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 power 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 group 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

EU Referendum: "yes" confidence "dangerously misplaced"


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James Morris in the Times thinks the confidence of the "in" side is "dangerously misplaced". This is a man who, it appears, hasn't realised that the EU referendum is a "yes-no" contest, and he wants us to take him seriously?

But James Morris is a partner for Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and worked for Labour before the election, so he evidently has prestige – and thus can write knowingly in the legacy media for us to genuflect and imbibe his greater wisdom.

His case is that the key swing vote is disproportionately female and it is going to be particularly hard for either side to reach this group as they are less likely than men to care one way or another. While one in five men says Europe is one of their top priority issues for government, among women the number is less than one in ten.

The big deal, though, is that the "yes" side doesn't have a slam-dunk winning argument for being in the EU. The idea that working with other countries strengthens Britain's hand in the world is a winner for the middle class and the young, but older voters and working-class voters tend to think that the country would do better if it was less engaged with the world.

Immigration regularly polls as the top issue facing the country and, says Morris, voters know that the only way to regain direct control of the flow is to withdraw from the EU. The argument that immigration benefits the economy is simply not believed - in a poll Morris's company conducted last year, cutting immigration ranked as the best way to boost the economy, ahead of cutting taxes, investing in infrastructure or improving education.

At the heart of the problem, we are told, is the immense distance between the EU and the electorate. To that effect, the prestigious James Tilley of the prestigious Jesus College, Oxford is called in aid.

This prestigious man argues that, when a European country gets frustrated with its "rulers" (we have rulers?) it can kick them out at election time; but when they become frustrated with Europe there is no one to kick but the institution itself. For countries that benefit from EU funds, there are tangible reasons to be forgiving; but for countries such as Britain that see Brussels as a cost, that psychological buffer is not there.

So, Morris concludes, we are left with a referendum where the "no" campaign has a strong populist card to play; while the "yes" side has a highly contingent argument to make about the economy.

The man's worry is that, if Greece settles down, the eurozone returns to solid growth and the trade benefits become obvious, they stand in good stead. But if the EU becomes a byword for economic chaos, patronising élites and unfettered immigration, then whatever renegotiation Mr Cameron manages to deliver in Brussels is unlikely to be enough.

And that is the sort of analysis you get if you go for "prestige" rather than intelligence. But what Morris doesn't compute is that, by the time the genocidal mouth-breathers in Ukip have finished toxifying immigration, no sane person will want to go near the "no" side. 

Concern over immigration there may be, but the situation is far more nuanced than is indicated by simple polls. Those who feel uneasy about the government incompetence (and worse) do not necessarily share the Ukip view of the action needed. Unless the "no" campaign can recover the ground and rehabilitate the issue, immigration could prove to be a millstone round its neck.

On the other hand, there is a good chance that the EU will keep the lid on Greece long enough to fudge the economic statistics for the referendum (nothing new there), so the "Greek card" is more likely to work in favour of the "yes" campaign.

However, if the "no" campaign can invert the status quo and show that staying in the EU through to another treaty is likely to increase tensions between the UK and the EU, and show that leaving the EU is the best way to work with other countries - globally as well as at a European level - then we could be in with a chance.

Strangely, therefore, while the pundits are trying to define the battlefield, the crucial issues are not those which feature highly in their rankings. But what is encompassed by our membership of the EU is the historical mistake made by prime ministers in the '60s and '70s in electing for to join a supranational treaty organisation instead of opting for intergovernmental cooperation.

That issue is as alive and relevant today as it was fifty years ago, making this referendum an opportunity to correct that historic mistake - one which transcends what may well be transient issues. Thus, as we saw yesterday, we need to be asking the right questions and listening the answers. 

Failing that, you can work for Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and hide behind the Times paywall, offering one-dimensional analyses.

Richard North 10/08/2015 link

EU Referendum: in the grip of the "magic memes"


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There are three parallel memes which seem to have taken root in certain sections of the eurosceptic "community" in relation to the conduct of the "no" campaign.

The first is that, irrespective of what anyone might say or do on "our" side, we should all be working together in the interest of the cause. That then kicks in the second meme which has it that we should not criticise each other openly. We should try to sort our differences in private, behind the scenes.

Bringing in the third meme is the premise that the correct response to criticism is not to engage with it, or respond in any way other than to attack the critics and remind them of the other two memes. Never does it occur that one way of stopping criticism is to stop inviting the criticism in the first place.

As just one example of what we are dealing with, we have the determination of Ukip - with the clear encouragement of its leader, Nigel Farage - to harness the migrant crisis as a tool to promote leaving the EU. In so doing, he has unleashed the singularly nasty, BNP-esq elements of the party, who are allowed free-rein to express the most vile propaganda imaginable.

The effect of this can now be seen in the Ukip "house magazine", Breitbart, which at the time of writing this post was running the headline: "Flash: up to 700 migrants feared drowned in Mediterranean".

This was an early report of an incident yesterday when an overloaded fishing boat en route to Italy from Libya was seen to capsize in rough seas. But what is horrifying about the report in Breitbart are the readers' comments which are often monopolised by Ukip supporters. The volume and degree of vitriol is something I never dreamed we would ever see on an English language site.

Many of the responders hide behind the anonymity of screen names, but there is no disguising their sentiments. Thus, a reader who uses the name "rhcrest" writes: "Oh gee, a bunch of dead muslims. I feel so bad. NOT!". The same person also writes:
No we are DONE trying to fix their effing crapholes! I couldn't care less about these vermin. These boats should be met by each country's navy and told to immediately turn around or they will be fired upon. End of story. The boats will stop coming. They can go back to their third world crapholes and all kill each other for all I care. These people will never change. They are just third worlders and that is it
He is matched, in terms of sentiment, by "kiwi41" who offers a comment quite typical of this thread, adding: "Every little helps! May there be thousands more".

