While advocating a “soft Brexit” as their fallback position, Remainers contradict themselves and expose the tawdry lies they told during the EU referendum
Even Open Britain, the shrivelled husk of Will Straw’s failed Remain campaign group Britain Stronger in Europe, has now effectively admitted that leaving the European Union need not be intrinsically economically harmful – thus undermining the central pillar of their case for staying in the EU.
The harsh light which Remainers are now knowingly shining on their prior scaremongering and lies is quite hilarious. By drawing a distinction between “hard” and “soft” Brexit and campaigning fervently for continued membership of the EEA, campaigners are effectively admitting that their many economic apocalypse warnings applied only to leaving the single market, and not the EU’s political union.
From an Open Britain campaign email sent to supporters yesterday:
Open Britain is campaigning for Britain to stay in the Single Market, which brings increased investment, trade, jobs and growth.
It seems the public agree. A new poll we commissioned has found that 59% of voters want the UK to stay in the Single Market, so there is no mandate for a destructive Brexit.
Now, MPs from Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats are calling for a debate in Parliament. They are urging the Government to publish its plan for the forthcoming EU negotiations and to allow Parliament to approve it. A huge majority – 73% of people – support this.
Our future partnership with the EU should be not decided in secret but determined by democratic debate.
There is “no mandate for a destructive Brexit,” we are told. Well, that’s funny. Because not long ago, every Remainer in town – most certainly including Britain Stronger in Europe – was screeching about the automatic ruin which would befall Britain if we voted to leave the EU, regardless of how the Brexit process played out or whatever our eventual new trading and political relationship with the EU happened to be. For months we were told by sanctimonious Remainers that “destructive Brexit” was the only kind of Brexit available – yet now they acknowledge a benign version of Brexit and encourage us to adopt it.
Fast-forward four months and suddenly the story changes. Now, apparently, we need to fight tooth and nail to preserve our membership of and unimpeded access to the single market, because this is the lynchpin on which Britain’s economy rests. In other words, their entire economic scaremongering case was a giant lie.
Oh sure, they’ll come back and claim that most Brexiteers supposedly want a “hard Brexit” and that the major Leave campaigns envisioned Britain leaving the single market, which is why they felt justified in equating the European Union with the single market in their own campaign rhetoric. But this is the mealy-mouthed defence of someone who has been caught in a blatant lie. Remainers were desperate to bury the awkward fact that the EU and single market are not one and the same thing, and the fact that they did all they could to fudge the distinction (heck, they suggested that leaving the EU meant severing ourselves from the continent of Europe) shows that they were more obsessed with economic scaremongering than truth. It is Remainers, not Brexiteers, who dwell in a land of post-factual politics.
Funny. It’s almost as though [Remainers] are suggesting that leaving the EU needn’t necessarily mean “plung[ing] the UK into a period of recession and international decline”, and that Britain’s economic and diplomatic health is actually contingent on the kind of choices that Britain makes once we are free of the supranational political union.
Claiming that a mismanaged, uncontrolled or “hard” Brexit might cause serious economic harm is a perfectly respectable position. More than that, it is basic common sense. But that isn’t the argument that Remainers were making during the EU referendum campaign. No, they were claiming that any form of Brexit would be disastrous, that Britain leaving the European Union would be economically calamitous in and of itself, regardless of how Brexit unfolded or the model of our future trading relationship with the EU.
As it happens, this blog agrees with Open Britain’s revised position. Certainly as an interim measure Britain should remain in the EEA while working toward a longer-term solution which hopefully replaces the single market with a new framework which is more democratic and not part of a protectionist, beady-eyed, euro-federalist master plan. Given that the most skilled trade negotiators in the world (in which Britain is singularly lacking, despite generous help from our Commonwealth friends) take a decade or more to thrash out comprehensive bilateral agreements it is the height of idiocy to assume that a Brexit-inspired sense of urgency and the concerns of “German car makers” will get the job done in the initial two short years set out in Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.
But why couldn’t the Remainers just be honest from the beginning, level with the British people and tell them that it is Britain’s uninterrupted EEA access, not our membership of the supranational political union, on which our economic stability depends?
