Observations on future negotiations, freedom of movement and trade agreements

Dr Liam Fox, speaking on the Sunday Politics, said that he would like Britain to exit the EU on 1st January 2019. To achieve Brexit in that timeframe, an Article 50 notification would need be made no later than the end of December this year, and all matters would have to be resolved without the need for an unanimously agreed extension to the negotiation period.

This is the equivalent of putting the cart before the horse. Fox is putting the timeframe before the outcome. That is worse than wrongheaded. The most important element of this whole process is not the timing, but Britain getting an agreement with the EU that serves the interests of both, and that the agreement ensures continuity of market participation to protect British jobs, trade and the economy. That should come first, not the timings.

It is worth making clear that the timing of the notification to the European Council of our intention to leave the EU, under the terms of Article 50, is entirely a matter for the withdrawing country. The EU cannot compel Britain to make formal notification and cannot dictate the timing of it. Much needs to be done before making the notification, to ensure we are prepared and ready with a clear agenda and understanding of what can be done and compromises that may need to be made. That is in the interest of Britain and the EU. (Update on 29/06: Angela Merkel has since ruled out informal preliminary discussions, therefore our approach needs to change and is covered here.)

So, what of that negotiation? People in the media and on the remain side keep saying the EU won’t give Britain a good deal as they will want to punish us, partly for our decision to leave, and partly to dissuade any other EU country trying to follow suit, (Pausing for a second, just what kind of entity is it that tries to preserve its membership by resorting to intimidation and fear? Certainly not a healthy, democratic or benign one). 

Those people are either unaware of, or ignoring, one extremely important constraint. International law, and the rules of the European Union itself, require that the negotiation with a withdrawing state must be carried out in good faith. This prevents the EU from inflicting retribution on Britain. In addition to that the EU, in its own words is “committed to liberalising world trade”. After its deal with Japan, the EU restated it is “committed to creating a free, fair and open international trade”. Those stated commitments bind the EU to working with Britain to achieve a positive and mutually beneficial deal, such as supporting Britain’s continued participation in the single market after joining EFTA.

One expectation of many leave voters is that leaving the EU will bring about an end to freedom of movement. Realistically that is not something that can happen immediately. Brexit is a process, not an event. The immediate aim of leaving the EU to regain control over our nation’s affairs but preserving jobs and trade by staying part of the single market, is best served by continuing freedom of movement for now.

However, many people do not realise that remaining part of the single market after leaving the EU does give Britain the ability to control freedom of movement in a way we cannot inside the EU. This is borne out by the example of Liechtenstein. This tiny country, like Norway and Iceland, is an EFTA member state and participates in the single market as a signatory of the EEA agreement. But Liechtenstein has suspended the full application of freedom of movement and has instead applied a quota system for migrants. This is something that could work well for Britain, giving control over EU migration that we could not otherwise have.

Liechtenstein’s arrangements were formalised in 1999, and in 2015 it was concluded that there was no need to alter the current rules. That meant the provisions adopted by Liechtenstein on the so-called “sectoral adaptations” could remain unchanged. Having applied these arrangements for 17 years there is no suggestion that it should be discontinued. As a full non-EU contracting party to the terms of the EEA agreement, it follows that what can legally be applied there can apply to any non-EU country participating in the EEA who wish to adopt the same. It’s not perfect, but it can be a very effective holding position while Britain starts the much longer task of negotiating a truly comprehensive trade agreement with the EU that would make EEA participation unnecessary longer term.

While all this is going on, some on the remain side and in the media claim that we would need to re-negotiate all 40 trade agreements made with other countries by the EU on Britain’s behalf while we were a member state. Only that isn’t correct.

The established principle in international law called presumption of continuity will give Britain the ability to continue trading with those ‘third countries’ on the same terms as we did before we left. The reunification of Germany in 1990, the velvet divorce of the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993 and the handover of Hong Kong in 1997 all provide precedent to this principle. All Britain needs to do is agree to honour the treaty obligations to which it was party as an EU member state. 

Britain can follow the example of Slovakia, which sent a letter to the Secretary General of the United Nations stating their intent to remain a party to all treaties signed and ratified by Czechoslovakia, and to ratify those treaties signed but not ratified before dissolution of Czechoslovakia, and that under international law all treaties signed and ratified by Czechoslovakia would remain in force. 

