the polls, lending weight to the suggestion that the less you know about anything, the more assured is your career in journalism.

Anyhow, from the man who also told us that Ukip's days of amateur campaigning are over, we now lean that the latest flurry of EU referendum polls "show race will be very tight".

Goodwin is referring to the Survation poll, on which we've already reported and it is a measure of the man that, despite this poll being the first to refer to whether we "leave" or "remain", he classifies the two sides as "inners" and "outers".

The result, where the leavers beat the remainers by three points, adds "a lot of uncertainty to the state of the campaign", intensified by a later ICM poll that puts the remainers ahead by a margin of 43-40. In each poll, there were 17 percent undecided. This, according to Goodwin, suggests that the race "appears to be tightening".

A similar line is taken by the Spectator which, on the basis of the ICM poll, thinks the referendum is "too close to call". In coming to its conclusion, it  relies on Dominic Cummings, whose blog evaluates the data to conclude that "leave" voters are much more enthusiastic about the prospect of the referendum than the "remainers". This creates the possibility that a differential turnout might act in our favour.

However, while the technical aspects of the evaluation might be sound, there is actually little of value that can be drawn from polls that seek to measure a campaign that has yet to be defined.

Given that we expect two years to elapse before we go to the polls, and the shape of the proposition will be very different from what it is now, the entire dynamics of the contest may undergo a fundamental shift. In effect, we could be fighting an entirely different battle, on grounds that bear little relation to those over which we are currently arguing.

Part of the dynamic is the "renegotiation" package offered by Mr Cameron. Diverse polls taken over term suggest that a declared success could add around 15 percent to the "remain" vote, neutralising any advantages we might otherwise enjoy.

But the bigger problem is, according to this poll, is that a renegotiation that kept us in the EU but outside the eurozone could prove overwhelmingly popular.

This might indicate that a slick presentation of an associate membership scenario, sprung on an unprepared electorate, could have such a transformative effect, rendering current assumptions invalid, especially if Mr Cameron appears to de-risk the choice by offering a second referendum.

On the other hand, a well-founded rebuttal of the Cameron pitch, which managed to convince the electorate that a plausible outcome of his strategy was the UK being forced into the euro, could have a massive effect on public sentiment, delivering a victory to the campaign to leave.

The fact is that neither scenario has been tested in the polls, and both are so novel and different to current expectations that any response would have to be tested over an extended period in order to get an informed view – a further complication that makes the timing of announcements a crucial factor.

Putting that all together, we have to concede that we have no idea how the public might react to associate membership scenarios, or the effects of different plays, and rebuttal strategies. Current poll results are of very limited value and may even be dangerously misleading.

In the absence of relevant data, the danger then is that we chase the polls, using marginal changes in sentiment to guide strategy, when the later events might swamp the minor effects we see, giving one or other side an unpredicted (and unpredictable) victory. Even though we are effectively flying blind, this is not a sensible course.

Richard North 18/09/2015 link

EU Referendum: a meeting of minds


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At some time on Saturday while we were in session at Leamington Spa - I can't recall exactly when - the news came thought that Jeremy Corbyn had been elected by a sweeping majority as leader of the Labour.

The obvious concern to us is his potential impact on the referendum but, as The Boiling Frog points out, his is unlikely to be our friend.

That is probably just as well – we do not need allies like Corbyn. In fact, the whole point of a referendum is that the people take over from the politicians and make up their minds on an issue they have failed to resolve. On this, Corbyn and any other politician have as many votes as any one of us.

Effectively, that was why we held the Leamington meeting – a workshop on strategy. It was a meeting in which we – the people – could lean how to operate and make a difference in what is a potentially winnable contest.

Strategy, and its importance, was the subject a post in July, when we discussed the work of Gene Sharp. Taking one of his other works, From Dictatorship to Democracy, we see him writing:
If one wishes to accomplish something, it is wise to plan how to do it. The more important the goal, or the graver the consequences of failure, the more important planning becomes. Strategic planning increases the likelihood that all available resources will be mobilized and employed most effectively.
"To plan a strategy", Sharp adds, "means to calculate a course of action that will make it more likely to get from the present to the desired future situation".

Another crucial point we picked up more recently, the quote from Sun Tzu, where he told us:
An army may be compared to water, for water in its natural flowing avoids the heights and hastens downwards. So in war and Army should avoid strength and strike at weakness. As water shapes its flow in accordance with the nature of the ground, an army manages to be victorious in relation to the enemy it is facing. As water retains no constant shape, so in war there are not constant conditions. One who can modify his tactics in accordance with his enemy's situation and succeed in gaining victory may be called divine.
Putting the two together, but with Sun Tzu first, we note that, although it is important to focus our strategy in relation to the enemy we are facing, it is vital to identify the correct enemy.

Here we note that, while there will be an official "remain" campaign, the Government is also a player and is in fact the real enemy. The official campaign is largely an irrelevance, its primary task being to distract eurosceptics and keep them from focusing on the core issues.

The real enemy, therefore, is represented by David Cameron, supported by the EU – represented by Jean-Claude Juncker – with George Osborne also heavily involved.

In order to engage with the enemy, it stands to reason that we must be aware of their strategy and intentions, in order we are able to respond rapidly and effectively counter their moves. To that effect we need to invest heavily in intelligence gathering and analysis. This should enable us to respond to the main thrust, to neutralise it and then mount a counter-attack.

With our best guesses on timing putting the most likely date as October 2017, that makes our best option to watch and prepare. Although many campaigners feel the need to be "doing something", a key part of campaigning is recruiting the right people and training them.

In a complex battle, where information will be at a premium, it is remarkable that so many organisers feel that grassroot activists and even their own staff can function without adequate training. In few other fields of human activity can consistent and effective performance be attained without a degree of training, yet we seem to believe that eurosceptics can break the mould, and operate without it.

While we wait, of course, that does not rule out an element of skirmishing, but it should be effects-based, aimed at achieving specific outcomes, like selective "decapitation" of opposition targets.

Only once the enemy has revealed its hand – or we are satisfied that we have good intelligence indicating intentions – can we then break out in to the public arena and attempt to neutralise their efforts. If, as we suspect, Mr Cameron is going to offer associate membership, then we must stress the downside – the disadvantages - and then come up with better alternatives.

