David Cameron: Portrait Of A Deceitful Charlatan With No Redeeming Qualities

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.

The Spectator’s Isabel Hardman says of Cameron’s panicked rooftop press conference:

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.

Dr. North is absolutely right to emphasise firmly that Vote Leave do not represent the ideas and wishes of all Brexiteers. They were not elected to represent us, and their most prominent figurehead (Boris Johnson) had not even decided which side he was going to support until a couple of months ago.

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.

Tim Stanley, rightly outraged, calls this what it is – blackmail:

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.

At this point in the EU referendum campaign we are used to seeing the European Union portrayed by its cheerleaders and apologists as a controlling, abusive spouse that would rough us up without hesitation if we try to leave its cloying embrace. But now, the prime minister himself is behaving like an abusive spouse, essentially pushing Britain’s pensioners up against the wall with his hand on their throat, pointing to the kitchen knife on the counter and saying “I don’t want to do this, but you’ll leave me no choice if you cross me”.

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.

Whether it is conducting a blatantly fraudulent “renegotiation” and presenting the status quo as shiny new baubles he secured from Brussels, calling the referendum implausibly early against the advice of the Electoral Commission, spending taxpayer money on a one-sided propaganda leaflet, sending out voting advice guides which subliminally encouraged people to vote Remain, winning over prominent Remain supporters with government jobs and official honours, cravenly failing to take part in a single proper televised debate, misrepresenting his opponents, attacking conscientious objectors to his slavish europhilia within the Conservative Party and isolating and targeting every possible voter group with customised attempts at scaremongering – now including this unsubtle warning to pensioners that he will spitefully lash out at them if they vote to Leave – in every way imaginable, David Cameron has debased himself and his office.

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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Dynamite Poll Shows Overwhelming Support For Interim EEA Brexit Option

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An explosive new poll has showed overwhelming support for a staged EFTA/EEA (Norway Option) Brexit approach in the event of a Leave vote in the EU referendum, extricating us from political union while maintaining the all-important short term economic stability. All serious Brexiteers must now coalesce around this plan

The Brexit blogosphere is reporting early warning of a new dynamite poll – far more interesting, I think, than the Independent poll showing Leave implausibly ahead by 10 points – which shows significant public support for Britain leaving the EU via a staged process maintaining access to the EEA (single market) in the same way as Norway.

The poll was commissioned by the Adam Smith Institute, who helped to shift the debate onto this ground by adopting the “Flexcit” plan developed by Dr. Richard North and readers of the eureferendum.com blog, promoting it in an essay “The Liberal Case For Leave” (authored by Roland Smith).

The purpose of the poll is quite clear – to show  that these is an as yet unmet public appetite for a staged approach to Brexit which extricates Britain from undemocratic and unwanted political union while also minimising risk.

As Tony Edwards of The Brexit Door blog reminds us:

Norway’s position is that it is in EFTA, and is a participant in the single market via the EEA agreement. It retains freedom of movement for workers, and enacts single market law (not all EU law, but about 25% of the total number of legislative measures in the EU acquis). It is not subject to the ECJ, or party to the CAP/CFP policies. It does not apply the common EU position on global bodies, it has sole competence for trade negotiations (despite making joint agreements with EFTA partners), and is not subject Justice of Home Affairs policies or collective foreign policy.

It has been the view of Flexcit advocates and The Leave Alliance that this is not only by far the most attractive approach in terms of allaying public fears and winning the referendum (without which any other differences between Brexiteers are rather academic), but that it is also the most practical and responsible way to extricate Britain from a complex political union at a minimum of risk. This poll would now seem to strongly vindicate that belief.

The key question posed by the poll was the following:

And thinking just about the shorter term, the five or ten years immediately following Britain leaving the EU, would you support or oppose Britain having a relationship like Norway has, allowing citizens of other EU countries to live and work in Britain in exchange for keeping full access to the single market?

And the headline results are overwhelmingly in favour of just such an approach:

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This shows overall support for the interim EFTA/EEA (Norway) Option of 54 percent, against just 25 percent opposed, with 21 percent unsure. And among those currently intending to vote Remain, 79 percent are in favour of such a staged Brexit approach, while only 5 percent are opposed.