Added to this, EFTA membership allows a state to have two sets of trade agreements – ones negotiated by the state itself and others negotiated by EFTA as a bloc. By way of an example, Switzerland has a trade agreement with China, but EFTA itself does not. So by joining EFTA we would automatically become party to trade agreements signed by that bloc which would add to the agreements we would already have, giving Britain a greater number of agreements than enjoyed by any EU state.

Taken together, following a responsible and phased approach to untangling over 40 years of EU membership does not necessarily entail all the pain and consequences some would have us believe. It’s a long road ahead and by navigating it carefully, in the interests of our people and our business sector, we can make the experience positive and rewarding.

The original appeared on The Brexit Blog and is used with permission

Our Chairman’s letter to the Derby Telegraph in the aftermath of the referendum


I am astonished at the downbeat response from many industries about the decision to leave the EU.

They appear to have been deliberately misinformed by the government – and to have swallowed it!

Around three quarters of EU legislation is geared to nudging us ever nearer to the Single European State – a country called Europe. That is the main purpose of the EU – “Ever Closer Union”.

The remaining 25% relates to trade regulation of the European Single Market, the only part of the EU project in which industry is interested. Arrangements already exist for non EU member countries to be in the Single Market without being in the EU political project. It is called the EEA – European Economic Area – the “Common Market” part of the project.

You can Google the detailed plan for continued participation in the Single Market. It is called “ FLEXCIT” . There are two versions – a forty eight page pamphlet and the full policy which extends to some 420 pages.

One objection to this policy is that the EEA involves the acceptance of the principle free movement of people. But, under Article 112 of the agreement, EEA member states can unilaterally impose restrictions when they experience excessive immigration. They do not have to ask anybody’s permission.

Another development which the government failed to mention is that most new business regulation is now global and comes from bodies like UNECE (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe) which, for instance, sets the standards for motor vehicles. Whilst there is an EU Directive about this, it was not made in Brussels but merely transcribed from what UNECE agreed in Geneva.

As an EU member Britain has no voice at the real “top table” in Geneva. As an independent country, it will be able to influence matters there.

So there is every reason to look forward to a period of greater British influence in the way world trade is regulated.

Yours faithfully

Edward Spalton

How many “Europhiles” really love the EU? – Some grounds for hope

Call me an optimist if you like, but the collective wisdom I have encountered this last week strongly suggests that, for all the froth in the press and the three million people who have signed the petition calling for a second referendum, Article 50 really will be triggered, possibly later this year, and we will begin the process of leaving the EU.

All our soundings from Parliament are sending the same message:- “The Government has accepted the result.” Yesterday,  I was invited by a US-based TV channel to take part in a chat show alongside long-standing europhile Hugo Dixon. It was very clear from his tone that he too had accepted that we will be on the way out of the EU sooner or later.

Reasons for suspicion and unease revolve around the simple phrase “You can’t trust the Tories over Europe”. It has been a mantra  among UKIP members and even some Conservative activists have acknowledged the duplicity of their party’s leadership when it comes to the EU.

David Cameron’s discreet manoevering to remove the unilateral repatriation of our fishing policy from the Conservative manifesto over a decade ago and his subsequent back-tracking on his “cast-iron” guarantee of a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty are been part of a long tradition  of Tory cover-ups going right back to Peter Thorneycroft’s infamous  campaign plan to take us into what has become the EU as far back as 1947:- “No government dependent on a democratic vote could possibly agree in advance to the sacrifices which any adequate plan for European Union must involve. The people must be led slowly and unconsciously into the abandonment of their traditional economic defences, not asked…”

Nearly seventy years on, however, it is very apparent that today’s Conservative Party does not contain such ideological europhiles as Thorneycroft or Edward Heath.  One of the many post-mortem articles I have read over the last few days (but for which I regrettably cannot find the source) pointed out that in 1975, Heath (for the Tories) and Roy Jenkins (for Labour), both passionate pro-Europeans, featured prominently in the campaign.  You could never imagine them  beginning a speech by apologising for the EU’s shortcomings. Nor would they bend over backwards like David Cameron to insist to their sceptical party that they really were eurosceptics at heart or talk in Corbynesque terms of  “Seven to Seven and a half out of ten” for staying in the EU. The absence of such people, the author claimed, was a fatal handicap for the Remain campaign.

It seems that for today’s Tory remainers, with the exception of veteran ideologues like Ken Clarke or Michael Heseltine, their reasons for supporting EU membership were more pragmatic than anything else. Leaving the EU would upset the status quo or would be bad for the economy. For those who have known nothing but a career in politics, Brussels offered a convenient and comfortable safety net for any MP losing his or her seat at a General Election.