The answer, of course, is that for top Remainers the EU referendum was never about economics. It was about their craven desire to live in an amorphous internationalist blob where the nation state is fatally undermined and the strongest level of government and identity reforms at the European level. That’s what they wanted but couldn’t say in public. And so instead they falsely equated the EU with the single market in an attempt to scare low information voters and assorted unthinking lefties that voting for Brexit inherently meant economic doom.
Now that the decision to leave the EU has been made, these disingenuous people are having to regroup and come up with a new argument – that it is our future relationship with the single market, not the EU, which will have the greatest potential impact on our economy and future prosperity. And just as even a stopped clock tells the correct time twice a day, this time they happen to be correct.
Unfortunately, changing arguments mid-stream also reveals that nearly everything that the Remain campaign said prior to the EU referendum was a deliberate, filthy lie.
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Changing one’s mind about an existentially important constitutional and geopolitical question merely because of the tone of the campaign is either criminally idiotic or part of a deliberate campaign of deception
A former minister has announced that she is abandoning Brexit and defecting to the Remain campaign in protest at its “hate and xenophobia”.
Baroness Warsi has accused Michael Gove, the Eurosceptic Justice Secretary, of “peddling complete lies” and said her final decision was prompted by a Nigel Farage-backed poster depicting Syrian refugees with the slogan “breaking point”.
[..] Baroness Warsi, a former chairman of the Conservative Party, told The Times: “That ‘breaking point’ poster really was, for me, the breaking point to say ‘I can’t go on supporting this’. Are we prepared to tell lies, to spread hate and xenophobia just to win this campaign? For me that’s a step too far.”
She made the decision to defect despite Mr Gove saying that the poster made him “shudder” and describing it as the “wrong thing to do”.
This fails the smell test for a number of reasons, not least of which is that the natural action to take if one feels repulsed by the behaviour of other people arguing for something that you believe in is to disassociate yourself from them, not to join the other side and immediately adopt a completely different set of beliefs and arguments than you were professing moments earlier.
This is precisely what members of The Leave Alliance, including this blog, have done. As proponents of a small-L liberal vision for Brexit in which we leave the EU to better engage with the entire world (and hopefully reboot our democracy in the process), we were naturally repulsed by many of the anti-immigration arguments, as well as the rank amateurism of the official Vote Leave campaign. But this did not turn us into enthusiastic Remainers. Rather, it encouraged us to carve out our own niche of bloggers, experts and advocates to promote our message within the wider Brexit movement.
If Baroness Warsi was really that upset about the tone of the mainstream Leave campaign, she or one of her researchers could have discovered the Leave Alliance in the time it takes to do a quick Google search. Warsi could have found a community of passionate, knowledgeable and highly principled Brexiteers who would have welcomed her into the fold. But Warsi did not do so, either because her mind genuinely cannot conceive of a world and a referendum campaign beyond that waged in the Westminster bubble, or because she had no intention of looking for other Brexiteers with values closer to her own.
Of course, we have seen this before, with the defections of Tory MP Sarah Wollaston and Labour MP Khalid Mahmood, also ostensibly because of their disgust at the tone of the Leave campaign. As backbenchers, one might be more charitable and chalk this up to idiocy rather than political machinations, but in the case of a former Conservative Party chairman and minister like Sayeeda Warsi it all reeks very strongly of a PR stunt.
And shame on the Times newspaper, incidentally, for allowing themselves to be used quite blatantly as the prime minister’s personal propaganda mouthpiece rather than applying the most basic level of journalistic scepticism to their reporting – in their eagerness to report on the supposed “turmoil” created by an utterly inconsequential figure in the broader Leave campaign they made themselves look politically calculating and stupid at the same time.
As Guido Fawkes points out:
The Times have watered down their mischievous first edition claiming Sayeeda Warsi has ‘defected’ from Leave to Remain. No one in Vote Leave thought she was a Brexit supporter or is aware of her doing any campaigning for them at all. She has only tweeted about Vote Leaveonce – ten days ago – to attack them. She did not appear on the website of pro-Leave group Muslims for Britain. In February Warsi told Eurosceptic campaigners she had not declared. When Dan Hannan invited her to join the Leave campaign, she declined. Neil Kinnock even once backed her for EU commissioner…
Hardly the very model of an arch eurosceptic and committed Leave campaigner.
