The man responsible for last week’s drama has gone AWOL

Gina Miller may count herself lucky to have escaped being burnt in effigy at the traditional Lewes bonfire celebrations on 5th November, but, along with Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and Donald Trump, an image of David Cameron, the man responsible for last week’s High Court ruling and its hysterical aftermath was duly consigned to the flames – and rightly so.

It is Cameron we must thank for the Supreme Court now having to determine whether Parliament needs to be consulted over the triggering of Article 50. There was never any doubt about the Scottish independence referendum. Cameron made it clear months before the vote was held that the result would be “decisive, legal, fair, irreversible and binding” and while Nicola Sturgeon is seeking to hold a second independence referendum at some point in the future, no one has sought to challenge the result of 2014’s poll.

Cameron seemed pretty confident the was going to win the EU referendum vote until the final hours before the result was announced, so why was this same clarity not built into the EU referendum bill?  Some people are now claiming that the vote was only advisory although a strong body of legal opinion insists otherwise and that the bill mandated the electorate to make the final decision.  There should never have been this ambiguity. During the campaign, it certainly didn’t feel like we were battling for an outcome that was only advisory. It felt more like a fight to the death which, thankfully, we won.

To prove the point, the Government’s infamous leaflet stated “It’s your opportunity to decide if the UK remains in the European Union” and added “This is your decision. The government will implement what you decide.” On May 17th, just over a month before polling day, David Cameron said, “I am absolutely clear a referendum is a referendum, it’s a once in a generation, once in a lifetime opportunity and the result determines the outcome.” Your author heard the Rt Hon Dominic Grieve MP state quite unequivocally in Marlow, Buckinghamshire on 6th May that if we voted to leave the EU, David Cameron would trigger Article 50 the following day.

This statement came as somethng of a surprise given the Government’s lack of analysis on how we would leave. A clip has recently been posted to the internet where David Cameron was asked if he would trigger Article 50 on 28th June, and he replied “yes, of course, absolutely.” Such statements don’t leave much room for doubt.

Of course, this isn’t what happened. Mr Cameron resigned and has since left the House of Commons. In other words, he has gone AWOL leaving Theresa May to sort out the mess he left behind, aided, it now seems, by the Supreme Court, who will be deciding next month what will be the role of Parliament in triggering Article 50. We can but hope that the Government will be vindicated.

Mrs May appears confident that this will be the case, ringing Jean-Claude Juncker, Donald Tusk and Angela Merkel the same day that the judges reached their verdict, to tell them that Brexit will go ahead as planned. Nonetheless, this widely-reported reassurance was not sufficient to dissipate an outpouring of anger against the three judges responsible for last Thursday’s verdict and Gina Miller, who brought the action. Mr Cameron’s culpability has largely been overlooked, so completely has his disappearing act removed him from public consciousness.

Now the dust has settled, one thing is clear:- last Thursday’s High Court ruling stops a long way short of derailing Brexit.

To reiterate an important point, the High Court ruling is not the last word. It still remains highly likely that the Supreme Court will reverse the decision. Mrs May may know something we don’t, but even if the government loses this case too, she still seems to have a few cards up her sleeve.

Part of the anger vented against Gina Miller and the judges is borne out of an intense distrust of our MPs and a feeling that they will betray the people and fail to respect the outcome of June’s vote. While it is true that the majority of MPs  supported remain and a few remainers,  such as Daniel Zeichner, the Labour MP for Cambridge, insist they will vote aganst triggering Article 50 because the majority of their consitutents voted to remain in the EU,  most MPs have accepted the result of the referendum. This is the feedback we have received from both Labour and Conservative sources.