This was one of the newer treads. We also see "AndrewInterrupted" tells us, "I would like to believe a submarine from the western world torpedoed it" and, working back, we see "CA" declare: "Let them drown or sink the ships. Only when coming to the west is seen as an unattractively proposition will this flood of the Islamic and third world end". Then we have "WhatWouldJeffersonDo?" wanting to edit the headline, "up to 700 migrants feared drowned in Mediterranean", removing the word "feared" and replacing it with "hoped".

Another contributor, "So_WHAT", offers: "Poor fish, they hate halal food" and "ghostlife", demonstrating a lack of originality that runs through the thread, mirrors "WhatWouldJeffersonDo?" with a cryptic "feared".

"Tropical Pom" does the "maths", with an elaborate post telling us: "At 35 GBP per week 'Spending' money and, say, 60 GBP per night accommodation with approx. 30 GBP per day food then over a year we have just saved ourselves 24,206,000 GBP so on a cost benefit analysis of the situation in the full knowledge that those figures are the tip of the iceberg we should just blow the boats out the water and the humanitarians amongst us can toss a wreath in if you like". 

"Stosh" thinks this is"Mother Nature protecting civilization... ", while Jeffrey Coley – one of the few to use what might be a real name, decides to present us with a little "joke". "What's the difference between a disaster and a tragedy?", this comedy genius asks, telling us: "A disaster is when a boat carrying 700 illegal immigrants to Europe sinks and all aboard are drowned. A tragedy is when the boat was only half full".

This gives "another_engineer" the opportunity to add: "Or made it ashore", while Jeffrey Coley, who turns out to be a generous contributor, gives us, "There were 1000 on the boat, it's feared only 700 drowned", adding: "This is also known as a 'good start'".

"Haywoodjbl", with no originality at all, posts: "A good start", "aurora9" decides to share with us: "That's 700 muslims less that we have to feed!" and "gerton shref" instructs us to: "Ceeeelebrate good times, c'mon! Let's celebrate!"

From "Kentucky Rifle", we get: "2000 dead illegal invaders is not near enough. Calling them 'migrants' is offensive", "Sailsalot" presents us with the observation that this means "700 fewer welfare cases" and "DannyT" ups the ante has it that this is, "'a net saving' , factor in the multiple wives & sprogs if they'd made it to Treasure Island = 3000 less mouths to feed, it's a start!"

The "it's a start" gem also occurs to "Redlinetrain", who tells us that: "700 is a good start. What we need now are some Nazi U Boats brought back into service. They would solve this problem in days". "Danny123" wants to, "Send in the navy to travel the departure coastlines and RPG any boat bigger than a dingy!"

"Eddie" runs the "feared" meme by us, with a relatively long contribution, telling us: "Feared? Really, feared to have drown? Ask the average European what they think of that. Ask them what they think of 700 more invaders that they would have to support that won't be there to destroy their villages and towns. These people do not come to Europe to contribute and conform, they come to conquer".

We have "ephraingadsby" writing: "Oh dear. (dabs eyes)", evoking a response from "Canon Fodder (Wisecracker)", telling us: "I'm greetin so hard the snotters are running down", preceded by "slamdance13" asking, "why do i wanna laugh...".

And an earlier from "So_WHAT" asks, "What is to fear? ", adding: "a few less breeders for allah, I am happy. Every wh(o)re of mohamed in Europe is pregnant from the age of 7 till 100 they breed".

None of these identify themselves as Ukip supporters, but they don't have to - and that's not the issue. This is the type of rhetoric we see spread all over the internet and social media, readily attached to the Ukip label. It is exactly the sort of thing "kippers" are writing all the time, often associated with the party logo.

What has happened here is that Farage has let the genie out of the lamp. Racism and Islamophobia - one the excuse for the other – is rampant and it threatens to unhinge the whole "no" campaign. Whether it is directly from Ukip or not, this sort of commentary will be associated with it unless the party goes out of its way, actively, to disown it - which it has not done.

Yet, when we point this out, the "magic memes" cut in. We are told we should bite our tongues and  work with these people. We must not criticise them. And if we do, on no account will they respond to it, by changing anything they say and do.

Neither are these "magic memes" confined to just this sub-set of humanity. The eurosceptic "community" is driven by those who feel they should be immune from criticism as of right, yet free to act in any way they think fit. To them, the idea of message discipline is a totally alien concept and they are at perfect liberty to undermine the efforts of co-campaigners. Their answer to criticism is to silence the critics.

Until all these players get their acts to together, and decide which is more important – their egos and ambitions or the campaign – we are going to find it very hard to make serious progress. While I remain confident that we can beat the enemy, I cannot say the same for our "allies". Protected by their "magic memes", they will destroy any chance we ever had of winning.

Richard North 06/08/2015 link

EU Referendum: propaganda organs


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The Telegraph website offers a timeline for Ted Heath's career, with the gem illustrated above, telling us of him winning a 1971 referendum to take us into the Common Market. There, in one entry, we have three errors: the referendum was in 1975, not 1971, it was under Wilson not Heath, and it was to remain in the Common Market. We did not have a referendum on entry.

If I made this sort of schoolboy howler, my blog would rightly be laughed out of court, yet this is a newspaper which advertises itself as the source for the "best reporting and analysis", and proclaims itself "proud to deliver news to 16.8 million people every month".