This comes through strongly in Charlotte Leslie’s official statement:
My decision is with nothing to do with either the Leave or Remain Campaign, but as an individual who has done their best to assess the situation and come to a conclusion based on my assessment of the facts to which I have access, my experience in working with European colleagues from many EU Member States over the years, and my own personal understanding of human behaviour and risk.
As I have said repeatedly, I do not necessarily think there is a right or wrong answer to this question, and I have the utmost respect and appreciation for those who disagree with me. I celebrate and welcome disagreement and debate.
After all my deliberations, I found myself coming back to a principle on which I try to lead my life: That you have to face realities, however difficult, because to attempt to deny a reality leads to more pain in the long term.
Personally, I cannot see the European Project, whose express aim is to further homogenise the very different nations of Europe into an ever closer political union, as anything but a fantasy, and as such, dangerous.
Therefore, however much I appreciate and understand the risks and challenges of voting ‘leave’, I find myself completely unable mandate this madness.
What a contrast in tone and class with the fiery, bitter and sanctimonious MP defections from the Leave campaign, which have never been based on a genuine reappraisal of the merits of Brexit but always out of a desire by MPs to publicly disassociate themselves from supposedly unsavoury people.
And this is key. Beyond the tawdry, transparent and frankly amateurish attempt at choreographing a political defection stunt, there is a serious point here. As we have seen, Baroness Warsi is not the first politician to rend their garments, reach for the smelling salts and publicly switch sides in the EU referendum in protest at the “tone” of the campaign.
Looked at more broadly, this is symptomatic of the same trend towards public virtue signalling that we see on social media and our university campuses now entering the world of politics. For many contemporary politicians, ideology and policy positions are not things to be adopted based on a serious consideration of their value and applicability to the modern world, but rather items of clothing to be worn or discarded like this season’s latest fashion.
Almost the entire official Remain campaign is based not on an enthusiastic defence of the European Union as it currently is or is likely to become, but rather the flimsy assertion that supporting the EU is somehow the progressive and virtuous thing to do. Hence you will almost never find a Shoreditch hipster or a Brighton artist proudly campaigning for Leave – it would go against the very grain of their “social uniform”. Hence Britain Stronger in Europe’s latest social media advertisement which asserts without a shred of evidence that voting Remain is the “kind, open, inclusive, tolerant” thing to do.
And in this age when politicians sometimes build up substantial social media followings and careers live and die by successful media appearances, is it really any wonder that the glibness of our political discourse now attracts equally glib politicians – MPs who will change their opinion on an issue as fundamental as Britain’s continued membership of the EU at the drop of the hat, depending on which hashtags are trending positively on Twitter?
In the case of Baroness Warsi, we can safely chalk up this non-defection to a good old-fashioned political stunt, a piece of theatre shamefully performed by the Remain campaign to help add to the illusion of momentum and inevitability going into the closing stretches of the EU referendum campaign.
The Remain campaign is so used to loudly claiming the moral high ground and dismissing Brexiteers as backward, nasty reactionaries that even their “positive” closing message is unintentionally insulting toward half the country
Well, that calmer, politer politics didn’t last very long, did it?
On the first day of real campaigning following the murder of Jo Cox MP, the Remain campaign has hit the airwaves with this new meme, now being widely shared on social media.
Displaying a heart shape in the colours of the Union Flag, Britain Stronger in Europe exhort us to:
All pleasing words, you might think. But what does it say about those Britons – nearly half the country, according to opinion polls – who think that Britain should leave the European Union. Are they unkind people? Are they closed-minded and closed-hearted? Do they all seek to exclude people? Are they all racist? Apparently the official Remain campaign thinks so.
The image is accompanied on social media by the following message:
This referendum is about the type of country we want to live in.
SHARE this if you believe Britain is at our best when we’re outward-looking, inclusive and we stand together.
This social media post accomplishes the Remain campaign’s objectives brilliantly. It doesn’t get bogged down in the details of why the European is so great (it isn’t) or necessary (it really isn’t), or even why leaving would be so calamitous (it wouldn’t be). On the contrary, the Union Jack coloured heart and childish font keep things very superficial. It declares to the world that the person liking or sharing the message is a Good, Enlightened and Virtuous Person, unlike those knuckle-dragging, murderous subhumans who dare to believe in Brexit.
