25 Jun 2016

New home for the blog

We've moved beyond the campaign and the vote and as attention moves to executing a Brexit from the EU so it is the blog should move with it. Thanks for reading "Vote to Leave the EU" and I hope you will join me at my new home, "The Brexit Blog".


24 Jun 2016


The United Kingdom has voted to leave the European Union.

We've done it. When we leave the EU we will at last create the conditions to develop real democracy in our nation. It will be a long and arduous task, but it must be done. The people have shown our political class is out of touch, so we need to take power back.

The first step on the long journey to independence will now need to be taken by the government. Brexit is not an event, it is a process. It will take time and careful handling to chart our route to full independence in a phased manner.

Having spent so long talking this country down to scare people into voting to remain, David Cameron now needs to talk up what this country can achieve. He also needs to scrap his rejection of single market participation and recognise it is the safest and most suitable layby to park in as Britain redevelops its competence in self governance and autonomy on the global stage.

The civil service now has a huge responsibility to stop David Cameron triggering Article 50 until after discussions with individual EU member states. We need to find areas of agreement that will enable us to remain in the single market after we have left the union. That will mean no negative economic consequences for us or the EU, but give the UK the ability to control migration with the emergency brake as part of the EEA agreement.

If Cameron presses ahead with the Article 50 notification without a pause for discussions, it would be nothing but a needless act of political retribution on the electorate, a Prime Minister actively trying to damage the country he leads.

More later about what needs to happen next. For now, I just want to take some time to let this seismic moment, something I have tried to help bring about for years, sink in.

23 Jun 2016

Please use your vote to LEAVE the European Union

The day has arrived and the polling stations are open. The British people have a black and white choice between:
  • Leaving the EU to regain our independence and our voice in the world, having direct influence in decision making at the global level, retaking control over our relationships with other countries around the world, establish trade agreements with other countries on mutually beneficial terms and, crucially, giving us the opportunity to fix the manifest democratic shortcomings in our country so that British people have real power in our country and can effect real change

  • Remaining an EU colony that takes laws we are not allowed to reject from a supreme unelected and unaccountable government in Brussels, being mute on the global bodies where decisions are made and voting as instructed by Brussels, having our relationships and trade with other countries run on EU terms regardless of our wishes and, crucially, having an ever shrinking voice within a bloc that is run to erode the ability of people to wield power a political elite and bring about change
The first option is by far the most democratic, positive, constructive and beneficial for the people of this nation. This extraordinary piece, "For democracy and freedom - vote leave" by Professor John Fitzpatrick, Director of Kent Law Clinic, explains the democratic need to withdraw from the EU. As Fitzpatrick says:
Settling for a good king rather than a bad parliament should, now we have been asked, be turned down.
We can change the parliament, but we cannot remove the king if he rules badly or unjustly. We can have a more democratic Britain, but it can only begin to become a reality if your ballot paper looks like this before you put it in the ballot box today.
Seize this moment with hope and confidence. Begin the work of making Britain a more democratic nation, by starting the process of taking back power for the people...


22 Jun 2016

This might be the last time your vote decides who governs us

After many years of campaigning, inside and outside party politics, for the UK to regain its independence, the moment I've long fought for is here. A referendum, where the voters can decide who should run Britain.

The choice is clear.

Voters can choose to LEAVE and have a United Kingdom that is self governing and where laws are made by the representatives we elect and can vote to remove. A United Kingdom where our courts give the final judgement on matters. A United Kingdom that speaks with its own experienced and respected voice in the world. A United Kingdom that can exert direct influence on global bodies to promote rules and regulations that support British people and business. A United Kingdom that is confident and charts a responsible course in the world.

Or voters can choose to remain and have a United Kingdom that takes its laws from people from 27 other countries, who we do not elect and cannot remove. A United Kingdom that takes and implements legal decisions from a foreign court that has only EU interests at heart. A United Kingdom that must follow common, compromise policies in foreign affairs and defence, decided for us by appointed officials we have no democratic control over. A United Kingdom that is forced to remain silent on global bodies and where it still has a vote must obey instructions from Brussels about how to cast it. A United Kingdom that is a subjugated component of a developing EU superstate, which intends to create its own army, navy and air force and impose direct taxation on us without genuine democratic representation.

This is the choice before us all. This vital referendum is not about specific outcomes, such as the economy, or trade, or the NHS or even security. It is about us determining who decides those outcomes - people elected by and accountable to us, or people overseas who are not.

