An Anti-Immigration Brexit Campaign Is Doomed To Failure

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Ben Kelly of Conservatives for Liberty and The Sceptic Isle has an excellent new piece explaining why a Leave campaign focused on immigration is both depressingly regressive and doomed to failure.

Kelly’s warning is in response to Michael Gove’s latest contribution to the Vote Leave campaign, as reported today by ITV:

Michael Gove has warned the UK faces a migration “free for all” unless it leaves the EU, as the Leave camp moved to exploit an admission from the Government that EU free movement of labour rules make it harder to curb immigration.

The Justice Secretary insisted potential new members of the EU posed a “direct and serious threat” to public services such as the NHS, and social harmony.

He said five countries “due to join the European Union” – Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey – which he warned would mean Britain’s public services would not be left in a “strong position”.

Writing from the perspective of The Leave Alliance (an independent grassroots movement for Brexit supported by this blog) which advocates exiting the EU’s political union and using EFTA/EEA membership to maintain access to the single market, Kelly writes:

A recent ComRes poll that asked the question “what is the most important issue in your decision on the EU Referendum?” was illuminating. 47% said the economy was the most important factor, with immigration trailing on 24%. So the belief that it doesn’t matter that the Leave campaign loses the economic argument because they can win on immigration is bunkum.

First and foremost, people will vote according the economic risk. That is why we propose an EEA based solution; it de-risks Brexit, secures the economy and gives us a soft landing. That is stage one of the secession process, a safe platform to build on. This is the key to winning the referendum and thereby restoring democracy and self-governance in the United Kingdom. In any case, it will likely be the only offer on the table for Article 50 negotiations and is the likely government course of action.

Although the EFTA/EEA solution puts on hold changes to freedom of movement it crucially protects our Single Market participation and thereby neutralises the economic uncertainty surrounding Brexit. In the long term we can make the case for reforms to freedom of movement, but pending such reform there is plenty of scope for improving the management of our borders with a coordinated set of policies designed to address push/pull factors. We would also gain the option of activating the “emergency brake” provision in the EEA Agreement as a temporary safeguard measure against exceedingly high net migration numbers.

Many who unrealistically seek a clean break Brexit and want everything at once will see this position as sub-optimal, but the alternative – pulling out of the EU’s freedom of movement provisions – would lose us access to the Single Market.  Without continued access to the Single Market, we cannot win the referendum because we lose the economic argument.

Those who insist on ending freedom of movement and imposing strict new immigration controls on Day 1 are letting their own “perfect scenario” be the enemy of the good. The type of Brexit necessary to deliver what Vote Leave are promising inevitably means losing access to the single market, membership of which is contingent on adopting free movement of people. This creates a degree of economic uncertainty which is gleefully seized upon by the Remain campaign and makes it virtually impossible for Leave to win the referendum.

By contrast, exiting to an EFTA/EEA holding pattern allows Britain to extricate herself from political union with the EU while maintaining the stability in the economic sphere which is necessary to reassure the 47% of voters for whom this will be the deciding factor. Further changes to immigration policy can then follow according to the democratic will of the British people, subject to various economic and political constraints.

It should be pointed out, too, that the accession of the next group of EU candidate countries – Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey – could be more than a decade away from joining, and in Turkey’s case this may well not happen at all. This gives plenty of time for Britain to secure freedom from political union, and then flex our independent policy levers to address push and pull factors as Kelly advocates.

Kelly concludes:

Stepping back into the EEA means leaving political and judicial union safely.  From that position of security and strength a world of opportunity opens up. Over time we can take advantage of regaining control over a vast swathes of policy making and review the statute books. Gradually we can move towards a more bespoke “British model” of relations with the EU and form a coalition to push for necessary reforms.

Disastrously, this is seemingly unacceptable to a number of inflexible and uncompromising Eurosceptics who reject freedom of movement and the Single Market and are therefore actively adding to the perceived uncertainty of Brexit. Regressive Euroscepticism, which is unwilling to compromise and refuses to acknowledge that freedom of movement actually has many great positives, is a disease that will lead only to abject failure.

We need an optimistic message and a positive, liberal vision. The ability to move freely across Europe is hugely beneficial in so many ways and a great many Britons enjoy those benefits and will fear losing their rights.  EEA immigration has been good for this country in many clear and measurable ways, economically and socially, and this absolutely has to be said.

An independent Britain must be a positive, diverse and liberal country with an open economy; this is the key to our cultural and social dynamism and how we can make a great success of Brexit. Leave cannot possibly win with a regressive vision that contradicts this. An anti-immigration campaign arguing for the abolition of freedom of movement and the loss of Single Market access is guaranteed to lose, and the failure will be richly deserved.

The New Statesman’s political editor George Eaton is also devastatingly accurate with his take on Vote Leave’s pivot back to immigration:

Britain’s high immigration rate is undeniably of concern to many voters. The boast that EU withdrawal would exempt the UK from free movement (though Norway and Switzerland show it may not) is perhaps the best card the Brexiters have to play. But it may not deliver victory. The Remain campaign speaks of a “plateau” beyond which Leave cannot advance. There are millions of people whose priority is reducing immigration – just not enough for the outers to win. The issue is to them what the NHS was to Ed Miliband’s Labour – a strategic comfort blanket.