Another similar meme is also being shared widely on Facebook, as a play on Nigel Farage’s tired old “I want my country back” theme:
I want my country back, too. The country which celebrated Mo Farah winning at the Olympics, the same one who is proud to call Tom Daly or Mark Foster part of the British Olympic team, the country who cheers for Tanni Grey-Thompson. That, that’s my country. The same country which took Malala Yousafzai to its heart. My country is better for the diverse country it is, from the food available in the supermarket to St Paul’s Carnival & drinking Kenyan coffee with a Jewish bagel to cure a hangover from French wine. My Britain is not filled with hate or extremism. My Britain is not perfect but it isn’t better alone. My Britain is open, inclusive, progressive and an inspiring place to live.
Because of course a post-Brexit Britain would rejoice in none of these things, all of which are only made possible thanks to our membership of the European Union. Quite why Britain’s departure from a supranational political union would mean that Britain would become a country which starts booing its own black athletes, burning down bagel shops or pouring French wine into the sea at Dover harbour is of course never explained. But the Remain campaign don’t need to explain it. This is their own form of “dog-whistle” campaigning. They just have to suggest these these links, and immediately everyone who is preconditioned to equate euroscepticism with xenophobia or racism immediately pricks up their ears and awaits orders.
This is insulting beyond words to half the country who currently favour Brexit, particularly considering the hurried vow everybody took in the wake of the Jo Cox murder to immediately (and rather implausibly) be nice to one another. But one must admire the way that the Remain campaign stuck to the letter (if not the spirit) of their pledge – they managed to grievously insult half the country without using a single negative word, instead simply suggesting that Brexiteers represent the opposite of all these positive values.
Though as one commenter put it on the Britain Stronger in Europe Facebook page:
This idea that only those voting for Remain uphold those values is disgusting. None of us have a monopoly on those things. Remain shouting the loudest about being decent – total and utter hypocrisy #Brexit
But this is literally all they have. The Remain campaign kept the focus relentlessly and myopically on the economic question, wheeling out all of the same experts who told us two decades ago that Britain would wither and perish outside the euro. And the message has not gained sufficient traction to leave Remain confident of victory. So all they have left is to demonise the other side.
They cannot speak too passionately and warmly about the European Union, because the organisation is distrusted or hated – quite rightly – by anybody who remotely cares about democracy or the continued importance of the nation state. They cannot openly commit Britain to the EU’s clearly stated end goal – a common European state – because it would alienate too many people.
So all that is left for Remain is to demonise the other side, either explicitly (as they did before the murder of Jo Cox) or implicitly (as they are doing now, by suggesting that Leave voters are the antithesis of the wonderful, warm qualities listed in the Facebook meme).
And in terms of winning the referendum, it may just work. The relentless fearmongering, the demonising of Brexiteers, the desire of many people to virtue-signal the fact that they hold “open” and “progressive” views and the usual tendency for people to gravitate back towards the perceived status quo at the closing stages of a referendum campaign may push Remain over the line. Possibly quite convincingly.
But it has made the job of stitching the nation back together again almost impossible. And each time sanctimonious, preachy little graphics concocted by Britain Stronger in Europe are created and shared, it makes the task that much harder. Because whatever misanthropes, racists and bigots may support Leave, the vast majority of Brexiteers are good, honest decent people. They are patriots who genuinely (and in this blog’s view, quite rightly) believe that they are doing the right thing. And you can’t spend three months loudly questioning half the country’s intelligence, tolerance and moral code and then expect everybody to hold hands like one big happy family.
Given the way that this referendum has been fought by pro-EU forces, a vote to Remain will therefore resolve absolutely nothing. And prissy, sanctimonious little declarations of virtue like Stronger In’s “Remain Together” campaign message are the reason why.
The implication is clear – if you’re someone who is voting Leave, you are supposedly declaring yourself to be unkind, closed, not inclusive, intolerant and in favour of division.
Not only is that entirely in conflict with the weekend’s warm words about a more reasonable and less unpleasant tone in the final days of the referendum campaign, but it is an extraordinary attack on the millions upon millions of voters who are – rightly, in this site’s view – planning to Vote Leave.
