How CIB predicted in 2011 where Cameron would fail in 2016

In 2011, CIB’s John Harrison and Edward Spalton jointly authored an article entitled ‘Britain’s Exit from the EU (in its present form) is now almost certain.’ Looking back at that article now, not only were we right about Britain’s exit from the EU, we foresaw what David Cameron could not: that it was the impossibility of escaping the gravitational pull of ‘ever closer union’ from the dominant Eurozone countries that would bring about our exit.

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Tony Blair must be silenced

Do you know anyone who doesn’t hate Tony Blair? The most I can say in his favour is that I know a couple of people who loathe certain other politicians even more than they loathe him. Most people wish he would just shut up and retire to obscurity but unfortunately, being an ex-Prime Minister, the media is still more than willing to listen to what he says – and as far as Brexit is concerned, he has been rather verbose recently.

His latest outburst shows that he remains stubbornly opposed to the government carrying out the democratic will of the people.  He doesn’t want us to leave the EU. Even though much of the article focuses on the problems of a future trade relationship, his  support for the EU goes beyond trade issues. “Membership of the European Union is right as a matter of principle, for profound political as well as economic reasons.” he asserts. He goes on to say “We are making an error the contemporary world cannot understand and the generations of the future will not forgive….Brexit isn’t and never was the answer.”

Naturally, we would disagree, but if Blair and his ilk are to be silenced once and for all, two things are necessary. Firstly,  his arguments in favour of the general principle of EU membership have to be refuted, but secondly, the government must address the current weaknesses in its Brexit strategy.

The first of Blair’s points, namely that EU membership is a good thing politically as well as economically, is so fatally flawed  that no fair-minded well informed person could possibly agree.  Thanks to our EU membership, we have found ourselves unnecessarily mixed up in the EU’s empire building – for example, in the Ukraine, a part of the world where we have little strategic interest. We have found our excellent Common Law legal system compromised by our membership of  Europol or the European Arrest Warrant. Furthermore, the direction of travel in the EU is towards closer integration, which means in effect power will be taken still further away from the people and their elected representatives,  given instead to a largely unelected and increasingly unaccountable clique of bureaucrats and politicians in Brussels.

In 2012, Angela Merkel told David Cameron, “Your vision of the EU is so cold, David.’ The point she was making is that for most of us, including our former Prime Minister, the EU was about trade. We have always been sceptical about grandiose political projects.  and thus have always felt on the outside of the EU, most of whose member states do not share our scepticism. Only a few senior British politicians have ever embraced the EU’s federalism wholeheartedly. One of these few, however, was Blair’s mentor Roy Jenkins, the only Briton ever to lead the European Commission. As Prime Minister, Blair never felt himself in a position to display his federalist sympathies quite so openly as Jenkins but now Brexit looks like extinguishing the dying embers of his megalomaniac ambitions of becoming Emperor Tony the First, he clearly feels he has nothing to lose.

For those of us living in the real world, however, it is blindingly obvious that our political system needs to be reformed so that we digress further from the EU. In other words, power should be brought closer to the people – taking non-EU Switzerland as our model, which has one of the most accountable systems of government in the world. Indeed, we should seek to become the leader of Free Europe, as we were between 1940 and 1945, showing that there is a better way for countries to organise themselves than to emasculate their national democracies in favour of a remote, unaccountable bureaucracy in Brussels. We can do far more good and wield far more influence internationally this way than by remaining in the EU. The future generations, far from being unwilling to forgive us for Brexit, will be delighted that by leaving the EU, we made not only our country, but other lands too, a better place. Blair’s argument that Brexit was an unfortunate mistake will, unless the Government messes up badly, prove to be about as accurate as his conviction that Saddam Hussein possessed a vast stockpile of weapons of mass destruction.

Unfortunately, our opportunities to help the government address the weaknesses of its Brexit strategy (and thus avoid making a mess of Brexit) are more limited, but we must do what we can. Blair outlines four possible outcomes:- staying what he calls a “reformed Europe”, leaving the EU but staying within the Single Market and Customs Union, leaving the EU but negotiating a bespoke Free trade agreement which “keeps us  close to Europe politically” or leaving the EU and “negotiating a basic Free Trade Agreement and market ourselves as ‘Not Europe’”.

As far as the first option is concerned,  the Conservative Party has spent much of the last 30 years trying to “reform” the European Union. last year’s “State of the Union” speech by Jean-Claude Juncker and the strongly pro-federalist speech by Martin Schulz a couple of months later  shows how deeply federalism which, above all, led to the Brexit vote, is still embedded into the EU’s DNA. Perhaps Blair has forgotten that for all his talk of our “staying in the EU, using the Brexit vote as leverage to achieve reform” that David Cameron did come back from Brussels with some degree of reform nearly two years ago.  He secured a sort-of exemption from ever closer union and a very weak concession that the EU might allow a limited “emergency brake” on immigration. The majority of the electorate wasn’t impressed and voted to leave. 18 months on, there has been no indication of any widespread change of heart.