In terms of organising the campaign, we must assume it is to be a long campaign. There will be multiple players and, if current experience is any guide, there will be no strategy co-ordination, fragmented effort and an absence of focus.

That much is evident – with Ukip already going its own way, in the field demonstrating no strategic vision, and a "no campaign" run by Matthew Elliott, which has yet to offer any convincing evidence that it is on top of its game.

This is where the Referendum Planning Group comes in, aiming to submit an application to the Electoral Commission for lead campaigner, not least to keep the other applicants honest. In anticipation of this, Robert Oulds of the Bruges Group has prepared a conventional structure for a campaign.

This, though, is only part of the strategy. We are also working on a "reserve structure" which can take over and recover the ground when the other campaigns fail – which we expect them to do. This concept we explored in a recent post and is the means where we believe individuals are best able to contribute, on their own behalf. Working to limited objectives, a small number of highly focused activists can use multiple communications channels to achieve a disproportionate effect. 

But with that much stated, the meeting brought out complaints about the attacks on Ukip, with one attendee later writing that such criticism could turn people off supporting the RPG.

This, however, is to miss the point. We are not asking for support, per se. We do not own the campaign  – it must be a peoples' campaign. We are trying to support individuals, outside the remit of established parties and groupings, offering help and guidance. The idea is to empower people who want to campaign and who feel they want to be effective.

We can concentrate on intelligence gathering, recruiting kindred spirits and training them. It is then up to individuals to build their own communities and extend the reach of the campaign beyond the inward-looking eurosceptic minority. But essentially, each individual is their own master and established groups retain their own identities and campaign in their own names.

We work to a common cause, delivering a common, coordinated message, because that is what, as individuals, we choose to do. But we do it without a formal structure - the antithesis of the top-down campaigns currently in place. 

We think that a loose network of 200 individuals – highly motivated self-starters – would be sufficient for a campaign reserve. Reliant mainly on the internet (but using all available communication channels), we are confident that that can build effective communications that can quickly reach hundreds of thousands of people, and then millions.

The idea is to use a cascade system, where core information providers – principally (but not exclusively) operating as a network of bloggers – can pass key information to contacts and each other, share intelligence. That was, they can offer focus and campaign guidance to their own communities. Each community in turn can pass the message through social media to others, who can then reach others. 

At the heart of the system is focus, and message discipline – two things eurosceptics have lamentably failed to achieve. But the decision to coordinate efforts comes from the individual. We do it because we want to do it, because we accept that coordination of the message, and a common approach is the only way to make ourselves heard above the noise.

This will be the key to our success. We cannot rely on the legacy media is not only incompetent, it is most likely going to support Mr Cameron at a late point in the campaign, and call for voters to remain in the EU. Our own communications are essential. But in the internet, we have the ability to reach 90 percent of the households in Britain. 

More on this comes from Lost Leonard and the message is spreading via Conservatives for Liberty and White Wednesday. But, to sum up, we need strategy, intelligence, focus and discipline. We can provide guidance on strategy, and offer intelligence and analysis for anyone to use. But the rest is up to individuals. This is a referendum where the people decide. The decision as to whether we will do what is necessary to win is yours.

Richard North 14/09/2015 link

EU Referendum: fighting the wrong campaign


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On the basis of no good evidence, against the certainty that the referendum will not be held in the first part of next year (and will most likely be held in October 2017), three of the self-appointed "no" campaigns have allowed themselves to be bounced into premature launches of their campaigns.

First out of the traps is Nigel Farage, who yesterday cemented his tactical blunder by turning the Ukip launch into a diatribe on immigration, with the case for leaving the EU scarcely mentioned.

And, carrying the penalty of his premature start, Mr Farage has even had to run with a misnamed campaign, using the slogan Say No to the EU, even though the Electoral Commission has recommended changing from a "yes-no" contest to "remain" or "leave" – a recommendation that the Prime Minister has already accepted.

It is a fairly basic principle in referendums that the parties should campaign on the proposition that will be on the ballot paper, which means that, like it or not, we are now the "leave" option. But such is Mr Farage's keenness to get his ego out on the road, that detail has been dispensed with. Ukip will not (initially, at least) even be fighting on the actual referendum ticket.

Perhaps this is just as well, for the least we have to do with Ukip and is obsession on immigration, the better it will be for the overall campaign, notwithstanding that two of the other groups are also launching prematurely, and without yet knowing what agenda Mr Cameron will be setting.

Given that our analysis suggests that Mr Cameron will leave the ballot to the last possible minute (hence October 2017), and will be fighting on a two-referendum front, with the promise to negotiate for a new "associate membership" deal – then putting the final deal to a second referendum – the issues currently being raised by the putative "leavers" will probably not even factor in the public's choice.

What, in essence, Mr Cameron will be doing, is offering a new relationship – which was precisely what he proposed in his January 2013 Bloomberg speech – to be negotiated as part of a new EU treaty which will be on the stocks by 2022. Then there will be a ratification referendum as part of the "treaty lock", which we be used to gain public approval for the deal.

There is, of course, a possibility that this scenario will not come to pass, but there is still plenty of time to run the public phase of a campaign without yet having to launch, keeping the powder dry until we know which way Mr Cameron intends to play his hand.

On that basis, it is far better to have a short, sharp public phase, with the most intense period confined to the last ten weeks, rather than a long-drawn-out drone which will not be able to focus on the actual case over which the battle will be fought.

In order to win, we wrote recently, we need to develop the art of winning. That requires strategy, based on what the enemy is likely to do, not on obsessing about the issues we feel to be important. Strategy, however, has never been the strong suit for a party which, despite gaining four million votes at the general election, managed to halve its parliamentary representation, from two to one.

Now, at least, Farage is being consistent, displaying his continued inability to think strategically, leading his troops into a cul-de-sac which can only detract from the overall campaign, as he fritters away money and energy on a pointless venture.

The big question, though, is whether the other two groups will follow Farage into the cul-de-sac and prove just as strategically inept, notwithstanding that they are already committed to the mistaken belief that the campaigning should start early.

Both these groups, respectively the "no campaign" and "", will have to undergo a rapid rebranding, or they too – as well as being premature – will also be fighting the wrong campaign. It falls to us to make up the shortfall.