Please set aside the raft of claims and counter claims of the politicians who have hijacked the referendum campaign to service their own political ambitions and vanity. This is your referendum, not theirs. It is being held precisely because the matter before us is too great, too important, to leave to the politicians, so why should we play their game?

Please disregard the lies, disregard the spin, disregard the scare tactics, disregard the grouping of 'experts' serving their own vested interests, disregard dogwhistle appeals to base instincts, and disregard the interference of overseas politicians and organisations who only care for their own interests, not ours. There are simply too many grey areas deployed to distract us from the core, essential issue of democracy. There is only one thing in this campaign that is black and white...

deciding who governs the British people, and how.

This might be the last time your vote decides who governs us. It is a crucial and pivotal moment. We have the opportunity to undo the wrong inflicted on the British people in 1975, when voters were lied to about the EEC's true aims and the impacts on this country's sovereignty. We have since seen for what they were, the lies of those who wanted us to be subsumed into a European political superstate. The current false claims of exemptions, that have not been agreed by the EU and which can be rejected by the EU after this referendum, are a replay of 1975. Those who forget history are condemned to repeat the mistakes of the past.

Don't make the same mistake our parents and grandparents made in 1975. We have the luxury of seeing the self declared aims of the European project. We understand that means the dismantling of the United Kingdom and the other member states as sovereign nations, with power placed into the hands of people we cannot hold to account or remove. Vote to take back our independence from those determined to remove it forever. The time has come. Your moment is now. Put democracy first.


17 Jun 2016

A day of revulsion

The cold blooded murder of Jo Cox MP was as senseless as it was barbaric.

A woman in her prime has had her life snatched away by a maniac. A husband and two young children have had their family destroyed and their lives forever darkened by the actions of that man. My thoughts are with them as they try to come to terms with the huge loss they have suffered.

The murder investigation is ongoing, but there are some things we do know. We know that there is too much violence on our streets and too many people lose their lives at the hands of other people. We know that this murder will be given far more prominence than other equally terrible killings because of who Mrs Cox was. We know that initial reports of the circumstances of such heinous acts are often replaced later as facts become established and evidence is gathered, so jumping to conclusions isn't in anyone's interest.

Almost as sickening as the murder itself on Thursday, was witnessing the cynical, self serving self indulgence of some people who sought to make political capital out of Mrs Cox's death.

For people to use the murder as a weapon with which to bash a campaign they oppose (leave), claiming high profile people in that campaign have sought to make people feel rage and so cannot be surprised that this violent murder was the outcome, is disgusting and outrageous. Alex Massie and those cheap individuals who endorsed his now-removed article, are a disgrace.

24 May 2016

The genuine, factual, principled reason why we should be voting to leave the EU

The fracking decision in North Yorkshire last night gives a good illustration of the folly of EU membership.
The simple fact is, if residents don't like the decision they can vote to replace the councillors who support fracking in their area.

By way of contrast, if we in this country don't like an EU directive - and there have been more than 70 instances where the UK has opposed EU legislative proposals, and every single time our opposition has been voted down and our objection has been over rule, meaning we have been left to implement EU laws or rules against our wishes - we have no way of changing it or removing the people who imposed it on us.

The UK has no special status in the EU that allows us to reject EU directives and rules that must be implemented by all member states. A vote to remain in the EU means the further erosion of democracy. It means further removal of power from ordinary people to influence who runs Britain and how.

There are democratic problems in the UK. Too much power resides in the centre and too little decision making takes place at local level. Frustration at this is completely understandable. But you cannot repair such problems in our flawed democratic process by voting to place even more power in the centre, of the EU, which will only reduce the amount of democratic control that can be exercised by ordinary people.

Only by leaving the EU can people in this country have an opportunity to take back power, hold politicians to account and ensure Britain is run in the way the people want. The reason for leaving the EU is not to reduce immigration, it's not about the economy, it's not about making up with the Commonwealth, it's not about the NHS, it's not about security, and it isn't even about trade.

The reason for leaving is democracy.

It's about deciding who runs Britain and whether or not voters up and down this country can have the power to determine the direction of this country. Should Britain be run by the British, or by an elite drawn from 27 other countries with their own conflicting interests and agendas? That is the issue the leave campaign should have been fought on. That is what we need to make the ongoing campaign about.

But for now, despite the rank incompetence and deliberately self inflicted damage of Vote Leave, please do what would can by voting to leave.

1 May 2016

John Major - extremism, shared sovereignty and his war on democracy

Earlier in the week, the disastrous former Prime Minister, John Major, was interviewed on the BBC Today programme.

