30 Jan 2016

Open letter to Mark Wallace, editor of Conservative Home

Dear Mark

I read with interest your piece in Conservative Home yesterday, which set out to be a defence of your friends and colleagues at Vote Leave. One can understand such loyalty. However, it is hard to accept your version of events and attempt to sanitise the recent history of Vote Leave in the way you have. So I

In your piece, one passage in particular stood out and necessitates the record being set straight. You wrote:
"The dispute is, inevitably, a complex mixture of strategic differences (should the campaign be primarily about immigration, or based on a more optimistic presentation of an alternative outside the EU), personal differences (Cummings has history with various of the people involved), party differences (Leave.EU is essentially an outgrowth of UKIP) and disagreements about who should be the leading voices of the Leave campaign."
Sorry, but this is delusional nonsense and complete misrepresentation of the facts.

Vote Leave has not at any time, anywhere, given any presentation - optimistic or otherwise -  of an alternative outside the EU. They deliberately go so far as calling for a leave vote, but with no declaration that Brexit should inevitably follow. Indeed, I have previously asked you to provide evidence they have, and you broke off from the Twitter exchange.

Vote Leave, in the shape of Cummings, is even now actively working to dismiss the only legal method of withdrawing from the EU (Article 50). Daniel Hannan, a Vote Leave director, constantly speaks of his desire for Associate Membership of the EU, which would keep us firmly in the EU and under the jurisdiction of the  ECJ. Matthew Elliott has ignored repeated requests to withdraw his comment that in the event of reform leading to a 'two tier Europe' he and his group would be 'very much in'. Finally, every time any of Vote Leave's leading lights have been asked if they actually want to see complete and permanent withdrawal from the EU, they have refused to answer and broken off discussion.

So let's have some honesty. These are not the actions of a group seeking Brexit. Talk of 'safer choices' and 'better deals' is no substitute for a clear and unambiguous statement that Vote Leave is working for Britain to leave the EU completely and permanently. The reason they refuse to do this is because the intention, as set out by Cummings and by Boris Johnson, is to use a leave vote to press for further talks and concessions after which Cummings' second referendum would be used to reverse the original leave vote.

Vote Leave is a cuckoo in the Leave nest. It is holding back progress by those who genuinely want Brexit. The sooner Vote Leave disintegrates and its band of closet reformers depart the stage, the sooner we can focus on a campaign to convince people we have a better future outside the EU and Britain’s chances of leaving the EU can be significantly increased.


Mr B

27 Jan 2016

Elliott and Cummings: Their masters' men, or the illusionists' assistants

One question that has not been answered is why Dominic Cummings started making claims on Twitter and in the Economist about Article 50 not being the only legal route out of the EU, and what he is trying to achieve by it.

Failure of a country to uphold its treaty obligations can result in the other party/parties refusing to keep their obligations to that country. That can have serious repercussions, and also lead to bodies like the WTO withholding protection in trade disputes due to Britain's non performance of the contract it agreed. It can also result in other countries having no confidence in Britain honouring its obligations as we try to form future agreements.

It is illogical for the campaign director of an organisation (Vote Leave) that keeps talking about a better deal on things such as trade, to advance the rejection of legally binding mechanism, the effect of which would adversely impact trade. There has to be some rhyme or reason behind Cummings' eruption.

By combining information from several sources it is possible to see a bigger picture, one that shows us the co-owners of Vote Leave appear to be coordinating with close associates in the very Tory party leadership that is working to keep Britain in the EU.

That Vote Leave's CEO, Matthew Elliott, is an establishment insider and Downing Street favourite, was hand picked by David Cameron to run the No to AV campaign, and was so close to having a job in Cameron's Number 10 that he was even shown his future desk, is no secret. Nor is the fact Elliott reportedly made regular visits to Number 10 as he established Vote Leave, and has refused to withdraw his comment that if Cameron can agree an EU deal for a 'two tier Europe' associate membership of the EU that his organisation 'would be very much in'. Cameron is Elliott's master and that is where Elliott's steer comes from. Much has been written regarding Elliott's real motives and absence of a desire to leave the EU. But what of Cummings?

It has been more difficult to understand what Cummings' direction and motives are. He seemingly stands for nothing beyond the referendum vote itself, has refused to answer any question asking whether he supports Brexit no matter what, and seemingly out of the blue has recently launched an unexpected assault on the notion of following the prescribed Treaty on European Union Article 50 process of withdrawing from the EU, even going so far as to invent the idea that there is a plan to 'immediately' invoke Article 50 after a vote to leave.

But it wasn't out of the blue. It has all the hallmarks of coordination. By understanding who Cummings' closest associate in the Cabinet is, then bringing together a piece from the Sunday Times on 17 January with a piece from the Better Off Out website earlier this week, a startling alignment becomes clear and explains what is driving Cummings.

The Sunday Times piece, titled 'PM’s secret EU masterplan' reports that David Cameron has a secret plan to 'deliver three surprise "rabbits from the hat" in his renegotiation with Brussels' when EU leaders meet on 19 February. It sets out the three 'rabbits' and who is responsible for making them appear:

These rabbits from hats tally with the Vote Leave rhetoric of rolling back EU law and having a new deal with the EU (not the same thing as Brexit). Michael Gove's pivotal role in bolstering the reform and remain agenda is what stands out. Gove is supporting the renegotiation and now it seems he is actively supporting Cameron's stated aim of keeping Britain in the EU. Gove has turned pro-EU membership, as so many Tories will in order to put career and party before principle.

