I am not really a proper blogger – I do very little primary research myself and this is the third post I’ve written, as well as the first on the EU. I don’t tend to include a rather abortive attempt to oppose gun control in America – I decided on a provocative title and then forgot to write the rest, resulting in two random internet people out there who now associate me with ‘Maybe it is better to let the odd loser commit an unspeakable atrocity’ without any of the qualifying nuance concerning the Mexican drug cartels, etc. Please don’t judge me too harshly – I'm not an intrinsically bad person, just new to the whole blogging industry. I had this insane idea that if I wrote like Katie Hopkins but never revealed my identity, I would make big. I can only hope that this will not come back to haunt my future burgeoning political career in ten or so years’ time.
And of course there is the other fact in my anonymity that I am only a 20 year old history student – I feel slightly self-conscious that I am even interested in these issues to the extent that I am, at an age where my life should be confined to drinking too much too often, or at most a bizarre form of leftwing activism that revolves around throwing fire extinguishers through the windows of the Tory Party HQ twice a year around budget time. Even the Lisbon Treaty was just something that my dad got slightly angry about at dinner, way over the head of my innocent 12 year-old self. I suppose part of my interest is personal – my grandad was one of the Tory ministers who campaigned hardest to get us into the EU. I naturally feel that I am morally obliged to right this wrong that my family has wrought upon the world. I’ll forgive him, for the 70s were an odd period where many things that seemed like good ideas at the time turned out later not to be (e.g. Socialism, Agent Orange and new-age music) – supranationalism is just one of these silly ideas with which we still have to deal.
Anyway, back to the topic. I am essentially trying to write something that will hopefully convince eurosceptics that the only viable option for Britain leaving the EU is the Norway option. There are more or less two types of eurosceptics. There are rational, right-thinking people of all political persuasions who value democracy and self-determination. And then there are the ‘others’, people who inhabit a warped perception of reality, whereby we now live in the 4th Reich while shady UN bodies commit genocide on white Britons by the means of an invasion of brown ‘Musrabs’, greedy bankers purposefully plunder the economy to help their friends and Murdoch utilises mass mind-control to swing elections (and ironically enough, Sputnik and Russia Today are the only beacons of light, the sole guardians of truth – and of course Vlad the Lad is the subject of grossly unfair western targeting – as is The Nigel, because the establishment are scared of him).
I think that everyone has come across these latter types on the shadier parts of the Youtube and Breitbart, where, to paraphrase P.G. Wodehouse, holocaust-denying, tinfoil-hat wearing nutter calls to holocaust-denying, tinfoil-hat wearing nutter like mastodons bellowing across primeval swamps. These people are idiots – ask them what a city-worker does all day, and they won’t have the slightest clue – keep probing and they will start talking about Eton. If, by some infinitesimally small chance they are actually right in some of their odd ideas (I saw one who even argued that the Japanese tsunami was actually caused by a new Israeli bomb), they won’t help win this referendum because no one will believe them anyway. If you are one of those types then please, with the greatest of respect, go away – emailing me death threats in illiterate doggerel is frankly a waste of time for both of us.
I should probably define what the Norway option is. The Norway option entails leaving the EU to join EFTA – thus keeping access to the single market, but in return, compromising with the EU by keeping the four freedoms. The advantage of this is that it is quick and straightforward, an off the shelf deal – able to be negotiated within the 2 year time frame that Article 50 allows – meaning that the transition would be certain and painless. Cited disadvantages are that it keeps freedom of movement, it would mean we keep EU laws (75% according to Cameron) and we would have to still pay in to the EU.
However, on closer inspection, it becomes clearer that we would only be subject to 21% of EU laws, and that most of them we would be signed up to anyway because of international regulatory bodies that we would be on. Take Cameron’s ‘economy with the truth’ as an indicator of his desire to keep us in the EU – telling such overt, falsifiable lies to trash the only reasonable exit option shows both the weakness of his position and his commitment to the EU cause, regardless of the outcome of any negotiations which may or may not be happening. Furthermore, Norway pays a lot less than we do, and most of this is in voluntary contributions to certain schemes – either way, this isn’t really a money question for me and the sums are relatively insignificant (it is all debt anyway); it is a question of self-determination and our guaranteed future independence. And, of course, freedom of movement only matters if you get really hot and bothered about immigration – I don’t, many other people don’t, but even if you did, the Norway option would give slightly more power to the government, such as an ‘emergency brake’. So, while far from ideal, it is a solid, workable foundation on which to build for the future.
This makes it far better than all of the alternatives, which are by and large laughably poor. On the one hand, we have Leave.eu (UKIP et al.), telling us about some mythical deal we’ll be able to sign – of course, Norway is unacceptable to them because of the immigration question (UKIP could never win an election without spouting off against immigrants – but then again, they can’t really win elections anyway [by the way I’m being flippant – there is literally no need to remind me that you won the European elections in 2014 – for the purposes of a joke, I have to approximate, because a three line caveat like this one really does kill delivery and comic timing]). The fabled ‘deal’ approach would be an unmitigated failure, should we ever attempt it. Article 50 is a weaponised clause – aka, the 2 year time limit was put there on purpose to hold a shotgun to balls of anyone trying to leave. There is literally no chance of being able to arrange a comprehensive deal in 2 years – Switzerland took more than a decade to secure a deal, which is falling apart at the seams now anyway, while others such as South Korea took 18 years. The clause was almost certainly designed this way to give the EU the upper hand over any state trying to leave – the period cannot be extended without unanimous agreement. If the time expires with no deal, the seceding party gets thrown out with no access to the single market – and so it doesn’t take a genius to see how the EU negotiators would use expiry as a threat to improve their negotiating position (or just kick us out).