Ben Kelly of The Sceptic Isle blog breaks it down:

The YouGov poll, commissioned by the Adam Smith Institute, shows that British voters would overwhelmingly support the “Norway option” in the event of a vote to leave. Support for this arrangement outweighs opposition by two-to-one. This poll destroys the arguments of extremist Brexiteers and those stubborn remainers who believe a market based solution would be unacceptable to the public.

And:

Reality is sinking in; if there is a vote to leave we will commence leaving political and judicial union but remain in the Single Market.

This is the one subject on which extremist Brexiteers and ardent remainers have agreed on. Both have made exactly the same dubious counter argument; that if the British government were to remain in the Single Market it would be un-democratic and the public would simply not accept it. They have long maintained that a “leave the European Union” vote must also mean leaving the Single Market. Both have regrettably attempted to frame this referendum as a vote on immigration which it clearly is not. Both make ridiculous assertions that the public will “revolt” against a market based solution.

We have said for some time that this was nonsense; that the economy is the number one concern and the public would support an economically safe exit. Now we have the data to prove it.

Since the Norway Option (and the incredibly thorough and detailed Brexit plan resting behind it) have become more prominent in the national debate, its opponents – Remainers and a stubborn but vocal subset of Brexiteers – have been doing everything in their power to mock, discredit and otherwise slander the plan.

The Remainers’ motivation is obvious – if it can be shown that Britain can leave the unloved political union of the EU while maintaining full access to the single market, nearly all of their apocalyptic fearmongering arguments about economic ruin are immediately blown apart, leaving the Remain campaign entirely without a case.

(Even now, some Remainers are attempting to cause mischief and cast doubt on the interim EFTA/EEA route wherever they can – because Britain’s continued participation in the single market is the Achilles heel of their case for Britain to stay locked in political union.)

The Norway Option’s opponents among Brexiteers tend to be the ignorant (including those who do not understand that it is an interim step designed to ensure economic stability while 40 years of political union are unpicked) and those who want to campaign on a platform of vastly slashing immigration and doing it yesterday, even if it means losing the referendum because moderate voters recoil.

However, this new poll suggests that the interim EFTA/EEA approach to Brexit is an idea whose time has come. With so much garbage being spewed by the official campaigns on both sides of the debate, more and more people are turning in desperation to alternative news sources and alternative scenarios not being discussed by Boris Johnson or the establishment pin-ups of the Remain campaign.

With less than two weeks to go until Referendum Day, we are finally arriving at a consensus – and we have done so despite, rather than because of the official Vote Leave campaign which has been barking about immigration and the NHS to the extent that people are tuning it out.

There is a hunger out there for somebody to present a more grown-up plan for Brexit, one which acknowledges political realities and constraints that even low-information voters perceive to exist. And now we have that plan. What’s more, as the ASI/YouGov poll shows, when the outline of the plan is explained to voters they respond very favourably.

This poll is dynamite. It shows that the scaremongering, falsehoods and outright dismissals poured on the Norway Option by Remainers and short-sighted Brexiteers have had no effect. It shows that a majority of Britons are sensible enough to realise that undoing 40 years’ worth of political integration with the EU may not be advisable to attempt in one short sharp burst, and that a plan which gets us out of the political union (and free from any future attempts at further integration) while maintaining economic stability – the top issue for voters – is potentially very popular.

The only ones who now do not accept this are the blinkered leaders of the official Leave campaign. But the EFTA/EEA route has momentum now – it will not go away just because its existence is inconvenient for Boris Johnson or the other big names of Vote Leave.

At last, Britain is starting to coalesce around a politically viable (and physically deliberable) Brexit plan. The single

This is no time for triumphalism, as Tony Edwards warns (his emphasis):

For those who have seen the polls of the last week and think that Leave has this referendum in the bag, I suggest a moment of reflection. Even if they are correct, there is every chance that the government will be able to scare people in the coming days, that there will be a resurgence for Remain. Polls are never the whole story.

But polls can help to suggest to us in broad strokes what we think the public will accept, and we should begin by offering that option to them, explicitly and clearly, before the Referendum. When the margins are as large as the ones that You Gov have reported in this particular survey, I think it is safe to say that the Staged Brexit approach via EEA/EFTA, is the only option that is likely to receive sufficient support in the country and in Parliament to be able to bring together the opposing sides if we vote to leave.