No doubt the above paragraph will elicit a number of comments along the lines of how gullible can one be to believe these so-and-sos, but Brexit has provided a rude awakening for many Labour MPs representing traditional working class areas. It has exposed the huge gulf separating their constituents from the party which once claimed to represent their interests. For this reason, the parliamentary battle has largely shifted from whether or not the Brexit vote should be honoured to ensuring we get the best possible Brexit deal, with the debate focussed in particular on the Single Market. Labour MPs from Brexit-supporting constituencies in particular have faced up to the futility of opposing Brexit.

Of course, Parliament has two chambers and the House of Lords can amend legislation. With the upper chamber being stuffed full of europhiles, press speculation has centred around the possibility of their Lordships wanting a second referendum whereby the public will be consulted once again when the final Article 50 agreement is ready to be signed.

Of course, the Government can simply ignore the Lords’ amendments. David Cameron threatened to use the Parliament Act when they threw out an earlier bill for a referendum in 2014. Mrs May could invoke similar measures to overrule the Upper Chamber here too, especially as her statements have been quite unequivocal:- there will be no second referendum.

Given the sheer exhaustion participants on both sides of the referendum debate felt after June 23rd, we can be quite confident that there is little appetite to go through this gruelling exercise again. Opinion polls consistently show a majority against a second referendum among the electorate too. Let us, however, take a worst case scenario – and it is both the very worst case and very unlikely – if another referendum were to be called, we would be much better placed to win a second time round.

Firstly, we would have the government on our side. Although Mr Cameron’s performance was not seen as an asset to the remain camp, he certainly pulled all the levers at his disposal to encourage us to remain. Leavers were definitely the underdogs, yet we still won.

Secondly, he played on the disunity within the Leave community, including the lack of a coherent exit strategy. This time round, leavers will be defending an exit strategy produced by the government and containing plenty of detail. It may not be the preferred exit strategy of the entire Brexit-supporting community, but with Mrs May insisting thatOur laws will be made not in Brussels but in Westminster”, “We will decide for ourselves how we control immigration” and “I want it to give British companies the maximum freedom to trade with and operate in the Single Market – and let European businesses do the same here”, it is  quite clear that the final arrangement will see us leave the political project which is the EU. It may be only a holding position, but the main thing is getting out and this is what she intends to do.  It is far easier to work out how we can make Brexit “harder” at a later date than to make our initial escape seamlessly. All Brexiteers can surely unite around this concept.

Thirdly, although many local leave groups have disbanded, the contacts have been made and the groups could easily be reactivated if needed. Last week, I visited one leave group in Kent which has continued to meet and was in no doubt that its members would roll up their sleeves and spring enthusiastically into action if they were called upon to campaign for Brexit meaning Brexit.

Fourthly, the goalposts have moved. Many remainers who insisted that the economy would collapse if we left the EU have changed tack to saying it would collapse if we left the Single Market. In other words, they have inadvertantly conceded that life outside the EU but within the Single Market wouldn’t be so bad after all in certain circumstances. If Mrs May’s deal gives us access to the single market, as we strongly believe that it will, it will be very hard for these erstwhile remainers to row back and reactivate Project Fear.

Finally, the longer the campaign, the more people who will be made aware of the shortcomings of the EU. This is why Cameron decided to cut and run rather than go for a long campaign with an Autumn 2017 ballot. It was slow, back-breaking work to move undecided voters our way and time was not on our side, but in dribs and drabs, between us we changed many minds. The tide definitely moved in our direction as the campaign progressed. I have since discovered a few people in my circle of friends who voted remain but who, I am sure, could have been won over if there had been more time. If we were forced by their Lordships into holding a second referendum at the end of the Article 50 process, we would have two years to put the issue beyond dispute and I have no doubt that we would.

What is more, the EU seems to share that opinion. Unlike the Danish rejection of Maastricht or the Irish vote against the Lisbon Treaty, there are no pressures coming from Brussels for a second referendum. Right from the moment when the result was announced, the principal concern of the EU hierarchy was to prevent contagion.