What of the Better Off Out article? Titled 'In or Out? Flip-flops and fudges in the EU referendum debate', it seeks to highlight the positions of some of the key members of the Cabinet. This is what Better Off Out has to say about Michael Gove:
The former Education Secretary, when asked in 2013 whether he would vote for Britain to leave the EU at that point, replied: “Yes, I’m not happy with our position.” Despite his reputation as a man of principle, however, Gove was as good as outed at the weekend by a report in The Sunday TimesFLOP

If a reputed man of principle can flip flop in such brazen fashion, it would not be a stretch of the imagination to see his biggest admirers follow him down the same path. What Gove has been reportedly charged with delivering concerns challenging and overriding EU law and, at the exact same time, it just so happens that Cummings has taken up the cudgel against Article 50, challenging existing EU law. What a stunning coincidence! This is high politics and even though the evidence is circumstantial, there is no coincidence here.

Cummings claimed there are other legal and political routes than Article 50. When challenged to set out what these are, he has remained silent. That silence makes sense if, as it now seems, Cummings has no idea yet what they are and is waiting for a steer from Gove about what the judicial rabbits will look like. By doing so, instead of looking towards Brexit and using the existing, legal and safe solution to take Britain out of the EU, Cummings and Vote Leave are shooting for alignment with the government's aim of the 'two tier Europe' hankered after by Matthew Elliott. In all likelihood, even the Vote Leave board may not have grasped exactly how the group is being manipulated to further Tory party ambitions, despite moves to remove Elliott and Cummings (£) from the campaign on Tuesday.

Elliott and Cummings are playing Debbie McGee to Cameron and Gove's Paul Daniels. They are the assistants to the illusionists, smiling and gesturing to the top hat in readiness for the big reveal.

It is bad enough that Vote Leave has failed to pursue a clear and unambiguous Brexit agenda thus far. Even a hint of evidence suggesting they are working in tandem with a government that is devoting all the machinery of the state to keeping Britain in the EU should be serious cause for concern.

On its own what has been outlined above does not constitute a smoking gun, but it could yet prove to be. It fits with what we've been reporting about Vote Leave and it certainly has a nasty smell about it. At the very least everyone now knows to look out for a Gove-Cummings nexus.

23 Jan 2016

Grassroots Out public meeting, aka Farage on Tour

The first Grassroots Out public meeting took place in Kettering today, so I went along to see how things panned out.

The capacity in the hall is 3,000 but there were empty seats here and there. Interestingly, the BBC news team due to cover the event didn't arrive and the hall was told that they were unable to turn up due to traffic problems.

Clearly anything outside London is a journey too difficult for the Beeb, especially if having to report on something that runs contrary to its worldview.

The BBC report of the event - most likely supplied by the nonplussed local radio hack from BBC Northampton, who spent time asking people why they were there and what it meant to them - was short on detail and also rounded down the attendance to 2,000 from the actual 2,314 who took their seats.

The Grassroots Out proposition was made clear, "We want to Leave the European Union". Each seat had an A5 response card which stated that and also invited attendees to help with the campaign:

Perhaps this was the aim of the meeting, to start building up a roster of volunteers who can execute the ground game at referendum time. With its speakers, content and ra-ra approach, it certainly wasn't a public meeting designed to engage and win over undecided voters. If that was the intention then it was the wrong tone and the objective won't have been achieved. It was less a public meeting than a gathering of the converted. 

A good number of the crowd were Ukip supporters, there only to see Nigel Farage speak. Indeed one supporter, who was annoyed by the delayed start, heckled Farage on the auditorium balcony and demanded he get on with things, clearly under the impression this was Farage's meeting.

The speakers were politely and sometimes warmly received. I doubt many will have heard of Sammy Wilson MP before today, unless they are familiar with his attacks on climate change politics. But they certainly loved the Belfast boy by the end of his speech. He made clear we need to leave the EU. But he made democracy the cornerstone of his speech and that is the most powerful argument that can be deployed. Wilson gets it.

Peter Bone, Philip Hollobone and Tom Pursglove reinforced the need to leave the EU. Kate Hoey, sandwiched between the three Tory MPs in the running order, focused on social justice in her speech, folding in the late Tony Benn's test of democratic accountability before finally remembering to mention we should leave the EU - this despite being part of Vote Leave which is doing all it can to do anything but.

Then it was Farage's turn. Some of the audience were on their feet as he walked towards the stage. He was the draw for a big minority of the audience. But with the exception of his folding in to his speech the Paris terror attacks and the Cologne sexual assaults, to justify his immigration position, it could have been any other Farage speech. He worked his fan club in the crowd as he always does, securing the obligatory chant recital of 'we want our country back', as others looked on variously embarrassed and bewildered.

As it was clear his speech was closing, a good number of people upped and left, having seen the man they came to see. This was all a little embarrassing for Dr Liam Fox, who Farage introduced as a big beast and special guest speaker. As Fox spoke, Faragista continued to sneak out of the hall.

The key theme of Fox's address was security. In response to Project Fear and Cameron's latest wheeze that we need to remain in the EU for the good of our security, Fox has clearly been rolled out to combat the FUD. The gamble is that as a former Defence Secretary, a lot of people will take Fox seriously on security. He rightly made clear NATO was our security umbrella, while the EU's actions and policies actually increase risk to us. I'm not sure he clicked with the audience as much as was intended, but he is the first heavyweight Tory to declare for Grassroots Out and say we must leave the EU and be an independent, sovereign Britain.