This is a world apart from the passion which a real 24-carat, five-star Europhile feels for the project. Take Joris Luyendijk, a Dutch author and chat show host. Back in January we find him  moaning in the Guardian that even the so-called Europhiles in the UK were not really committed to the project.  “For England, the EU is an economic rather than a cultural and political project,” he wrote. “Read pro-Europe newspapers such as the Financial Times or listen to English pro-Europe politicians, and every argument is framed around the country’s national interest. In other words, the English attitude towards the EU is transactional rather than transformational.

Now we have voted out, he cannot contain his glee. With our country to leave the EU, there is no more danger of pooled sovereignty being rolled back – something about which Luyendijk is unapologetically enthusiastic. “When Europe’s democrats talk about “EU reform” they mean putting arrangements in place to make Europe’s pooling of sovereignty democratic. Britons mean the rollback of that very pooling of sovereignty.”  It is rather odd that Luyendijk has found himself in the company of Marine le Pen or his compatriot Geert Wilders in hailing Brexit  as a good thing – albeit for very different reasons – but he is delighted that “remain” lost:- “Had remain won the referendum, the EU would have become hostage to British sabotage. Future British prime ministers would veto any fundamental change involving the transfer of sovereignty, arguing, correctly, that their people had voted only for the current set-up of the EU.

Of course, Luyendijk’s bluster may conceal a nagging unease about the fact that, in his country too, disillusion with the EU project is growing, just as it is in France, Italy, Greece and even newer arrivals like Hungary and the Czech Republic.  Is he a spokesman for a dwindling minority?  Time alone will tell.

As far as the UK is concerned, however, now the vote has taken place, the shallowness of support for the EU within the Conservative Party has been laid bare. Luyendijk is quite correct here. There is very little enthusiasm for any further trasnfer of sovereignty to Brussels. Furthermore, even if the forthcoming leadership contest may be a bruising affair, the Tories have already (and thankfully) reverted to type – putting party unity and power before anything else.

In other words, the party seems to be coming together around a commitment to make Brexit work, even though they are far from united over the best way out. Vote.leave’s reluctance to provide a coherent exit strategy at the very start of the campaign has been one of the biggest drivers of the current economic and political uncertainty.  The leadership candidates all need to study Flexcit or its Adam Smith Institute-sponsored offspring, the Liberal Case for Leave, which, in the absence of any other serious offering,  provide the only coherent studies thus far of a seamless route out of the EU which will not disrupt our trade.

Thankfully, we know that the Civil Service have already been examining this escape route  in some detail and it is to be hoped that whoever emerges victorious as the next Prime Minister will have based their campaign not on personal charisma bur instead, on having sold their fellow-party members a clear road map that can take us through the invocation of Article 50 and on to the actual Brexit. Such a PM will leave this as his or her only legacy. So complex is the process of unravelling over 40 years of integration that Brexit will dominate their premiership to the exclusion of everything else

And I remain confident that this is what will happen. This is not to ignore the disturbing vacuum which David Cameron’s resignation has created, but with Labour in a state of meltdown and the Lib Dems having been reduced to impotence at last year’s general Election, the young europhile whingers – who will ultimately be the biggest beneficiaries of Brexit, even if they don’t believe it at the moment – will soon quieten down and the stage will be for the next Conservative Party leader  to atone for the party’s previous sins by finally obtaining an amicable divorce from the unhappy marriage into which his or her predecessor tricked us  all those years ago.

(for anyone wishing to watch the programme on the TV channel I referred to above, the link is here)

Moving together towards the Brexit door?

What  a difference a week can make! This time last week, many of us were frantically pushing our final leaflets through doors, gritting our teeth and hoping that the soundings from grassroots campaigners across the country were going to prove more accurate than the official opinion polls. Now all that is behind us, although the shockwaves of the Brexit vote are still reverberating around the country, the EU and indeed, the whole world.

Some things, however, have not changed. I’m not just referring to the miserable summer weather, which kindly went on hold for a few hours last Friday morning to allow a beautiful sunrise to greet the fantastic result before reverting to type again, but also the dreadful standard of coverage of EU-related events in the mainstream media.

So what is exactly going on in Westminster, Brussels and Whitehall as far as Brexit is concerned?