But with many moderates still undecided as to how they vote, there are clearly a significant number of Britons who may be very receptive to this new information. And hopefully the Adam Smith Institute / YouGov poll will inspire more influential pro-Brexit voices to begin making that pitch to voters.

We could yet win this thing.

 

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Flexcit And The Interim EFTA/EEA Brexit Approach Reported On Newsnight

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Having finally analysed every possible facile, gossipy and shallow angle on the EU referendum in breathtaking detail, finally the media get round to examining the ideas laid out long ago in the only existing comprehensive Brexit plan

Well, it had to happen eventually. Tired of adjudicating shrill and pointless contests in unsupported assertions and lying by omission from Vote Leave and Britain Stronger in Europe, some in the media have finally started paying attention to the safe, stable Brexit option which was there all along.

Tony Edwards of The Brexit Door blog marks the occasion:

The Liberal Case for Leave, written by Roland Smith for the Adam Smith Institute, is based on the Flexcit plan. Roland is one of a number of us who have coalesced around this idea, proposed by Flexcit author Dr Richard North of the EU Referendum Blog, that Brexit should be a multi stage project. To avoid shocks, and to escape diplomatic impasse, we must take each stage in a safe and ordered manner. This not only avoids economic pitfalls, but reassures the people that will not vote to leave the EU, or would like to but are risk averse, that they are not being forced into some great leap of faith, that there is a sensible route to full democratic freedom.

And now, in the last week, Flexcit as a plan has finally broken cover and its first stage is being discussed openly by members of Parliament, Talk radio, the BBC, the Telegraph and today the rest of the print media  (although sometimes not by name).

Tony goes on to point out an important point which is overlooked by many detractors on the Brexit side – that the EEA/EFTA arrangement is transitional, the departure lounge from the EU rather than the ultimate destination:

What is not always being heard in the public domain, and what Roland Smith explained last night, is that the EEA stage of Flexcit is transitory. It will last for a number of years for several reasons, but will not be the end point for a post EU membership UK.

Firstly, while we will want to build trade links with the rest of the world, we will also want to preserve our current markets while we do this. EFTA has been very good at negotiating FTAs, and while in EFTA there is no impediment for the UK in seeking deals within and without the group. We lose no competence in this area to EFTA as we do to the EU – that’s a massive difference in the level of freedom of action the UK will gain immediately.

While Pete North celebrates:

Thanks to Roland “White Wednesday” Smith, our comprehensive Brexit plan made a bit of a splash these evening having been announced on Newsnight as the plan under consideration by the civil service. As ever Newsnight managed to make a pigs ear of it without expanding on the critical details but it’s free publicity.

Lost Leonardo of the excellent Independent Britain blog is pleased, but unimpressed by cynical efforts underway by assorted Remainers to slander the interim EEA/EFTA (Norway) Option as some kind of betrayal of a vote to leave the EU, when it is no such thing:

With the legacy media finally turning its attention to the realities of Brexit—even Newsnight is now name-checking Flexcit—now seems like a good time to look again at the great vistas of opportunity that await a post-exit Britain.

First of all though, one has to address the “criticism”—if one can really call shouting, stamping of feet and pulling of hair critique—that adopting a phased approach to EU exit has elicited from a portion of the legacy media and the oh-so-tedious legacy campaigns.

It scarcely needs saying, but the Remainers’ feigned concern for the most belligerent voices in the “leave” camp is beyond cynical. The same people who have spent weeks, months, even years, verbally abusing anybody who has expressed the view that immigration is a bit high are now saying that it would be a “betrayal” for the UK government, supported by the House of Commons, to insist upon using the European Economic Area (EEA) agreement as a staging post for disengaging from the EU’s political and judicial union without any of the economic after effects that David Cameron and George Osborne have so irresponsibly exaggerated. Give me a break.

The hysterical reaction of Vote Leave and its associated sycophants is particularly loathsome. That organisation has done everything in its power to prevent the idea of a pragmatic, practical and non-hostile Brexit plan, which addresses the political realities as we find them not as we might like them to be, from taking hold in the public imagination.

