NO! NO! NO!

Listen to the clip attached to this article. Pinch yourself. Is it real? Here we have Nigel Farage, the man who friend and foe alike acknowledge played a significant role in securing the historic vote to leave the EU over eighteen months ago, calling for a second referendum.

Yes, I could hardly believe it. The author of the article suspects an ulterior motive – in other words, that Nigel is happier when he has something to snipe about from the sidelines. Nigel himself offers a much more straightforward reason for his “conversion” – winning a second referendum would finally shut up the likes of Blair and Clegg for good. Perhaps – but this argument is flawed for several reasons.

Firstly and most importantly, there is the practical issue of the ongoing Brexit talks. Our team needs the distraction of a second referendum like it needs a hole in the head.  We are less than 15 months away from Brexit day and there is a huge amount which has to be sorted out before then. As for groups like CIB, rather than gearing up for a second referendum, our energies should be devoted instead to campaigning for a change of course from the current plan for a transitional deal which, as we have pointed out, is most unsatisfactory as it stands.

Secondly, a second referendum would undermine the legitimacy of the first one. The question was simple – Should the UK remain a member of the EU or leave the EU? 51.9% of those who voted, in other words, 17,410,742 voters, voted to leave. The vast majority of them knew what they were doing and while a few have changed their minds, most people have accepted the result.  The Government triggered Article 50 and is pushing through the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill on the strength of the result. It was the biggest democratic exercise in our nation’s political history. More people voted to leave the EU than have ever voted for anything else. The result must stand.

Thirdly, who wants to go through that gruelling campaign again?  When I look back to 2016, I will never forget the euphoria of that momentous day when the result was declared, but neither will I forget the preceding months, including taking part in six debates in seven days. Those late nights, the travelling, the thousands of e-mails, the phone calls. It was absolutely incessant. From the day when Cameron announced the date of the referendum until the result was announced, it completely took over my life and the life of thousands of many activists up and down the country. I doubt if there are many people on either side of the  Brexit debate who are keen on a repeat performance.

Fourthly, it would reopen a lot of old wounds. Nigel’s opinions, sadly, come across as the view of someone enclosed in the Westminster bubble. The average man or woman in the street was never that interested in the European Union and I suspect that there are many people who now switch off whenever Brexit is mentioned in the news, especially as it is all getting very technical. Let’s face is – some of us who were active in the campaign are fed up with it all and can’t wait for Brexit to be done and dusted. To repeat a point which was made above, most people, whichever way they voted, have accepted the result and even some remain voters, rather than moping,  are considering the opportunities Brexit will bring. Apart from some of our universities and parts of London and Scotland,  animosity over Brexit has been pretty short-lived. We have moved on.  Who cares about Nick Clegg, let alone Tony Blair?  The reason their bleating is getting more desperate in tone is that every day which passes is a day closer  to the day when we finally leave the EU and everything for which they have stood politically will come crashing to the ground.

One reason why we can be confident that Nigel’s call for a second referendum will fall flat is that the Conservative Party, like the country as a whole, has no desire to reopen old wounds. Last June’s election result was a shock to the system and it has concentrated minds powerfully. Apart from the real headbangers like Ken Clarke and Anna Soubry, most Tory MPs know that their survival depends on standing together and delivering a successful Brexit. A second referendum will do nothing for their party’s cause. Furthermore, considering the bad blood between Leave.eu, in which  Nigel was prominent, on the one hand and Vote.leave, which was the preferred leave campaign of most leave-supporting Conservative MPs, on the other, there will be little enthusiasm among any Tories for Nigel to be calling the shots on Brexit.

So while many of us share his desire to see Clegg, Blair & Co silenced once and for all, a second referendum is not the answer. Thank you for all you did, Nigel, but as Mrs Thatcher would have said, NO, NO, NO!

  Photo by Michael Vadon

Recalcitrant MPs:- where do you stand?