Firstly, we can be reassured that, in spite of the petition for a second referendum reaching three million signatures and some Labour MPs also coming out in support of this, the Government has accepted the result. There will be no second referendum. A new Brexit unit has been set up, headed by Oliver Letwin and both Tory remainers and leavers have come together to look at the best way out. Former Remain MP Sajid Javid spoke for  many of his collegues when he said “We’re all Brexiteers now”. While distrust of our politicians was a big factor in the “leave” vote, it does seem that the pro-remain Tories are bowing to the inevitable and throwing their weight behind securing a smooth divorce from the EU.

There is no legal requirement for the UK to trigger Article 50 and begin the formal exit process.  After all, in law the referendum is actually a consultation only. Obviously, with so much resting on the result, it was never going to be brushed aside or ignored. Already  its shockwaves have caused the Prime Minister to resign and the UK’s Commissioner Lord Hill, has made his departure. It is a case of when rather than if. Although no formal talks are taking place with EU officials, both sides appear to be preparing for the process to begin at some point in the not-too-distant future.

The lack of any coherent exit strategy by the leaders of Vote.leave has not helped calm jittery nerves in this immediate post-referendum period. We were concerned before the referendum that the failure by the offical campaign to spell out their vision for a post-Brexit UK could lose us the vote.  Thankfully, this didn’t happen, but with the Government not expecting to lose and therefore having made little preparation either, it has led to something of a vacuum.

It is perhaps ironic that more pragmatic former Tory Remainers  are starting to line up alongside the Leave Alliance (of which CIB is a member) in recognising that withdrawal is a process rather than an event and in the interim, we must retain access to the Single Market. Support for the “Norway Option” or EEA/EFTA as it is better known, is therefore growing among our former opponents. Hopefully they will get up to speed quickly and realise that it is not a suitable long-term relationship with the EU for an independent UK. We can do better, but first, we need to get out smoothly.

For some 38% of leave voters, immigration was the big issue and there is a feeling among some leave supporters that any deal which allowed unrestricted freedom of movement to continue would mean that their vote was wasted. This, of course, was one reason why most of the big names on the leave side kept their distance from the EEA/EFTA route.

The best way of keeping everyone happy would appear to be what Richard North calls  the Liechtenstein solution.  This tiny country has used the provisions of the EEA agreement to restrict migration from the EU for over 20 years. As Dr North puts it, “The EU has been quite willing to negotiate with one of the three EFTA/EEA states on freedom of movement. Furthermore, they have come to an amicable solution, which has allowed it to secure an amendment to the treaty giving it a permanent opt-out to freedom of movement.  Of course, this won’t go far enough for some people, but it seems the best basis for an outline deal. The EU’s “four freedoms” remain intact for the 27 member states but we can still access the Single Market while giving ourselves a great deal of wiggle room as far as the emotive issue of migration from the EU is concerned. It is not twisting the rules, as some may fear, but rather, working within the rules.

The 400-plus page document Flexcit has been recently been updated to include more information about Liechtenstein’s use of the relevant articles in the EEA agreement.

The leader of another EFTA member, Iceland’s President  Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, welcomed the Brexit vote – giving the lie to those claiming that leaders of extremist parties were the only overseas politicians to speak positively of Brexit. In one Brexit debate last month, your author found himself confronted by a claim that we would not be allowed to re-join EFTA.  Mr  Grímsson’s statement proves the point, which I made at the time, that such claims are pure hogwash.

Two other issues are worth mentioning briefly. Firstly, Scotland will have to leave the EU along with the rest of the UK. Spain’s Mariano Rajoy, concerned about the possible secession of Catalonia, was quite adamant about this. This does not rule out Scotland applying to re-join the EU if it votes to secede from the UK in a future referendum, but that is another issue.  Secondly, the damage being done by the Brexit vote to both the EU’s economy and indeed its general credibility has removed one possible obstacle. While the other member states regret the result of last week’s vote, this piece in EU Observer suggests they are resigned to it, want us to get cracking and seem most unlikely to derail the Brexit process.

Of somewhat less signifiance is the statement by Australia and New Zealand that they wished to make the most of the trade opportunities provided by Brexit.  It sounds good and may well be an option to pursue in the longer term, but there is one fundamental problem:- the serious lack of experienced trade negotiators in the UK after 40 years of delegating this job to the EU.