This is a man whose every pro-EU decision during his scandal-ridden and dishonest government resulted in huge cost for British voters, reduced political accountability and oversight and undermined our influence in the world.

He's still at it now. Among various soundbites, which he took with him to deploy on air, he offered up this comment in an effort to justify the pretence of 'shared sovereignty':
"If you want undiluted sovereignty in the modern age, when everybody is interconnected, then go to North Korea because that is where you will get it."
Major has no logical or rational argument in favour of making the British people surrender control of Britain to unelected and unaccountable people from 27 other countries, so he engaged in reductio-ad-absurdum. It’s the logical fallacy of extending someone’s argument to ridiculous proportions and then criticising the result. In this case he used it to make sovereignty sound like something extreme. But as I will show in a moment, it is nothing of the sort. But before that, consider this...

It is impossible to share sovereignty. A country either runs its own affairs, or it doesn't. If our sovereignty was shared, when faced with legislation we did not like, we could tell the European Commission that we simply won't implement it. But we can't. If we reject it the European Court of Justice hears a legal action against us then rules that we must follow European Law or suffer huge fines. So where is our shared part of the sovereignty? It is an illusion, a fantasy. EU membership makes it compulsory to give up sovereignty and do what the EU says we must. The EU project is to control ever more areas of government until all decisions are taken at the EU level, destroying the very fabric of the nation state.

So back to that extremist situation of countries that don't share sovereignty. Let's consider some countries around the world who in the view of John Major are clearly extreme because they enjoy undiluted sovereignty...
  • United States
  • Canada
  • Brazil
  • Japan
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Singapore
  • India
  • Chile
  • Israel
  • South Africa 
In fact if you look at the list of WTO countries who are not EU members, there are 135 of them that are independent, govern themselves, have courts that are supreme, and who engage in international cooperation in matters of mutual interest. And, surprise surprise, North Korea isn't one of them. But that is precisely why Major and the Remain side single out that country as an example of what it's like to be outside the EU, because the reality shows their argument to be ridiculous.

What really stood out in Major's interview is that he did not answer a single question he was asked. He avoided addressing every point raised by John Humphrys because to answer them honestly would have exposed his position as irrational, illogical and unreasonable.

That is the point. The Remain side has no reasonable, logical or rational argument for staying in the EU. Everything we supposedly gain from EU membership can be had outside it, without giving up control of running Britain and without our courts being overruled by the European Court of Justice. The Remain campaign is driven by the vested interests of the political class, assisted by useful idiots and those who reject democracy.

The reason the Remain side don't want an independent Britain is because having one would reduce the power of the politicians and political class in the EU. Voters in individual countries, where the EU is not in control, could reject any political party that sought to implement laws and rules they deem inappropriate, and that ability weakens the power of the politicians over the people. The EU exists to serve the interests of politicians while subverting the wishes of voters. It is a deliberate effort to erode and destroy democracy. That's why the establishment and majority of the political class like it so much.

Leaving the EU would enable Britain to escape from this appalling, anti democratic political stitch up. It would end this ludicrous pretence of shared sovereignty, which is the description for having the rules made for you by others. A vote to leave is a vote towards holding politicians to account and making them work in our interest, not theirs. A vote to leave is a declaration that democracy must prevail.

27 Apr 2016

Forget the Remain v Leave bunfight, this is why we should Brexit

The global political elite opposes Brexit. Nick Robinson made the point this morning on the Today programme, as he taunted Nigel Farage and triumphantly challenged him to name a single international organisation that supports Brexit.

A procession of people in powerful positions and bursting with prestige have been asked by their fellow elite in the UK to speak up in favour of Britain remaining in the EU, and they have duly obliged. The media has lapped it up and without giving a moment’s thought about why this is happening, or asking what’s in it for the political class, they’ve just presented it as a reason to Remain. 'Don’t question anything, just do what our betters say. And definitely don’t ask about any vested interests or why they are so curiously keen to look out for what’s supposedly in the best interests of the British people'.

The political elite has descended on Britain to advance a raft of claims and assertions that just do not stand up under any reasonable scrutiny of the facts, not that the media tries to examine them in any detail. They do it because they are servicing an agenda that is bigger than Britain leaving the EU. The political elite want the world sliced into regional chunks where voters are unable to effect change and powerless to alter course. But from the official leave campaign we hear nothing of this.

This is part of a war on democracy. It's not an exaggeration. Democracy has been reduced to trapsing to the ballot box every four to five years and voting for party political drones who invariably all deliver the same outcome.