This letter was sent out by our secretary, Jim Reynolds, to a number of MPs who recently voted against the Government. It makes the point about democracy very forcefully and offers a useful template to anyone else wishing to contact our elected representatives in the event of future Brexit votes

It is often mentioned that some Eurosceptic MP’s had a majority for ‘Remain in the EU’ within their own constituencies. However, it is never mentioned that some pro-EU MP’s had a majority of ‘Pro-Brexit’ within their constituencies.

Why is this? One can guess.

These facts are actually irrelevant because the Referendum was not fought or decided on a constituency basis. It was fought on the entire 650 constituencies as one single voting area.

If you wish to treat it on a ‘constituency’ basis there were only two Parties involved, one for Stay and one for Leave.

The result was an 80 seat majority for the Leave Party. A huge majority. A true fact.

Let us not forget, it was Parliament itself that voted to devolve the decision on EU membership to us, in our Referendum.

What great principle of constitutional propriety do you stand for when it seems you have been quite happy to see Parliament circumvented and supplanted by the EU for 40 years?

The people who want to reverse a democratic vote result should be aware that this action is otherwise known as Fascism, an imposition against the majority will of the people.

Where do you stand on this?

Yours faithfully,

James Reynolds

Trust – the real loser

It would be all too easy to start panicking over last night’s defeat for the Government. By a very narrow majority, MPs voted to support an amendment which will give them a more realistic vote over the final deal. “Can Brexit be derailed?” some are asking and particular wrath has been directed against the 11 Tory MPs who voted against the government.

As Richard North has pointed out, what took place last night was little more than grandstanding:-

Since 1972, Parliament has been sitting on its hands, allowing successive EU treaties to be signed. It has then been content to ratify these treaties, holding unto itself only the power to make the decisions as to whether more and more of its powers should be outsourced to Brussels.  Then, when it finally came to whether we should leave the EU, the people made the decision, in the face of a parliament that, on balance, supported continued membership. And now that the people have decided and the government is in the process of implementing their decision, some MPs have rediscovered “democracy” and have demanded a vote on the withdrawal settlement negotiated under Article 50.”

Absolutely. There has been much hypocrisy among the supporters of the amendment. Thankfully, however, if MPs reject the final deal with the EU, it would not actually stop Brexit. The vote will still be essentially “Take it or leave it.” No one is talking about halting the Article 50 process. What would happen in the event of a rejection of the deal is that we would crash out of the EU with no trading agreement, which is the last thing the “rebels” would want. After all, if it is the unreconciled remainiac headbangers who end up bearing the blame for a catastrophic Brexit by blocking a deal, it will do little to their credibility if they then start clamouring for us to rejoin the EU.

Dr North’s comments raise a wider issue – trust. Does anyone trust anyone when it comes to Brexit? I receive more than a few e-mails from Brexit supporters who are yet to be convinced that a predominantly remain-voting Parliament led by a remain-voting Prime Minister has any intention of actually taking us out of the EU at all. Our sources, however, have been consistent in telling us that after getting over the shock of the result last year, the great majority of MPs, whichever way they voted, have accepted it and are prepared to do their best to ensure we achieve a successful departure from the EU.

Such an attitude does not necessarily imply any great confidence that the Government team at the sharp end of negotiations can be trusted to deliver a good deal. This year has seen frustratingly little progress in terms of the Government coming up with a Brexit strategy, let alone being able to discuss it with the EU. One can understand the frustration felt among some MPs on all sides and it is vital for us to distinguish between hard core remoaners and those MPs with genuine concerns about the lack of progress thus far.  Does the government actually know what it is doing? This is not an unreasonable question to ask.

Of course, there is also a distinct lack of trust between our team and the EU. In a speech earlier this week, Michel Barnier stated that “We will not accept any backtracking from the UK on commitments in the Joint Report.” These words carry the implication that  he is worried that we might indeed backtrack. On the other hand, can we trust the EU? Dr Anthony Coughlan believes that senior figures in Brussels are encouraging the Europhile Irish government  to be as obstructive as possible. Given the reputation of Jean-Claude Juncker, the Commission president, for dishonesty, such concerns cannot lightly be dismissed.