Naturally the media took the opportunity to promote Fox as the man launching the campaign, putting him front and centre so they can maintain their obsession with deepening Tory party 'divisions'.

As expected, no one discussed what needs to happen after a leave vote. The event had a feel of confirmation bias and mood music designed to play to an existing support that will not vote to Remain. Was it a recruiting pitch? Possibly.

There wasn't a great deal for the undecided voter to give them confidence in Brexit, or give any reassurance that a carefully planned process can take us out of the EU without risking British jobs or commercial interests. It was the same old lines rolled out to please those who like hearing it. Some of it was well delivered. Some of it was plain cringeworthy. But it was a start.

If Grassroots Out is to make an impact and win over undecideds, it will need to radically adjust its message and widen its proposition to include education, not just a litany of dissatisfaction. Farage and his supporters risk hijacking GO as a campaign vehicle to compensate for the fall in Ukip profile and support. Bone, Hollobone and Pursglove need to be on their guard that their hard work isn't wrecked for the same of one man's agenda.

There needs to be more talk of democracy as exhibited by Sammy Wilson, and explanation about how the EU subverts it. There needs to be less focus on immigration, especially when it leads to Farage rooting around in the depths to use the Cologne assaults as his own version of Project Fear.

There needs to be a positive vision articulated of Britain's place in the world, but combined with a detailed plan of how it can be done without risking jobs and trade. Instead of getting people to chant vaguely about wanting our country back, GO needs to help people understand the many issues our elected representatives cannot change because of EU control and how leaving the EU can change that and open the door to greater people power over the direction of this country. I'm convinced that while it may seem a subtle difference, that kind of vision would have far greater resonance with the middle England GO is hoping to win over.

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21 Jan 2016

Vote Leave's Daniel Hannan still pushing reform instead of Brexit

I am full of admiration for Daniel Hannan. No, really.

Rarely have I seen such agility in someone's writing. Hannan is a master of contortion when it comes to the written word. There are few who could give the impression of supporting Brexit in their articles, when their conclusion promotes a reform deal that keeps Britain in the EU. But Hannan does this with incredible skill and consistency.

Hannan has done it again in the Spectator this week, leading people to think he is calling for Brexit with strapline of "Life outside the EU could be very good for us" (shown below)

to deliberately misrepresenting Associate Membership as an economics-only relationship (shown below)

Membership means being a part of. Membership means "remain". As I point out in the comment thread in the Spectator:
Daniel Hannan and Vote Leave are continuing to take people for fools. Associate Membership is not some privileged position outside the EU. A two tier property is still a single building. Membership is membership. Britain would remain part of the EU second tier, remain bound by the ECJ, continue to receive and implement directives from Brussels.
The only difference is that the full members will take decisions and further integrate to service their place as Euro currency users. Associate Membership only exists as a concept to enable this deeper integration while keeping non Eurozone countries under Brussels' control. So what Hannan is doing is trying to position continued EU membership as something other than that. He's being completely disingenuous.

He is being a loyal director of Vote Leave (since 22 Dec 2015). That group has always wanted a reform deal, of the type they always demanded in their guise as Business for Britain. They never call for or endorse Brexit because they want to remain in a 'reformed' EU, and everything they do is geared to achieving that outcome. Even Dominic Cummings' notion of a second referendum only exists to reverse a vote to leave after further EU talks and some more crumbs from the table.

If you want genuine Brexit, Hannan and Vote Leave are not on your side.
If Vote Leave were honest about their proposition they would change their logo to this...

19 Jan 2016

Why is the media ignoring the Vote Leave story?

In recent days, the campaign director and co-owner of Vote Leave, Dominic Cummings has written clearly that Vote Leave's plan is for Article 50 - the only legal and treaty-bound method of quitting the EU - not to be invoked after any vote to leave in the referendum. In short, if people vote for Britain to leave the EU, he opposes the only action that can begin the process of leaving. 

Vote Leave director, Daniel Hannan has spoken explicitly about using a leave vote to secure "proper concessions", some form of "associate membership" and seeking an "opt out of some of the areas of EU policy". He has done so more than once. This is a man who people thought wanted to leave the EU, calling only for some piecemeal reforms. That is about staying in the EU, it is not about leaving the EU.

Prior to all this, Vote Leave's CEO, founder and co-owner, Matthew Elliott, went on the record to say that “If the Government gets a two-tier Europe, we’re very much in”. He ran Business for Britain, which had and still has an agenda of Britain staying in a reformed EU, an organisation that then spawned Vote Leave as a vehicle to deliver reform via the leverage of a vote to leave. The intention has never been Brexit. Elliott, Cummings and Hannan never speak of Brexit after a vote to leave, only of 'negotiations' for a new deal.

The Vote Leave campaign is not campaigning to leave.

It is a story.

So where are the bloody journalists? 

Is it that the journalists don't 'get it'? Or is it that the journalists are so close to the Vote Leave team, constantly rubbing shoulders and enjoying congenial conversation with them inside the cosy Westminster bubble, that they don't want to make life hard for their chums by pointing out that Vote Leave is deliberately undermining the objective of leaving the EU?

Decide for yourself.

16 Jan 2016

Dominic Cummings, his naked lies and supposed legal alternatives to Article 50

In the Spectator is an article by James Forsyth.