The political elite are working to ensure they and their chosen successors have permanent, unaccountable control that gives them the ability to set the direction countries will follow. They are working to an agenda to secure for themselves a huge amount of power and the ability to deliver profitable outcomes for themselves and friends.

This is why Brexit isn’t about trade. It isn’t about security. It isn’t about the economy. It's about democracy – people power - people being able to control the politicians and not being subordinate to them. It’s about the British people deciding Britain’s direction, rather than a group of people who want us to simply be quiet and pay the bill.

If you want to have a say in Britain's future direction, to have the ability to control our elected representatives, rather than be controlled by them and their unelected friends who make our policies and laws without our consent, then you must Vote to Leave the EU.

26 Apr 2016

Referendum campaign: There needs to be a reckoning

You could be forgiven for thinking that in the height of a referendum campaign I should be pumping out blogposts challenging the Remain side with facts and evidence to rebut their increasingly ludicrous claims.

But I’ve found it incredibly difficult to motivate myself to so much beyond the occasional tweet as the campaign stutters to a self-inflicted defeat.

The writing was on the wall when Vote Leave won the designation to be the official leave campaign. It signalled a descent into inane soundbites, personality focus, idiotic stunts, confused messaging and unnecessary friction with the media. Vote Leave do not speak for me. Hell, they don’t even genuinely believe in the Brexit cause. I fully expected them to trip over themselves and tie themselves in knots because they are led by a man who is only in it for the money and the profile. But even I didn’t expect them to style themselves as a retro Ukip outfit, latching on to the arguments and ill-thought out pseudo-solutions Ukip previously advocated but then abandoned several years ago, pushing false claims and doggedly refusing to promote any exit plan.

I certainly didn’t expect them to adopt an EU-enthusiast as their figurehead, who would needlessly plumb the depths by resorting to identity politics in a cack-handed and counterproductive attack on the US President, when his arguments could have been more forcefully torn apart with the simple deployment of facts.

At least a small dose of reality hit Farage and Co and they accepted the legal necessity of using Article 50 and many on its party board even came around to seeing the wisdom of withdrawing from the EU to the EEA as an interim step that would enable Britain to neutralise any possible negative consequences for the economy and jobs, thus removing the Remain side’s biggest stick with which to bash the Leave side during a campaign. But no so with Vote Leave.

Those baby steps of progress in the Eurosceptic camp have been swept away in a tide of self-regarding arrogance and stupidity that leaves Remain in a strong position to win the referendum. The official campaign has been hijacked by a bunch of Tory tribalists and special advisers who kid themselves they are unrecognised genius, but who are slowly killing any chance of winning the referendum. Why on earth would I want to be tarred with the same brush as them?

I’m not saying things would be any better with Leave.EU/GrassrootsOut. But as shambolic as they were, they at least genuinely wanted Brexit.

No doubt the media, which bought and cultivated the narrative that Matthew Elliott and Dominic Cummings were experienced and brilliant campaigners for falling over the finish line in two unlosable campaigns (NE Regional referendum and No to AV), now see these lightweights for the overrated fools they are. Their only talent is schmoozing people and worming into positions by currying favour. They only put a dog in the referendum fight when they cynically calculated there was something in it for them. Their lamentable performance finally exposes them for what they are.

The losers in all this are those of us who for years have held, as a matter of principle, that Britain must leave the EU for democratic reasons, and in order to ensure British voters make British laws, enforced by courts in this country, and that we determine our country’s place and voice in the world. The political game playing and personality politics of the referendum campaign is snatching the goal away from us.

When this is all done and dusted, there needs to be a reckoning.

17 Apr 2016

Missing the point about trade as an EU member state


The letter above demonstrates the need to explain the difference between trade agreements and deals.

On Friday morning, former Labour chancellor, Alistair Darling, sat in a BBC radio studio on the Today programme (about 01:50 in) and had an exchange with Nick Robinson about trade which included the following:
AD: But what I'm saying is, yes there are uncertainties in life but if for example we vote to leave and we then have to renegotiate to get some sort of trade deal with the rest of the European Union everybody knows that is going to take some considerable time. And actually...

NR: It could be better. It could allow us to do more trade than we're currently able to do with India and with China and with growing markets...

AD: There is nothing in the world to stop us selling more goods to India and China today if we wanted to...

NR: Except we can't negotiate our own trade deal with them, we have to do it through the EU...