The way Blair frames the second option, he is either being devious or just plain stupid. Like a number of other remainers, he portrays the single market and the customs union as somehow joined at the hip. They are not. Staying in the EEA as a transitional arrangement would be a vast improvement on the transitional deal currently being discussed, which would leave us as a colony of the EU with no power. The Customs Union, on the other hand, was never even discussed during the referendum debate. Apart from micro-states like San Marino, Turkey is the only non-EU country to be part of the Customs Union. The Turks do not like this deal and given that we would not be able to secure an independent trade policy, it wold not be popular here either. It is an irrelevancy and the sooner it falls out of any discussion of our future, the better.

Blair’s third and fourth options are more about politics than trade. Both assume we end up with a bespoke deal with the EU. Do we want to stay politically close to the EU or deliberately launch out on a different path? In reality, rather than a binary choice, the question should be phrased more on the lines of whereabouts on the scale of political closeness or political divergence do we wish to position ourselves? The answer is probably far closer to the “divergence” end of the spectrum than Blair would wish, as has been noted above.

Unfortunately, the muddle which the Government has found itself in may result in our ending up stuck in limbo between options 1 and 2 – a transitional deal which sees us effectively locked into the EU for a further 21 months and which gives us access to the Single Market but on far worse terms than Norway or Iceland. It is staggering that there has so far been so little critical analysis of the proposed transitional deal, as it is a very bad arrangement indeed. Somehow, the EU’s harsh guidelines have been completely ignored by many politicians and indeed, much of the media. As mentioned above, we would essentially end up as a colony of the EU, forced to accept the full acquis but with no say in the framing or implementation of these laws.  In such circumstances, it would be all too easy to end up saying “What was the point of the Brexit vote?”

To throw in the towel is exactly what Blair and co would love us to do. No one can deny that the last 18 months have been exasperating and there is still little light at the end of the tunnel as far as a sensible exit strategy is concerned. If you are a leave voter who has become utterly fed up with the whole subject of Brexit, take heart; you are not alone! Perhaps, however, we should think back to that momentous day in June 2016. Our elation at the time should act as a reminder that we must not give up, no matter how frustrated we feel at the moment. To allow the likes of Blair to win by default, especially given the weaknesses of his arguments, would be the ultimate tragedy for our countrymen and a betrayal of all  that we have fought for over the last four decades. Blair can only finally be silenced by persevering to the end, continuing to make the case for Brexit, seeking to influence the debate on how best to achieve the best deal – and persevere we must and shall.

The Brexit vote – how we got there

This interesting speech about David Cameron was given by Sir Ivan Rogers, the former UK permanent Representative to the EU. at Hertford College, Oxford, on 25th November.

It is a long article, some 18 pages long, and even though the author is anything but an ardent Brexiteer, it is written in a dispassionate style. He claims that David Cameron believed that the best place for the UK was within an EU that would cement our “exceptionalism” into law and describes the trials and tribulations which the then Prime Minister faced in his renegotiations and the events leading up to them.

The speech brings back memories of those fascinating days leading up to the moment when the starting gun on the referendum vote was fired in February last year. It explains the steps that led to Camoern’s momentous decision and is well worth a read.

That speech six months on

(C) Mrs M Westrop, 2015

In David Cameron’s speech to the Confederation of British Industry last November, he set a benchmark for his negotiations  with the EU. The reasons for the current “fear” campaign becomes apparent if you compare Cameron’s stated objectives an what he actually achieved.

Here are a few examples:-

“…reducing the pressures that we face through immigration.” It soon became apparent that any hopes of any exemption for the UK from the “free movement of people” principle was going to be a non-starter. The best Cameron could achieve was to claim to have agreed an “emergency brake” on welfare payments to new migrants. All this amounts to in reality is availing ourselves of a 22-year-old provision written in the European Economic Area Agreement, fiddling with minor provisions in existing EU law which now need European Parliament approval and which can be overturned at a drop of a hat. 

…making sure we’re out of an ever-closer union.” We already have opt-outs from both Schengen and the Euro – the two motors of ever-closer union. Did Mr Cameron’s “deal” strengthen those opt-outs? Not according to many legal experts. The Lawyers for Britain group says that “Ever Closer Union” will remain in the treaty and the summit deal makes no difference to the UK’s legal obligations.”

….proper fairness between those in the eurozone and those out of the eurozone.” Similar issues apply here.  In a speech last month,  Owen Paterson MP said “if we Remain, we will be excluded from the very “top tables” in Brussels where the key decisions are taken by Eurozone members. They call it a “lasting settlement” in which “Continued allegiance would be required, but political engagement would be reduced.”