In it he reports that David Cameron is trying to frighten voters away from a leave vote (Project Fear) by promising to respect their wishes and invoke Article 50 to begin the process of withdrawing from the EU.

There was one particular section that attracted the attention of Vote Leave's campaign director, Dominic Cummings. He has taken it and twisted it to suit his own agenda. That passage is...
But Downing Street is confident that it can crush the idea of a two-vote referendum by saying that, if Britain votes out, Cameron will invoke Article 50 — the formal and irreversible two-year process by which a country leaves the EU. To re-inforce this point, other EU leaders will make it clear that a vote to leave will mean precisely that. (Though given how disastrous Brexit would be for the whole European project, and the EU’s habit of making countries vote again, these warnings will not be entirely credible.)
In response to this attack on his precious demand for a second referendum - which is designed to follow talks with the EU after any leave vote, which would aim to get a better deal than David Cameron sought, resulting in a new vote that results in people choosing to remain in the EU - Cummings tweeted:

The word 'immediately' does not appear in Forsyth's article. Anywhere. It is a cynical invention by Cummings, which enables him to peddle the falsehood that Article 50 would be triggered straight after a leave vote (which would spike Cumming's agenda of keeping Britain in the EU). Lying and distortion are trademarks of Cummings. Over the last two days he has maintained the fiction.

But Cummings has also added a new dimension to his deception, with the extraordinary claim that Article 50 itself is not the only legal route out of the EU.

Warming to this new piece of self delusion, Cummings has continued with his theme in this tweet...

Notice the sly use of language to talk about a 'new UK-EU deal' rather than Brexit. Leaving the EU is not what Cummings wants. Then there was this...

The fact is Article 50 is the only legal way to leave the EU. There wasn't a set method before because it was always assumed in Brussels that once in the EU no country would ever decide to leave. The manner of leaving the EU has been set out in the Treaty which therefore makes it the only legal method states can follow if they decide to withdraw from the EU. Failure to follow the Article 50 route would see Britain breach the Treaty and our legal obligations under it.

Cummings has also sought to maintain his lie about Article 50 being invoked 'immediately' in replies to other tweets, such as this one...

Needless to say, a number of people have asked Cummings to state what these other 'routes' out of the EU are. But as usual, when asked a question that would reveal his dishonesty, Cummings simply ignores it and keeps transmitting his falsehoods. If there are other legal and better ways to leave the EU, then surely Cummings would be quick to rush forth and set them out for all to see. His silence is deafening and all too typical.

The litany of deceit and distortion from this pathological serial liar continues to grow. From cynically letting Vote Leave supporters believe the group seeks Brexit, to pretending Article 50 would be invoked 'immediately' after a vote to leave, to telling people there are better, legal routes out of the EU than the treaty-bound Article 50, no one can believe a word Dominic Cummings says.

Best of the Brexit Blogs - #1

A weekly round up of the best and most informative articles from the Brexit blogs.
We begin with a bumper edition...

  1. No, we will not get a “punishment beating” if we leave the EU - The Sceptic Isle
  2. Cameron’s Fear That EU Partners Will Reveal Truth About His “New Deal” - Semi-Partisan Sam
  3. Flexcit: a better idea than the EU - Pete North  
  4. Towards a "permanent solution" - EU Referendum 
  5. A Pragmatic Approach - Independent Britain 
  6. Beyond Norway - The Brexit Door 
  7. A winning plan - Leave the EU, Keep the Single Market - The EU Question 
  8. Another Letter to UKIP - Tommy R 
  9. The Status Quo fallacy (with apologies to Francis Rossi)  - UK Unleashed
  10. A statement from the Prime Minister - White Wednesday
  11. Pro-EU arguments: Critical thinking - Red Cliffs of Dawlish
  12. A blueprint for the future - Leave HQ

** Are you a Brexit blogger?

If you're blogging regularly but not on the list below please let me know so you can be added and your work can be showcased in these round ups - email: Mr.Brexit@gmail.com

15 Jan 2016

A little help for Fraser Nelson regarding Article 50

Fraser Nelson, the editor of the Spectator magazine, is having a bit of difficulty with comprehension. Granted, it's probably been a while since school and university, but even so one would expect him to understand the clear terms of Article 50, the treaty provision for member states to give notice that they are leaving the EU.

Fraser is labouring under the misapprehension that the UK notifying the EU of its intention to leave via Article 50 bars the UK from taking part in the exit negotiations. No, seriously. He calls in evidence paragraph 4 of the treaty article:

 Note that he quotes:
"The member of the European Council or of the Council representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in the discussions of the European Council or Council or in decisions concerning it."
The full text of paragraph 4 of Article 50 actually reads:

The reference to paragraphs 2 and 3 is crucial in making clear exactly what the withdrawing state is being excluded from:

Despite people telling him he's got the wrong end of the stick, he's dug himself in, declared that he has been accurate and reiterated that this demonstrates the restriction is illogical and vindictive. He also claims, quite bizarrely, that 'there will be other ways to leave the EU than Article 50'.

There are none so blind as those who will not see, but as a former political journalist of the year people should expect him to display at least a modicum of intellectual rigour in his work. So, for the record, here is my reply to his comment on the EU Referendum blog. Hopefully he reads it and finally recognises what a monumental error he has made:

I won't hold my breath.

Just how utterly pointless is the Vote Leave group?