Still, UKIP et al. feel that this is the way to go to stop immigration, with the vague fig-leaf that ‘they sell us more than we sell them so we’ll be able to impose a deal.’ Seriously! They are dealing with the same fuckers responsible for Greece and the general economic devastation haunting the rest of the Mediterranean. Using hundreds of billions of euros and the combined might of the world’s most powerful economic institutions in order to buy up the economy of a destitute, corrupt, irreformable cesspit of a state where sound finance goes to die for a few more years only goes to show the ruthless political megalomania of the parties we will be dealing with. And UKIP expect these people to give Britain a better deal leaving than staying because we buy German cars, even though everyone on both sides knows full well that this could lead to a rising political demand for independence across Europe that the EU establishment will neither want nor tolerate. If the EU institutions were that politically committed to Greece, would they really get too worried about jettisoning Britain without a trade deal, a position strengthened and made even more possible by WTO rules signifying that EU countries could probably trade favourably with the UK anyway? Luckily, an alternative option, Norway, does exist – and this would be the route probably taken if we did vote to leave.
So what we end up with is the bizarre situation where UKIP feel comfortable with the EU’s Article 50 shotgun, casually informing them to shoot the left one first – simply because they cannot backtrack on freedom of movement without losing support from a cadre of immigration-minded fanatics (one of them once suggested to me that a 10% drop in GDP, significantly larger than the 2007 recession, would be a price worth paying to reduce immigration – it is this replacement of pragmatism with a sheer bloody-minded zero-sum approach which makes UKIP such a terrifying prospect).
The lack of pragmatism is indeed striking. All of the evidence says that the conservatives are pretty pro-immigration – immigration runs at record levels and little effort has been made to curb non-EU migration, which is doable under current laws. Indeed, some evidence even suggests that Osborne is dependent on immigration for 1% of annual GDP growth. Either way, this is the government that will be in power after 2017, and this will be the parliament that negotiates Brexit over the next two years, presumably ending in 2019 or 2020, before the election (and it is doubtful that UKIP would gain huge numbers of seats then anyway). There is no evidence whatsoever that this composition of politicians would suddenly backtrack on all form to date and suddenly put immigration high up on the negotiating agenda (creating an intractable issue that would block any progress towards a deal). Therefore, it is totally nonsensical for UKIP to sacrifice rational options like the Norway Option on the altar of their projected vote share, because all they are doing is providing an obstacle to us leaving the EU in the first place by preventing the formation of a consolidated leave narrative. A far more rational, pragmatic approach (from their point of view) would be to accept this state of affairs, blame Cameron for immigration and stress the need for future UKIP MPs, campaign to leave the EU under the Norway option, and then launch a concerted effort for freedom of movement reform in the 2020 elections from outside the EU (although I can tell you now that this would fail - UKIP are not going anywhere unless they ditch Farage).
The only idea that is worse than the UKIP mess is Vote.Leave’s idea. Elliot and a group of MPs/businessmen are attempting to run a traditional establishment-centred campaign for Brexit, under the direction of the well-paid Grand Master of Strategy, Dominic Cummings (the temptation to alter his name is almost irresistible). Their plan is that after a referendum victory for the leave side, Cameron, the person trying to keep us in the EU until that point, should present his own exit plan (with another vote). The utter idiocy of this is clear to anyone with a brain – it allows Cameron to totally define the debate, effectively delegating future design to the arch-enemy. He will be at total liberty to trash all of the exit options, many of which are indeed foolish (and, as with the Norway option, he can lie, relying on his prestige as prime minister to bluff his way through).
One of the leave campaign’s greatest challenges is going to be to convince enough of the public that a painless exit is possible to swing the vote – Cameron, under the Vote.Leave model, would have the freedom to make this impossible. The Vote.Leave campaign is undoubtedly pursuing this death wish in order to mask huge splits among many of the big egos attached to the group. Either way, they really should know better. Historians tend to doubt whether Wellington would have been able to prevail at Waterloo had he given Napoleon an advance copy of his dispositions, carefully colour-coded so that he couldn’t miss anything. Similarly, the consensus agrees that D-Day might not have gone particularly well had Churchill briefed Rommel on where/when he was attacking, or indeed, even asked for Rommel’s input into the plan. Strategists from Sun Tsu to Von Clausewitz have all unanimously agreed that withholding your plans from the enemy is generally a good thing – obviously Vote.Leave knows better than all of them (who really cares what Napoleon thought, anyway?) – not only do they propose giving Cameron the details of their plans, but they want him to help draft them as well. Either Cummings is some kind of a genius who holds the rare gift of super-rationality, or he is a colossal, egoist moron who may have a disastrously disproportionate effect on the future and freedom of Britain.
Yes, you will probably have guessed by now, I am a follower of Dr. Richard North and his Flexcit plan, but I suppose the blunt truth is that no one can top his analysis. Time and again, he has been right, and while the vague assertions of Farage and Hannan might satisfy you if you have no desire to really know what you are talking about (a dark period in my life), Dr. North presents an utterly watertight case in which all aspects are addressed and assessed. While Farage can say that the Germans sell lots of cars to Britain, Dr. North provides an astute analysis of how global trade works and how future trade would work within this framework after a Brexit. While Hannan can say exports to the EU have declined as a share of GDP, Dr. North models how future exports can be safeguarded, providing certainty to businesses before a referendum. Dr. North is simply streets ahead of the either Vote.Leave and Leave.eu, and while some other analysts are doing a creditable job, Dr. North’s eureferendum.com is a good place to start if you actually want to get beyond the soundbites to where the real arguments are raging (it is also where I sourced the material for this post - in future, I will hyperlink individual points, but I'm bloody tired , the internet isn't working properly and the stuff really isn't hard to find in the search bar).