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Allister Heath has a good piece in the Telegraph, where he observes that the europhiles may end up wrong-footing themselves in the coming referendum by buying into the lazy, two-dimensional caricature of eurosceptics as ornery traditionalists who are stuck in the past and afraid of the future.
Heath rightly points out that the europhiles dismiss or underestimate we Brexiteers at their peril, writing “it is always a fatal error to assume that your political opponents are evil or stupid”. I certainly hope that this rule holds true just as it did for Ed Miliband’s vacuous, virtue-signalling Labour Party at the general election.
The hopes of many a lefty were extinguished on May 7 when it emerged that the left-wing echo chamber on Twitter was in fact not representative of the country, and that people other than psychopaths and billionaires actually voted Tory in good conscience. So by all means, let them assume once again that anyone who doubts the inherent virtue of the European Union must be a grumpy retired colonel, a Mafeking stereotype from a run-down coastal town.
Heath writes, in praise of campaign group Vote Leave:
Vote Leave’s core argument is that the EU’s institutions remain stuck in the post-1945 era: an industrial and agricultural world dominated by a few rich nations and overshadowed by the Cold War. In those days, bureaucratic centralism was the fashionable answer; 60 years on, the EU’s creaking, lumbering structures cannot cope with change involving genetic engineering, cybercrime, driverless cars and digital manufacturing.
They are just as debilitated when it comes to addressing contemporary geopolitical risks, including the crisis in the Middle East, the rise of terrorist organisations such as Isil, or even negotiating bilateral trade deals with emerging economies. It is Europe that now has a protectionist mindset, pretending that its borders stop at the Mediterranean while looking on uselessly as Syria is engulfed in a humanitarian catastrophe.
Rather than advocating a retreat into splendid isolation – which is what pro-EU activists wrongly assume Eurosceptics believe – Vote Leave will be calling for increased and improved international cooperation to deal properly with the forces that are changing the world. This, it will argue persuasively, requires different institutions to those that exist today: structures that can tackle problems quickly and that allow decentralised cooperation between nations.
I have my grave doubts about Vote Leave, for reasons well summarised over at the blog Vote to Leave the EU. There are serious doubts as to whether Brexit is the true goal of that group’s leadership, or if they are simply agitating for an initial “no” vote to then strengthen Britain’s hand for a future, “serious” renegotiation with the aim of securing a slightly sweeter deal. But Heath’s broader point is a very good one.
What threadbare arguments could have been made for the European Union back in the 1950s when the world was indeed divided into distinct and competing supranational blocs have lost all of their potency in the twenty-first century multi-polar word. For too long, europhiles have been allowed to portray themselves as forward-looking and progressive. And some really do believe it to be true. But it is increasingly hard to believe that Britain’s national interest is best served when represented through the collective voice of twenty-seven other distinct countries, each with their own unique circumstances and agendas.
The future will belong to shifting networks of nations, not to monolithic empires. Voters will have to be empowered and kept involved, rather than bypassed through undemocratic transnational democracies. The Inners, who for decades have claimed to represent modernity, are about to be wrong-footed by a campaign and arguments that they will find very difficult to respond to.
It is absolutely essential that this is the case, if we are to achieve the goal of Brexit. This cannot be a campaign focused on some chimerical, glorious past, and if it becomes such a campaign we will be ripped to shreds and lose our last, best hope of regaining national sovereignty.
That means we must focus on all of the things that Allister Heath talks about in his article – how an independent Britain will be free to pursue advantageous commercial and diplomatic deals in our own interest rather than holding one 28th of a say over the common European position, how Britain’s membership fee can be repurposed and reallocated to focus on our own priorities and incentives, and more. But that’s all long term.
We also need an immediate plan mapping out what British secession from the European Union actually looks like. It is imperative that the “Leave” campaign pushes such a plan, otherwise voters will (rightly) conclude that a vote to leave the EU is a leap into the unknown, and choose the stultifying status quo as the safer option.
At present, you would be forgiven for thinking that there is no such plan. Neither of the two main campaign groups spend any time talking about what Brexit might actually look like. Vote Leave certainly don’t mention one (quite probably because Brexit is not their end goal), while Leave.EU are more focussed on attacking the EU than promoting a positive vision of post-EU Britain.
But such a plan does exist. It’s called Flexcit, and if I keep banging on about it on this blog in the coming weeks and months it is only because I have come to realise that the referendum cannot be won without a clear and unambiguous plan for Brexit, and it is high time some of the “heavyweight” eurosceptics publicly adopted this plan or ventured one of their own.
Flexcit is a serious, pragmatic plan which outlines a step-by-step process for leaving the EU and rejoining the world. It doesn’t make undeliverable promises of free chocolate and rainbows for everyone, but it is comprehensive and rigorous, and does what it says on the tin. As I have already said, every serious eurosceptic and Brexit campaigner should read it and give it fair consideration.
Only then, with the referendum won and Britain taking her first steps in the world as a truly independent and sovereign nation once again, can we do as Allister Heath says and show the vanquished europhiles just how forward-looking and ambitious we Brexiteers are for our country.
Is the penny dropping about Vote Leave’s true intentions?
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