Richard North 05/09/2015 link

Asylum seekers: turning off the tap


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As the migration crisis continues to gather pace, the one thing that continues to be omitted is any reference to the 1951 Geneva Convention on the Treatment of Refugees (and the 1967 Protocol).

Not only does there seem to be a collective and wilful memory loss, there also seems to be another complete lapse when it comes to the Lisbon Treaty and the Charter of Fundamental Rights, specifically Article 18. In black and white (reproduced above), it states:
The right to asylum shall be guaranteed with due respect for the rules of the Geneva Convention of 28 July 1951 and the Protocol of 31 January 1967 relating to the status of refugees and in accordance with the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (hereinafter referred to as "the Treaties").
In their "wisdom", the EU Member States have sent a message to the oppressed and deprived peoples of the world that, as of right, they can come to Europe and claim asylum. This is a totally unconditional right, and one that appears to have been granted – at the time - without the first idea of the consequences.

Now, with the thousands heading across the Mediterranean, and the many more crossing over into Greece and thence northwards to Germany, the "colleagues" are finding to their horror that the oppressed and deprived are taking them up on their new-found "rights".

Perhaps where we are dealing with is group cognitive dissonance, if there is such a thing. Having created an impossible situation, they are now set on ignoring the root cause and thus completely failing to deal with the consequences of their own (or predecessors') actions, or their own hypocrisy.

Having given what amounts to an open-ended invitation to asylum seekers from throughout the world, the nations of the EU then erect a series of barriers preventing them taking up that invitation, forcing them to take increasingly hazardous routes in order to exercise the rights they have been given.

Thus, the tragic outcome of the rash inclusion of a "right" that we could not afford to give, and failed to understand the consequences, is that no-one benefits – not even the refugees who are now swamping the system to the extent that state after state is no longer able to cope.

To deal with this mess, therefore, there is an urgent need for creative solutions. But nothing is going to work until the flow of migrants is contained. The right to asylum must be removed from the Charter. In figurative terms, before mopping the bathroom floor, it is necessary to turn off the tap that is causing the overflow.

If there is any political upside to this, the total inability of the EU to confront its own failures has at least offered Ukip the opportunity to propose effective and humanitarian solutions, thereby demonstrating to a wider constituency the inadequacies of the Union.

Yet, as we have seen over the years, Ukip has consistently failed to step up to the plate, eliding asylum-seeking and refugees with immigration in general, without beginning to understand what is at stake.

And it is that failure – bizarrely the failure properly and responsibility to address the EU's failures – which, as Autonomous Mind points out, is triggering a backlash. This is so profound that even the Telegraph has noticed.

Such is the stupidity of Mr Farage's party that in its own immigration policy it asserts that it will "maintain [the] principles of UN Convention on Refugees for Asylum and have immediate review of the asylum process which aims to speed up rights to Leave To Remain and discover logjam on those declined asylum statuses".

In other words, the very things the EU is seeking to do and which are attracting the criticism from Ukip supporters, are embodied in Ukip policy – with the Party supporting the UN instrument which has given rise to the problem in the first place.

Sadly, Ukip's dereliction is matched by the ignorance of the legacy media, which has shown consistency only in its complete inability to report the refugee crisis intelligently. To that extent, the media are allowing Ukip to escape more pointed criticisms, that show up the full extent of its inadequacies.

The opportunity, as Pete North suggests, is to leverage acceptance of more refugees against reform of the Refugee Convention. Had Ukip chosen that route, it would have captured the high ground and we would be supporting it. As it stands, no sane person could do anything other than disown the Party.

Richard North 04/09/2015 link

EU Referendum: a question of questions


Say the words of the song: "Should I stay or should I go? … If I go, there will be trouble; And if I stay it will be double; So come on and let me know".

And now the answer, according to the Electoral Commission should not be "yes" or "no". Instead, on the basis of research conducted for it, the Commission has decided that the answer should be "remain" or "leave".

In the view of the Commission, the government's current proposal: "Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?", gives the "perception of bias" and is "not balanced".

As an alternative, it is recommended that voters should be asked whether they wish to "remain a member of the European Union" or "leave the European Union", with the ballot paper to look something like the specimen below. 

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This was flagged up some time ago by The Boiling Frog, with the Electoral Commission having already expressed its reservations about a straight "yes-no" response.

In theory, the difference with worth eight or nine points to us "leavers", for which there is much rejoicing, even if Mr Cameron was suspiciously quick to agree to the change. But not all is necessarily what it seems.

There is quite obviously a difference between perceptions expressed to polling companies before the campaign gets underway, and responses after a period of intensive campaigning. After all, the whole purpose of a campaign is to promote the "brand" and imbue it with positive associations.

Arguably, an effective campaign would narrow the "yes" advantage, making the new options less attractive, especially as neither lend themselves to punchy slogans. The "leave" campaign will never convey as much force as the simple "no" proposition.

Interestingly, Coventry University's Matt Qvortrup tells the Guardian he welcomes the change – but only because it avoids a protracted debate over the question.

He believes it actually doesn't make a difference. "If you try to use leading language in a referendum question, you are actually far more likely to get a no vote, because the public is immediately suspicious", he says – citing Charles de Gaulle's constitutional referendum in 1969, as well as in Quebec in 1980 when the question was also massaged.

The most crucial decider, Qvortrup thinks, is a unified campaign. "People respond to that, campaigns where one side is not working together do not succeed, when there is a camp within a camp".

And that, with the launch of Farage's personalised campaign, seems as far away as ever. The Ukip leader is determined to position immigration as the lead issue, wholly attributable to the EU, displaying his usual inability to master detail and ignoring the refugee convention dimension.

He dismisses campaigning on an "intellectual battle" over who governs Britain, insists that immigration is "utterly central" to British voters' concerns about the EU.

However, the lack of unity and Farage's approximation of a loose cannon, is almost certainly less of a problem than the failure to develop a coherent strategy amongst the "leavers".

The crucial point here that the initiative in this campaign remains with Mr Cameron, who has yet to reveal his hand. He seems remarkably relaxed about backing off from key commitments, apparently scrapping demands for full British exclusion from EU employment laws, and he also reported as willing to make concessions on purdah and even rules on referendum spending.

This suggests a man that has abandoned his original "renegotiations" strategies and is relying on something entirely different. We are increasingly taking the view that Cameron is preparing to gamble all on "rebranding" the UK relationship with the EU, along the lines of the expected associate membership.