This is the same newspaper which manages a scarcely believable level on incompetence in its reporting on asylum seekers and is thus surviving by prestige alone, demonstrating once again the point made by Gustave le Bon that:
… the special characteristic of prestige is to prevent us seeing things as they are and to entirely paralyse our judgement. Crowds always, and individuals as a rule, stand in need of ready-made opinions on all subjects. The popularity of these opinions is independent of the measure of truth or error they contain, and is solely regulated by their prestige.
The seriousness of this is readily apparent when we realise that these are the organs that are going to seek to influence the debate on the EU referendum, purporting to explain the issues and then advising us how to vote.

Campaigners are going to have to realise that they can rely on nothing they read in the media, and need to become more self-reliant, checking information before using it and taking more care before accepting what they are told.

One readily appreciates that not all people have the time to do this, in which case it is better to be silent than to spread false information. We have to regard everything as provisional until it is possible to check it.

And that, of course, applies across the board, with the Guardian - predictably – just as capable of spreading misinformation as the "right wing" press. The mistake is to believe that there is any difference between them. None of them are reliable, even if the errors sometimes cover different territory.

In this case though, we are getting applied stupidity from Matthew d'Ancona, who argues that the Calais situation is providing the "perfect showreel" for the "no" campaign. Oddly, this comes just at the point when the Mail publishes a sympathetic piece about the plight of asylum seekers, itself illustrating that, whenever there a focus on a particular story, you eventually get a backlash, when the other side gets an airing.

Going back to the ghastly Telegraph, we have the stopped clock effect – even a stopped clock tells the time accurately twice a day. The only problem is, you don't know when. This story, though, has the right "feel" to it, having the "furious" French blaming the UK for the "Calais chaos". They complain that we are dumping our problems on them by refusing to process migrants on our own shores.

This, indeed, is the case, If it was not for the fact that British immigration officials in the port of Calais were refusing to accept asylum claims, and handing back asylum seekers to the French authorities, invoking the Le Touquet Treaty, then there would not be a backlog of migrants waiting to cross the Channel. Instead, we would have the problem in the UK, having to open up special camps for them.

Unsurprisingly, therefore, the UK's "predicament" is getting scant sympathy in Brussels, with a long report in the Financial Times bringing forward comments that other countries are having to deal with ten times the volume of migrants. In what is a global crisis, the UK is getting off relatively lightly.

There lies another problem with the media. Even if individual stories are accurately reported, the distortion comes in the emphasis on one particular issue, or on just one aspect of it. We are not getting a balanced view, and the sin of omission dominates the coverage.

Not least, there is a continuing situation between France and Italy, where border controls have effectively been reinstated. Nearly every train from Ventimiglia, the final Italian railway station before Menton, is searched for Middle Eastern or African-looking passengers.

French authorities, according to the FT, are saying that they are catching about 1,000 migrants a week, reaching the record levels of a year ago when about 15,000 were turned back to Italy. It is not as if the French are not taking action therefore – just that the British media is not reporting it.

From our point of view, as "no" campaigners, this is potentially dangerous. Ukip and others have mistakenly hitched their wagons to the Calais issue, in the hope that it will bring them support. But the referendum is a long time coming, and by the time it arrives, the current scenes will be history. The public perception of the problem may be very different to what it is now.

We're seeing the same thing with Greece, where the "eurosceptic" press have insisted on affording it victim status, contrasted with the big, bad bully EU, which its grinding its face into the dust. But now we get the Guardian, countering the meme raised by its own star columnists. There is, it says …
… much that is wrong in the left's narrative. It doesn't mention that Greece had many deep-seated problems that pre-dated the creditor-imposed austerity: rampant tax evasion, an epidemic of early retirement, a bloated public sector and a private sector carved up by special interests. These problems need to be corrected before Greece can thrive. It doesn't help to label these necessary reforms as neoliberal. What is progressive about people not paying taxes and retiring under the age of 50?
Once again, with the referendum a long time coming, we may see a change of mood, with a very different presentation in the press on Greece by the time we come to vote. Those who have relied on the picture so far, painted by the bulk of the media, may have been sorely misled.

And that makes the overall point. Despite the claims of the Telegraph, the so-called "newspapers" no longer deliver news – if they ever did. They are propaganda organs, with their own agendas and their own distorted views of the world.

In fighting the "no" campaign, we have to realise that the media's agenda is not our agenda, and if we follow their lead, even if their line looks promising, we could end up like a beached whale when the tide of public and media sentiment turns.

We needs to be in command of our own agenda. That means being better informed than the media – which is not difficult – and defining our own issues and priorities. Just because something is temporarily high profile in the propaganda sheets does not mean it is good for us, or that we should follow it. 

Discrimination and a longer term overview would serve us better than any media "take" on events.

Richard North 05/08/2015 link

EU Referendum: what to do about Ukip?


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Anyone following social media (and especially Twitter) and watching the comments on newspaper articles relating to the Calais migrant "crisis" will be only too aware of the presence of Ukip supporters and, at times, the almost rabid antipathy towards immigrants.

This has been reinforced by Nigel Farage's comments about the conduct of the referendum campaign, making it very clear that he intends to put immigration at the top of the list, giving the green light to the zealots in his own party, who like nothing better than railing about the subject.

Then there is that frankly asinine comment by Farage in the Mail, where he writes:
It is time to get tough and defend our borders properly. We must put in place a checking system at Dover for every car and lorry coming into the UK. The utopian dream of free movement has hit the buffers.
When one assesses everything that Farage has said, this is amongst the most disturbing, at several levels. Firstly, he appears not to know that the movement of asylum seekers across borders owes nothing to EU "free movement" rules, stemming as it does from the 1951 UN Convention and the 1967 Protocol.