This one issue highlights the sheer complexity of the negotiations which lie ahead of us. There is the possibility that it could go wrong, leaving us worse off financially. We could be bogged down in negotiations for years if things become difficult. The forthcoming Conservative Party leadership campaign therefore assumes a particular importance in this respect. We need a cool-headed Prime Minister who will seek the best deal for our country and lead us safely thought the Brexit door.


We have won but not by much – implications

Anthony Scholefield wrote this piece a week or so before the referendum. It considered the possibility of both a narrow win or a narrow lose for our side. Now the result has been announced, it is interesting to see how accurate these thoughts will prove.

My paper entitled ‘24th June’ considered what might happen after Leave won the referendum.

The government, Parliament and the people, will be looking for urgent leadership.  After all, ‘scoping’ negotiations will have to begin in a few weeks and an Article 50 Notice served within about a year (presumably all now agree Article 50 is the way forward).

An absolute necessity is for a clear aim, a clear plan and a clear timetable which can be put forward.  (It should have already been done.)

The aim is to decide what exactly in the EU we need to leave and where do we want to go.  The plan is how we execute the aim and the timetable is how we execute the plan.

Vote Leave has said it is up to the government to put forward proposals but the government will be in a state of shock and will be looking around for ready-made proposals as to what to do.

Otherwise it will dissolve in total incoherence.  The Opposition Westminster parties will be in a similar position and are completely bereft of ideas to cope with this situation.

I believe we should be thinking now of what action is necessary to take the initiative.

Are we ready to do this and to form the structures to do this?

We need a committee of all the various Leave groupings to meet and adopt a plan and get this endorsed by a conference within a month – but it needs senior political leadership.  Global Britain has done some preliminary thinking on this.  EuReferendum and the Leave Alliance has set out concrete proposals.

(Anthony also considered what a narrow defeat would have looked like. This was his analysis)

There will be extensive post-mortems but the critical decision is this.  Frank Field has said on ‘Question Time’ that whatever the result we must accept it.

But this misunderstands the nature of the referendum.  A referendum is a mere political instrument to achieve a political goal.

The basic political fact is that Remain can win a referendum but, as Enoch Powell said on the day after the 1975 referendum, such a result “is no more than provisional”.  The reason is that a supranational government in the EU is incompatible with a free democracy.  Powell specifically compared the result of the 1975 referendum to the 1938 Munich Agreement and said either depended on ongoing parliamentary and popular support to remain valid.

The aftermath of the 2016 referendum will be quite different from the aftermath of the 1975 referendum.  In 1975, the electorate did not know much about the EU and, whatever different opinions were held about it, it did not seem threatening.  Now there are four existential forces at work in the EU.  They are the ongoing crisis in the Eurozone, the migration crisis, the possibility of cross-border terrorist atrocities and the determination of the Eurozone countries (or some of them) to push forward to far greater integration leaving the UK either bobbing in their wake or remaining one of two or three non-eurozone countries in a European Union absolutely dominated by the eurozone and its problems.

Moreover there will be a 40% plus irreconcilable part of the British people who will simply not accept, except in the short-term, that the referendum settles anything.  That is why calls for ‘constructive engagement’ or ‘acceptance of the decision of the people’ are wrong.  Parliamentary and public support for EU membership could vanish very quickly if the electorate concluded the wrong decision had been made at the referendum.

Almost immediately, the fact that almost half Conservative MPs have supported the Leave campaign means the government will be in a political minefield.

What happens to Cameron’s ‘reforms’?  Are they likely to be even passed through the European Council?  Are they likely to be derailed in the European Parliament?  What will Cameron do then?  The immediate future is fraught with difficulties.

Looking further ahead, as new Brussels’ legislation turns up in parliamentary proposals or executive implementations, how will the almost 50% of Conservative MPs, who supported the Leave campaign, vote on these?  Some may be passed with the help of Opposition MPs but how long can this continue?  How can the leaders of the Leave campaign meekly vote through more Brussels’ legislation?

There is already talk of a second referendum and a narrow win for Remain will make this most likely.

The referendum result to Remain depends for its validity on on-gong parliamentary and popular support and events in the EU will drain this quickly.

So, a Remain vote will settle nothing.  The election of Trump may change the scenario as well.

It seems a coalition of the Leave campaigns, broadened to include all other supportive organisations, should remain in being as a second referendum or a Tory volte-face will not be long in coming.

The 24th June


In discussion with a very senior leader of the Leave campaign, I mentioned that we ought to prepare for 24th June and plan now for the way ahead in the event of a Leave win.