Some, no doubt, will be glad to see the back of the country which has been the biggest foot-dragger in the EU since the 1970s, but even those who regret our departure seem resigned to its inevitability. At the last meeting of the EU Council, Mrs May was made to feel like an outsider. When she insisted that the UK would play a full role until the moment of Brexit, she was met with silence.  She was given only five minutes to talk about her position on Brexit and one  government spokesman summarised her experience of the Council meeting as “a very odd position…very different…from the one Cameron or Brown or Blair or Major had … She is on her way out and we are on our way out.”

In summary, it is vital not to let last Thursday’s court ruling unduly depress our spirits. Most people on both sides of the channel whose opinions count believe we are on the way out,  come what may. It therefore probably won’t be necessary for us to fight another Brexit referendum, but in this worst case scenario, even our fiercest enemies know that there will be many groups up and down the country like the one in Kent I visited last week who will once again rise to the summons that “England expects every man to do his duty”.

 

Remainiacs have moved their goalposts!

While the official Leave campaign faced much flak – both during and after the campaign – for giving misleading information, the Remain campaign was no better.

This scathing article exposes their hypocrisy. The author compares current statements from hard-core remainers with the things they were saying during the campaign.  The cusp of the author’s argument is that  Open Britain, which is what the failed Britain Stronger in Europe has now become, is arguing that leaving the Single Market would be a disaster. A few months ago, on the other hand, they were saying that leaving the EU would be a disaster. In other words, adopting the exit strategy they are now throwing their weight behind, would mean there need not be any economic damage from withdrawal. This isn’t what they were saying in the run up to June 23rd.  To quote:-

For top Remainers the EU referendum was never about economics. It was about their craven desire to live in an amorphous internationalist blob where the nation state is fatally undermined and the strongest level of government and identity reforms at the European level. That’s what they wanted but couldn’t say in public. And so instead they falsely equated the EU with the single market in an attempt to scare low information voters and assorted unthinking lefties that voting for Brexit inherently meant economic doom.”

We must be thankful that most remainers, including Labour MPs, have accepted the result of June’s vote but it would be very good news if they were prepared to admit that they were at the time deliberately diverting attention away from the EEA/EFTA option which they are now ardently embracing. From David Cameron downwards, they all knew that this exit route would take us out of the political union, preserve our trade links and – most importantly – be a far more popular option than continued EU membership.

Furthermore, this implicit admission shoots dead any idea of a second referendum. If erstwhile hard-core remainers are admitting that the EEA/EFTA  exit route really isn’t too bad, they would be laughed out of town if they tried to crank up Project Fear again. Thankfully, the goalposts have moved; the debate is no longer about in or out, but rather about the best route out. For this, we must be thankful.

Photo by grassrootsgroundswell

An outbreak of reality hits Labour while Mrs May’s europhile credentials are further questioned

We are hoping to offer you some informed comment about the implication of Jeremy Corbyn’s re-election in the coming days. In the meantime, however, it is encouraging to know that an outbreak of reality regarding the EU referendum has hit a number of Labour MPs.

As most readers will be aware, Labour Brexiteer MPs were very few in number. CIB’s patron Kate Hoey, who addressed our annual rally back in May, had little company on the opposition benches. However, it was Mr Corbyn’s lukewarm support for the EU during the referendum which provided the trigger for his critics to launch their leadership challenge, with his rival Owen Smith promising a second referendum if he ever became Prime Minister.

Now the dust has settled on the leadership vote, a more sober note is being sounded. In particular, Ed Miliband, the former Labour leader, warned the party at its annual conference that it must not become “the party of the 48%” – i.e., solely the voice of those who voted to remain. Chuka Umunna, the former Shadow Business Secretary, struck a similar note, saying it would be “an incredibly patronising way” to treat those voters who voted to leave the EU.