An answer to that question can be found by giving up precious minutes of your life that you will never get back, and surfing through 50 pages of unmitigated waffle from Vote Leave's intellectual powerhouse (/sarc) Dr Lee Rotherham. It doesn't outline what question(s) it sets out to answer, is loaded with self citation, and it doesn't even contain a conclusion.

Dubbed 'The National Interest', Rotherham, a major contributor to Business for Britain's 1,000 page 'Change or Go' tome, writes for the sake of doing so, leads the reader into a desert where he then abandons them without any explanation of what they are doing there, and disappears. He excuses this in his introduction where he says:

So there it is, the Vote Leave line. The verbiage they use to explain away the absence of any plan of what the future would look like for Britain outside the EU. The absence of any idea voters could use as a rallying point to enthuse them to vote to leave.

Interestingly, without naming the Flexcit plan, Rotherham outlines it in his piece:

Yet despite describing it as a 'transition spot' - which means it would not be the destination and that negotiation of a more suitable agreement would follow - and despite conceding the high degree of certainty that Britain rejoining the EEA would be acceptable to EU member states and EFTA ones too, he rejects the idea on the spurious grounds of uncertainty.

So what does Rotherham see as preferable to the phased withdrawal set out in Flexcit?

 'An entirely different arrangement'. And pray tell, how do we get to this 'entirely different arrangement'? If not through a safe and credible transition through the EEA after Brexit, then how? Is it something that could be agreed within initial two year Article 50 negotiation window? How could we know if any EU member state might object and veto whatever pick 'n mix agreement is sought, impacting continuity of trade after Britain's EU membership ends? Does it even involve leaving the EU, after all Rotherham already says there is no black or white, no straight in or out?

It makes no logical sense for anyone committed to leaving the EU to reject a transitional stage they accept is achievable, on the basis of it being 'uncertain', only to plump for an undefined and theoretical 'entirely different arrangement' where there is no way of knowing if it is achievable. Nothing could be more uncertain than that and no amount of bar charts, formulae or curves hide that fact. This is the kind of unmitigated rubbish churned out by Vote Leave and their team.

Vote Leave is out in the weeds. So engaged in matters of EU membership and how to leave the EU was its campaign director, Dominic Cummings, that just six months ago he hadn't even heard of Article 50. But then he isn't interested in Article 50, the only legal route for an EU member state to leave the EU, as bound in the treaty of Lisbon. In fact yesterday he even rejected it being used if voters vote to leave the EU. Today he has gone even further with the utterly false claim that:

We know his game though.

The Vote Leave and Cummings plan is to use a leave vote as leverage for further talks with the EU, the outcome of which after a second referendum they are calling for, would be Britain remaining in the EU. This is what Business for Britain, the entity that spawned Vote Leave, has always wanted... EU reform and Britain to remain firmly in. This explains why Vote Leave never call for Brexit, have no plan for Brexit and dismiss without reasonable explanation, as Lee Rotherham has above, the only researched plan that exists to deliver Brexit.

14 Jan 2016

Vote Leave campaign director opposes Article 50 if people vote to leave

If a group campaigns for people to vote leave at the referendum, and voters then do so, most people would expect that group to support David Cameron invoking Article 50 to give notice that Britain is leaving the EU and commence a negotiation of the terms of the post-Brexit relationship between Britain and the EU.

But that isn't the case with the Vote Leave group.

Writing in the Spectator, James Forsyth tells readers that Project Fear is being deployed to scare voters into choosing to remain in the EU. In his piece he says:
One option gaining favour is proposing a second referendum, so voters can see the final terms of exit should Britain decide to leave. This may encourage more to vote Out first time around. But Downing Street is confident that it can crush the idea of a two-vote referendum by saying that, if Britain votes out, Cameron will invoke Article 50 — the formal and irreversible two-year process by which a country leaves the EU. To re-inforce this point, other EU leaders will make it clear that a vote to leave will mean precisely that. (Though given how disastrous Brexit would be for the whole European project, and the EU’s habit of making countries vote again, these warnings will not be entirely credible.)
Only in the Westminster village is there any talk of a second referendum, and Cameron's Article 50 timeline isn't given, but setting that aside, Cameron's response is as it should be. If voters decide at the referendum to vote leave, then the government should carry out the voters' wishes and begin the Brexit process.

You would think Vote Leave would be delighted by this. But in response to Forsyth's report, Vote Leave's campaign director, Dominic Cummings tweeted:

Cummings' comment should make people ponder this question, why get people to Vote Leave then oppose the very negotiation process that sees Britain leave the EU and creates post-Brexit relationship, describing it as 'mad' and comparing it to 'putting gun in your mouth & pulling trigger'?

The answer is it only makes sense if Vote Leave do not want Brexit. It only makes sense if Vote Leave's purpose for getting voters to vote leave is so the government uses it as leverage for more crumbs from the EU table as part of the reform agenda, after which a second referendum (which Cummings wants) aims to get voters to approve an updated reform deal so that Britain remains in the EU. That is the Vote Leave group's objective and that is why they doggedly refuse to call for an actual Brexit, never talking about anything beyond the referendum vote.

Time and again supporters of Vote Leave have declared the group wants Britain to leave the EU. Time and again I have asked them to show me any evidence that supports that claim. Every time they are left floundering, saying only that the clue is in the name and why else would the group want people to vote leave unless leaving was the aim.