What will keep Brexit on track in this febrile atmosphere is – in spite of its flaws – our democracy. The scale of the backlash in the event of Parliament halting or derailing the Brexit process would be quite unprecedented. When Mrs May threw her hat into the ring to succeed David Cameron with a promise that “Brexit means Brexit”, she probably hadn’t grasped the scale of the task she was taking on, but she knew that failure was not an option. As a loyal Conservative Party member of many years standing, it must surely be even more obvious to her now than when she became Prime Minister that failure to deliver on her promise would result in her party facing meltdown at the next General Election and most likely, its greatest crisis since the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846.

For the Tories, a successful Brexit offers more than just the chance of survival. It will enable them to bury the EU issue once and for all. Disunited parties do not win elections  and David Cameron was quite right in identifying the EU as one of the most divisive issues for the Conservatives. “Banging on about Europe”, he famously said, had alienated voters. As it happened, he ended up “banging on about Europe” more than he could ever have expected, but even though it finally cost him his premiership, he may have inadvertently given his successor the chance finally to lance the boil of the EU issue which has plagued not only the Conservative Party but British politics as a whole for far too long.

This is not to deny the challenges she faces – and last night’s vote has not made her task any easier. Nonetheless, a successful Brexit opens the doors to a complete overhaul of our political system including the chance to rebuild the trust in our institutions which EU membership has done so much to erode.  We would still be a long way from Switzerland where “only a few lunatics” wish their country to join the EU,  but if we get out without a major economic crash, it will be a step in the right direction.

 

Photo by San Sharma

Hard & soft remainers, education and Brexit

There is no doubt that the vote to leave the EU delivered a very serious kick up the backside to an arrogant establishment so convinced of its monopoly on truth and righteousness that it did not remotely expect that the referendum might show that a majority of the population held a different opinion.

The degree to which even now, “hard” remainers are refusing to come to terms with the result is quite staggering. A recent low was a piece by the Remainiac John Lubbock. Writing in the Independent, he had the audacity to claim that because the EU was founded with the intent of preventing a World War 3, “if you voted to leave the EU, don’t bother to wear a poppy.”  The implication is quite clear. Leavers claim to honour the victims of war but are opposed to the very organisations which were set up to prevent war.

The Independent seems to have established an annual tradition of bashing Brexiteers around the time of Remembrance Day. Last year’s variation on the same theme by Robert Fisk was even worse. “The Entente Cordiale which sent my father to France is now trash beneath the high heels of Theresa May – yet this wretched woman dares to wear a poppy“, he wrote.

Barry Shearman, a Labour MP who has proved a bit of a troublesome individual over some recent Brexit votes, has brought out another odious side to the remainiacs. He recently claimed that “‘The truth is that when you look at who voted to remain, most of them were the better educated people in our country.” There is a very simple reply to this:- such a predominance of remain votes among university students is a damning indictment of our education system. Those who leave school at 18 are spared three years’ additional propaganda on top of the brainwashing they had already received at school and are thus more capable of independent thought.  The Russell Group of Universities, once regarded as the leading further education institutions in the UK, is now among the worst when it comes to restricting freedom of speech, being plagued by no-platforming, safe space policies and many of the other forms of madness which are producing a generation of young people unfit to run a whelk stall, let alone the country.  Thank goodness they won’t have to face the task of leaving the EU.  They would be totally out of their depth. The current government, all educated before this nonsense ruined so many good universities, is making heavy enough weather of Brexit.

And there is no doubt that they will continue to face challenges, as this piece on the likely challenges to the EU (withdrawal) Bill warns us.  However, I would like to make one point which needs to be made in the light of the many concerns I receive that a government led by erstwhile remainers will never deliver Brexit:- some of them have had second thoughts. These include Liz Truss, who said that the turning point for her was when the Treasury’s ‘dire’ predictions of life after the vote failed to materialise. William Hague, hasn’t had quite such a volte-face but said that if a second referendum was held, he would be more likely to vote leave because “you can’t keep changing your mind.”