While Miliband was heckled by a German national in the audience, who said she felt betrayed by the party’s opposition to a second referendum, her concerns will carry less weight among many Labour MPs than those of their constituents. Some of the highest Brexit votes came from traditionally Labour-supporting areas. In Doncaster, which includes Miliband’s constituency, over two-thirds of those who voted supported Brexit. Hartlepool, which once boasted Peter Mandelson as its MP, voted even more strongly to leave.

A survey by YouGov found that over half of Labour voters who supported the party in last year’s General Election but who subsequently supported leave would not currently vote for Labour. The party is clearly facing a challenge to reconnect with its traditional voter base.

This website is not the appropriate place on while to dissect the troubles which the Labour party is currently facing. Furthermore, the reasons for Labour voters’ disillusion with the EU have been endlessly debated elsewhere. We will say, however, that with Conservative MPs having already come together in recognising the Brexit vote (even if they are still far from united on any sort of leave strategy), it is good to see Labour MPs following suit.

There still remain a few incorrigibles, including  Lib Dem leader Tim Farron,  who pledged that his party would fight for a second referendum and Craig Oliver, Cameron’s former spin doctor who has recently published a new book  described by the columnist Dominic Lawson as a “cry of rage from an ousted establishment.” Not only does it savage Michael Gove and Boris Johnson but it also attacks the only serious  challenger to Jeremy Corbyn for the title of most unenthusiastic high-profile remainer – Theresa May.

Mr Oliver informs us that Mrs May had to be bullied by Cameron into endorsing the campaign to remain in the EU. When she did make a rather lukewarm speech, Oliver noted that “she isn’t fully signed up.” The very fact that this speech, which did include a claim that “the sky would not fall” in the event of Brexit, seemed to have kept off most people’s radars indicates just how little impact she made on the remain campaign.

Mr Oliver is therefore pretty scathing about her. For those of us willing her to make the best possible success of Brexit, however, it is very encouraging, as it shows that she was even less enthusiastic about the EU than we were hitherto led to believe.

Photo by RiotsPanel

Meet the whingers!

As we reported last week, at grassroots level,  most people, whatever position they took in the referendum debate, have been sufficiently grown-up to accept the result and get on with life.  A You Gov poll published on Friday provides some hard statistics to back this up:-  69% of people believe the result of the EU referendum should be respected, with only 22% thinking it should be overturned. Similarly, only 34% of people thought a second EU referendum would be acceptable while 56% said it would not.

There remain, regrettably, a few outposts of childishness – sulky remainers who still cannot bring themselves to accept the result.  Lloyd Evans, writing in the Spectator, came across some of them at the Edinburgh Fringe.  Apparently support for remain among the arts world stood at 96%. Only one comedian cracked a pro-Brexit joke. Other comedians did their best to lighten their spirits with a bit of humour, such as  Andy Zaltzman, who claimed that  ‘Jeremy Corbyn campaigned for Remain with all the ferocity of a cornered blancmange’ but then went on to talk about who was to “blame” for the result.

As the article points out, one reason for the anger of these arty-types is that they have been heavily reliant on the EU for their funding. “Quitting the union means withdrawing from a little-known body, Creative Europe, which has astronomical sums to splurge around. Between 2014 and 2020 it intends to disburse a total of €1.46 billion to successful applicants“.

One has to ask, what has got into these people, moaning about not being able to go over to a foreign country with a begging bowl to demand the crumbs that fall from their table. Surely citizens of our great nation should have a bit more self-respect?

And it’s not just a few throughly spoilt arty types. The left of centre blogger Jon Worth who calls himself “an EU policy specialist by background” refuses to “Embrace it, make a success of it and shut up and move on.” Instead he writes, “If the Conservatives got into power and starting privatising something I didn’t like, what would I do? I’d come up with every possible way to stop it happening – using parliamentary means, legal means, protest means, trying to get press coverage. Until the law is passed, the thing actually happens, you do not give up. I see no reason why it should not be the same with the EU referendum.” he further states that he does not believe that Brexit will happen.