We are convinced that the stage-managing of this ploy, at a late stage in the campaign, will drive the government's strategy, making an apparently powerful case for continued membership of the EU.

In detail, though, this will be very weak, but it will need a spirited and well-prepared counter-attack to negate the apparent advantage. That should be dominating our strategic thinking for, unless we can neutralise Mr Cameron's "play", we will not get the opportunity to roll out our own strategy.

Against this, the precise nature of the question is small beer. In strategic terms, this fight is winnable if we come well-prepared. 

Richard North 02/09/2015 link

EU Referendum: white noise?


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Many people were dismayed yesterday to see in the Sunday Express assertions that the "no" campaign is in chaos, after merger talks between competing groups broke down.

The groups involved are said to be Business for Britain, led by Matthew Elliott, and, led by Ukip donor Arron Banks. And according to Banks, the process started when the groups were approached by a Tory donor who suggested a merger "to create a vast, unstoppable, mega 'no' campaign".

Now we are told, the discussions have broken down, attributable entirely to Mr Elliott who insisted on becoming the campaign's chief executive, a move which Mr Banks rejected. And, as might be expected, this "evidence" of discord has been seized upon by Breitbart which thus claims that the "establishment" campaign may lose us the referendum.

On the other hand, Autonomous Mind believes there is little to choose between these two groups and the other player, Ukip's Nigel Farage. Between them, he feels, they have ensured that the "no" campaign is all but beaten. Not least the behaviour of Nigel Farage in using the referendum campaign as his own personal platform is going to do much to discredit the cause.

Pete North has his own observations and conclusions not dissimilar to AM. The crucial point he makes, though, is that there may need to be a subsidiary or branch of the official "no" campaign working under a different identity to differentiate itself from the white noise created by these groups.

However, it is not just these groups which are creating white noise. There is no more reason to trust the Sunday Express on this story than any of the many others it produces. There is far more to the Elliott/Banks story than has yet to emerge, and some assertions which the paper makes are unreliable.

In some senses, the situation is not quite as bad as the Express paints. There are moves afoot which, if not entirely satisfactory, hold out some promise of making a useful contribution to the fight. 

For the moment, though, we have a different sort of noise - on the immigration crisis. This, for the moment, the media is determined to turn into a major political event. Yet, with probably more than two years to run before the referendum, what is dominating the headlines right now may well be a distant memory by the time the voters head for the polls.

And if Mr Cameron ever did have any ambitions of conducting an early poll, these must surely by now be abandoned. There can be no gain for the Prime Minister in asking the nation for its decision with the media in such a febrile mood.

Those who were banking on an early poll have miscalculated – more so since the dynamics of a prolonged campaign are very different than those of the sprint, where all the arguments must be compressed into a short period.

Crucially, there is a measure of all three of the high-profile "players". All have allowed themselves to be bounced by the media speculation (on the basis of no good evidence) into starting their campaigns this September – a month which starts only a day from now – instead of biding their time.

When we should be planning, recruiting, organising and – above all – training our people to provide a coherent, well-disciplined force, we will see energy frittered away on ill-conceived, premature campaigns by people who have little understanding of the complexities of EU politics and the forces ranged against them. 

Ironically, Banks is to bring in an immigrant from the United States to tell us how to run our strategy - even if one has yet to find a Septic who had any serious understanding of the EU and its related politics. 

That apart, the idea of a "vast, unstoppable, mega 'no' campaign" is something of a fantasy. A single campaign at this stage would simply have meant errors being perpetrated on a bigger scale than they are already. At least currently, there is some competition and creative tension.

It is only this which allows us to be vaguely optimistic. Unity around flawed ideas and tactics would simply have meant the death of the "no" campaign. There is time yet – but getting the strategy right is far more important. And that will probably have to come from outside these self-appointed groups anyway.

Richard North 31/08/2015 link

EU Referendum: a major tactical blunder


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If more immigrants come to this country from non-EU states, and the asylum seekers who arrive then claim protection under international law, how can it be said that "immigration and EU membership are synonymous"?

Yet this is precisely what that idiot Farage is saying, writing in the ghastly Breitbart that: "The immigration debate is changing before our eyes, and it's how we win the EU referendum".

His idea of fighting the referendum is to make the public realise that immigration and EU membership are synonymous, based on his strong belief that "open door immigration and security concerns will be the dominant issues in the upcoming referendum campaign".

Reinforcing this "belief" is last month's Ipsos-MORI "leading issues poll" which Farage calls in aid, citing the "staggering eight per cent rise in respondents naming immigration as the number one issue" during the month of July. "Fifty percent", he crows, "said that immigration and border controls was their main concern with the economy trailing behind at 27 percent".

We actually had a look at this poll, and the finding is hardly surprising as the polling company itself noted that migrant camps in Calais continued to dominate sections of the media.

Even then, Farage overstates the finding. There were two parts to this poll, in which the questions were spontaneous - i.e. respondents were not prompted with any answers.

In the first part, respondents were asked to name "the most important issue facing Britain today", whence the percentage nominating "immigration" or "immigrants" actually came out at 32 percent. Only when asked to nominate "the main/other important issues facing Britain" was the figure of 50 percent reached.

In other words, even after a torrent of publicity on the issue, the proportion of people who felt that immigration was their main issue struggled to reach a third of those responding.

Then, from this, there is no indication whatsoever of the proportion of respondents who regard leaving the EU as the solution to the problem – much less the numbers who would be prepared to vote "no" in the referendum because of immigration.

On the other hand, because it is a spontaneous poll, respondents were free to nominate any subject they wish. And there we have an interesting response on the EU. Only two percent regarded this as their most important issue, and only eight percent thought it an important issue at all. Clearly, if people thought that the EU was the main reason for the immigration problem, a higher score would have been recorded.

We have, of course, been here before. When Mr Farage put immigration at the top of the list in the general election, only eight percent of those eligible to vote actually turned out for Ukip. Again to put immigration at the top of the list is more than a mistake. It is insane, a tactic which is almost certain to damage the "no" campaign. Farage is wrong on his facts, is misreading the poll evidence and is making a major tactical blunder.

Sadly, nothing is going to stop this ego on stilts damaging the cause. Farage is already set to mount his roadshow during September, parading his stupidity before his adoring supporters, who will doubtless cheer him to the rafters as support from the general public drains away.