It isn’t the first time we’ve heard such dismissive criticisms of those who dare to disagree. Only yesterday, the Prime Minister declared that there is not “a single credible voice” arguing we will gain by leaving the EU, implicitly suggesting several members of his own Cabinet lack credibility. But the content of this particular advert makes it the broadest insult to voters, Party members, MPs and Ministers so far, and the timing makes a mockery of recent promises to raise the tone.
If Stronger In’s management intend to stand by this scurrilous line, will their overseers, Cameron and Osborne, continue to do so as well?
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What was David Cameron thinking, allowing himself to be pictured joking around with an arch euro-federalist days before the EU referendum?
I strongly suspect that David Cameron will come to regret trying to enlist Jeremy Clarkson and the remainder of the ex Top Gear rabble to support his tawdry and deceitful campaign to keep Britain in the European Union.
For while it made a great photo op, our dashing prime minister ladding about with old Clarkson, unfortunately Jeremy Clarkson then opened his mouth and spoke. And what he said was very far from the official Britain Stronger in Europe line of “oh gee, the EU is awfully frustrating, but we have to stick with it because we are just not good enough to handle this whole independence thing”.
And so, just when David Cameron needed Jezza to come out with a suitably “Eurosceptics for Remain” soundbite, Jeremy Clarkson instead gave us this (my emphasis in bold):
Really, it’s my gut. My gut tells me, as you know, I feel European, and therefore I want to be in Europe – for no other reason.
Because I’ve heard some very compelling reasons for leaving, sitting next to people who want to leave. And they are quite compelling.
And then Clarkson’s sidekick, James May, joins in the unwitting sabotage:
If I’m honest it’s a gut feeling for me as well. It’s because I feel that Britain is naturally disposed, if we’re not careful, to being rather backward in its view on the world. And there are too many people who think that we’ll be alright because we’ve got the E-type Jag. But that’s just not true, and being part of Europe is part of moving on.
In other words, instead of “I hate the EU too, but we are stuck with it because it’s the only thing on offer”, instead Clarkson and May gave us “Britain sucks and we’re all European citizens anyway! Let’s strive on to complete the grand project!”. Which rather undermines every single thing that the prime minister has been saying since he launched the Remain campaign – namely that the EU is a benign club devoted to trade, cooperation and nothing more, with no intentions to further impinge on our democracy, as well as the already-tenuous idea that voting Remain is in any way the patriotic thing to do.
It also rather contradicts the Remain campaign’s claim to have all of the facts on their side, while we knuckle-dragging Brexiteers exist in a kind of Trumpian, Palinite post-fact world. After all, Jeremy Clarkson’s argument for remaining in the EU doesn’t even remotely touch on the economic scaremongering which is so central to Stronger In’s messaging, which rather calls it into question. If the economic question is key and the “expert opinion” so settled that Brexit would be a disaster, why is the prime minister doing a photo op with someone who couldn’t give two figs about the economy because all he cares about is casting off his hated Britishness and becoming a truly European citizen?
Watch David Cameron’s pinched expression as Clarkson goes on about how European he feels, and then when May waxes lyrical about hopeless, parochial Britain with its backward inhabitants. You can see in the prime minister’s face the suppressed annoyance of a man who realises that his clever photo op has just massively backfired, and that the video footage they are capturing will be of absolutely zero use during the remainder of the campaign.
Why? Because unsurprisingly, the remaining undecided voters in this EU referendum campaign are not themselves ardent euro-federalists. Indeed, almost nobody falls into this peculiar category. And the last thing that the Remain campaign wants to be showing undecided voters – most likely people with no great love for the EU, but with gnawing fears about the economic risks of Brexit – is a self-satisfied millionaire celebrity who probably spends half the year sunning himself in the south of France and who sniffs at Britishness and considers himself European.
Unlike an oleaginous Turncoat Tory, Clarkson does not feel the need to butter us up with constant anecdotes about how he hates Brussels just as much as we do, honest. And unlike those bland Remainers on the Labour benches, he does not just mutter inanities about countries “working together”, as though intergovernmental co-operation were not possible without the umbrella of an undemocratic political union.
No, Jeremy Clarkson owns his position, and has the guts to tell us that not only should we learn to love the European Union as it is now, we should actively fight for further political integration.
Of course, this failed photo op took place before the tragic murder of Jo Cox MP changed the atmosphere of the referendum campaign. But it provides a snapshot of a Remain campaign not functioning as well as it should, and making bad tactical decisions – like wheeling out an ardent, unapologetic euro-federalist to try to reach a group of voters with significant doubts about the EU.