Darling was completely wrong. He was being deliberately misleading, because deals to sell goods are not the same thing as trade agreements. Sales deals have to stick within the terms of whatever negotiated trade agreement or terms are in place. The EU, not Britain or any member state, negotiates the terms of trade agreements with non EU countries. Darling knows that and was evading acknowledgement of a massive trade limitation of EU membership.

That said, Nick Robinson wasn't correct either. Britain does not negotiate agreements through the EU. Only the EU negotiates agreements, not its member states. Britain can only make sales deals, and these must abide with any terms the EU has agreed.

This is a point too many people do not understand. The EU decides what import and export terms, quotas and tariffs member states must accept and apply. Britain is not in control of its trade.

The EU common negotiating position often waters down and sometimes excludes things that member states want the trade agreement to include, which is detrimental to those member states.This means trade agreements can be negotiated which may, for example, see British requests for the agreement to make it easier and cheaper to sell some of our manufactured goods ignored, because the EU sets the aside in order to meet the wishes of other member states who are pushing for the agreement to include favourable terms for, say, agriculture that the third country won't accept if manufacturing is also included.

If Britain wanted to guarantee its manufacturing goods were part of a trade agreement with another country, it could only do so by negotiating trade agreements on a bilateral basis - and that can only happen if Britain is not a member of the EU. Similarly, if Britain felt it would benefit its citizens to import items without any tariff in order to make them cheaper, it could only make such an agreement if it wasn't a member of the EU.

Britain's trade links outside the EU are still governed by the EU. So if the EU cannot agree terms with a third country, Britain can't go off an make its own bilateral agreement with that country. In the same way, if the EU cannot or will not agree better terms for an existing agreement, Britain may be stuck with tariffs and non tariff barriers to imports and exports that we may be able to get rid of as an independent country.

The Remain side argues that under EU trade agreements Germany sells far more than we do, as if it were evidence that the EU's trade agreements are effective and beneficial. But just because an agreement's terms make it possible for Germany to sell lots of automotive products, it doesn't follow that the agreement includes terms that make it possible to Britain to sell the same countries huge volumes of technology, or pharmaceuticals.

EU membership denies us flexibility and agility in the globalised world. It is a powerful reason for us to leave the EU.

13 Apr 2016

The race to the bottom is underway

With the Electoral Commission having given designated lead campaign group status to Britain Stronger in Europe for the remain side, and Vote Leave for the leave side, the referendum campaign officially began this week. But it has already become a race to the bottom.

For as long as I can remember many voters have been frustrated and put off politics because of the naked lies and blatant efforts to mislead people by the party political class, as its various opposing members fight and claw at each other to slither up the greasy poll to achieve position and office.

With the two opposing groups both being run by politicians for politicians, the dishonest behaviour of that so-called elite has simply spread like a virus across into the referendum campaign. For years people on both sides of the argument have declared we need to have a proper debate and share facts about the pros and cons of leaving the EU. That moment has arrived but the much vaunted debate is nowhere to be seen. It isn't going to happen.

All we are seeing is a blizzard of lies, false claims, misleading assertions and sleights of hand from people for whom the issues don't matter, only beating the opposition because it is the opposition. It is bad enough that the Remain side are doing this, but it's absolutely disgraceful that the Leave side in the shape of Vote Leave

7 Apr 2016

Five strikes against Cameron's referendum legitimacy? Scrub that. Now it's six...

Back in February I wrote a piece titled, 'The five strikes against Cameron that see the referendum fail the legitimacy test' which I have reproduced below. 

It is particularly apt today as Cameron has, with typical arrogance, now launched a taxpayer funded (without permission or consultation with taxpayers, of course) £9 million government propaganda website, accompanied by a 14-page pamphlet being delivered to every household in the UK.

This is yet another assault by Cameron on the Code of Good Practice on Referendums published by the Council of Europe (not an EU body), and at the Neill Committee on Standards in Public Life. See below for details.

Cameron's referendum already failed the reasonable legitimacy test. But today's actions compound the appalling contempt he has shown for the public, for fairness, for integrity and for adherence to internationally-developed standards for the neutral and impartial conduct of referendums. It is a disgrace. 

David Cameron's actions are an abuse of power, an affront to democracy, and would shame a tinpot dictatorship.


The five strikes against Cameron that see the referendum fail the legitimacy test

“We will follow the recommendation of the Electoral Commission by tabling an amendment to the bill. The government’s approach has been to follow the Electoral Commission’s advice.”