Once again, therefore, we're back in that familiar position of having to distance ourselves from this man and his supporters, making it clear that he does not speak in our name. The man has lost it – he represents only his own stupidity. He should have no part of the "no" campaign.

Richard North 30/08/2015 link

We have serious work to do


We've been thinking. Without exception, we are sorry to say that very few eurosceptic organisations and groups are interested in winning the referendum. They mistake volume of output for productivity and spend most of their time belching out the familiar trash, of which we are so heartily sick, to the point of utter tedium. 

Nobody has tried harder than us to turn the supertanker, but we have failed. The message isn't sinking in and the groupuscules are not going to listen - not to us, not to anyone. They will wish they had when it's too late but that's no use to us. Already it's looking like a progressives vs Ukip debate and while we have berated Ukip for its manifest inadequacies, we can't say the other lot are a vast improvement. 

Consequently we have independently concluded that even speaking to them is wasted breath. If they are so utterly determined to crash and burn, there is nothing we can do to help them. Instead, we need to be getting on with something more productive. To that end, we are moving past them, developing what we hope will be a refreshing new take.

All we're getting from groupuscules is the usual griping and moaning about the EU - and even we've been bogged down in the procedural detail. But now we have to set about building the vision. We don't want to have the same old boring conversations about what to spend our membership fee on or binning regulations. Where is the energy in that?

Leaving the EU is an opportunity to revitalise politics and to design a new world. That should be exciting. To me the prospect of building something new and departing with the politics of the last century IS exciting. It's the opportunity of a lifetime

With something of that magnitude we should be creating a buzz, not filling people with exhaustion and dread. What does it say about us that people would rather talk about the inane utterances of Jeremy Corbyn and who will lead a virtually extinct political party when this of all issues decides how the world will look for the next hundred years? 

It's easy to see why the public aren't interested in the debate. It's crushingly boring when we look at it through that kipperish prism and nobody wants to buy into the shrivelled Ukip message. We want to go big and we want Britain to be the engine of global innovation. We need to tell the world what we want to do with our independence and how we're going to make the EU wish they were us. 

With that in mind, when it comes to the other eursceptics, not only do we not care what they say or what they think, we just don't want to know. We can't count on them for anything and they can only ever damage the cause. Since we're not going to get any help from anyone, it's down to me and thee. 

We assume if you're reading this, you've been following us this far and so now it's up to you whether we win or not. We made an appeal last week for volunteers to step forward to form our platoon of redoubt bloggers. 

We've had a couple of volunteers thus far  and instructions will be forth coming but we need a good deal more. A few have not made the grade simply because they cannot let go of the old Eurosceptic paradigm. If you are stuck in that rut you are no use to us. It's time to stop complaining about the past and start creating the future. We have to design one that will sell and we have to make the other lot look like the dinosaurs.

The scattergun whining about the EU can be done by others. They are after all experts at whining. What we need is vigour, dynamism and optimism and precision. We want to be creative with our message and we need to make people believe that Brexit is a confident step into the world where we have absolutely nothing to lose. If you want to moan about the price of fish and the number of foreigners, there is a place for you. Just not here.  

Peter North 27/08/2015 link

EU Referendum: ranting on regulation


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The Sunday Express was at its offensive worst this weekend, heading a piece about bathing water quality as: "EU bureaucrats to brand popular British beaches 'UNFIT for swimming' in latest barmy move".

In typical coprophagic style, the story was also picked up by the Telegraph, which asks whether "new EU regulations" make 25 English beaches "unfit for swimming" overnight.

A point of interest here, though, is that these are not "new EU regulations" – they are not even EU regulations. We are talking about Directive 2006/7/EC of 15 February 2006, otherwise known as the Bathing Water Directive. This replaced Directive 76/160/EEC, based on a Commission Proposal published in 2002, and now coming into force via UK Regulations promulgated in 2013, and coming into force this year.

The amended standard takes into account WHO standards which we would doubtless have adopted of our own volition, even outside the EU – not least because of the vital role of water quality in peoples' choice of beaches, and the importance of beaches to the tourist industry. Effectively, though, this is the first substantive upgrade for 40 years, with over a decade warning and the UK regulations well-reported in the media at the time, including the Telegraph and the BBC.

Given the lengthy gestation of these new standards, there is actually little excuse for not being prepared to meet them and, while there may be a good case for the UK being able to set its own standards and own priorities, this is not a bandwagon that the "no" campaign should be keen to mount, without taking the very greatest of care.

Over term, environment is one of the EU's most popular policy domains and, within that, surveys have shown that there is majority support in the UK (56 percent) for greater EU action on water issues.

Furthermore, the EU "Blue Flag" scheme (attesting to bathing water quality) has one of the highest recognition factors in the UK as an EU benefit, gaining 50 percent overall. Crucially, that percentage is even higher in some of the more Eurosceptic areas, scoring (for instance) 60 percent in the South West, as opposed to 42.3 percent in London.

As Friends of the Earth are quick to point out, therefore, there is considerable concern that leaving the EU will lead to a weakening of UK environment standards, and especially a loss of momentum in the programme of continuous improvement in bathing water quality.

On balance, therefore, the Bathing Water Directive is an asset to the "yes" campaign, and attacks on water quality standards are more likely to lose votes in the referendum than gain them.

Thus, as Complete Bastard points out, we must be far more nuanced in our approach. While there are some limited gains to be made from removing laws, generalised foam-flecked ranting about "EU regulations" is not going to benefit the campaign.

Richard North 24/08/2015 link

Asylum: the wages of ignorance


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Any respect we ever had for The Daily Telegraph long drained away, to be replaced by a slow-burning contempt for the editors and proprietors who let a once-proud title degenerate in the way it has.

A milestone in its descent to the bottom, however, must be its latest editorial on the asylum crisis, with the accompanying authored piece by Nigel Farage which jointly and severally demonstrate the profound ignorance of the newspaper team and the Ukip leader on this issue.

Addressing first the Telegraph piece, we have the editorial note that Germany is now expected to receive 800,000 asylum seekers in 2015, describing this as part of "Europe's migrant crisis" which, it says, "has reached astonishing proportions".