Secondly, he very clearly does not understand the dynamics of the system. Seeking "a checking system at Dover for every car and lorry coming into the UK", he would allow asylum seekers onto UK territory so that, when they are discovered, all they have to do is demand asylum and we have to admit them.

Thus is why, of course, that the UK Government concluded the 2003 Le Touquet Agreement with the French, so that immigration checks are carried out on French soil, where the UK bears no responsibility for asylum seekers.

And it is because these checks are so effective that migrants have resorted to hiding in lorries and cars – not to evade controls in Dover but to by-pass the checks in France. Once they get to England, there is no longer any need to conceal themselves, and most migrants surrender to the authorities once they know they have arrived in this country.

Of course, there is some provision in the immigration rules under the EU's Dublin regulations to return migrants to the EU Member State where they first arrived (see para 345). However, the rules are so hedged with caveats that, from over 30,000 asylum seekers in the UK, only just over a thousand Dublin requests are made in a typical year, while incoming requests in 2012 actually exceeded outgoing. In all cases, though the number of actual transfers is considerably less.

As it stands, therefore, the French authorities provide the main defence against asylum seekers and, if the hostility shown by the likes of Farage towards France continues, we could find ourselves in the devastating position where the French pull out of the Le Touquet Agreement, as they are threatening to do.

But with or without French assistance, the core problem remains – the fact that the signatories (or "contracting states") to the Refugee Convention are effectively giving would-be asylum seekers a gold plated invitation to come to their territories.

On the other hand, as we saw yesterday, there is no shortage of reputable authorities who are or have been calling for the abolition or amendment of the 1951 Convention, and its replacement with something more suited to the conditions of the 21st Century.

And it is here that the "no" campaign in general and Ukip in particular are missing a trick. Within the target group of "undecideds" and soft "yes" voters, who we must get on-side if we are to get our 51 percent in the referendum, there will undoubtedly be many who see these migrants for what they are - refugees and, far from rejecting them, actually welcome them.

These are votes we can't afford to lose, with hard-line rhetoric about migrants and immigration. More to the point, we don't need to lose them, as there are ways we could achieve the effect Farage and his supporters desire, without resorting to the extremes that they do.

What the "no" campaign (including Ukip) could and should be doing is campaigning either for the repeal or the removal of the 1951 Convention (and Protocol) and its replacement with something better.

This is a line the EU can't follow, as the provisions of the 1951 Convention are embedded in the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights, which would need major treaty change to happen – which never will. Therefore, the need to address the 1951 Convention is in itself good grounds for leaving the EU, as the only way the UK could broker a new agreement.

Crucially, any new agreement should seek to integrate foreign policy and foreign aid, industrial policy, trade deals and things like third country fishing deals – as well as defence policy – so that we have joined up policy when it comes all to removing or reducing "push" factors.

With its effect on migration generally, we could then afford to be fairly generous with the relatively small number of people who demand asylum (less than ten percent of our net annual immigration), taking them directly from camps bordering the trouble spots, cutting out the smugglers and the predators.

Taking such a line would position the "no" campaign (and Ukip) as forward-looking, with a global vision, offering a positive outcome without having to verge on racism, as Ukip is doing. In other words, the wrong-headed focus on the EU is both unnecessary and counter-productive.

For the "no" campaign to adopt this view is a possibility, but that still leaves open the question of what to do about Ukip. In an ideal world, it would be possible to discuss things with the party, but time and again we see their obsessive behaviour as being beyond reason.

We can't stop Ukip though, so if it doesn't change, we have to disown it. Silence is not an option because, if we say nothing, the opposition will charge that their messages have the support of the "no" campaign in general. We disown it publicly, or it gets attributed to us. 

Eventually, as the campaign runs into its second year, we can see Ukip running out of steam, its members disillusioned and deserting in their droves as the polls refuse to move. At that point, I think we launch our "reserves" with a fresh campaign, leaving the taint behind us. And unless Ukip changes its ways, that is going to have to be the way we handle it.

The campaign is bigger than Ukip (and more important than Nigel Farage's ambitions). We cannot afford to give them the game, any more than we can allow the real "yes" campaign to have its own way when it finally reveals its hand.

Richard North 04/08/2015 link

EU Referendum: migrant misinformation


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I've been in the business of communication for a long time and one of my guiding principles is articulated by Gene Sharp in his campaign guide. "Claims and reporting should always be strictly factual", he writes. "Exaggerations and unfounded claims will undermine the credibility of the resistance".

You can get away with inaccurate reporting for a long time and, if you are preaching to the converted, telling them what they want to hear, you can get away with it forever. Addressing that audience, there is often no advantage in delivering facts – people will turn away from detail they don't want to hear.

In this coming referendum campaign, though, we have to secure more than 50 percent of the vote. That means we need to covert of lot of people to our way of thinking – far more than is needed in a general election campaign. And there the Sharp precept must apply: claims and reporting must be strictly factual. Accuracy is at an absolutely premium.

Crucially, if we sell a false bill of goods, our target audience will not come rushing to tell us we're wrong. Most won't argue with us or even reveal their disagreement. They'll simply note the mismatch – very often intuitively. And stripped of that all-important credibility, we'll fail to convince – we won't convert the people we need to our way of thinking, and the left-wing media will have a field day.

And there is nothing more calculated to burn up our credibility than the rhetoric on migration, as currently focused on the situation in Calais. Rarely, it seems, has there been so much misinformation being poured out by eurosceptics, all doubtless pleasing the converted but with a potentially devastating effect on the "no" campaign in the longer term.

The heart of the issue, as one might imagine, is the degree of responsibility which can be attributed to our membership of the European Union and whether leaving the EU would solve the problem of migrants coming to the UK.