So said David Cameron's spokeswoman to the media last September when the Electoral Commission recommended the referendum's question and answers be altered to removed a perceived bias to the pro-EU side. The government's approach seems to have changed more recently, by ignoring the Electoral Commission's advice on the timetable for the referendum.

Now is an ideal moment to revisit various recommendations on the timeline and conduct of referendums - brought to light by the formidable research of The Leave Alliance - to expose how Cameron not only lying about his non binding and entirely reversible 'dodgy deal' with the EU, but is also fighting dirty in an effort to win 'his' referendum at any cost, and keep Britain subordinate to the EU.

First, let's look at the timeline issue. To set the referendum date the Government must table an order in both Houses of Parliament, which is then debated and almost certainly approved. The Electoral Commission recommended that:
Once the date Order has been approved, the legislation requires that there are a minimum of 10 weeks between the Order setting the date of the referendum and polling day itself. The Commission continues to recommend that best practice for referendums is that all legislation (including the introduction of regulations to Parliament for approval) should be clear at least six months before it is required to be implemented or complied with, although this is not a legal requirement.
Cameron has chosen to ignore this so he can rush to a vote in less than four months. Rather than separate the designation of campaigns from the referendum period, it looks certain that such activity will take place during the referendum period, shortening the time that will be spent on actual campaigning, to give the Remain side an advantage.

Something else the government has chosen to ignore are the findings of both the independent Commission on the Conduct of Referendums, a joint endeavour of The Constitution Unit and the Electoral Reform Society, and the the Neill Committee on Standards in Public Life concerning the conduct of referendums.
The commission said that the responsibility for the publication and management of information relevant to a referendum should be exercised outside of Government - by an independent commission. It also recommended that the conventions which require the Civil Service to avoid engaging in political or public debate and which limited its actions to the provision of factual information, should be maintained. 

Meanwhile the Neill Committee went further and said:
We believe it is perfectly appropriate for the government of the day to state its views and for members of the Government to campaign vigorously during referendum campaigns, just as they do during general election campaigns. But we also believe that, just as in general election campaigns, neither taxpayers’ money nor the permanent government machine – civil servants, official cars, the Government Information Service, and so forth – should be used to promote the interests of the Government side of the argument. In other words, referendum campaigns should be treated for these purposes in every way as though they were general election campaigns.
The committee stated the obvious observation that it would be difficult, if not impossible, for the government to offer purely objective and factual information in the course of a referendum campaign, especially when it is a party to the campaign. Because of this the committee said it believed governments should not participate in referendum campaigns in this manner, just as it would be thought to be wholly inappropriate during a general election campaign for the government to print and distribute, at the taxpayers' expense, literature setting out government policy. The committee recommended therefore:

The government of the day in future referendums should, as a government, remain neutral and should not distribute at public expense literature, even purportedly 'factual' literature, setting out or otherwise promoting its case.
Cameron, by ignoring the Electoral Commission, an independent commission and the findings of Neill Committee, has shown he is determined to use the full machinery of government to fight a heavily slanted campaign to remain in the EU. His co-opting of the civil service to actively help that side of the referendum argument, and his instruction to deny ministers who want Brexit, access to any official documentation relating to EU matters while making it available to the pro-EU ministers, shows how dishonest and dishonourable he is.
Cameron's former Professor of Government at Oxford, Vernon Bogdanor, said that:
"One purpose of a referendum is to secure legitimacy for decisions where Parliament alone can not secure that legitimacy. For that legitimacy to be secured, the losers have to feel that the fight was fairly conducted" 
Dirty Dave Cameron's fight has been anything but fair:
  • He has been forced to change the referendum question and answers after pressure from the Electoral Commission
  • He has been forced to make concessions on his plans to ignore the purdah period so the government could pump out pro-EU information at taxpayers expense, against the recommendations of the Neill Committee on Standards in Public Life
  • He has chosen to make the taxpayer funded Civil Service an actor in the referendum campaign to promote the government's pro-EU agenda, also against the recommendations of the Neill Committee
  • He has treated the recommendations of the Electoral Commission on the referendum timeline with utter contempt by completely ignoring them
  • He has ignored the European Commission for Democracy through Law's
    Code of Good Practice on Referendums by ignoring its statement that must be a neutral attitude by administrative authorities, and that equality of opportunity must be guaranteed for the supporters and opponents of the proposal being voted on - which he has breached by denying pro-Leave ministers access to official documents relating to the EU.