Whether or not the Remain campaign has used the past few days to steady the ship and reassert some sensible decision making will probably become clear on Monday, when both campaigns spin back up to full speed. But little vignettes such as this do paint a picture of a Remain campaign in disarray, if not outright panic – which can only be good for Brexiteers.
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Apparently there is panic in Number 10 Downing Street and among the slavishly pro-EU establishment. Good. They have waged a contemptible, negative and deceitful campaign, and whether or not it prevails on June 23 the hearts, minds and consciences of all those involved richly deserve to be troubled
Having done everything but fill in all of the ballot papers himself to ensure a “Remain” vote on 23 June, at this point in the unevenly fought EU referendum campaign we might expect to see a bit of magnanimity or statesmanship from the prime minister as he coasts toward the closing stages.
But the polls have tightened unexpectedly as the British public rightly begin to suspect that the near-unanimous hysterical screeching from the establishment in favour of Remain sounds more like naked self-interest and wretched pessimism about Britain than a realistic warning about what might happen in the event of Brexit. And this has caused David Cameron – a notably weak strategist only capable of thinking one step ahead, unlike his gifted general election campaign manager – to panic, and start behaving in a most un-prime ministerial manner.
Three interventions in particular mark out the descent of David Cameron from oleaginous, confident salesman to the nation’s Bully in Chief – the impromptu rooftop press conference at which Cameron openly accused ministers in his own government of knowingly peddling falsehoods, the statement that Cameron would take Britain out of the single market in the event of a “Leave” vote despite leaving the EEA not being on the ballot paper, and his shameful attempts to bully and coerce Britain’s pensioners, effectively holding a gun to their heads and commanding them to vote Remain or see their pensions fall.
David Cameron doesn’t do that many press conferences at all, despite promising in Opposition that he would hold a monthly one, and so when he summons hacks to the roof of a hotel at short notice, you know that there is a Crisis that the Prime Minister is taking Very Seriously indeed.
Cameron then proceeded to list six ‘complete untruths to the British people’ that the Leave campaign was guilty of producing. These were that the UK is liable to bail out eurozone countries, that our rebate is at risk, that we have given up our ability to veto EU treaties, that we have no ability to stop EU spending from going up, that we are powerless to stop Britain being forced into an EU army and that we would save £8bn if we left the EU.
Were these untruths really so heinous that he was forced to hold a press conference at short notice? Or was it, as one of the journalists sitting on the roof with the Prime Minister suggested, that the Leave campaign currently had the momentum and the debate was all about immigration, which damages Remain? Cameron replied:
‘Look, I was watching the news last night and it just came over to me so clearly that there is such a contrast between the weight of independent expert opinion that wishes our country well but is giving us an unvarnished view of the decision we could be taking, there’s a massive contrast between that – respected, independent experts warning us about lost jobs, about instability, about a smaller economy, about the effect on our country. The contrast between that and a series of assertions from the Leave campaign that just simply aren’t right…’
So the Crisis was that the Prime Minister had been watching the news last night.
Some archly dry humour there from Isabel Hardman. When The Spectator openly mocks a Conservative prime minister in this way, you know things are bad.
Cameron’s specific counterpoints are immaterial here – they were aimed at the ravings of the official Vote Leave campaign, which does not speak for all Brexiteers. But what is telling is the fact that David Cameron – a man who promised that he “ruled nothing out” in his renegotiation with the EU while actively colluding with business leaders to plan the eventual Remain campaign, and who then presented the empty gift bag given to him by Brussels as a deal which had fundamentally “reformed Europe” – is willing to go on live television and accuse his Brexit-supporting ministers of being liars.
More insidious than this, though, was the way that David Cameron pledged on the Andrew Marr show last weekend that in the event of a Leave vote he would seek to take Britain out of the single market, despite this being just one (incredibly sub-optimal) mode of Brexit, and the referendum question saying nothing at all about the single market or EEA.
Dr. Richard North of the eureferendum.com blog remarks on:
[..] an extraordinary interview on the Marr Show yesterday which had David Cameron pledging to take the UK out of the Single Market in the event of a Brexit vote. This was despite Andrew Marr suggested that we could stay in, with Cameron refusing to entertain the idea, “because the ‘leave’ campaign had specifically rejected that option”.