“Keep making your case and don’t apologise” he adds. “Find legal routes, use political parties and parliamentary means to oppose Brexit.” in other words, don’t accept the democratic will of the people  – an historical result achieved against overwhelming odds.  What a contrast to the attitude of the losing side after the 1975 referendum, which was simply “The people have spoken” .

Dear Reader, I expect by now your blood must be boiling, but before I sign off, let me introduce one more whinger for the collection: the Russian-born economist Anatole Kaletsky. Writing in the Guardian, he claims that “over time, with help from Brussels, public opinion will shift”.  His reasoning is simple – the referendum vote cannot hold back the tide of globalisation.  There are major flaws in his arguments, however. Increasing grobal trade is not causing other nations in other continents to construct federal superstates and pool their sovereignty.   ASEAN, NAFTA and, yes, EFTA  are trading blocs, nothing more.

The idea that the UK can secure “additional reforms” and then we’ll all be happy with EU membership is absolute rot.  Kaletsky’s proposal is essentially for the EU to play hardball  – offering no special deal. This will force the UK back to the negotiating table and, in exchange for a few minor concessions, the electorate would somehow see that EU membership is a good thing.

This argument falls down primarily because the referendum  was won by the Leavers in spite of considerable confusion about the bext exit strategy.  The only reform acceptable to most leavers would involve the complete dismantling of the EU institutions, the end of its political ambitions and its shrinkage to a mere free trade organisation. Some hope!

In addition, Kaletsky indulges in consderable speculation regarding which exit routes the Government has chosen. We know that much time is being spent behind the scenes evaluating the various options. Mrs May, to her credit, seems to be keen to ensure that a thorough plan is devised before  Article 50 is invoked.

In summary, for all the pitiful whinging of these incorrigible remainers, we are confident that the UK WILL exit the EU and that process will begin with Article 50 being invoked during 2017. Last Friday, Bloomberg suggested that Mrs May was going to set things moving by April at the latest. The waiting is frustrating, but there is nothing we can about it, except remain vigilant. Remainers cannot and will not be allowed to snatch defeat from the jaws of our great victory.

 

Photo by antigallery

Brexit – media muddle and rubbish galore

At first glance, headlines in a number of papers proclaiming “No Brexit until late 2019” sound thoroughly depressing. Has some new hold-up to triggering Article 50 suddenly appeared on the horizon? Not at all. In spite of a spat between Boris Johnson and Liam Fox over whether the Department for International Trade or the Foreign & Commonwealth Office will head up UK foreign policy, Theresa May has insisted that  it is full steam ahead in the preparation for invoking Article 50 early next year and has told the two men to “stop playing games.”

If her plans go according to schedule, the two-year negotiation period would take us to early 2019. Factor in even a short delay in preparing the ground or a mutually-agreed extension to the negotiations and we will find ourselves in the second half of 2019 without having gone through the Brexit door.  With France and Germany both holding major elections in 2017,  it is quite likely that there will need need to be an extension even before the complexities of negotiating a succesful divorce are taken into account. A change of incumbent or government could result in previously-agreed changes having to be revisited if the leadership in either of those countries change – a distinct possibility in France, where President Hollande’s popularity ratings are very low.

Is business going to suffer as a result of June 23rd’s vote?  Well before the referendum, we predicted a short-term blip in the event of a Brexit vote, particularly a drop in the value of sterling. We pointed out that the economic gains were fore the longer term. House prices have fallen in the wake of Brexit, dropping by 2.6% in London and 2% in the South East. Is this a calamity? Ask any first-time buyer about the absurd prices they are having to pay to get onto the housing ladder and you will not hear any sadness on their part.  Another report claimed that businesses had become “pessimistic” as a result of the Brexit vote. Read the article in full, however, and it states that 36%  of companies are planning to increase staffing levels now compared with 40% before the referendum. A slight fall in optimism, but hardly evidence of widespread business gloom.