The "withdrawal" question is actually easy to answer. In short, leaving the EU would not improve the position and could make it worse. The reason why there would be no difference is because asylum seekers are a matter of international law, not directly initiated by EU law.

The crucial law is the 1951 UN Convention on the Treatment of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol. As long as the UK is party to these, the Government is obliged to respond to any non-nationals on its territory who demand asylum. First, it must formally assess each case individually, to determine whether the applicant's status conforms with the definition of a refugee. If they do, they must be goven leave to remain, and basic support, including food and shelter. The "contracting state" has no discretion in this matter – this is a treaty obligation and, for the UK, stands above our membership of the EU.

Nor are the people seeking asylum in any normal sense "illegal" immigrants. The Convention., under Article 31, specifically prohibits refugees from being penalised for their illegal entry or stay.

While that provision originally applied to those "coming directly from a territory where their life or freedom was threatened", the exemption from prosecution has since been extended by case law. It now applies to all asylum seekers, even when they have come via intermediate countries. This is applied worldwide by all contacting states, even Australia.

As such, people entering the UK without authorisation, but who intend to claim asylum, tend to be called "irregular" migrants. For most practical purposes, once on UK territory, they cannot be refused entry and as long as they qualify as refugees, they cannot be deported.

When it comes to migrants travelling from their point of entry into the territory of an EU Member State (often Italy or Greece) to France and thence to Calais with a view to seeking asylum in the UK, as individuals they break no law by not applying for asylum in the first country they reach.

Technically, the receiver state may be in breach of the EU's Dublin Regulation, but whether they are or not is and would be unaffected by the UK's membership status. It can be presumed that some irregular migrants would seek asylum in the UK, irrespective of whether we were in the EU.

Once these migrants reach Calais, under normal circumstances, there would be nothing to stop them boarding Eurostar or a ferry and travelling to the UK, thence to demand asylum. There are not normally any controls on leaving a country – the controls are usually applied on entry. And since these migrants would then be on UK soil, they could not be refused entry as asylum seekers.

However, as Booker points out in his column, by arrangement with the French government, we are allowed to station our immigration officials in Calais. They, not the French authorities, decide whether a traveller boards the transport to the UK. If at that point, migrants demand asylum, they are still on French soil. Thus, they are referred to the French authorities. Because they are not on UK soil, we have no obligations towards them.

This arrangement is formalised in the Le Touquet Treaty of 2003 (with another agreement covering Eurostar), which means that there is no legal route from Calais by which migrants can enter the UK.

Even the Huffington Post knows this. It observes that UK border police operate at Calais to check documents and prevent illegal migrants from reaching the country - which is why, it says, many turn to desperate measures like jumping into vans and clinging onto trains.

The Le Touquet Treaty is, of course, a bilateral treaty between the UK and France. It would not be directly affected if we left the EU. However, the French government could respond to our withdrawal by pulling out of this treaty and opening the gates of the ferry terminal. It could then allow migrants free passage, whence we could be confronted by hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers, with no option but to let them in.

Whichever way this is cut, there are no grounds for arguing that the EU is directly responsible for the situation in Calais. In fact, there is a tenable case that the Le Touquet Treaty, jointly agreed between France and the UK is at fault. Without it, we would simply have the migrants passing straight through, like any other passengers.

To keep this issue on an even kilter, Eurosceptics should stop pretending that the EU is to blame. And people like Nigel Farage should get their facts right. These migrants are not illegal immigrants. 

Furthermore, anyone associated with the "no" campaign should avoid trying to elide the EU's freedom of movement provisions with asylum seeking (although it is valid to make an indirect link). Instead, they should acknowledge that at the heart of the problem lies the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol, which is not affected by EU membership in the sense that it would cease to apply once we left.

But that does not mean there is no EU involvement. Within the Charter of Fundamental Rights, incorporated into the EU Treaties under Lisbon, the provisions of the 1951 Convention have been enshrined in EU law. Leaving the EU does not remove our international obligations, but in order to modify or amend them, we need to leave the EU. But leaving is a necessary move. It is not sufficient in itself.

There is the credible case for leaving the EU. It allows us to deal with the root of the problem - the 1951 Convention. Anything else simply damages the cause and renders the argument toxic.

Richard North 02/08/2015 link

EU Referendum: not just another meeting


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So, with an eye to maximising publicity, Mr Farage yesterday decided to tell the world that Ukip was launching its campaign "on the ground" from the beginning of September. He is, we are told, to "mobilise a people's army" in favour of leaving the European Union, and will launch hundreds of public meetings.

Mr Farage was of the view that the referendum could be held as early as "March or April", and if he believes that, then that explains why he is in such a rush to get things moving, telling the "no" side that it needs to "get off its backside". It needs to do two things, he says: to "get cracking" and "come together".

However, in one thing, Mr Farage is certainly wrong. There will be no referendum in March or April, nor in June. It seems unlikely that there can be one before October of next year, while we maintain that the most probable date is October 2017.

On this basis, we believe that to ramp up the campaign early is premature - and potentially harmful. Given the need for a grand strategy, the time would be better spent working on this, and then organising and training our side, better to execute the campaign.

Crucially, before we commit ourselves to a strategy, we need a clearer idea of what Mr Cameron is planning, especially if "associate membership" becomes a reality. If it does, and there is a second referendum to follow, this will be a game changer. It will demand a precise and measured response.

Sadly, it is not within our capability to influence Mr Farage. He set his face against anything we might have to offer over a decade ago, having decided that the way to success was though gaining MPs in Westminster, a strategy that has yet to produce results.