Over a period of months this blog and others have published evidence in the form of the statements by Vote Leave leadership and their affiliates that Vote Leave isn't working towards Britain leaving the EU. Presented with the news that Cameron would accept a leave vote and begin the Brexit process, Vote Leave's campaign director has gone postal. It's not the response of someone who would be getting what his group's supporters think he wants.

For the avoidance of doubt, here is Cummings in his own words, setting out what he sees as the purpose of a 'no' vote and what should follow it and why:

No Brexit. It has never been what Cummings and his boss Matthew Elliott wanted or intended to happen.

13 Jan 2016

Just to be clear, Flexcit's roadmap ends freedom of movement

Following yesterday's blog post, various exchanges on Twitter today have underlined that those people who prefer a dangerous toxic pill form of release from our EU membership, rather than an effective course of treatment over a period of time, are trying to convince people that the Flexcit plan keeps freedom of movement intact. It's very dishonest of them.

But then, these people occupy an increasingly extreme fringe in the debate because more of their Ukip colleagues are supporting the phased withdrawal plan for its common sense, de-risked roadmap to full independence, which will end the primacy of EU law and freedom of movement.

The fact is after a transitional period, during which Britain would maintain market access by becoming an EFTA member state to protect British jobs and commercial interests, Flexcit's goal is to work to abolish the EU's Single Market. The idea is to replace the Single Market with a genuine, Europe-wide single market, administered from Geneva and properly integrated into the global trading system. This would remove it from EU supranational political control, and free nations from having to adopt EU laws and directives.

With the demise of the EU's Single Market the principle of freedom of movement, an integral part of the EU construct, also ends. This would then allow for a complete renegotiation of the arrangements for enabling labour mobility and visa-free travel throughout the continent.

By then, with Britain firmly established outside the EU, without the constraints of Article 50 and working with EFTA member states and other allies, Britain would be negotiating from a position of strength. As such, Britain would be able to define a far more attractive settlement than could be obtained under the time pressure of negotiating an EU exit.

It just cannot be done overnight, hence the need for the transition to be executed in phases. Just because the change would be conducted in phases it does not mean the change would not happen. Don't accept the misinformation of a vocal band of people who don't even have a plan of their own.

12 Jan 2016

An effective course of treatment, or a mythical magic pill that may kill or maim you?

Immigration, border controls, freedom of movement... While these three terms concern very different things, many people use them interchangeably when talking about the ability of nationals of EU member states to live and work in the UK without restriction. This means for example that we see people demanding border controls to 'restored' to address that issue, when border controls really have no bearing on it.

Setting aside that mistake, what is clear is that there is a sizable constituency in the country that does not like Britain's EU membership giving nationals of other countries the right to settle here. So does the Flexcit roadmap of phased withdrawal from the EU address the issue? In short, the answer is yes.

Stage three of Flexcit involves the abolition of the EU's single market and a complete redefinition of the trading arrangements throughout Europe, of which the principle of free movement of people is a core part. Flexcit has an overall objective of limiting the freedom of people to take up residence in the UK.

Achieving this is just one part of the Brexit process and it requires us to accommodate other policy issues, such as the participation in the Single Market pending a longer-term settlement. That is why the limitation of EU nationals being able to settle here will not happen overnight. But it will happen.

Some bloggers and tweeters on the leave side favour a scorched earth style of Brexit, without a negotiated agreement of Britain's relationship with the EU after we cease to be a member of it. Some of these people give the impression that by following the Flexcit roadmap Britain will effectively remain in the EU because some EU laws will still apply, and EU nationals will continue to resettle here at will. It simply isn't true.

Flexcit takes Britain completely out of the EU. There is no halfway house. The transitional step of Britain joining EFTA, and as a member of EFTA being able to remain part of the EEA (single market), means we will still be bound by laws and regulations that facilitate trade within the market. But the vast majority of EU law will cease to apply, because the EU has always been about much more than just trade. An important thing to note here is that as soon as British membership of the EU ends, we would no longer be subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

Instead of the 23,000+ laws that we currently follow, as a non EU member of the EEA just 5,000 will apply. There would be barely any change for British business because market access would continue. It's a big leap on the journey. Brexit is not a one-off event, it is a process.

The argument of the scorched earth brigade is that being part of the single market means we have to continue allowing nationals of EU member states to settle here if they want. Instead they demand the abolition of freedom of movement as the first objective of our withdrawal settlement, regardless of the consequences, which would have a damaging and far reaching impact on British business.

A metaphor that underlines the difference in approach would be that of a demolition team dismantling a large building section at a time, taking away the things on top so the foundations can be revealed and removed, as opposed to someone without any thought of the consequences driving a bulldozer through the walls and collapsing the entire building on top of themselves.

Flexcit is like a course of treatment developed after extensive research that builds up in the body to remove an infection without causing you harm. It is far more superior to taking a toxic magic pill given to you by a backstreet dealer that will kill the infection overnight, but the side effects of which will also kill or badly maim you in the process. As a patient, which would you prefer?

7 Jan 2016

Spiegel underlines the great EU referendum stitch up that is coming

Generally the media coverage of anything to do with the referendum and supposed effects of Brexit can be ignored. However there are occasions where reporting can help us make important points that help people understand the game that is afoot.