Although not technically wrong, it is not helpful to call this a migrant crisis. We are dealing here with asylum seekers, many of whom after processing will be declared refugees. Some others will be afforded leave to remain on human rights grounds, while the others will be considered economic migrants. Some of those will be deported. Others will disappear into the population and become illegal immigrants.

Effectively, therefore, there is a refugee crisis. And within that is an exacerbating factor of economic migrants piggy-backing on the refugee flow, making two separate but linked problems. But neither of them are migrant crises as such. To define them in this way is completely to misrepresent the problems - and therefore obscure the solutions.

This, though, is the least of it, as far as the Telegraph goes, for it then goes on to assert that the arrival of these people is precipitating in Germany a greater awareness "of the desperate flaws in the way that the EU handles its utopian promise of the free movement of people".

Such an assertion is bizarre – bizarrely wrong. The flow of asylum seekers to Germany has nothing whatsoever to do with the EU's treaty provision of free movement of people, which applies only to citizens of the EU Member States (and EEA states), and then within the external borders.

What we are dealing with here is something completely different – in law and fact – the effect of the 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees, and the 1967 Protocol, together with the adoption of its provisions in the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights, which also makes asylum seeking a human right.

No sensible or knowledgeable writer could possibly consider an information piece without mentioning this. But then this is the Telegraph, whose task in life seems to be to misinform its readers and parade its own ignorance.

Free movement, it asserts, "seemed attractive and logical during the Cold War, when western Europe was more isolated from the world’s poor by the Iron Curtain". It then tells us: "But in the 21st century, poverty and war have driven millions to seek a new life within an expanded EU".

The irrelevance of this is obvious - "free movement" isn't the problem. Except the Telegraph says it is. Then building on its error, it declares: "The problem has been exacerbated by two policies. One is the Dublin Convention which states that the responsibility for asylum seekers lies with the country in which they first arrive".

As a small aside, the Dublin Convention ceased to be in 2003 – to be replaced by the Dublin Regulations. But the problem, the newspaper argues, is that in recent years those countries have been Italy, Hungary and Greece – and they have simply been overwhelmed.

But this is an over-simplification to the point of distortion. One of the first receiving countries was Spain, which has evaded its international obligations by building fences and virtual barriers, then to divert the flow elsewhere. As Greece, then Bulgaria and now Hungary follow suit, EU asylum policy has become a grotesque game of "pass the parcel", with Italy, Malta and Greece ending up having to deal with the bulk of asylum seekers.

What then happens is that these countries are failing to fulfil their EU responsibilities. Instead of registering and processing the incomers – and deporting those who do not qualify as refugees – they are allowing them to pass on to other member states – and especially Germany and Sweden, where they are applying for asylum de novo.

The Telegraph claims that, in so doing, the receiving countries are exploiting "the second flaw in the EU's approach: the Schengen Agreement, which commits its signatories to passport-free movement across borders".

Italy, Hungary and Greece, we are told, have been permitting, or even quietly inviting, their asylum seekers to relocate to other countries. Enormous numbers have gone to Germany. The Germans have embraced refugees as atonement for the sins of the Second World War. But 800,000 is a figure to trouble even the most bleeding-heart liberal.

Once again, this is completely to misunderstand the nature of the problem for, even before Schengen, border controls had been removed. Were they to be reinstated, all that would happen is that - as we've already pointed out, those seeking recognition of their refugee status would simply apply for asylum at the border posts. Schengen is a complete red herring.

Needless to say, the Telegraph isn't alone in getting things wrong. Politicians throughout the continent are failing to understand the effects of their own policies, but somehow one expects more from a pompous "know-it-all" newspaper which holds itself up as the authority on such matters.

Its pomposity knows now bounds, where it grandly but wrongly declares that the "EU essentially exists to regulate a free market". Is failings, it asserts, "mock the grand claims that it makes for itself – betraying a reality of incompetence and, where it leads to humanitarian crisis, such as in the Mediterranean, moral failure". But in this case, the ignorant speaks unto the incompetent, when the paper completely misdiagnoses the problem and ends up telling us: "The EU needs to get its borders in order".

With the display of such ignorance, it is only fitting that it should then go on to give space to the malign bigotry of Mr Farage, who seems determined to drag us down to his level, and wreck any chances of winning the EU referendum, by declaring that "immigration" will be the defining issue of this EU referendum campaign.

There is no excuse for this quite deliberate elision of immigration and asylum – two entirely separate issues, with their own bodies of law and policy domains.

Alarmingly though. Farage is picking up on an Ipsos Mori poll which has half of the public identifying "immigration" as one of the biggest issues facing the UK. This is something which the polling company itself should not have recorded, as it too is mixing up disparate issues.

Needless to say, Farage exploits the confusion, as he has always done, associating the flood of asylum seekers and would be refugees with the European Union "open border" policy.

Despite the fact that refugees account merely for five percent of entrants to this country in any one year, we have the Ukip leader milk the publicity, building this entirely separate issue into one singularity – all under the heading of "immigration". Thus he says:
We see the chaos in Calais, where thousands of migrants are risking their lives to get from France to Britain; we see refugees in their thousands risking life and limb as they cross the Mediterranean on ships sailing from Libya. And we see that the issue of open borders and mass immigration is no longer simply an issue of social problems and the impact on British workers, it is fast becoming one of national security.
To resolve this, the fool declares that the British people "want an Australian-style immigration policy that allocates work permits to those our economy needs, that says no to those whose skills we do not need, and that gives an emphatic denial of entry to those we have any suspicion want to do us harm" – as if that would have the slightest effect on the flow of asylum seekers.

Matching the Telegraph for its ignorance, he then writes of witnessing "the failed policy of the EU's open borders, supported by the establishment politicians to the detriment of our nation". When the referendum comes, Farage concludes, the British people will finally have their chance to reject these open borders by saying "no" to the European Union.

But all Farage is doing is holding us hostage to fortune. Despite his own manifest ignorance on the subject – and despite the lacklustre performance of the Telegraph, in the two years to the referendum, there is plenty of time for people to learn of the real issues behind the asylum crisis.

The danger for us is that they will turn against the likes of Farage, offering false nostrums and exploiting the misery of others for his own political ends. Elsewhere we have written of the hazards of promoting misinformation, citing Gene Sharp, who tells is: "Claims and reporting should always be strictly factual. Exaggerations and unfounded claims will undermine the credibility of the resistance".