His answer was that he had a referendum to win and was concentrating entirely on that.  Yet this reply was a contradiction of basic strategy as put forward by Clausewitz, which was that “war is simply a continuation of political intercourse, with (the addition of) other means” [mit anderen mitteln].  In this case a referendum is also a continuation of politics with other means.

To hold a referendum has never been an aim in itself and it is a mere constitutional instrument to achieve a political goal or perhaps what is better described as a return to political reality.  Remain supporters can win many referendums but, as Enoch Powell pointed out the day after the 1975 referendum, these results “are no more than provisional”.  The reason is that a supranational government in the EU is incompatible with a free democracy.  Enoch Powell specifically compared the result of the 1975 referendum to the 1938 Munich agreement and that either depended on parliamentary and popular ongoing support to remain valid.

So, even when absorbed in the practicalities, polling and strategy of the referendum campaign, those who want to Leave the EU should already be looking ahead to what happens on June 24th and afterwards, assuming a Leave majority in the referendum.  (The interview between Robin Day and Enoch Powell in June 1975 is worth reading in full and has been helpfully put up on the YouGov website.

‘The Critical Path’ out of the EU

In 2014 and 2015 I produced some papers outlining the Critical Path to leaving the EU based on the ‘Stepping Stones’ strategy put forward by Sir John Hoskyns, which formed the basis of much of the early Thatcher government and also on policy fundamentals put forward by Gladstone in one of his speeches.

“The critical path ahead centres on two areas: winning a referendum to leave and actually organising an effective and beneficial departure from the EU.  These two matters are interrelated.”

Yet there has been, quite naturally but wrongly, an overwhelming focus on winning a referendum and little focus on the “effective and beneficial departure”.

I also noted how, in Switzerland, those winning a referendum against the advice of the Swiss government, took notice of three matters.  These were:

    The clarity of the aim behind the majority vote;

    The meshing in of the referendum result with existing laws and treaties, and

    Sometimes a timed longstop for action.

Switzerland has been having referendums for over a century.  They know the dynamics of a referendum.  Should we not take account of their approach?

Veering off the ‘Critical Path’

I noted that the Leave campaign (Vote Leave and Leave EU) all veered off the critical path and ignored the Swiss experience.

The UK Constitutional Situation

Leaving the EU has to be implemented by an executive and a Parliament whose members are likely to have voted the other way.

It is not simply a case of replacing the existing government by a government which would be made up of supporters of ‘leaving’.  That putative government, and especially a Parliament to support it, does not exist.  This is unlike the situation in 1975 when Harold Wilson made it plain he would implement either an IN or OUT vote and would be able to command the votes in Parliament to do so.

What is being asked is for the executive and the legislative to implement a crucial and massive change which they have by substantial majority voted against.  A decision to offer ‘no plan’ to leave will simply mean the ‘plan’ decision will be passed to the government who can interpret the decision in any way it wishes.  The present composition of Parliament would facilitate this.

The 24th June

At present, the official Leave campaign is not offering a clear cut plan and strategy for post-referendum action.  The reason given is that the Leave campaign will not be organising or putting into effect Britain’s departure but the government will be doing so.  Some have commentated on the absurdity of this argument, which would make think tanks, the policy arms of political parties and, indeed, the ideas of individual politicians, worth less and futile unless they were part of the government.  It is said the official Leave campaign will close down on June 24th.

This is poor strategy even in the context of the referendum.  To offer a clear aim, a clear plan and a clear timetable is precisely what Swiss referendum campaigners do.  It demonstrates leadership and that will attract voters.

Moreover, on 24th June this becomes an acute problem.  With no clear aim, no plan and no timetable offered by Leave, the decisions will be passed to the government and to Parliament, which has an overwhelming Remain majority.


It is not possible or fruitful to consider the party political outcome, the future of the Prime Minister, the possible discussions within the Conservative Party or all the other excitements of Westminster.

However, we can be certain that the government will formally accept the result and, in Parliamentary debate, will probably put forward a motion to accept the result and work towards it but that is all it will commit itself to do.

What happens then?

As mentioned, the official Leave campaign will consider its task completed and will leave the organisation of an effective and beneficial departure to the government.

What would Parliament do?

Immediately there would be a cacophony of proposals, some from various factions within the movement, others, perhaps put forward by those unfriendly to Leave, designed to brake or trip up the departure process.  The crisp aim, plan and timetable of the Swiss will be lost altogether.