An example of that can be found in the German news magazine, Spiegel, which tells its readers that, "This summer, Britain will vote on whether to remain in the European Union. The skeptic camp appears to be gaining ground -- and EU leaders are growing concerned. They have developed a plan to give in to most of Cameron's EU reform demands." It goes on to say that:
The victor in this game has already been determined. On Feb. 19 in Brussels, David Cameron will prevail with all of his most important demands. The British prime minister, to be sure, will be standing alone at the summit, faced with opposition from his 27 EU counterparts. But in the end, following tough negotiations, he will get his way.

Such is the result envisioned by EU leaders and in fact European Council President Donald Tusk, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have already written the script for their own defeat. "We want Cameron to return to London victorious," say EU officials in Brussels, in an uncommon display of unity. In Berlin, a Chancellery official says: "We will be extremely helpful." Anything that isn't a complete betrayal of European values is negotiable, the Berlin official says.

Their goal is that of providing Cameron with the political tailwind he needs to keep the United Kingdom in the European Union. This summer, Cameron is planning to hold a referendum on Britain's future in the EU. Only if he returns from Brussels in February with a better deal for Britain does he stand a chance of reversing the widespread EU-skepticism that characterizes the country.
So what does this mean? This apparent British victory, with Cameron securing agreement to his own personal wish list of things he has never consulted British voters about, will not be the end game. Later in the campaign, Cameron will take this supposed victory and declare that he has actually managed to triumph, and present a deal that gives Britain the option of adopting a form of Associate of Affiliate Membership of the EU, called for by Vote Leave's Tory MEP, Daniel Hannan, who said:

Thus Cameron will have slithered through the middle of the leave side and 'Eurosceptic' ministers on one hand and the resolutely Europhile and federalist grouping on the other, in order to appear moderate and reasonable, before saying he has secured something even better than he hoped for.

The reality is that even with a reformed EU providing for the very two-tier Europe sought by Vote Leave's CEO Matthew Elliott, in which our non-Eurozone country would occupy a back seat so the Eurozone countries can address deliberately self inflicted economic problems with further integration that delivers ever closer union, very little will change for Britain:
  • Britain would remain part of the EU and our supreme government will continue to be the EU
  • foreign courts such as the ECJ will still have primacy over our own, subverting our domestic wishes
  • the Commission will still generate and hand down laws we cannot reject from being enacted here
  • our terms of trade, tariffs and customs rules will continue to be decided for us by the EU, preventing us from making new trade agreements with other countries
  • we will have no direct involvement in deciding the global rules, regulations and standards made at the top tables such as UNECE, Codex Alimentarius, IPPC, OIE, ILO, WTO etc.
  • Britain would not return to being an independent nation, responsible for governing itself. We will remain an overseas-ruled province of the EU, with one-twenty-eighth of a say in EU matters
What the Spiegel piece does is underline that the EU and Cameron have planned and agreed a stitch up that is designed to con British voters into thinking we will loosen ties with the EU. They accept Cameron must be seen to have a 'victory' but Britain must be kept in the EU to serve EU interests rather than those of the British people.

Everything that goes on before that is just theatre to make it look like Cameron has taken something the EU wasn't willing to give. The EU needs reform delivering a two-tier Europe because anything else holds back the economic integration of those countries using the Euro currency. They don't mind letting it appear to be a British victory, because they know little will change and British net contributions will continue to flow into Brussels' coffers.

4 Jan 2016

Flexcit vs Hard Exit: An exchange of differing Brexit viewpoints

To Flexcit or Hard Exit, that is the question.

The Leave side of the referendum debate is split.  It is split between those who want the phased withdrawal from the EU that disentangles the EU from governance over Britain, as set out in Flexcit; and those who support the idea of a hard exit from the EU in expectation of securing a swift bilateral trade agreement with the EU.

A direct message exchange on Twitter earlier today highlighted the arguments of both sides in a way that when reproduced on this blog may help people understand and clarify the thinking on this side of the debate. I hope it's of interest.

The tweeter who supports a hard exit wrote:
I do not believe in Flexcit or Flexit, nor do I think it is deirable to re-enter EFTA until it leaves the EEA. Otherwise we have one foot out and one foot in the EU and are subject to too many of its regulations. I do not think we should enter Schengen. Nor do I think we should continue to have to accept unlimited and unpredictable numbers of EU nationals or people with EU residency papers - many unskilled - as Norway has to. I think that we are such a large and important economy with such huge buying power (we're the EU's biggest export market) that the EU will definitely and very quickly negotiate and ratify a bilateral free trade agreement with us as they have done with Mexico and South Korea, for example, both smaler economies than ours. However, I do think that if EFTA withdraws from the EEA then we should consider re-joining it.
In reply, in support of Flexcit, I wrote:
As you can see, we have a fundamental disagreement about how to best serve Britain's interests after a Brexit.

It might be worth me pointing out that EFTA cannot leave the EEA because it isn't part of it. EFTA does not have any relationship with the EEA, rather it is some EFTA member states that have the relationship with the EEA (you will note Switzerland is in EFTA but not in the EEA). 

Being an EFTA state and part of the EEA after a Brexit does not mean we have one foot in and one foot out of the EU. Brexit means we are not a member of the EU. I feel you may not realise or accept that the majority of regulations to which we are subject as EU members will still apply to us after Brexit, as they originate and are driven by global bodies. Whether we are in the EU, only part of EEA as an EFTA member state, or whether we enjoy some bilateral trade agreement with the EU, our exporters will need to maintain regulatory compliance, convergence and standard in order for their products to be legally saleable.