With those fives strikes against Cameron, his referendum already fails any reasonable legitimacy test, and we haven't even had the vote yet. Expect more of the same in the coming weeks and months. Because of this nothing will be considered settled. No matter what happens, the fight for Britain to be a democratic nation will continue after 23rd June.

30 Mar 2016

Fraser Nelson, you've got it wrong and Gus O'Donnell got it right

Fraser Nelson has published a piece in the Spectator today in which he declares Lord Gus O’Donnell was misleading the public with his comments about the time it would take to negotiate a new agreement with the EU.
Nelson states that O’Donnell made the point it would take more than two years to negotiate the terms of the UK’s exit from the EU and that the deadline could only be prolonged, in Nelson’s words, ‘with hard bargaining from hostile partners’. Nelson then declares that there’s only one problem with O’Donnell’s argument, ‘it’s nonsense’.
The problem however is with Fraser Nelson’s argument, because O’Donnell was absolutely right on this.
It’s a fact that once notification has been given to the European Commission that the UK is leaving the EU, as set down in Article 50 of the consolidated treaties, only two years is guaranteed for negotiation of a new post-Brexit relationship. That duration can only be extended through the unanimous agreement of all member states and the UK. If there is no unanimity, the formal negotiation ends after two years and the UK ceases to be a member of the EU. O’Donnell didn’t stray from this.
It is Nelson who is misleading people with his laughable argument that the UK can take all the time it wants to leave the EU. He’s right that Britain could give its notification to leave at any time we choose. But he claims if we want six years before leaving we just give notice after four years and that, ‘The two-year period is a minimum, which Sir Gus is misrepresenting as a maximum’.
What Nelson is ignoring or doesn’t understand, is that there would be no formal negotiation with the EU regarding the new post-Brexit relationship. So this hypothetical four-year hiatus that he puts forward would be dead time with no movement towards Brexit. What would be the point of that? He’s trying to separate the notice period and the negotiation timetable, when they are the same thing, in an effort to prop up the Vote Leave ‘Project Fear’ narrative. And he is, as a Europhile, happily damaging the leave side in the process.
If you’re reading this, Fraser, until the Commission receives Britain’s notice to withdraw from the EU, it would not begin discussions between the 27 other member states to agree a common negotiating position for the bloc. It stands to reason it couldn’t do so because it wouldn’t know what the future situation might be regarding matters on trade, directives in force, the economy, other agreements being brokered with third countries etc. Your attempt to land a blow on O’Donnell only makes you look ill-informed and ignorant of the process.
Consider this. One thing that has always been an issue is that Britain cannot not force any formal negotiation without giving notice to leave. All Britain can (and should) do is speak to other member states on a bilateral basis to get a feel for what they want from a new agreement and what they are willing to give. That could realistically take 9-12 months to do properly, to help Britain formulate its own position for the formal negotiation.
But nothing can be discussed formally with the EU as an entity until it has an agreed common position – which could (and likely will) include things some member states won’t want and exclude other things that they do. Indeed, that’s the problem with compromise and supposed shared sovereignty and part of the reason we should be leaving.
So while Fraser Nelson pontificates that the EU wouldn’t have a gun to our head on the negotiation, and that the two-year period is only a notice period - and not also the formal negotiation window it is, which can be kept to two years if even a single EU member state refuses to extend it - he is wrong and Gus O’Donnell is right.

GOD gets it largely right, yet Vote Leave offers a ludicrous response

The former Cabinet Secretary Lord Gus O'Donnell (nicknamed GOD) told the BBC earlier today that negotiation of the new relationship between Britain and the EU cannot be achieved in the two year period set out in Article 50 of the consolidated treaties.

He's right.

The EU has never concluded a trade agreement in less than five years, even though some of the deals made have nothing like the complexity of the deal Britain and the EU would need to make. But there's more to it. A huge and repeated mistake made by elements on the leave side is to claim we can achieve a deal inside two years, that we don't need to invoke Article 50 to commence withdrawal from the EU and to have a narrow focus on trade. Let's come back to that in a moment. Lord O'Donnell went on to say that:
We have to negotiate our entry to the single market, we have to negotiate our future relationship with the EU and then we have to negotiate our trade treaties with all other countries. So there's a lot to be done. 
This is where O'Donnell went wrong, with his comments about trade treaties with other countries. We are not under pressure to negotiate trade treaties with other countries, only make a deal with the EU to maintain single market membership to ensure British trade and economic interests are not damaged by Brexit. There is provision in international law for the continuation of treaties by parties who were not parties to the original agreements, i.e. those made by the EU on behalf of the UK.