Among the alternatives put forward will doubtless be a call for more and better negotiations.  Others will, no doubt, say that a narrow majority is not sufficient to do more than allow some tinkering around the edges of the present EU status.  Somewhere in the mix may be proposals for another referendum.

Fundamental questions, such as agreement on whether the UK should stay in the EEA and whether the UK can stay in the EEA or whether the UK would have to re-join EFTA, must be cleaned up before an Article 50 notice is served.

The potential for a Parliamentary and governmental quagmire is now really present.

And it all comes back to the lack of the clear aim, a clear exit plan and a clear timetable.


We are trying to win a referendum and win it in such a way that a pro-EU Parliament must carry it out, as in Switzerland.

The way to do that was to have a clear plan which was the electorate’s instruction to Parliament.  This should have been specifically put forward.  We are not in a competition for establishing the very best theoretical basis for Britain in a post-EU world, we need a clear, tested, business-friendly plan which should take on the aura of inevitability such as preceded the establishment of American and Indian independence.

Plainly, the Leave campaign has not done this.  But on the 24th June, the need for such a clear plan will become an existential necessity otherwise all the hard work, the campaigning, the leaflets, the speeches, the polling, the banks of telephone workers and social media contacts will be frustrated.

Anthony Scholefield

Anthony Scholefield

Anthony Scholefield is Director of the Futurus Think Tank

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Old and thick and proud of it!

It’s official: if you voted Leave it’s because you’re thick. Following the result, the BBC is in deepest mourning and The Guardian has put black armbands around its spelling mistakes. A BBC “expert,” armed with his charts and spread-sheets, came on to tell us that those who voted Leave tended to be “the less educated.” You could see by his contemptuous stare that he meant we’re thick. Well, 56.2% of Darlington folk voted Leave so, by what the man from the Beeb said, that means the majority of its inhabitants must be thick. I suppose you can comfort yourselves by contemplating the fact that in Hartlepool, where 69.6% voted Leave, the population must be even thicker.

But if it’s thickies who voted Leave, are they saying that Eton and Oxbridge educated, Greek and Latin scholar, eminent columnist and author Boris Johnson is thick? Or that Michael Gove is thick? Or Dr Simon Heffer, Dr John Redwood, Professor Roger Scruton and a score more Leavers I can think of, are all “the less educated”? Of course not. It was just a jibe by a BBC apparatchik full of disappointment and bile. But, according to these professional Europhiles, the Leavers among us are not only thick but we’re also past it – or, as the man put it, “the more elderly.” I live in Eastbourne where we voted convincingly for Leave, so we have the double honour of being both thick and past it in the eyes of the chattering classes  

Well, I can’t deny that I’m getting on a bit and well-stricken in years, but what is thick about voting to get out of the rotten EU? Polly Toynbee, Joan Bakewell, J.K. Rowling and all the posh lefties and luvvies you can think of say the Leave vote shows that we have no idealism and no feeling for democracy. But from where I’m sitting in my specially-adapted old codger’s armchair in the dunce’s corner, I should like to ask where’s the idealism or the democracy in voting Remain – that is voting to be ruled by an alien, corrupt, remote and unaccountable bureaucracy constituted of unelected Commissioners?

These intelligent people in the BBC and at The Guardian say that hidebound reactionaries like me have surrendered the broader vision and settled for being little Englanders. This is simply a lie. The EU is not a loving European family operating a glorious free market; it is a customs union whose outrageously high system of tariffs prevents us from trading with the rest of the world. The Remainers say our leaving will damage our exports and our economy generally. This is another lie, for we already buy more from the EU than we sell them. Besides, trade is about mutual interests. Is anyone foolish enough to imagine that, following our decision to leave, the Germans will stop selling us their fine motor cars and washing machines, that the cash-strapped Greeks will no longer export their olive oil and the Italians their tomatoes? They would be mad not to.

The EU is not a happy family of nations. It is an economic straitjacket governed by Germany which impoverishes the countries of southern Europe by obliging them to use the Euro, the same currency, as the industrialised and technologically more advanced north. What Bismarck failed to achieve by force of arms in 1870, the Kaiser in 1914 and Hitler in 1939, Angela Merkel has accomplished without firing a shot. In effect, the EU is the Fourth Reich.

Call me old and thick if you like, but I know I’m better off out.  

By Rev Peter Mullen. Used with permission