The vision of the “Leave” campaign in a nutshell

This comment was posted by Dr Richard North in reply to an earlier comment on his blog post, “A fog of incomprehension“.  Written originally by Niall Warry and CIB’s Vice Chairman Anthony Scholefield, it represents a superbly succinct summary of our vision for an independent UK. This, in a nutshell, is what we’re about:-

Our vision is for a United Kingdom as a self-governing, self-confident, free trading nation state, releasing the potential of its citizens through direct democratic control of both national and local government and providing maximum freedom and responsibility for its people.

The history of Britain for a thousand years has been as a merchant and maritime power playing its full role in European and world affairs while living under its own laws. It is our view that the UK can flourish again as an independent state trading both with our friends in the EU and the rest of Europe, while developing other relationships throughout the world as trading patterns evolve.

For an age, the United Kingdom has freely engaged as an independent country in alliances and treaties with other countries. It has a long history of entering into commercial agreements and conventions at an inter-governmental level.

We wish to uphold that tradition. The ability of the people of the United Kingdom to determine their own independent future and use their wealth of executive, legislative and judicial experience to help, inspire and shape political developments through international bodies, and to improve world trade and the wellbeing of all peoples will only be possible when they are free of the undemocratic and moribund European Union.

The prosperity of the people depends on being able to exercise the fundamental right and necessity of self-determination, thus taking control of their opportunities and destiny in an inter-governmental global future with the ability to swiftly correct and improve when errors occur.

Within the United Kingdom, our vision is for a government respectful of its people who will take on greater participation and control of their affairs at local and national level. Our vision fosters the responsibility of a sovereign people as the core of true democracy.

Ten answers to ten questions

The “Remain” camp will be seeking to probe all the “leave” campaigns and to pick holes in thier strategies. However, there is only a finite number of questions they can ask. British Influence has probably covered most of them in a recent 10-point challenge to us all. Here, below are their questions  with replies from Dr Richard North, which show that a well-thought-out leave strategy is on the one hand essential, but on the other, fully able to address our enemies’ challenges.

1. What would the Eurosceptic ideal arrangement between the UK and the EU look like and how realistic is it possible to achieve?

There is no ideal arrangement. We have never pretended that there was one, and it is facile even to suggest that there should be one. Essentially, after nine treaties and more than 40 years of political and economic integration, there can be no optimum or “ideal” mechanism for leaving the EU.

Nor is it possible or even advisable to specify precisely which arrangement might be best or most realistic for the circumstances, when the outcome depends on negotiations between parties. We thus suggest a series of options in our Flexcit plan, any one of which, if adopted, will permit a trouble-free exit as part of an overall process which involves six measured steps to freedom.

The real issue then is whether it is possible to develop a good working relationship with the EU once we have left it. The answer to that is an unequivocal yes, with every reason to believe that this would be beneficial to the UK and EU member states.

2. Every successful arrangement with the EU to allow countries outside of it access to the Single Market has included freedom of movement – how would we arrange access to the Single Market without agreeing to freedom of movement?

Under the options available to us, we would compromise on freedom of movement for the purposes of retaining access to the Single Market, pending a longer-term resolution. We recognise that Brexit is a process rather than an event, and the immediate goal of leaving the EU is best served by the continued adoption of freedom of movement, to allow for a staged exit.

In the interim, we would take such measure as are permitted under current agreements to restrict migrant flows, by administrative and other means. This would include dealing with non-EU measures which permit or facilitate third-country immigration.

3. Article 50 stipulates a two-year timeline for exiting the EU. However, the Swiss deal with the EU took almost ten years to agree. How would we avoid any post-Brexit arrangement taking as long as the Swiss deal did?

We do not endorse the “Swiss option”. The reason we propose the EFTA/EEA (“Norway”) option is that it is a well-established off-the-shelf option and the best for a rapid exit, within the two-year Article 50 period.

Should the Norway option not be accessible, there are other off-the-shelf options available, allowing considerable negotiating flexibility. There are no good reasons, therefore, why negotiations should not be completed within the two-year period.

4. Won’t the commercial interests of the remaining EU countries take precedence for them over giving Britain “a good deal” post-Brexit?

Article 50 prescribes that Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with the departing State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union. International law and the rules of the Union require that the negotiation shall be carried out in good faith.

Within the framework of the negotiation, we are conscious that the legitimate concerns and needs of all parties must be respected. We also understand that the Union cannot, for its own purposes, offer the UK a better deal that it could secure through membership of the EU. Our plan, therefore, sets realistic objectives and ones which do not prejudice the survival of the EU or the commercial interests of its members.

5. Won’t the two-year (at minimum) period post-Brexit period see Parliament completely tied up in renegotiation with the EU to the detriment of all other legislation?

The Article 50 negotiation is a matter between the European Council, with the European Commission, and the Member State government. Parliament is not directly involved in the negotiation.

We would expect Parliament to approve the Government’s negotiating mandate, and to be informed as to its progress. There would also be some merit in the Houses establishing a joint, cross-party select committee to review and advise on the negotiations, and to report occasionally to both Houses. Any final agreement would also require the approval of both Houses, and possibly a referendum, which would also have to be authorised by Parliament.