This is a point which this blog also hammered home:

There is nothing on the paper whatsoever about the European Economic Area or “single market”. A vote to leave the EU is a vote for Britain to do exactly that – to leave an explicitly political, ever-tightening union of European countries all embarked on a journey to one day become a common state (as the EU’s founders and current leaders happily admit).

Many people are rightly now coming to the conclusion that the best way to achieve Brexit with the minimum of political and economic disruption is to exit to an “off the shelf” interim solution which already exists in the form of the EFTA/EEA membership enjoyed by Norway. This is why David Cameron has suddenly started talking about “a vote to leave the single market” over the past few days – it is a tacit admission that if we vote to leave the EU but remain in the EEA, every single one of the Remain campaign’s arguments are instantly negated.

Hence the [eagerness of Remainers] to do everything possible to slander the interim EFTA/EEA option, painting it as some kind of unconscionable scam when in fact it is an utterly pragmatic and realistic way of leaving the European Union while completely avoiding all of the apocalyptic economic scenarios which the Remain camp love to throw around.

The official Leave Alliance blog takes a deserved mini victory lap, while warning of the newfound hostility to the plan among Remain supporters and some unreconstructed Leavers. Proclaiming that reality is finally sinking in, Ben Kelly writes:

One of the most crucial elements of The Market Solution [..] is its aim of de-risking Brexit and neutralising the economic uncertainty associated with a vote to leave. We offer several scenarios that would minimise disruption and protect the economy and the most optimal of those is the EFTA/EEA route a.k.a the “EEA option” a.k.a the “Norway option”.

Leaving the EU will be a staged process; the EFTA/EEA route facilitates our transition from an EU Member State to an independent nation by protecting the economy, simplifying secession negotiations and providing us with a soft landing and a decent perspective of what “out” looks like for the near future. One of the key aims of The Leave Alliance was to disseminate this Brexit scenario amongst influential opinion formers; we were rebuffed by Vote Leave and Leave.eu, but we are now having great success late in the day as the EEA option is becoming potentially pivotal.

Due to the fact that it means leaving the EU in an economically secure way it has been the source of much fear for remainers, hence why they do everything they can to smear it. Many on the Leave side can’t get past the fact it means retaining freedom of movement, but their folly is to assume that controlling our borders is simple and abolishing free movement is a silver bullet. They are unreasonably uncompromising in refusing to accept the necessity of a transitional arrangement; we cannot leave the EU in one fell swoop.

Overall, a positive development, though we may wish to recall the words of Winston Churchill: “We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing; but let us not forget for a moment the toil and efforts that lie ahead”.

Suddenly, at long last the interim EFTA/EEA option is being discussed seriously at the highest levels in politics and the media. It took an extraordinary effort to make it happen – involving the tireless work of many of my Leave Alliance colleagues, and more than a little subterfuge here and there to ensure that the Great And The Good of British political life actually took it seriously rather than summarily rejecting it as the work of mere citizens, but here we are.

But with little more than two weeks to go until we cast our votes, is there enough time to establish the right narratives about the Norway Option and rebut the desperate smears of the Remain campaign? Or will it be too little, too late?

 

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Worried Remainers Are Now Desperately Attacking The Norway Option For A Reason

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By openly slandering the EFTA/EEA “Norway Option” for achieving Brexit in the event of a Leave vote, the Remain campaign and their allies in the media show that they are terrified of this sensible approach

The Guardian is, of course, desperate for Britain to remain in the European Union. The vast majority of those who read or write for the paper simply cannot conceive why tiny, pathetic, insignificant Britain would want to walk away from an EU which is basically all about puppies, daisies, hand-holding, Saving The Earth and “co-operation”.

As such, the Guardian is desperate to trash any and all Brexit plans which have a whiff of viability and sense about them – and now they are gunning for the interim EFTA/EEA or “Norway” option, just as it starts to be seized upon by an increasing number of influencers and ordinary people tired by the amateur, haphazard campaigning of Vote Leave.

The Guardian’s strategy – to slander the interim EFTA/EEA option as some kind of betrayal of democracy, and to lump it together with other parliamentary tricks MPs might choose to spitefully play in the event of a Leave vote.

The article begins portentously:

Pro-European MPs and some government sources believe it may be possible to use the Commons to mount a guerilla campaign to minimise the impact of a referendum vote to quit the European Union – or even to reverse the decision if the negotiations with the EU on the UK’s exit terms produce a disastrous deal.