[..] The more the Brexiters play the migration card, the greater the risk that they animate their core voters while alienating others. It was for this reason that Vote Leave resolved to run an optimistic campaign, non-centred on immigration. Gove’s rhetorical escalation shows that they are struggling to abide by this vow.

In raising the salience of immigration, Leave is playing to its strengths. Until it is able to neutralise its weaknesses, that will remain a displacement activity.

Continuing to place this uncompromising immigration message front and centre in the Leave campaign is the quickest and surest way to a 45-55 defeat on June 23. The only ones not to realise this seem to be the official Leave campaign, who are more interested in covering their blushes and resetting the agenda after having their flimsy economic case taken apart last week by a gleeful Remain campaign.

Any campaign aimed at motivating core supporters at the expense of alienating swing voters (by preventing the adoption of a plan which would ease their economic concerns) is not helpful at this stage. Persisting with exactly the same unfocused, populist message which helped to secure the referendum will not also help to win it, and telling the UKIP contingent exactly what they want to hear rather than challenging them to think more strategically and longer-term could well be looked back on as the single biggest failure of the campaign.


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Taking Advantage Of The EEA To Ensure A Soft Landing After Brexit

All the benefits of Brexit without the risk of a “hard landing”

Could Britain avail itself of our existing EEA membership to continue trading with EU member states as part of the single market while leaving the EUs’ explicitly political organisation and structures? In a word, yes.

Ben Kelly sets out the process by which this would work – and the many advantages of this transitional step – in an ongoing series over at Conservatives for Liberty.

And in the video above, Dr. Richard North of discusses the solution in detail, in an interview for Icelandic TV.

Up-to-the-minute information and commentary here.

Download Flexcit here.

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The EU “Renegotiation” Is An Attempt To Deceive You

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By Ben Kelly, blogger and editor of The Sceptic Isle.

If you are one of those many people who consider themselves to be a “Eurosceptic” and lean heavily towards the “no” (for “Brexit”) vote yet still believe in the so-called re-negotiation – because “it’s worth a try”, you never know what we might get, we’re in a strong position to win back powers, et cetera – then please stop. Stop wasting time, and wake up.

If you are against our membership of the European Union on principle then the possibility of “winning” some minor cosmetic changes to our relationship should not give you cause for doubt. You need to focus on arguing for secession, now.

The renegotiation is a pretence conducted by avid europhiles with the sole intention of shutting down this debate and sealing the United Kingdom’s fate as a permanent part of the political union, destined for deeper integration. The evidence for this plain to see, and eurosceptic Conservative Party members and MPs should not allow the party leadership to get away with its insultingly transparent charade.

The image being portrayed is that of our government locked in a “renegotiation” with other EU members; with all the arguments, banging on the table and defiance that this entails. Please don’t fall for this, David Cameron is not a born again eurosceptic. None of that is happening, it is all nonsense, complete make believe; at best it is elaborate political theatre.

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Our Long Term Economic Madness

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By Ben Kelly, blogger and editor of The Sceptic Isle.

In May, the Conservative Party portrayed the election as a choice between Tory competence and Labour chaos; Labour’s spending and borrowing compared to the Conservative “long term economic plan”. The electorate made their choice and the current government received a mandate to cut the budget deficit and fix the economy.

Britain is now purportedly on the path to economic sanity, but you can be forgiven for having some moments of doubt. In the year 2015, after nearly six years of “austerity”, we will still spend £70 billion over budget. Should we redefine what the word “austerity” means?

The economic madness really began when Gordon Brown and Ed Balls implemented their plans for a high tax, high spend, much enlarged state with a continental-style economy. As we know only too well, it grew completely out of control.

The current government has the opportunity to reshape the British state permanently, and when ideas are floated about “thinking the unthinkable” and slashing budgets by 40% there is a flicker of hope that they might grasp it with both hands. Sadly, there is too much evidence to the contrary to believe anything serious is really being done to end the public spending spree and return to a sensible, sustainable fiscal situation.

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The EU Aims To Depose The Greek Government, Again

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By Ben Kelly, blogger and editor of The Sceptic Isle.

‘Mr Dijsselbloem suggested even if Greece voted to approve the bailout plan it would be hard for its eurozone partners to continue to trust Mr Tsipras’s leftwing Syriza government to implement it — hinting a new government would be necessary.’

The EU is escalating its campaign of intimidation against the Greek electorate in order to push them towards the “yes” vote they seek. Now efforts are escalating to oust the democratically elected Greek government whatever the result of today’s referendum. President of the EU Parliament Martin Schulz has called for the Syriza government to be replaced by “technocrat” rule until stability can be restored in Greece after its economic collapse. We have been here before. 

We have already witnessed a post-modern, bloodless coup d’état in Athens before, as we did in Rome. Elected prime ministers were given a final, firm push and removed from power and replaced with Eurocrats appointed from Brussels, a former Vice-President of the European Central Bank and a former European Commissioner no less. They were appointed with the mission to impose policies approved by the EU but rejected in general elections.

Mario Monti appointed himself finance minister as well as prime minister and a government was installed in Italy without a single elected politician. The fragile pretence of EU democracy collapsed, and the dictatorial nature of the centralist new European empire was exposed. Apparachiks in Brussels ruling through colonial governors in Athens and Rome, overseen by the ECB in Frankfurt and the government in Berlin dissolved national democracy. The electorate in the Euro colonies were cut out altogether.

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