In reality, while the majority of Tory MPs backed remain, the number of hard-core Remainiacs is actually quite small. There has been much debate about the degree to which Theresa May supported staying in the EU in last year’s campaign, but it is quite clear that the answer was “Not enough for David Cameron” as her contribution to the remain cause was very limited and only took place after quite considerable pressure, earning her the nickname “Submarine May”. After John Major’s bruising battle with the Maastricht rebels in 1992, the party desperately tried to avoid “banging on about Europe” with the resultant internal wrangling which inevitably would ensue. This meant that, especially since David Cameron became party leader in 2005, attempts were made to push the EU issue as much into the background as possible and outright withdrawalism was discouraged.

In the end, Cameron was unable to maintain this uneasy status quo. He conceded the referendum and the rest is history. His successor and her ministers are having to live with his legacy.  It now matters little which side members of her government took in the referendum. The very survival of the Conservative party depends on delivering a successful Brexit. They must sink or swim together.

What to tell your grandchildren

The depths to which the remainiacs are descending is simply staggering. A recent article in The Times to which one of our supporters drew our attention shines the spotlight on a murky group fronted by, among others, the Labour peer Lord Adonis. It will be targeting young people, urging them to tell their grandparents that if they care about their grandchildren, they should reconsider their support for leaving the EU. In other words, they are trying to ferment inter-generational conflict to further their miserable hopes of stopping Brexit.

This “Ring your granny” strategy has a very dubious past. It was apparently used  to build support for same-sex marriage in Ireland.  One of the other promoters is a crackpot by the name of Madeleina Kay, who managed to get herself thrown out of  a Brussels press conference for wearing a superwoman costume! One report claims that her blog features pictures of her posing with pro-EU pond life such as Bob Geldof, Eddie Izzard, and Nick Clegg. Enough said.

Let us be clear:- there are people who either supported Brexit or else who have accepted the result of last year’s referendum who are genuinely concerned about the lack of progress with the negotiations so far. They are worried that a no-deal scenario would be far more damaging than we are being led to believe. The leading figures of this new campaign, however, have a totally different viewpoint. They want us to stay in the EU. They were convinced that Article 50 would never be triggered; when it was, they hoped that  the government would get cold feet and back out. Now reality has dawned that we really are leaving, nothing, it seems, will dissuade them from using every means, fair or foul, to frustrate the democratic result of last year’s referendum.

So, Grannies and Grandpas of this world, what should you do if you receive a phone call from a worried teenage grandchild? Here are a few suggestions:-

  1. Tell them that they should be grateful that the boil has finally been lanced and that over 40 years of our unhappy relationship with Brussels will finally come to an end, meaning that this problem won’t be bequeathed to their generation to sort out.
  2. Tell them that they will be the main beneficiaries. Yes, it may be tough for a year to two before things settle down, but within a generation, free to rebalance our trade with the growing economies of Asia and the Commonwealth rather than the sclerotic EU and free to set our own taxes and tariffs,  we will become more prosperous than if we had stayed in.
  3. Tell them that you can remember the days when we were an independent sovereign country and not only did we manage very well, it was actually better to be ruled by democratically-elected people from our own country than by unelected bureaucrats  in Brussels. Suggest that they stop being myopic and look beyond Europe to Australasia, America and Asia where successful nation states are the norm – and are flourishing. The Brexit vote, in other words, was a vote to re-join normality.
  4. Tell them of our deep love from freedom; how Magna Carta and our Common Law legal system have given us safeguards which are absent even now on much of the continent where Napoleonic inquisitorial legal systems reign supreme. Point out that we would have lost all this before they reached middle age if we had remained in the EU.
  5. Tell them that they will still be able to travel and study abroad. No one is suggesting putting up some sort of drawbridge nor is there any reason why we can’t stay part of the Erasmus scheme.
  6. Tell them that by being able to restrict immigration, it will make life a bit easier for them (albeit only slightly) by removing a little pressure from the housing market and thus helping them to buy their own home.
  7. Tell them to ignore the miserable self-flagellants who are always talking our country down. Remind them of the many events and people from our long history of which we can be proud. Maybe some of them have only been taught tosh in history classes, so a bit of education may be needed here, but what of our great military heroes like Drake, Blake, Nelson and Wellington? Inventors like James Watt, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, John Logie Baird and Tim Berners-Lee? Tell them of Wilberforce and the campaign to eradicate slavery; of Churchill and how we stood alone against Hitler in 1940; of David Livingstone, the great missionary and explorer. The list is endless.
  8. Finally, tell them that you are not going to be around for ever and that one day their generation will have to take over. Warn them that if they continue swallowing all this nonsense from remainiacs, they won’t be fit to run a whelk stall, let alone the country!