The burden thus imposed, in total, would not be substantial and would be well within the capability of Parliament to accommodate without the allocation of any further resources.

Further, as a point of information, the UK would not formally leave the EU until the negotiation had been concluded, or the two-year period expired.

6. Without the weight of the Single Market behind us, how will Britain avoid being in a poor bargaining position with countries like China, should they wish to come to the bargaining table in the first place?

As regards existing trade deals, the UK will be in no worse position outside the EU than it will be in. It can rely on the legal assumption of continuity to ensure that it will continue to trade with third countries on the same basis as it did before it left.

As to trade generally, the “big bang” trade deals such as TTIP belong with the dinosaurs. They are expensive and time-consuming to negotiate and rarely deliver the benefits they claim.

The greatest growth in international trade is being achieved through innovative, flexible agreements such as the Partial Scope Agreements – and their equivalents which deal with technical barriers to trade – plus “unbundled” sector- and product-specific agreements, cast on a regional or global basis, without geographical anchorage.

The UK, freed from the encumbrance of the EU and the need to work within the constraints of 28-member “common positions” will be better able to partake in these innovative mechanisms, and improve its trading position far beyond that afforded by old-fashioned trade deals.

It would also be in a better position to broker deals between non-state actors, where growth potential is high, without being held back by the lethargic bureaucratic procedures of the EU.

7. How could voters be persuaded that the more radical alternatives to EU membership wouldn’t bring radical economic and political change with it that would disadvantage them?

Political realities suggest that the more radical alternatives would not arise. In our plan there are various fallback positions, some of which are sub-optimal for the time being, but hardly radical.

In any event, post-exit we will see the restoration of democratic controls over the legislative and treaty approval process. We expect Parliament to resume its historical function of reflecting the will of the people, and thus ensuring that undesirable and unasked-for changes are avoided – unlike at present, where the will of the people can be overturned by the undemocratic institutions of the European Union.

We do, however, recognise that there are weaknesses to our democratic system – in addition to those brought about by our membership of the EU – and thus propose as part of our exit plan reforms which will strengthen democratic control, and thereby better ensure that the wishes of the people are respected.

8. Are those who wish Britain to leave the EU proposing open borders – or even significantly relaxed visa restrictions – with all Commonwealth countries, including some developing countries with massive populations, and in some cases large scale internal political problems, such as India, Pakistan and Nigeria?

In our plan, we do not propose open borders – or even significantly relax visa restrictions – with any Commonwealth or any other third country. We would, however, seek to include mutually beneficial visa arrangements in any new trade deals, over which we would retain total control.

9. During the two-year negotiation period that starts with the triggering of Article 50 post-referendum, wouldn’t there be a large incentive for an unprecedented amount of EU citizens to emigrate to the UK while it was still legally possible?

Since our plan retains freedom of movement provisions, there would be no need for any citizen of any other EU Member State to make any special arrangements in seeking residential status in the UK as their rights and responsibilities will be largely unaffected by the UK leaving the EU. We expect EEA rights to be maintained.

However, it would be perfectly legitimate within the context of the Article 50 procedure, to negotiate a side deal on an intergovernmental basis, temporarily removing or modifying reciprocal establishment and citizenship rights, to pre-empt and thereby prevent migration surges.

10. Are proponents of Brexit willing to remove a crucial aspect of the Northern Ireland peace process and risk Scotland leaving the UK in order to leave the EU?

We think British Influence does a great disservice to all the players involved in the Northern Ireland peace process by pegging its success on the EU. Ultimately, devolution is helping to create a distinct governing body separate to London which will do more for peace.

As to Scotland, ironically, we would ask ten questions not entirely dissimilar to those pitched by British Influence. Those who say Scotland would break the Union should also read our Brexit plan in that they will find that breaking away from the UK is as politically and technically tricky as the UK leaving the EU.

The EU will likely reform on the basis of a two speed Europe to address the necessity for more economic governance over the eurozone. That is an inevitable consequence of currency union. Scotland using the pound means full separation is not a political reality. Thus, in most respects Scotland is as independent as it is ever going to be (give or take).

The curious Mr Carney

Mark Carney, the Canadian-born Governor of teh Bank of England, chose to intervene in the debate about the UK’s membership of the European Union.  Although his comments were widely misreported in the  press and dealt with at a very superficial level, a far more astute analysis was provided by Dr Richard North on his blog. This article is used with permission.

Mark Carney has been all over the headlines since his speech in Oxford on Wednesday. But while he has been criticised for his intervention in favour of UK membership of the EU, not much seems to have been said about the report on which his speech was based.

Entitled, “The European Union, monetary and financial stability, and the Bank of England”, it is an exceedingly curious document – as much for what it doesn’t say as what it does.

Specifically, it makes great play over “EU regulations, directives and rules”, which “define many of the Bank of England’s policy instruments particularly in relation to financial stability”, telling us that “participation in the single market means that the majority of the legislation and regulation applying to the financial sector in the UK is determined at EU level”.