The government is not willing to discuss its reaction in the event of a vote to leave since its sole goal at this stage in the campaign is to emphasise the risk of such a vote by saying that the decision would be irreversible and would likely be met with a brutal response from Britain’s European partners, primarily the French.

But privately ministers have pointed out there is a large cross-party Commons majority for the UK’s continued membership of the EU, and it could be deployed once the hugely complex, detailed and contentious legislation necessary to leave the EU started to pass through parliament.

All of which would be shocking if the Guardian had actually uncovered evidence of a plot by MPs to nullify or ignore the result of the referendum. But this isn’t what they mean at all. What they mean is the following:

The first target is likely to be whether the UK could remain in the single market, while leaving the EU – so joining the European Economic Area, of which the non-EU countries Norway, Lichtenstein and Iceland are currently members. The single market guarantees the free movement of people, goods and services inside the EU.

The Guardian is trying to portray an eminently sensible – in fact, by far the most sensible – plan to leave the political construct called the European Union as some kind of grotesque subversion of the people’s will – which is pretty rich in itself, considering the contempt bordering on hatred felt by most Guardianistas toward those sympathetic to Brexit.

But let’s remind ourselves of the actual question on the ballot paper on 23 June:

EU Referendum Ballot Paper

That’s right – there is nothing on the paper whatsoever about the European Economic Area or “single market”. A vote to leave the EU is a vote for Britain to do exactly that – to leave an explicitly political, ever-tightening union of European countries all embarked on a journey to one day become a common state (as the EU’s founders and current leaders happily admit).

Many people are rightly now coming to the conclusion that the best way to achieve Brexit with the minimum of political and economic disruption is to exit to an “off the shelf” interim solution which already exists in the form of the EFTA/EEA membership enjoyed by Norway. This is why David Cameron has suddenly started talking about “a vote to leave the single market” over the past few days – it is a tacit admission that if we vote to leave the EU but remain in the EEA, every single one of the Remain campaign’s arguments are instantly negated.

Hence the ardently Remain-supporting Guardian’s desire to do everything possible to slander the interim EFTA/EEA option, painting it as some kind of unconscionable scam when in fact it is an utterly pragmatic and realistic way of leaving the European Union while completely avoiding all of the apocalyptic economic scenarios which the Remain camp love to throw around.

And now, other newspapers are joining in. From the Times’ daily Red Box email briefing:

The Times splashes on warnings that pro-Europe MPs will fight a rearguard battle to stop Britain leaving the single market even after a Brexit vote. With fewer than 200 of the 650 MPs in parliament in favour of leaving the EU, a series of votes could be staged to put pressure on the government to keep Britain inside the single market.

Undemocratic? Of course. Plausible? Absolutely.

Except, as we have seen, it is not “undemocratic” at all. The British people are being asked whether or not they wish to leave the European Union. By gosh, we spent long enough obsessing over the wording of the question. And Brexit to a position where we continue to maintain our access to the single market in the short to medium term while planning more beneficial arrangements for the future is well within the scope of a Leave vote.

It is a surprise to see the Times engaged in the same grubby dark arts as the Guardian in this case. And even more surprising to see the Daily Mail follow suit:

Pro-Remain MPs are plotting to ignore the will of the people by voting to keep Britain in the single market – even if the referendum results in a Brexit victory.

This would mean continued freedom of movement and would ignore public concern about mass migration.

Anti-Brexit MPs on all benches – Tory, Labour, Lib Dem and SNP – could use their overwhelming majority in the Commons to force a Norway-style relationship with the EU.

Out campaigners warned last night that such a move would spark a ‘constitutional crisis’ as it would counter the spirit of a pro-Brexit referendum.

But MPs on the Remain side said such a move – dubbed guerrilla tactics by one source – would be justified because the Leave side have not set out the nature of Britain’s trading relationship with the EU if we left.

Again, we see this short-termist, Brexit-as-an-event rather than the more realistic Brexit-as-a-process viewpoint needlessly closing the mind of the Daily Mail to an eminently pragmatic option.