It is frustrating that some remainers still seem unable to accept that we voted to leave – and with good reason. Avinash Persaud, writing in the Economic and Political Weekly highlights the supposed correlation between voting to leave and lower educational qualification. Those of us with degrees who voted to leave are becoming utterly sick of being characterised as ignoramuses. If anything, the number of graduates who voted for remain is an indication of the woeful inadequacy of our educational system as opposed to any correlation between intelligence and support for the EU.

Mr Persaud, like many other commentators, also links support for Brexit to disenchantment with free trade and the reforms that began under Margaret Thatcher. This again is simplistic twaddle. During the course of the Brexit campaign, one of the most frequently repeated advantages of Brexit was the prospect of beginning to take control of our own trade and escaping the protectionism of the EU. I  for one was accused in one debate by my pro-EU opponent of advocating “Singapore on steroids”.

While the Brexit vote was strong in white working classes areas, the wonderful result on June 23rd was achieved by their alliance with frustrated small businessmen, some trade unionists, a few Labour MPs, a few more Tory MPs and a selection of educated professional types unhappy with the loss of our sovereignty, control of our trade and the top-down nature of the EU.

Of these unlikely bedfellows, the most uniquely British component is the strongly Eurosceptic centre right – one of the legacies of Thatcherism.  Peter Mandelson’s claim that Jeremy Corbyn somehow sabotaged the remain vote  just does not stand up to scrutiny.  Undecided centre-right voters were never going to be  won over by a Labour politician, whether Blairite of Corbynite. Somehow, Mandelson and his ilk still seem unable to come to terms with the fact that plenty of highly educated intelligent people studied the arguments on both sides of the debate and decided that we would be better off out.

Nor, sadly, are they giving up in their attempts to overrule the will  of the people. The European Movement, which was a recipient of substantial CIA funding in the past, is organising a  “March for Europe” on 3rd September. “We need to send a message that 16 million people voted to remain” says their propaganda. Well, we have a message for the European Movement:- over 17 million people voted to leave and we won. That’s called democracy.

Lord Stoddart, a patron and former Chairman of CIB,  recently issued a stark warning to Lord Mandelson and other  Europhile members of the Upper Chamber:-

“My colleagues in the Lords would do well to remember that the Brexit vote was the largest vote for anything in the history of our nation.  According to a study by the University of East Anglia, had Vote Leave been a political party, it would have won a huge landslide of 421 Parliamentary seats.  That would equate to 65% of all seats and 73% of seats in England and Wales.  Mess with this massive mandate at your peril!”

Photo by Brian Smithson (Old Geordie)

David Cameron: what changed him from Eurosceptic to Europhile?

A letter from Dave Barnby to the Witney Gazette, which covers the bulk of David Cameron’s Oxfordshire constituency

I had asked David Cameron, through the Witney Gazette letters page, a couple of time this year what prompted him to change from Eurosceptic to Europhile (an unusual direction of travel) after being selected as PPC for Witney in March 2000.

Was it because:

a) he had had a genuine change of heart (in which case he should have been willing to explain)?

b) it was a the price he was willing and had to pay for promotion up the greasy pole?

or

c) He never meant what he said when he exchange emails with Dr Sean Gabb in 2000.

There was never a response in the paper.

The Banbury Guardian (which has a circulation including Witney) has asked the same question this week but Cameron, through both his local office and N0 10, has declined to respond once again.

Well it’s academic now, but I would like to know how politicians move from ‘eurosceptics’ to ‘EUphiles’ bucking the normal trend. It’s an important question because it leads to the question of how we can ensure that our elected representatives stick to the beliefs they’d presented to the electorate (Dr Sean Gabb had taken made great efforts to try and lock candidates in to what they had written).

After all we have to obey the laws these people make and it’s nice to know what they are going to do to us when we contemplate voting for them, it’s called democracy.

Dave Barnby