Nevertheless, that does not mean there is nothing we can do, or that we have to stand idle while Farage insists executing what appears to be a strategy-free campaign.

Essentially, if we are in for the long haul, then we need a group of campaigners who can act as a backstop, to block the gaps left by the orthodox campaigners. We need people capable of stepping in, long after the early starters have peaked, with an intelligence-led response to developments as they occur.

To that effect, with the support and generous sponsorship of the Campaign for an Independent Britain, the Referendum Planning Group (RPG) is convening a workshop at the Woodland Grange Hotel in Leamington Spa, on 12 September.

The workshop numbers are limited, but it is open to all those who want to take an active part in the campaign and are capable of organising and building their operations for activation when the time is right.

While there will be a number of formal campaigning groups – and an official "no" campaign - we will be looking for organisers who can set up additional, autonomous groups, to augment official activities. These groups, in our view, need to be function-orientated, capable of taking rapid and effective action in areas where larger, formal groups are unable to operate.

Our preliminary agenda for the workshop splits the day into four parts, starting at 10am and finishing at 4pm. In the morning, we will start with an outline of RPG's intellectual base and, for the second part, we will look at campaign structures. After lunch, we will kick off with presentations by existing activists, represented by the CIB, the Bruges Group,, Futurus and The Harrogate Agenda.

Then we plan to turn the meeting over to our potential volunteers, to hear from them as to how they think they can contribute to the campaign, what they need from us, and how best we can all work together.

I would stress that we are not planning to go into competition with other groups – this is for self-starters who are not happy working within the framework of traditional, hierarchical groups. We are looking at cell structures, on the lines of a guerrilla army, capable of identifying the enemy's weak points and acting decisively without needing external leadership.

For the day, we are asking for a contribution of £25 from each attendee, although there are a number of sponsored places for those with limited means.

The day, though, is for the independently-minded, those who do not want to be bystanders in the coming campaign. If you want to punch above your weight and make your contributions count, Leamington Spa on 12 September is the place to be.

Admin is being handled by Dorothy Davis. If you are interested, you can contact her by e-mail via this link in order to make a booking. We look forward to seeing you there.

Richard North 31/07/2015 link

EU Referendum: second-class citizens


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Booker has picked up on the recent indications that the EU is planning a new treaty, following which the UK may be offered "associate membership", making us (in the historical context) "second-class citizens".

There can be little dispute that, should this be offered by Mr Cameron just before the referendum poll, it could transform the campaign, although nothing of this has yet percolated the deeper reaches of Channel 4 News.

From there, political editor Gary Gibbon tells us there's "a riff you hear around the top of government that the referendum on Europe is won". You hear, he says, "'60/40' thrown around as a plausible if not easy margin of victory for the yes campaign for staying in the EU. You heard it in the run-up to the Scottish referendum too".

The thing is that, with the arrival of associate membership, public sentiment could go either way. If Mr Cameron ambushes us at the last minute, and the offer is heavily spun, it could look attractive enough for the majority of voters to give it a punt, especially if there is to be a second referendum, when the terms can be put to the vote.

If, however, the "no" campaign is ahead of the game and we have been discounting any idea of association as the second-class citizenship that Booker highlights, then we're in with a chance. The weight and longevity of the propaganda might be sufficient to neutralise the Cameron game plan, making leaving the EU a better proposition.

Certainly, Mr Gibbon is upbeat, informing us that on the "no" side there is serious work being undertaken to try to make sure that the referendum doesn't go to the government, even if currently there seems to be a three-way split.

On the one hand, we are told, there is Dominic Cummings and Matthew Elliott, "old hands from the campaign against the euro over a decade ago". They are coordinating efforts to recruit, strategise and fundraise. On the other, there is Richard Tice and the campaign and then there is Ukip's Nigel Farage, cast as the wild card, in the manner of John Prescott as deployed by Tony Blair.

Outside this "golden triangle", of course, nothing else exists and, as long as we rely on the London-centric media, nothing ever will.

These are the "experts" though who still believe to this day that Mr Cameron vetoed an EU treaty, who forecast that Ukip would get "at least five seats" in the general election – and that there would be a hung parliament. These are also the people who were predicting that we wouldn't get a referendum and, more recently, that Greece was going to drop out of the euro.

Despite many of them convinced that the referendum was to be in May next, that turns out not to be, but one of the self-same "experts" who was so convinced that we would have a hung parliament is now telling us on the basis of an anonymous "senior source" that Mr Cameron will hold the poll in June. The Prime Minister will, we are reliably informed, announce the "fast-tracked date" as the centrepiece of the party conference in October.

Doubtless, we are so lucky to have these experts to keep us in the loop - even if the Electoral Commission wants nine months from the passing of the referendum legislation before there is a poll. Thus, when it comes to acting on the "intelligence" of these "experts", we might perhaps reserve judgement, even sparing a thought for Nigel Farage who talks of the "small-minded Westminster types" who are seeking to tell us how the campaign should be run.

What is desperately worrying though is that the scent of Mr Cameron's great turn-round on associate membership has been with us for at least a month, and the fact that the possibility hasn't been officially acknowledged by a government which is seeking to abolish "purdah" suggests that there might indeed be plans to spring the news on us at the last minute.

That "last minute" is most likely to be in September 2017, as the timing is not in his hands. It is then that the "colleagues" will be making a Laeken-type declaration, with a treaty convention to follow in the spring of 2018. And it could hardly be the case that Mr Cameron could hold a referendum in June next year, only then to announce the following year that there was a new treaty to follow, with another referendum to come.