Certainly immigration is a key issue in the debate – and indeed as a non-EU EEA country, Britain would have a more effective emergency brake than that secured by David Cameron in his pathetic renegotiation. But more importantly, once safely and securely outside of the EU’s political union, Britain could begin planning, negotiating and building support for a better longer-term solution. And we would have our democracy back, to boot.

The “out campaigners” mentioned by the Daily Mail as calling the Norway Option the catalyst for a constitutional crisis are no doubt the same Vote Leave luvvies and insiders who made the calamitous, strategic error of going into the referendum campaign without a Brexit plan of their own, drawing a huge amount of damaging fire from the Remain campaign in the process. They are clearly desperate to slander and diminish any plan which is not cooked up in their own laboratory, perhaps under the auspices of their resident mad scientist Patrick Minford.

The Guardian article continues, quoting Sam Bowman of the ASI:

Sam Bowman, the executive director of the rightwing thinktank the Adam Smith Institute, which has advocated the UK leaving the EU in stages, welcomed the possible intervention in the Commons.. He said: “This is a referendum on EU membership, not the single market, and MPs would be right to keep us in the single market if we vote to leave the EU. Keeping Britain in the single market would take the main economic risks out of leaving the EU, avoiding the doomsday scenarios outlined by the Treasury and others.

“The EEA option outlined in a recent Adam Smith Institute report would give the UK economic security while allowing it to leave the EU. In many respects it gives us the best of both worlds – indeed the remain side has emphasised little else of value about the EU during the campaign apart from the single market.

“The EU is not a prison, but the remain camp risks portraying it as such. It is possible to leave without risking serious economic harm, and staying in the single market as a step towards a long-term settlement would give the UK that safe route out.”

While it is heartening to see the Guardian suddenly discover Roland Smith’s paper “The Liberal Case for Leave” (and the comprehensive Flexcit plan on which it is based), it is entirely unsurprising that they choose to portray it in a negative light, choosing to lump it together with what they accuse of being undemocratic ways of de facto remaining in the EU.

Some of the other acts of democratic and national self-sabotage mentioned by the Guardian as being mooted by government and MPs are indeed more concerning:

David Cameron has said in the event of a vote to leave, he would immediately and formally notify the EU of its intention to quit under article 50 of the Lisbon treaty, kickstarting a two-year negotiation that could only be extended beyond the two years by a unanimous vote of the EU member states.

But lawyers advising the expert UK parliamentary committees dealing with Europe say there is no legal obligation to notify the EU immediately.

Michael Gove, the justice secretary and prominent leave campaigner, said: “Logically, in the days after a vote to leave, the prime minister would discuss the way ahead with the cabinet and consult parliament before taking any significant step.”

He added: “It would not be in any nation’s interest artificially to accelerate the process and no responsible government would hit the start button on a two-year legal process without preparing appropriately. Nor would it be in anyone’s interest to hurry parliamentary processes. We can set the pace.”

There is no need to push the button on Article 50 the day after the referendum in the event of a Leave vote. In fact, such a decision would be a spiteful and churlish act committed by an irresponsible government willing to damage the long-term interest of the country as “pay back” to the people for having disregarded their advice to vote Remain.

Similarly with the idea of a counter-offer from the EU followed by a second referendum in the event of a Leave vote, raising the possibility that Britain might end up in a kind of democratic limbo, having voted to leave the EU but rejected the subsequent terms of departure.

Messing around with either the invocation of Article 50 or the sneaky addition of a second referendum would indeed be undemocratic, or at least a wild act of constitutional vandalism. Adopting the only comprehensive Brexit plan in existence – and as we learned on Newsnight yesterday evening, the plan being actively considered by civil servants, who must obey the laws of reality, not partisan allegiance – does not fall into this category.

Failing to give the UKIP-element of the Leave campaign everything they want wrapped up with a pretty bow on 24 June is not evidence of some sinister plot or an attempt to subvert a democratically made decision to leave the EU. On the contrary, pursuing the Norway Option is the responsible way forward, the best means of securing precisely what the British people voted for – independence from the Brussels political union, and the freedom to make all subsequent decisions democratically for ourselves, including on immigration (within the constraints of realpolitik).

(And for newspapers which usually treat Brexit supporters with dripping contempt verging on hatred to suddenly care whether the Norway Option goes against the “spirit” of a Brexit vote – it doesn’t – is disingenuous at best. A child could see through their attempt at emotional manipulation.)