Like you, I do not want to enter Schengen. Being part of the EEA as an EFTA state - which would only be on an interim basis - would facilitate the continuation of trade that consistent majorities of polled voters tell us they feel is important. For that duration we would still need to accept freedom of movement as you know, but if we choose, we can do so without the shackle of the ECHR and without being bound by the ECJ. This enables removal of undesirables and will stop the abuse of the HRA to frustrate our ability to remove undesirables. It would not be permanent as for the duration of being an EFTA state Britain can be negotiating the kind of trade agreement we both want. The thing here is the need to maintain current economic and commercial ties. A hard exit from the EU without a deal will be disastrous.

Your examples of Mexico and South Korea actually underpin my viewpoint. Do you realise how many years it took to negotiate those deals? We cannot risk hamstringing our economic and commerical interests until a deal can be thrashed out. I don't think you appreciate that the time it would take to negotiate a Britain-EU deal, given the greater complexity of the relationship we would be looking to replace, would be far longer than the Mexico and South Korea deals. Trade deals are about protectionism and barriers, what is permitted and what isn't. It would not be a quick deal with the EU because of the self interest of 27 member states who may be looking to get more out of us.

Anyway, I think this lays bare our differing viewpoints. Our destination is actually the same, but the phased method of getting there that I endorse is something you don't accept. I respect that but I suspect, perhaps as you think of mine in return, that your roadmap is fundamentally flawed and inherently dangerous.

1 Jan 2016

More evidence of the Vote Leave EU reform mindset

By way of a follow up to the post from earlier, below is another piece of evidence from 2015 that underlines senior Vote Leave figures want to stay in a reformed EU rather than leave it for good.

This relates to Ukip's Deputy Chairman, Welfare Spokesman and Greater London Assembly list candidate, Suzanne Evans, who joined the Vote Leave group in 2015.

Being a senior Ukip figure most people would expect her to want an unequivocal British withdrawal from the EU. But before joining Vote Leave she revealed her viewpoint to be nothing of the sort, as this screenshot from the Telegraph from 23rd March shows:

Some may argue that Evans has qualified her comment by saying she doesn't think the reform will be achievable and therefore is campaigning to leave. But that would be to misread the situation.

Reform is not only achievable, it is actually coming in the shape of Associate/Affiliate Membership, which suits both the Eurozone countries and David Cameron. Vote Leave knows this. So when David Cameron presents that two-tier Europe reform as the solution to Britain's EU concerns, will Evans see her reform wishes being realised and join Matthew Elliott and Co in voting to remain in the EU? Decide for yourself.

It cannot be said enough, Vote Leave is not campaigning to leave the EU, only for a vote to leave. The Elliott/Cummings plan is that David Cameron can use referendum leave vote as a bargaining chip in his reform negotiations that delivers what Business for Britain always wanted, to keep Britain in a reformed EU.

People like Suzanne Evans who are part of Vote Leave are one of two things, they are either deceitful con artists with no intention of securing Brexit, or they are unprincipled hangers on reluctantly declaring for leave unless their reform ambitions are realised.

What they are not are people who want Britain to leave the EU, come what may, as a matter of democratic principle. They are not our allies.

2016: The year true Brexiteers need to stop Vote Leave

Media hacks and prestigious talking heads are excitedly pontificating that this will be the year the referendum will be held. That may turn out to be the case, although there are very good reasons to believe we won't be going to the polls over EU membership until 2017.

One thing that will almost certainly happen this year is that a group will become the designated lead campaign group, thus having official status. At this time there are two recognised contenders working to become the 'leave' designated organisation, but another group is expected to enter the fray in the coming weeks.

Although not perfect and in need of some gravitas, the 'Leave.EU' group formed by Arron Banks, is genuinely committed to Britain leaving the EU completely and for good. Therefore they are allies in this fight.

The same cannot be said of the Matthew Elliott/Dominic Cummings money making venture, 'Vote Leave'. The group is populated at its highest levels by people professing to be 'eurosceptic' but who want Britain to remain in the EU as long as there are reforms. To understand the mindset of Vote Leave, just consider the words of its co-owner (it is a Ltd Company) CEO and founder, Matthew Elliott:

Associate Membership of the EU, also described as 'two-tier Europe' is what the EU and David Cameron are preparing for Britain. This mean Vote Leave's owner and CEO is, to all intents and purposes, aligned to the position of David Cameron and the 'remain' grouping. This is no surprise as the man is Cameronian part of the Westminster establishment furniture, about whom Isabel Oakeshott wrote in Conservative Home:

Elliott's position is undeniable. He actively supported and encouraged the concept of negotiated reforms resulting in Britain staying subject to EU control while leader of Business for Britain, and his position has not changed.

Newer readers may not have seen our previous posts that provide evidence of the duplicitous nature of Vote Leave, and its deceitful intention of winning a vote to leave at the referendum only so David Cameron can use it to secure more reforms while keeping Britain in the EU, so here are links to just three of them that underline the charges against Vote Leave:
Winning the referendum in order for Britain to leave the EU is going to be hard enough without having people who don't actually want us to leave the EU running the official designated lead campaign for the leave side. They have to be exposed for what they are and prevented from enriching themselves while undermining the Brexit cause. Everyone genuinely committed to Brexit needs to help stop Vote Leave.

Happy New Year

A very Happy New Year to everyone reading this blog!

I hope 2016 brings happiness, peace and prosperity to you and your loved ones.