The segment of the interview started with Andrew Marr reminding the Prime Minister that he had promised to “carry out the wishes of the British people” if we vote to leave. The trouble is, Marr then said, is that “the wishes of the British people” is a rather indistinct thing – it’s a blunt “yes” or “no”.
Cameron responded by saying that if we vote to leave the Government would carry out the instructions of the British people. That, Marr averred, would put the Prime Minister in “a very strange position”. He’d be doing things like introducing an Australian-style points system that he didn’t believe in. As for, the Single Market, though, Marr said, “there is room for a Prime Minister to negotiate that”.
It was here that the role of Vote Leave came to the fore. “I think one of the most important moments in this campaign”, Cameron said, “was when the ‘out’ campaign said they wanted to leave the Single Market”. He continued: “They didn’t have to make that choice. They’ve made that choice. And what the British public will be voting for … would be to leave the EU and leave the Single Market”.
What the Prime Minister is doing, therefore, is using Vote Leave as a proxy for the entire British public. However, this is a small group of individuals with singular views, put in place by an unelected Electoral Commission to carry out the role of lead campaigner. This can’t in any way be taken to represent the will of even those who favour Brexit – much less the entire British population.
Just because the same idiots who stubbornly persist in peddling their “£350 million a week for the NHS” falsehood in the face of endless rebuttals and fact checks have airily decided that Britain should not Brexit to an interim state preserving single market access in no way precludes that option. As Richard North reminds us, the ballot paper asks whether we want to leave or remain in the European Union – nothing more and nothing less. We should know, we spent long enough haggling over the wording at the time.
All the evidence suggests that if Britain leaves the EU without securing an “off the shelf” deal to ensure continuity of access to the single market (while fully extricating us from political union, which is what the referendum is all about) there will be at least some negative short term economic consequences, as no new trade deals can possibly be negotiated in the two-year window provisioned in Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. By contrast, Brexiting to an interim EFTA/EEA arrangement (the so-called Norway Option) would maintain our full access to the single market in the short to medium term while we work on a better bespoke solution for Britain.
The attractiveness of the interim EFTA/EEA route is self-evident: Britain would immediately be free of ever-closer political union and democracy would be restored, while maintaining single market access (for which we would pay) would return our relationship with the EU to the state that people believed they were voting for in the 1975 referendum. Therefore, it is unsurprising that Remainers are desperate to slander and dismiss the option as unworkable – it represents dynamite which would obliterate their entire case for continuing to suffer the EU.
But while David Cameron’s eagerness to problematise the Norway Option is understandable politically, for the prime minister to flat-out state that he would not pursue this option and instead take Britain out of the single market (despite no mandate to do so from the electorate) is bordering on threatening self-harm. Any Brexit model not involving keeping interim access to the single market would inevitably come with higher risks and potential economic costs than adopting the Norway Option. By ruling it out, David Cameron is essentially threatening the electorate, saying that if we vote Leave he will pursue the most disruptive and costly form of Brexit within his power, purely as an act of spiteful vengeance.
Just stop and think about that for a moment. David Cameron has effectively told voters that if we vote to leave the European Union, he will sneer “your wish is my command” and then set about doing so in the most reckless and ill-considered manner possible, just to teach us a lesson. The prime minister of this country has just threatened our own national interests on live television. Is that something which we should just blink and accept, writing it off as “fair play” in a hard fought referendum? I profoundly disagree. I think that it is contemptible behaviour, the kind of action which immediately disqualifies the perpetrator from holding further public office.
And if this still wasn’t enough, David Cameron then went from threatening the British people in general to attempting to scare Britain’s older voters in particular, with despicable threats that Brexit would automatically and inevitably lead to pension cuts.
Project Fear has turned into Project Frightened. Remain are losing ground in opinion polls and running scared. So what do they do? Go positive? Make a better, brighter case for the EU? No. They double-down and turn to blackmail.
That’s the only word that suits David Cameron’s threat that Brexit might lead to pensions being cut, made today in this newspaper. His logic is that Brexit will create a gap in the finances that will have to be filled somehow. The triple lock on pensions, guaranteeing rising incomes, would probably have to picked. Even if it were a moral necessity to help the aged, it would suddenly become unaffordable.