So we should beware the motivations of those campaigners and newspapers who suggest otherwise. In seeking to tarnish the only comprehensive Brexit plan in existence (Flexcit / the Norway Option) such people clearly have an agenda – once which brings together unlikely allies like the Times and the Guardian, and which sees the Daily Mail also taking up arms for different reasons.

Thinking Brexiteers whose first priority is extricating Britain from the common European state being slowly but relentlessly assembled in Brussels should ask themselves why so many people – from the prime minister on downwards – are suddenly so desperate to conflate the single market with the European Union, and to trash the Norway Option.

Hint: it is because without being able to threaten all manner of apocalyptic scenarios in the event of Britain leaving the single market, the entire Remain campaign – in all its negative, pessimistic, fearmongering glory – utterly falls apart.

These people are desperate to halt the growing public awareness that it is possible to disengage from political and judicial union in a manner that is reasonable, non-hostile, pragmatic and politically feasible without the risk of economic disruption.

Because that might mean actually leaving the EU!

 

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More Commentators Embrace The Norway Option As Part Of A Staged Brexit Plan

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At long last the penny has started to drop among serious influencers that a Brexit to the so-called “Norway Option” as an interim staging position is the only safe, stable and plausible Brexit plan on offer – regardless of whatever Vote Leave may say

Maybe it was Vote Leave’s alarming pivot back to immigration with the rollout of their Australian style points-based scheme, or maybe it was just the slow accumulation of tactical and strategic idiocy bordering on political self-harm.

But regardless of what it was that finally caused Vote Leave to hit rock bottom in the eyes of the commentariat, we should all be eternally grateful – because finally, serious and influential minds with serious bully pulpits are starting to look past the Boris clown show and talk openly about the Norway Option being the only sane Brexit plan capable of delivering a safe, stable process of withdrawal from the European Union.

First, last week, Allister Heath came over to the light side of the Force:

The core assumption of the anti-Brexit economists is that leaving would erect damaging barriers to trade; the pro-Brexit side must take on and demolish these arguments. The good news is that it’s quite easy to do so. The Leave campaign’s long-term aim is to break away completely from the EU. But there is no doubt that, were we to vote Leave on June 23, the UK would seek to adopt, as an interim solution, a Norwegian-style relationship with the EU which ensures that we remain in the single market, giving us plenty of time to work out new arrangements with the rest of the world.

That is both the only realistic way we would quit the EU – the only model, that, plausibly, MPs would support as a cross-party compromise deal – and the best possible way for us to do it. The Norwegians would welcome us with open arms, as their own influence would be enhanced, and other EU nations would seek to join us. Such a deal would eliminate most of the costs of leaving, while delivering a hefty dose of benefits as a down payment.

As part of the European Free Trade Association, we would remain in the single market, complete with its Four Freedoms, while withdrawing from agricultural and fisheries policies, justice and home affairs and the customs union. The City wouldn’t lose access and virtually all of the anti-Brexit scare stories would be neutralised, which is presumably why that option was mysteriously absent from the Treasury’s ludicrous analysis of the short-term impact of Brexit.

And now, Heath’s Telegraph colleague and International Business Editor Ambrose Evans-Pritchard has weighed in with a forceful case for the Norway Option as the only sensible plan for extricating Britain from European political union within the constraints set out in Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty:

The Leave campaign must choose. It cannot safeguard access to the EU single market and offer a plausible arrangement for the British economy, unless it capitulates on the free movement of EU citizens.

One or other must give. If Brexiteers wish to win over the cautious middle of British politics, they must make a better case that our trade is safe. This means accepting the Norwegian option of the European Economic Area (EEA) – a ‘soft exit’ – as a half-way house until the new order is established.

It means accepting the four freedoms of goods, services, capital, and labour that go with the EU single market. It means swallowing EU rules, and much of the EU Acquis, and it means paying into the EU budget.

We can quibble over the wording “much of the EU acquis”, as analysis puts it closer to reasonable-sounding 28 percent, but otherwise this is spot on. The article actually explicitly mentions Flexcit and the work of Dr. Richard North, as well as the recent welcome interventions from the Adam Smith Institute courtesy of ASI fellow Roland Smith. In fact, the Telegraph is becoming quite the incubator of serious liberal Brexit thinking of late.