This is a lesson Farage is incapable of learning – and doubtless one of the reasons why he is such a failure as a politician. But there is no reason why we should let his ignorance drag us down.

Richard North 22/08/2015 link

Migration: the pot speaks of the kettles


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One of the few saving graces for those of us fighting for withdrawal from the EU is that most of the key figures in the emerging "yes" campaign seem to be as thick and as ill-informed as some of our lot.

This certainly applies to Laura Sandys, chair of the European Movement, who is sounding off in the Guardian in her own illiterate fashion about immigration.

Like so many, she elides refugees and asylum-seeking with immigration in general, to tell us that Europe's migration crisis is "escalating everywhere from Calais to the Mediterranean refugee flotillas", thereby miscasting the nature of the problem and parading her profound ignorance of the issues.

It ill-behoves this "pot", therefore, to pick on sundry blackened "kettles" of whom she declares, "many are claiming that exiting Europe will solve these and other migration 'problems'". This, says la Sandys, "is one of the biggest political mis-selling scandals of our time".

One can note in passing that Mzz Sandys isn't really into irony, as the it is the very European Union that she so loves – aka The Great Deception - as political mis-selling on an epic scale.

It is a pity, though, that she has plenty of material to support a claim that "outers" (i.e., parts of the "no" campaign) have "started to make some very ambitious claims about the wonderful sunny uplands of life outside the European Union – sans foreigner and in particular sans EU migrants".

Nevertheless, this is classic BBC-inspired trick of picking the bits that provide her with a useable counterpoint, using them to say that "they" would have it that there "will be an end to dastardly migration to all those Ukip-rich voting areas once we leave behind the plot to flood this country with foreign workers who undercut British citizens".

You can see what she's doing here – apart from the "bait and switch" from asylum seekers to free movement of workers – simply by the fact that she avoids Flexcit like the plague. It will not give her the answers she needs.

Instead, she picks Business for Britain, Douglas Carswell and Nigel Farage, claiming on the one hand that their "arguments are often contradictory" but then asserting that they all claim that "controlled borders" would mean less migration. And these claims are not "in any way credible".

Nevertheless, she doesn't play it straight. For her "take" on Business for Britain, she cites this source, claiming that:
… it proposes taking away the social chapter, which gives protection to low-paid workers, and only allowing EU migrants to come to the UK for “skilled” jobs. In effect, this would mean that British workers would be sent to the fields or dreary factories, while EU migrants could access skilled work.
Taking BfB's actual statement, though, we get:
If Britain decided to leave the EU, policy-makers would face crucial questions about which direction they would like to take Britain's migration system: leaving would give the UK complete control, allowing it to either retain an 'open border' scheme or reduce inward immigration by, potentially, the tens of thousands.

The UK would gain significant new freedoms which would allow policymakers to, if desired by the British people, reform its migration system to select only highly skilled workers from across the world. It would also, crucially, have the power to remove the discriminatory element in our current migration system and apply the same criteria to both EU migrants and non-EU migrants, making it easier for the UK to fill the gaps in its economy by finding the best candidates globally.

However, meaningful reform could only come as part of a wide-ranging change in how the UK manages migration policy across a range of government departments. Leaving the EU is an enabler, not a solution in itself.
The real issue here is that we would not get these freedoms without also losing access to the Single Market, but the essence of what BfB is saying is a million miles from Sandys' claim. She is doing that cuddly little thing that Europhiles do – she lies.

Next in line for Sandys, though, is Carswell. She picks his "Singapore of Europe" model. This, we are told, doesn't try to put an end to free movement at all. In Carswell's post-Brexit Britain, employers will be under pressure to reduce employment rights. Says Sandys:
A new focus on trade with the rest of the world will require loosening visa restrictions in order to secure inward investment and bilateral trade deals. With already half of our migration coming from beyond Europe, it is unclear how well this vision would reduce actual numbers. And we shouldn't forget that migrants coming from the rest of the world are more likely to seek permanent residency, eventually getting old in the UK, with all the attendant health costs.
Then she goes for Farage's Brexit "retail offer", telling us that this is the model "that would place the greatest restrictions on free movement". But, says Sandys:
… for Britain to keep his promises, we would have to erect a border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland – which would effectively become the "back door" option for migrants entering Britain from the EU. Farage heralds the Australia immigration model, but a closer look reveals that even Migration Watch says that the Australian model is "totally unsuitable" and admits that once you look at the figures behind the rhetoric, Australia has three times more migration proportionately than the UK.
Finally, we get a model she describes "the Twilight Zone option" – following the example set by Norway and Switzerland. This too, Sandys says, would fail to deal with migration issues, as Norway and Switzerland already have higher EU migration as a proportion of population than we do. Any Brexit proponents promising they can get access to the single market without free movement of people are selling a pup. So no real halt on EU migration with this model either.

And there, actually, we get to the substantive issue. We have a choice thrust upon us, as to whether to go for a limit on freedom of movement, or whether to preserve access to the Single Market. In Flexcit, we went for the latter, arguing that we could return to the immigration question at a later date.

What Sandys has done, therefore, is expose the vulnerability of the sections of the "no" campaign, sections who have not thought the issues through, and chosen to make migration an issue.

Sandys thus claims that they are currently leaving unspoken the reality that leaving the EU would merely make those who are currently insecure at work more insecure, and deliver almost no change in the need for workers from abroad.

If the "outers" (as she would have us be) really cared about those who feel threatened by immigration, she says, "they would propose aggressive enforcement of those breaking minimum-wage laws, promise a huge increase in skills development and support the living wage".

With that, we see where she is going – bogging us down with tedious detail over increasingly arcane points. That is what the "no" campaign has let her do. We need to take the high ground and "park" immigration as an issue, leaving Sandys out in the cold where she belongs. 

But we can't do this and pull the plug on freedom of movement - not in the first stage of our exit plan. 

Richard North 18/08/2015 link

Booker: UK- the bully-boy in Guernsey


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Compared with other international crises making headlines round the world it may not seem to rank high, writes Booker, but it is time we began to ask what the British government thinks it is doing to the little Channel island of Guernsey.