Mr Cameron did make one statement with which we would agree:- “Some people seem to say that really Britain couldn’t survive, couldn’t do okay outside the European Union. I don’t think that is true. Let’s be frank, Britain is an amazing country. We have got the fifth biggest economy in the world. We are a top ten manufacturer, growing steadily strong financial services. The world wants to come and do business here, look at the record of inward investment. Look at the leaders beating a path to our door to come to see what’s happening with this great country’s economy.”  Absolutely! However, we haven’t heard anything anything remotely as positive as this from him recently.  He warned that Islamic State and Vladimir Putin would both welcome Brexit. Big deal. So would John Howard, the former Australian Prime Minister, who said that he would have voted for Brexit.  Cameron also recently warned of the threat of war if we vote to leave.

However, when he said that “If I can’t achieve them {i.e., these objectives}, I rule nothing out“, it was obvious that this didn’t include campaigning to leave the EU, for he completely misrepresented the safest exit route and one which would have achieved all his objctives, the Norway option:-

They pay more per head into the European Union than we do.” WRONG!  One study suggests that Norway pays £1.66 per head of population per annum to access the EEA. Our net EU contribution is much higher, over £100 per head of population per year.

“They don’t have a seat at the table to determine what the rules are.” WRONG! Norway doesn’t have a final vote, but it is consulted in the framing of EEA-relevant legislation, so it DOES have a “seat at the table”. Furthermore, it only has to apply barely 25% of all EU legislation. The rest, not marked EEA-relevant, doesn’t apply .

“It is not a good deal.” But it is vastly better than EU membership. Norway is outside of the Common Agricultural and Common Fisheries policies, it is not subject to the European Court of Justice. if the Eurzone or an EU Member state got into financial difficulties, Norway wouldn’t have to pay a single øre, but we would.

In summary. Mr Cameron came back with nothing of any substance. Given that polling suggested that many swing voters would base their final decision on how successful his negotiations were, he knew that he had to divert attention away from his failure in Brussels. With no sign of the Leave side building up a lead, in the polls, maybe it’s time to return the focus of the referendum campaign to this dodgy “deal.”

Paterson: Leave is the safe option

One bright spot in what hasn’t been a particularly encouraging week for “leave” campaigners was yesterday’s  speech by Rt Hon Owen Paterson entitled The future of Europe

Mr Paterson spelt out what both “leave” and “remain” would look like in 2020. “Remain” would not be a vote for any sort of status quo. “To remain is a leap in the dark, It is a commitment to an undefined relationship to a completely new country”, he emphasised.  “You may not like the EU you have got now. you will like the new one even less.”  He went on to mention how the Eurozone countries were determined tt forge ahead with closer political union. This would leave the  UK out on a limb, not part of the Eurozone but sufficiently interlinked that “it is inevitable that its decisions will have an impact on us.”  Paterson goes on to question the validity of the Cameron deal and calls it “the worst of both worlds” adding that “The Prime Minister’s second-tier ‘associate membership’ or ‘special status’ is an ill-defined sham..”

He goes on to warn us not to repeat the mistake of the 1975 referendum. “Don’t be fooled again”  – a message the electorate needs to be told over and over again.

By contrast, Leave is called “the safe, bright, optimistic choice” and Paterson goes on to explain why. Following on from the Obama visit and the focus on the trade issue,  he points out that “The EU is a lousy negotiator of free trade deals. It moves as fast as the slowest lame donkey in the caravan – the deal with the US is holding up a deal with China, in turn holding up a deal with India. Free from the EU we will be able to strike our own bilateral deals as other countries like New Zealand do.” He points out the often overlooked role of global organisations in world trade.

However the issue on which Paterson provides far more detail than most other recent politicians on the “leave” side is how we would leave. He rightly points out that withdrawal is a process not an event and life on the day after we leave won’t be that different from before.  “We can leave the political arrangements of the Union and still enjoy access to the market”, he points out. Yes indeed, Mr Paterson. You have hit the nail on the head. We cannot jeopardise our access to the EU’s Single Market. It needs replacing with something better in the long term, but it is too important a market for our exporters to be put in jeopardy during the post-Brexit period.

A few more speeches by leading pro-leave politicians on these lines are sorely needed.

That booklet!

We have received a number of e-mails from people very angry about our money being spent by the government producing the booklet which landed on our doormats last week.

Some people have very kindly responded by making a donation to us, for which we are most grateful. “I don’t want my taxes used on propaganda… so I have to do my bit to redress the balance” said one kind contributor.