The OECD Is making the same mistake as our negotiating team

According to Angel Gurria (above) of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, we should hold  a fresh referendum to stay in the EU as this would be ‘positive’ for the UK economy.  The OECD published its report as speculation mounts that Theresa May will shortly pull the plug on the Brexit talks. She is most definitely being encouraged to do so by a number of her MPs.

In response, Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, quickly made it plain that a second referendum was not going to happen and a number of Brexit-supporting Tory MPs expressed their indignation at the OECD’s intervention, pointing out that it had consistently underestimated the UK’s economic performance since last June’s vote.  Leaving the EU without a deal, however, is a different kettle of fish. There are sharply differing opinions among Brexit supporters about the probable consequences, ranging from predictions of a decade-long recession to a conviction that leaving under so-called WTO rules would bring economic benefit.

We will find out who is right in less than 18 months, but even if the OECD’s gloom proves correct, in urging us to halt Brexit, it is guilty of making the same mistake as our negotiating team – viewing the EU as an economic project whereas it is predominantly a political project.

What swung it for the leave campaign was not money but sovereignty. The message on the red battlebus about funding the NHS was a red herring. We wanted to regain control of our country from a foreign power and to escape from a political project for which few of those who understood its true nature had any enthusiasm. This is why we voted to leave and the EU’s subsequent push towards closer union, as evidenced by Jean-Claude Juncker’s recent “State of the Union” speech, has been a vindication of that decision.

Elsewhere on this blog, I have compared Brexit to a cancer operation. It will be painful at the time and a period of convalescence  may be required afterwards, but leaving the condition untreated would be far worse – it will inevitably lead to death.

Therefore, even if we are less well off in the immediate post-Brexit period, than we might have otherwise been, it is a price worth paying. It seems that the majority of Brexit voters agree. We could draw parallels with 1939. We would have been much better off to declare our neutrality alongside Sweden and Switzerland if our relationship with Hitler’s régime had been judged in purely economic terms at that time.  That was not the course we chose to take and after all these years, most people still feel that we made the right decision to address the evil of German expansionism.

In the long term, I have little doubt that if Brexit is managed successfully, there will be economic benefit. It will be far easier from outside the EU to reorientate the focus of our trade from the sclerotic economies of Europe to more rapidly growing countries in Asia. Our fishing industry will revive and we can do more to nudge global trade away from protectionism when we regain our seat on bodies like the WTO rather than have someone from the EU speak on our behalf.

The short term is another matter, however. A short blip for which we can prepare (and from which we should recover within a year or so) – which is the most likely outcome of a smooth Brexit allowing us a reasonable degree of access to the EU’s single market – shouldn’t cause a recession nor generate any serious political ripples. A badly botched Brexit would be another matter. Substantial job losses, food shortages and a sharp spike in inflation cannot be ruled out.

To return to the cancer operation analogy, yes, we have to go through with it. The sheer complexity of the issues already discussed in the Brexit talks highlights the amount of sovereignty which has already been eaten away by the EU.  Given that this is such pioneering surgery, however, it would be good to be assured that the best possible team of surgeons are in charge. As the halfway point between the vote to leave and Brexit day looms on 9th November, some of us have yet to be convinced that this is the case.

 

 

Photo by Chatham House, London