The inhabitants of that island and those around it, such as Alderney and Sark, making up the "Bailiwick of Guernsey", are rightly up in arms at the extraordinarily high-handed way in which the UK government, in flagrant breach of their constitutional relationship, has aimed a devastating blow at one of their oldest and most prized industries – their fishing fleet.

To understand just how badly the British government is behaving, we first need to recall certain basic facts. As Crown Dependencies, the Channel Islands are not ruled by the United Kingdom, with which they only became linked when William the Conqueror invaded England in 1066. And they are not part of the European Union.

This means that their rich fishing waters are not governed by the EU's Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and, as was confirmed by a formal agreement as recently as 2012, Guernsey's 147 fishing boats are therefore not subject to the EU's "quota" system, dictating what fish they can and can't catch.

That is precisely why, unlike the UK, Guernsey has been able to operate its own thoroughly responsible, "sustainable" fishing policy. This not only allows its fishermen to earn a good living while preserving their stocks, but allows them to export 80 percent of their catch to France.

They also have longstanding reciprocal arrangements by which British and French boats can fish in their waters, and Bailiwick boats can fish outside them, under UK licences.

But this year, as a "precautionary measure" following last year's Channel storms, Brussels decided to impose a massive cut in the allowable quotas for high-value species generically known as "skate and ray".

So drastic has been the cut imposed on the UK that Whitehall, quite illegally, decided to extend this crippling restriction to Guernsey, even though the skate and ray its fishermen catch are all in its own waters, where the CFP does not apply.

When Guernsey protested that this was in breach of the 2012 agreement, the UK’s fisheries minister, George Eustice, responded by banning Guernsey's boats from fishing in UK and EU waters.

This in itself was a severe blow to many Guernsey fishermen, such as the skipper whose family have for generations set lobster pots just outside Guernsey waters, and who now risks losing his livelihood. Eustice, quite arbitrarily, has suspended the fishermen's UK licences which, because they are saleable, are a significant financial asset.

All this was explicitly done to increase what remains of the skate and ray quota allowed to fishermen in the UK, easily the largest chunk of which goes to the fishermen of Cornwall where, as it happens, Eustice – a former Ukip candidate – is a Tory MP.

But what the minister also failed to understand when he sought to impose his diktat on Guernsey was that the island is a real democracy. The 47 members of its island Parliament are all truly independent.

They cannot be whipped into line. And what he was demanding was something they could in no way accept, not just because it was illegal but because it raises an important constitutional issue in Guernsey's relationship with Britain, going back nearly 1,000 years (we may be celebrating the sealing of Magna Carta in 1215, but Guernsey won a similar guarantee of its own liberties off King John in 1204).

So this British minister not only fails to grasp that he has no legal power to demand that the islanders should obey an EU rule that does not apply to them. He also doesn't understand what it is to live in a proper democracy.

And for that he is ready to destroy the livelihoods of all those who work under a genuinely "sustainable" fishing policy, lauded by environmentalists, which is a model of everything the EU’s notoriously bureaucratic and unworkable Common Fisheries Policy cannot begin to emulate.

By his thoughtless actions, Mr Eustice has provoked an absurdly damaging and thoroughly unnecessary crisis. Someone above him in London needs urgently to tell him that he must stop behaving like a school bully who seeks out the smallest boy in the playground to beat up, in the hope that no one is watching.

Some years back, when a previous British government tried to enforce on the Channel Islands an EU financial directive that didn't apply to them, their politicians eventually caved in. Booker wrote then "what the islands need is a Churchill, but all they have is a row of Chamberlains".

But since then things have changed. Guernsey has cleaned up its finance industry, it is responsibly and intelligently run – and its politicians are no longer in any mood to appease illegal bullies.

Richard North 16/08/2015 link

Media: another "EU regulation" fantasy


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Sarah Knapton - "science editor" for the Barclay Beano - is doing it again, with another crass article on EU regulation.

We met Knapton recently when she tried to convince us that British organic farmers were "being forced to treat their livestock with homeopathic remedies under new European Commission rules branded 'scientifically illiterate' by vets" – only then to amend the story as the claim turned out to be completely false.

Now, having learned nothing from the experiences, she would have us believe that Fairy Liquid "will have to carry a warning sign after the European Union branded it corrosive". From August, la Knapton tells us, "Fairy, along with a whole range of household products, must carry a special chemical test-tube sign, depicting acid burning a hand, to warn consumers of the danger".

Presumably the stupid woman picked this up from the Mail in a classic example of media coprophagia, although that paper has had to downgrade its story to claiming that the product must be labelled as an "irritant", specifically an "eye irritant".

The Express also found space for the original report – although even this tawdry excuse for a newspaper has had second thoughts and has deleted its story completely. 

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Knapton, though, has got herself completely mixed up, confusing the Biocide Regulation with the chemical the Classification, Labelling and Packaging (CLP) Regulation, then falling for the misinformation that household detergents have to bear a "corrosive" pictogram - which they don't.

Under the new regulations, which come fully into force on 1 June 2017, such products will have to bear a label comprising a black exclamation mark on a white background, set in a red diamond – as per this illustration, with the description "eye irritant" – which indeed it is.

The ultimate irony, though, is that the new regulations are not even of EU origin. As the recitals (5 & 6) say:
With a view to facilitating worldwide trade while protecting human health and the environment, harmonised criteria for classification and labelling have been carefully developed over a period of 12 years within the United Nations (UN) structure, resulting in the Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (hereinafter referred to as 'the GHS').

This Regulation follows various declarations whereby the Community confirmed its intention to contribute to the global harmonisation of criteria for classification and labelling, not only at UN level, but also through the incorporation of the internationally agreed GHS criteria into Community law.
However, the Telegraph site has attracted over 400 comments, mostly a parade of the gullible, only too keen to imbibe what they read as the gospel truth.

Oddly enough, I was originally rather dismissive of this example of global governance when I first reported on it but, on reflection, came to consider it as a good example trade regulation. No longer can differing warning labels be used as trade barriers, as we now have a globally harmonised system of pictograms.

Such subtlety, though, is way beyond the competence of the legacy media, which goes for the cheap "EU red tape" story as a substitute for delivering real news. The saddest thing, though, is not that the legacy media should produce such garbage – we are used to that – but that there should be so many people still prepared to believe it.

And the great danger, of course, is that these same people believe the legacy media is able to keep them informed on the EU referendum campaign.

Richard North 15/08/2015 link

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