But what of the booklet itself? It has been criticised  – and with good reason – both for its style and content. Rosalind Moffitt, an inclusive communications consultant at Inklecomms, said of the former, “I….am astounded by the long and complex sentences within the leaflet. It also uses many unnecessarily difficult words. The leaflet is written at a complex level for average-low literacy readers, so it will be difficult for many to read and understand” Good news for the Brexit campaign!”

Turning to the content. Lord Wemyss did not mince his words, calling it “senseless twaddle – insulting to the intelligence of the recipients.”

This is indeed a good summary. If the “twaddle” can be categorised, most of it comes under three headings:-

  1. So-called “benefits” which aren’t actually very beneficial.
  2. Benefits which we don’t actually need to be in the EU to enjoy
  3. Untrue and misleading statements.

In the first category comes the European Arrest Warrant, which is mentioned under “keeping us safer”. Since 2004 (when the EAW was first introduced), we are told “over 1,000 suspects have faced justice in  UK courts and over 7,000 have been extradited.” Fine. You try telling people like  Andrew Symeou or  Edmond Arapi how wonderful the EAW is. These men suffered gross miscarriages of justice, being exposed to judicial processes on the Continent which do not include the legal safeguards we are accustomed to in the UK. It is so easy to forget that Magna Carta may have crossed the oceans, but it never crossed the Channel. One consequence of this is that you can be tried in absentia, tried on hearsay evidence or kept in detention for ages without being charged. The EAW potentially exposes any one of us to all these horrors.

Also sold as a benefit, on page 12, we are told that “the EU is leading the world on tackling climate change”. Try telling those made redundant in the now defunct UK aluminium smelting industry what a good thing this is! Perhaps when we suffer blackouts because our government has signed up to unachievable emissions targets we will console ourselves with how virtuous the EU is being!

Turning to the second category, the phrase “Single Market” comes up no fewer than eight times. There are probably few regular visitors to our website who aren’t aware that we can retain access to the Single Market on leaving the EU by re-joining EFTA and availing ourselves of the European Economic Area agreement.  The booklet boasts how the EU “guarantees many employment rights” without mentioning, of course, that most employment legislation originates with global organisations like the International Labour Organisation. These benefits would not disappear if we left the EU.

“EU reforms in the 1990s have resulted in a drop in fares of over 40% for lower cost flights”, proclaims the booklet.  Once again, one has to question whether this benefit would disappear if we left the EU. to help us answer this question, guess which airline won the “Best low-cost airline in Europe” award in 2015? It was called Norwegian and furthermore, this airline which seems to hoover up awards, flies to a number of European destinations but isn’t based in the EU.

What about the untrue and misleading statements? It’s hard to know where to begin. Going back to the Single Market. we are informed that “No other country has managed to secure signficant access to the single market without having to follow EU rules over which they have no real say /pay into the EU”. Shoddy work here. As we have pointed out, Norway is widely consulted  in the framing of EEA relevant legislation (which amounts to less than 25% of the total Acquis)  and the price it pays to access the singel market is peanuts compared with how much we pay per capita to the EU as a memebr state.

The first page proclaims that “the UK has secured a special status in a reformed EU.”  Oh really?  The legality of the agreement has been widely questioned, with Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, the vice-president of the European Parliament, describing it as “nothing more than a deal that has been hammered out down the local bazaar”.

Part of the “deal” is that “we will not join the Euro” Didn’t we secure that opt-out over 20 years ago? What about the “tough new restrictions on access to our welfare for new EU migrants”? Well, suppose that, say a  Latvian decorator moves over here after 2016, falls off a ladder and breaks both legs after living here for three years dyring which time has only worked for 29 months. In theory, he shouldn’t get much out of our system under Dave’s new deal. In practise….?

Keeping our own border controls is another benefit which is part of our “special status” so we are told. Once again, if this means that we are not part of Schengen, this is not exactly a show-stopper. We secured an opt-out here many years ago.

The biggest criticism, however, is that nowhere in this booklet does the word “sovereignty” come up. The  EU’s unique selling point is that it requires member states progressively to hollow out their national institutions and surrender soverignty to supranational institutions. These other issues are peripheral. the creation of a federal superstate is the EU’s raison d’être. Failing to mention it is rather like a supplier of fruit trees illustrating its products with lovely pictures of apple blossom but failing to show a single picture of a nice ripe apple or to mention that the reason you buy an apple tree is to eat of its produce.

To be blunt, this reluctance even to mention what the EU is all about is just plain dishonest. If the referendum is won by the “remain” side without this issue being at the centre of the debate, it will have been a pyrrhic victory which will leave us stilll being the EU’s awkward partner, always dragging our feet and being outvoted more than any other member state.

Is this really what Mr Cameron  wants? it will be a most unsatisfactory legacy. Best for his sake and for our country if we deny him such an opportunity by securing a vote to leave.