This is rubbish for two reasons. First, it’s based on the Government’s assumption that Brexit will lead to a collapse in trade that will wipe billions off GDP. The Treasury forecasts that this is based on are alarmist and absurd – they suggest a retraction worse than the Great Depression. Businessmen who actually deal with Europe every day, such as Sir James Dyson, report that they don’t see such a risk and are confident that Britain will continue to grow.
Second, Cameron suggests that the Government would have no choice but to cut pensions – as though the invisible hand of the free market would be clasped around its throat. Nonsense. It would face spending choices and, Cameron is telling us, it would choose to cut pensions. Much as the Government has chosen in the last few years to cut the highest rate of income tax on the rich or chosen to cut benefits for the poor. If Brexit did trigger a recession, the Government would once again have to do what it’s supposed to do and make budget decisions based upon its political preferences. I humbly suggest it chases the tax evaders and closes some loopholes before it bleeds pensioners dry.
And Stanley’s devastating conclusion:
The bottom line is this: the Prime Minister has moved from warning the British people to threatening them. And picking on the elderly – some of whom are legitimately worried about the future – is one of the lowest things you can do in politics.
What utterly despicable and unmanly behaviour from our prime minister. What debased, fearmongering garbage this man is capable of spewing in order to get his way in the EU referendum. David Cameron’s legacy as prime minister has long been in question, having governed for five years as part of an unmemorable centrist coalition and latterly as a party which blind observers might guess to be the work of Blue Labour, if not Blair’s New Labour. But now that legacy has crystallised – Cameron is the prime minister who betrayed conservatism and bullied his own people, preferring to serve the interests of the EU than those of his country.
David Cameron doesn’t have a conservative bone in his body. He doesn’t have an ideological bone of any kind, and from his craven behaviour in this referendum campaign it is quite clear that he lacks a backbone, too. And like a common school bully, he is willing to throw the full weight of his office and government around, breaking conventions and standards of common decency left, right and centre as he seeks to gain every inch of advantage.
That’s why the prime minister’s days are numbered. At present he takes false courage from the fact that his normally sworn enemies in the Labour Party and on the generic Left are holding their fire in their shared desperation to keep Britain in the EU. But on June 24, Cameron will quickly realise that a good half of his own Conservative Party, together with everyone else in the country, will be straining at the leash to eject him from office, strip him of the bully pulpit he has so abused, and send him marching barefoot back to Witney in sackcloth and ashes.
And such is the amount of political capital and personal goodwill Cameron has squandered, barely a single person will come to his defence when the inevitable party leadership coup takes place. In the minds of many people – now including this blog – whether his successor is just as bad (i.e. Boris Johnson) is almost immaterial. The pleasure of seeing such an arrogant and dishonest man as David Cameron driven from power in disgrace, his reputation rightly in ruins, will be its own reward.
There is a legitimate and intellectually coherent case for Britain remaining in the European Union, but David Cameron has not made it. In fact, when it comes to the rarely heard (in this country) principled euro federalist case, its proponents all seem to have been abducted and held far away from any television studio so that they don’t open their mouths and drive thousands more people into the Brexit column.
Whether the prime minister is among their number is not known. It is possible that the man is catastrophically misguided and actually believes some of the nonsense he has spewed about securing a “better deal” for Britain, and that Britain could somehow prosper as a country inevitably on the margins of an ever more tightly integrating eurozone. Perhaps.
But either way he has not been honest with the British people. Worse than that, though, he treats the people with open contempt. Some politicians lie because they fear the people, but not so with Cameron. David Cameron lies because he despises the people, holds their intelligence in low regard, and is more than willing to alternately deceive, belittle and threaten the people in the service of his establishment masters and instincts.
This is a prime minister who, when given the choice between vociferously defending the national interest of his country against the EU elite or siding with that same elite and bullying his own people into submission to their will, gladly chooses the latter course of action every single time.
There are few words strong enough to adequately describe the prime minister’s odious character and behaviour as revealed over the course of this EU referendum campaign – certainly none which I am willing to publish on this blog.
Which is why I am ending this piece here, in utter disgust at the conniving, arrogant, untrustworthy and weak approximation of a man presently in charge of our country – before I say something that I might later come to regret.
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