This means the UK would not have to renegotiate trade deals and agreements which already include us. The continuance of the existing agreements in their current form needs only to be agreed by both parties and assent to this lodged with the United Nations, in line with the conventional practice in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. This was borne out by the separation of the Czech Republic and Slovakia into independent nation states.

O'Donnell also said that if the UK failed to get a deal within two years, the country would revert to World Trade Organisation rules, which would include significant tariffs. He's largely right, but the major problem here isn't tariffs, rather it's non tariff technical barriers to trade. It would be the fact the EU, as part of the EEA regional trading agreement (RTA) can discriminate against goods the UK exports to that market. The UK cannot discriminate back as the RTA's standards around regulatory convergence and assessment of conformity is accepted by the WTO. This can make exporting a longer, more costly process and would have an adverse financial impact on British firms. This is why membership of EFTA and the single market after Brexit (similar to the Norway position) de-risks Brexit, because Britain would be part of the RTA and there could be no discrimination.

Back to that huge and repeated mistake then. While making their pronouncements, Vote Leave has claimed we can achieve a comprehensive deal with the EU inside two years. It won't happen.

Vote Leave has ignored the fact that Britain and the EU would also need to negotiate an agreement that covers many other matters that are unrelated to trade, as part of the Brexit process. They have ignored corrections sent to them on this subject and they remain ignorant of Britain's future need to cooperate with the EU on inter-agency matters. Examples include things such as medicines, trademarks and aviation safety, air traffic control activity, European single sky agreement (which has Ryanair and EasyJet worried), maritime surveillance, customs, environment, and any number of other areas where the new post-Brexit relationship will require new agreements on coordination and cooperation to be established.

Vote Leave has also claimed that instead of invoking Article 50, we can just repeal the European Communities Act and leave the EU at will, breaching our agreed treaty obligations to an orderly withdrawal.

This is scorched earth territory, as such a disorderly Brexit would leave us outside the single market, leave us without a trade agreement, and leave us high and dry on regulation and conformity. It would be an act of grievous self harm. It is economic illiteracy and demonstrates the group has no grasp on the treaties or understanding of how international trade rules would affect Britain. What is most fascinating is that this was the language of Ukip a few years ago. Yet even Ukip finally accepted Britain's legal obligations under the treaties and after consulting lawyers agreed Article 50 is the only mechanism for withdrawing from the EU. Vote Leave is playing out a warped, self harming version of Groundhog Day.

What we have seen today is the product of ignorance and spin. It's a frightening thought that because Grassroots Out/Leave.EU is so incompetent, Vote Leave is likely to win designation to be the official leave campaign. The group has shown itself incapable of understanding the issues, immune to correction and unable to articulate a positive vision of what can be achieved.

The only leave group that is dealing with facts, evidence and reality and had the gumption to generate an EU exit plan that de-risks Brexit is The Leave Alliance. If anyone wants clarity about the issues and the solutions, click on the image below...


22 Mar 2016

Brussels bombings and political capital

This morning I was preparing a blogpost responding to the comments of John Redwood about his ill-advised promotion of an unrealistic 'first post Brexit budget', when the first news reports broke of explosions at the airport in Brussels.

As soon as it became clear there were two blasts in different parts of the airport we knew this was a terrorist attack. The third explosion at the metro station near the European Commission and the Council buildings dispelled any doubts.

By then there were already people taking to the internet using the attacks to variously dismiss or ridicule David Cameron and the remain campaign's central argument that we are safer as a member of the EU. It's impossible for those who were not there to imagine the horror the victims experienced in those blasts. Their awful experience was not something to be used as a political football just minutes after the event. We should be taking a moment to spare a thought for them and their loved ones.

Too many tweeters were indecent in their haste to make political capital out of mass murder, as the dead and dying were still being recovered or rescued. It was selfish, needless, distasteful and disrespectful. One wonders what goes on in their heads when they take advantage of an act of intolerance and hatred to exhibit some of their own. Where is their self control?

There is nothing they could say at that moment, as dozens of human tragedies were played out in the terminal buildings and at the station, that could not wait until worried families, friends and co-workers could be told if their loved ones were alive or dead. Not all, but most people, I am certain, will be appalled by the insensitivity and enthusiasm shown by some to make political points that fit their agenda.

There is a time for criticising and refuting assertions made by our opponents regarding their claimed benefits of EU membership. This morning wasn't it. It can wait until later on. Turning people off with such behaviour doesn't help our campaign, it undermines it.