The report also tells us that, “to the extent EU regulation is of high quality and incorporates relevant international standards, it raises standards and reduces risks across the EU”. Since it has the force of law, “it also enables the UK authorities to have far greater assurance as to the safety and soundness of the large number of financial firms from other EU jurisdictions that operate in the UK”.

Only briefly, though, does it mention that the EU has carried out a major legislative and regulatory programme “which implemented and often exceeded the internationally-agreed G20 post-crisis reform agenda”, briefly noting that: “The Bank of England has contributed actively to this process”.

This is what is particularly odd about the report – the modesty of Governor of the Bank of England, Mr Mark Carney who did slightly more than “contribute”, actively or otherwise. As chair of the Financial Stability Board (FSB) – the executive arm of G20 – he effectively managed the process.

As for participation in the Single Market, Mr Carney cannot be unaware of the House of Lords report on the “post-crisis EU financial regulatory framework”, which stated that:

… it is likely that the UK would have implemented the vast bulk of the financial sector regulatory framework had it acted unilaterally, not least because it was closely engaged in the development of the international standards from which much EU legislation derives.

Here we go then: the UK was “closely engaged in the development of the international standards from which much EU legislation derives” and it would have implemented it even if we had not been members of the EU.

How very strange that Mr Carney did not mention all this in his speech. He expresses concern about how financial regulation in the EU evolves in future, but not a single thing about how irrelevant that is to the UK’s future.

Is the Governor of the Bank of England playing politics?


Photo by Ronnie Macdonald

There are no renegotiations

This cannot be repeated enough times: there are no negotiations. Mr Cameron is perpetrating a charade, an outrageous pretence, going through the motions in order to convince a gullible media and an unknowing electorate that he is striving to deliver a new relationship with the EU.

This has been obvious for well over a year, and increasingly so as time has passed. And now we have confirmation from a “a senior source in Berlin”, who said of the European Council meeting last week, that there was nothing to talk about since, he said, “there haven’t been any negotiations”.

But the Observer, which reported this, doesn’t understand what it is carrying – even though it’s plain enough: there haven’t been any negotiations. Let’s say this again: there haven’t been any negotiations.

The reasons why there haven’t been any negotiations are three-fold. Firstly, some (but not all) of the headline changes Mr Cameron wants will require treaty change, and the “colleagues” are not disposed to open up treaty talks just for the benefit of a British prime minister.

Secondly, there is nothing to negotiate about, since the “colleagues” are not interested in the ideas Mr Cameron has put forward. They are not even prepared to discuss them. To have a negotiation, people must be sitting on both sides of the table – it takes two to tango. There are no “colleagues” at the table.

Thirdly, and most importantly, there is no need for negotiations. The outcome of what has now become a charade (not that it was ever much different) has already been decided. The result is pre-ordained.

What this amounts to is that the “colleagues” are prepared to agree a special status for the UK. This they are provisionally calling “associate membership”, but it may acquire another label. Mr Cameron will go through the pretence of demanding this, and the “colleagues” will pretend to agree to his “demands”, which will be locked into a new treaty, with the process to start in 2018.

Mr Cameron will then come back from Brussels, waving his “piece of paper”, but then to reassure the doubters, he will promise another referendum on the outcome of the new treaty.

He will thus ask the people to trust him in this referendum, which will be treated as giving a (Conservative) government a mandate to negotiated the finer details of this “new relationship”, which may include the promise of reduced contributions, repatriation of powers and many of the other goodies he has already promised.

On this basis, the coming referendum is not going to be about the EU. When it comes to airing the downside of EU membership, we will find Mr Cameron agreeing with us. He will “share our pain”, and claim that his shiny new “relationship” will cure all our evils.

This, of course, makes all the current opinion polls valueless. They are asking the wrong question, of a scenario that won’t even exist by the time we go to the polls. And what we do know of voter behaviour tells us that an ostensibly credible outcome to Mr Cameron’s “negotiations” is worth 20-30 points in the poll, giving the “remains” a clear victory.

The game is on, therefore, to keep up the pretence that there are ongoing negotiations, with the Prime Minister – aided and abetted by the “colleagues” – perpetrating an ever-more elaborate charade, all intended to give the impression of a plucky Prime Minister courageously extracting concessions from a grudging European Union.

The timing will be fine-tuned, to engineer a triumphant return from Brussels at the very last minute, snatching a victory from the jaws of defeat, calculated to inspire a grateful and admiring population to rush to the polls and tick their “remain” boxes.

Perpetrating the charade, we have the Europhiles such as the Centre for European Reform and the likes of Open Europe laboriously pontificating on the faux negotiations. Likely as not, we can also expect the gullible media to fall for it, hook, line and sinker.

For the rest of us, the task is to expose this charade for what it is. The “associate membership” is a second-class option – the worst of all possible worlds, which keeps us locked in embrace of a supranational entity, unable to take our proper place in world affairs.

And, unlike 1975, we have this internet “thingy” to spread our message. When it comes down to it, Mr Cameron has a very weak hand, and will be relying on deception, timing and showmanship to make his case. We can beat this, and if we don’t, it’ll be our own damn fault.

(This article first appeared on and is used by permission of the author)