In his latest Telegraph column, Allister Heath goes further and points out that the onus is in fact now on Remainers to explain what the European Union will look like in twenty years’ time given the various crises besetting it (and the EU’s instinctive ratchet towards ever more centralisation), and how voting to Remain could possibly be considered the “safe” option:

The EU was always intended by its founders to be a process – a mechanism by which formerly independent European countries gradually bind themselves together into an ever-closer union. Crises were seen as useful flashpoints that would trigger a further push to integration, and its central institutions were deliberately designed to seek and accrue power.

When I was growing up in France, it was made consistently clear that the EU was a political project that used economics as a tool of state-building; the single market was created because all countries have a free internal market, not because the EU’s founding fathers believed in international free trade. We used to be taught all of this openly and explicitly at school: the EU was the obvious, rational future, the only way war could be avoided and the best way to protect our social models from the ravages of “Anglo-Saxon” markets.

There are therefore two possibilities if we vote to stay: eventual abrupt disintegration, or further EU integration. If the latter, how many more powers will we give up when the next treaty comes along, and how much “progress” will be made in critical areas like a European army, tax harmonisation, and the centralisation of justice and home affairs? Why haven’t voters been told ahead of June 23?

The biggest, costliest and most immediate change after a Remain vote would be psychological. Forget about all the caveats: an In victory would be hailed as proof that Britain has finally ceased fighting its supposed European destiny. Our bluff would have been called in the most spectacular of fashions: after decades of dragging our feet, of being ungrateful Europeans, of extracting concessions, rebates and opt-outs, of trying to stand up for our interests, we would finally have hoisted the white flag. The idea that we would hold another referendum on the next treaty would simply be laughed out of town. Voting to Remain would thus be a geopolitical disaster for the UK, a historic failure.

Comfortable, middle-class voters who are considering sticking with the devil they believe they know need to think again. Voting to remain is a far greater leap into the unknown than voting to leave. It’s self-evidently normal to be independent and prosperous: just look at America, Australia, Canada or Singapore. But there are no known examples of a previously independent democracy being subsumed into a dysfunctional, economically troubled technocracy and doing well as a result. As mad gambles go, it is hard to think of anything worse.

And in a final coup, Toby Young has blessed the Norway Option on Twitter:

To which one can only say: Alleluia. Good. It’s about time.

Hopefully we are now witnessing the beginnings of a slowly building stampede away from the car crash of an official Leave campaign masterminded by Dominic Cummings and toward something better. Hopefully this is the result of serious people with pro-Brexit sympathies starting to realise that surely there must be something better than Vote Leave’s sixth-form level campaign about voting leave to Save Our NHS, doing some research of their own and finding that the solution was there all along in the form of the Norway Option.

There certainly now exists a wealth of independent research and writing advocating for the Norway Option as an interim staging post on the journey out of the European Union, and for the general principles enshrined in Flexcit. The tireless indie bloggers of The Leave Alliance can surely claim some much-deserved credit for this turn of events.

But will the eureka moments experienced by Allister Heath, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard and Toby Young be enough to make a material difference to the trajectory of the campaign? It’s a tall order – unless they do really represent just the beginning of a much larger landslide of Brexit-sympathising commentariat opinion away from the clown show.

A few columns are a good start, but they are nothing compared to the incessant Vote Leave campaign commercials now playing on YouTube, exhorting British voters to leave the European Union so that well-known NHS fanatics like Boris Johnson and Michael Gove can build a brand new, state-of-the-art NHS hospital on every street corner with the money that we supposedly save.

While we should be encouraged by this positive development and seek to exploit these endorsements, it does feel rather like establishment Brexiteers, in freefall and with the ground rushing up to meet them, have finally remembered to pull their parachute cord a mere hundred feet from the surface.

Action at this late stage is unlikely to significantly slow our descent, and our slim hopes of survival rest either in having our fall arrested by the branches of a major anti-establishment backlash, or by landing in the soft, distasteful swamp of stronger than expected anti-immigration sentiment.

Victory for the Leave camp is not yet impossible – all the more reason to keep fighting – but having waited so late to even begin to publicly embrace any kind of Brexit plan, neither is our fate squarely in our own hands.

 

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