The possibility of a 2017 referendum and a second "treaty-lock" referendum needs to be at the centre of any "no" strategy, which is going to have to be intelligence-led and highly innovative if it is to make a dent in the status quo. Yet, not only is there little sign that the danger is being recognised, all three campaigns are promising to launch in September, presumably in anticipation of a June poll.

The point here is that if the ballot actually takes place in or around October 2017, the campaign will have over two years before the voters trudge to the polls to cast their votes. If campaign peaks early and then the poll comes at the end of two years-worth of the leaden arguments that are currently on offer, the public will have long-since lost interest.

To my mind, intensive campaigning should be confined to the three months before the poll. Any activity now should be carefully targeted, aimed specifically at weakening the opposition's case rather than seeking to change minds.

When we do hit the streets in force, we have – as Owen Paterson's "ExCom" tells us – the big need to reach out to centre-left voters, and the need for 50 percent plus one. That will need a positive vision on the lines of the Stokes precept, which none of the campaigns so far seem able to offer.

As long as the campaign is in the hands of the "experts" though, it would seem that such basic principles have little traction. The beauty of being an "expert" lionised by the London media is never needing to know what you're talking about it, and never having to apologise when you're wrong – which is most times.

Fortunately, there are other types of "second-class citizens" out there – ordinary people who have an instinctive feel for campaigning and who don't need the "experts" to tell them what to do. With access to the net, and a reach that collectively meets and exceeds the legacy media and its dying news titles, they have to capability to confound the pundits and deliver another result that none of them expected.

In those "second-class citizens", who are so obviously ahead of the game, we have probably our best and only chance of engineering an upset.

Richard North 26/07/2015 link

EU Referendum: it's all about reassurance


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Enthusiastically retweeted by the eurosceptic "community" over the weekend was a report by the Telegraph claiming that "EU diplomats" were planning to spend £2 million on a "dinner service", said to be "fit for an emperor".

The truth, of course, was a little more prosaic. The EU had issued a tender document for a four-year framework contract to supply the Brussels EEAS operation and 140 sites, worldwide, with "china tableware, fine glassware, sets of cutlery and silverware" for the diplomatic banqueting suites over the period, with an estimated contract value of between £1-2 million.

Given that fine china can retail for as much as £120 per plate, the actual spend is relatively modest, and represents no more than a three-star hotel chain might invest for similar goods. And if the EU is to have a diplomatic service, then diplomats wine and dine the great and the good – that is what they do, and it carries a price tag.

The point, of course, is whether the EU should have a diplomatic service – but that question has been answered by the 28 Member States who permitted its establishment by agreeing the Lisbon Treaty. The greater question, therefore, is whether we should be part of it, which is precisely the question which will be put during the referendum when it arrives.

Then to carp over what in fact a relatively modest costs (for a grouping with a collective annual GDP of €14 Trillion) strikes me as petty. It makes us look small-minded and trivial, unable to accept that, if the EU is to do its job properly – as its members have defined – then this sort of money has to be spent.

But that does define a major strand of British euroscepticism – petty, small-minded and trivial. Its followers are gullible, easily distracted and unconcerned with the bigger picture.

We see this again with today's story about EU waste on foreign aid. This is classic Taxpayers's Alliance stuff, always good for a Daily Mail "shock-horror" headline which this time storms about the EU funding "a study on COCONUT development!" A quick check, though, reveals that this study:
… is an ambitious and forward-looking development initiative which takes coconut-based manufacturing to a higher level by incorporating value-adding processes into the production chain. It supports Pacific economies to export value-added coconut-based products (e.g. soft vegetarian cheese, coconut yoghurt, high quality oil, protein, flour, chips, cream, milk powder) and help reduce high fuel import bills by using coconut oil-fuelled power generators in rural areas (supporting rural electrification/rural development objectives).
Another complaint is that money has been spent on developing wildlife tourism in Swaziland, yet as this paper shows, this is probably one of the best ways of containing the scourge of poaching, and protecting vulnerable species – and that is apart from the development potential.

Of course there is grave concern about the way foreign aid is used, and about how it should be spent – and supervised. But this is not what such pieces are about. The TPA wants cheap, headline-grabbing points and anything is grist to the mill. What better than a "tee-hee" smirk about coconuts or wildlife tourism? But it is the retweets which illustrate precisely why the newspapers go for this low-grade material – this is what sells.

Then, of course, there is Greece. Such is the detestation of the EU that anything done in its name has to be bad – by definition. When the kleptocracy which is the Greek state threatens to do untold damage to the single currency, and moves are made to restore discipline and a sense of responsibility, Greece is immediately accorded the victim status, with vile slurs – of a most offensive nature – openly applauded.

I am not going to revisit the heavily researched pieces I published here and here, other than remark that they attracted so much venom that I was banning commenters wholesale. To attack the "victim" is clearly unacceptable.

Yesterday, though, was the day when the Greek banks reopened, to coincide with a hike in the VAT rate – from 13 to 23 percent, a move regarded as "madness" by some. Yet, the increased rate is simply an attempt (and not necessarily a good one) to reduce evasion which is so extensive as to be estimated at €9 billion or 4.7 percent of the country's GDP, as against the EU-wide rate of 1.5 percent.

On top of that, tax arrears increased from €44.9 billion at the end of 2011 to €55.1 billion at the end of 2012, and have further increased to about €62.1 billion, or 34.0 percent of GDP at the end of 2013 and now stood at above €70.0 billion (or about 38.9 percent of the 2013 GDP) at the end of October 2014. This is close to the bailout amount, making tax evasion a problem so serious that even the house magazine for Ukip, Breitbart, believes that it is the problem..

The overwhelming evidence, therefore, is that the Greek state and its peoples have made major contributions to their own misfortunes and, since EU member states are being compelled to come to their rescue, it is only reasonable that they should be afforded some say in sorting out the mess.

Automatically opposing the EU on this does not make sense and, in that the majority of voters are critical of Greece, it is not even good politics. Furthermore, as Complete Bastard points out, it is not in the interest of the UK to have a weakened EU or one which is incapable of dealing with its problems. To be anti-EU membership does not require us to be opposed to its very existence.

Herein lies something that has been troubling me for some time – and increasingly so. Should we ever win this referendum and find ourselves sitting across a table with the other 27 Member States, then we can hardly expect amicable negotiations if we have spent years being uncooperative and objectionable.

Further, as we explore the consequences of leaving the EU, it becomes more and more apparent how much we will remain reliant on it for multiple services and joint ventures. We simply cannot afford an acrimonious break, or to have poor relations with what will still be a massive trading bloc.

The reason we want to leave the EU is that our desire to revert to the status of an independent nation is entirely incompatible with membership of a supranational treaty organisation which has ambitions to become a federal state. But that does not mean that we want to go to war.

We do, of course, have every right to confront the EU, to disagree with it, and to challenge its many missteps. But we do not have any right to seek its termination. And, recognising that, we need a lot more maturity in this debate.

The key to that maturity is to understand the nature of the campaign we are fighting. And if it takes Peter Kellner to articulate it, no matter. In general, he says, victory goes to those who are perceived to offer reassurance rather than risk. The best way to obtain a majority for change is to persuade voters that it is safer than the status quo.

The UK's future relationship with the rest of Europe will depend mainly on which future looks safer and less hazardous to most voters: remaining a member of the EU, or the prospect of life outside it. The campaign is not about hate. It's about reassurance – it always has been.

Richard North 21/07/2015 link

EU Referendum: don't use these leaflets


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If the EU referendum is not to be held until the end of 2017 (or close to it), then we have over two years before we go to the polls. And it remains my belief that it will be that long.

Even if the poll is brought forward, it is still premature to run with a public campaign. If we go too early, people will be bored and become unresponsive to the message. In my view, therefore, we need to husband our strength and concentrate the campaign into the last three months.

In the interim, we have more than enough to be doing with planning, organising and building, plus the necessary skirmishing to test the strength of the enemy and to get a sense of his tactics.

To start now, as Ukip intends to do, aiming in the next fortnight to distribute two million copies of two leaflets, is in my view premature. Not only that, given the nature of the leaflets, the activity could be positively harmful – detracting from the overall effort.

Taking the first of the two (illustrated top), this shows people "trying to board a freight lorry in Calais heading for the UK", telling us that, "as long as we remain in the EU, this will keep happening".

That we have Ukip focusing on migration itself is bad news. The very last thing we want is this campaign focused on that subject. Doubtless, that was what created the glass ceiling for Ukip in the general election, robbing of any chance of electoral success. And now, it is planning to repeat the same mistake.

Worst still, the leaflet is grossly inaccurate, perpetuating what amounts to a lie. What is being shown are potential asylum seekers, but whatever their status, their presence owes more to the 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees (and the 1967 Protocol) than it does EU law.

In term of the message conveyed by the leaflet, the UK leaving the EU could hardly affect the flow of migrants across the Mediterranean or the draw that the UK represents.

As the law stands, if these migrants manage to hide themselves aboard a lorry (is there such a thing as a "freight" lorry?), or otherwise get to the UK, and then surrender themselves to the authorities, they will be invoking the 1951 Convention. Leaving the EU will not change this.

But what makes this leaflet especially inept is that it ignores the reality of the situation, and the role of France.

Specifically, with the 1951 Convention in place, any person reaching UK soil and demanding asylum has to be processed by the UK authorities and, if they qualify, they must be given protection. Most, for various reasons, manage to remain in the UK.

Thus, the main line control is to keep them from gaining access to UK territory. And this is achieved, in respect of France, by way of the Le Touquet Treaty signed in February 2003.

This permits the UK to station immigration officers in ports on French soil, where they process passengers before departure. Potential asylum seekers are denied permission to travel and referred back to the French authorities for processing. That way, the UK is not forced to give them residence permits or provide them with housing and benefits.

With additional measures, these so-called "juxtaposed controls" have undoubtedly substantially reduced the inflow of migrants across the channel, especially as the agreement was later extended to the Eurostar terminal in Brussels.

Without the active and continued cooperation of European authorities, therefore, the problems we have would be inestimably worse. If the French withdrew their support, and opened the port gates to asylum seekers, one ferry-load could exceed the entire annual total. And if the UK left the EU without a negotiated deal (as some in Ukip would have us do), why would any continental authority want to help us? 
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Therein lies the stupidity of the position, and it doesn't get much better with the second leaflet (above). The anti-German line may play well to some of the converted, but it's a cheap shot and simply reinforces the "Xenophobe" image, with which the opposition is so keen to tarnish us.

Also disturbing is that the front faces of these leaflets do not carry any Ukip identification. Instead, they bear the legend "Say NO – believe in Britain", thus purporting to represent the "no" campaign, which they do not. They do not speak in our name.

Thus, anyone who is tempted to comply with the Ukip request to distribute these leaflets really should think again. They do not convey a winning message and risk doing serious damage to the campaign. Furthermore, if you deliver them, you will be perpetrating a lie.

To Ukip generally, the message should be obvious, but it is not one to which they are disposed to listen. And this is why there are moves to exclude Ukip from the official campaign – if that is possible. And with this, the party seems to be intent on justifying those moves and making them even more necessary.

Richard North 19/07/2015 link

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