Let us call a temporary truce – I have only written one blog post that can possibly have offended you (the most recent two being an existential crisis that probably didn’t need to be shared publicly while the first two were some rather poor attempts to deal with Muslims and Syria – please ignore them by the way, as they probably couldn’t get much worse as far as blogs go), but it didn’t pull any punches against you as a collective, and not always just against your arguments. I did not portray UKIP or UKIPers in a favourable light. You probably have a legitimate reason not to like me very much based on the limited experience of me.
If we met in real life, I am sure that we would be able to get along perfectly well – but this is not real life; this is the internet, and the rules of the internet give me free reign to be a total bastard to anyone and everything without any consequences, a freedom worth dying for.
I am writing this letter to try to convince you to at least drop your opposition to the EFTA leaving plan, even if you do not come around to supporting us. I’ll be blunt and straight-talking – I am no politician, no stooge, no liar. I can claim no credit for this idea – it came entirely from Samuel Hooper. His is probably better than mine but, I think his approach so necessary and forward-thinking that I have tried to emulate it. Maybe the two letters are complementary (if it is possible to put such an overt, shameless piece of plagiarism on the same pedestal as the original).
While freedom of movement may not be at the top of my agenda as it is for your party, I am going to try to convince you that the best course of action for both of us in our disparate aims is the Norway option. Sometimes, the obvious solution is not the one most likely to reap results.
I firmly believe that the way to solve immigration is through leaving the EU and then applying pressure on governments who can no longer hide behind supranationalism to miss their targets – rather than equating immigration and the EU referendum. Hence, the way to get immigration under control is to leave the EU, which means launching a campaign to win over successful moderates. This can only really happen, beyond extraordinary circumstances, if a plan is presented to the electorate that can negate government scare-mongering about the economy. In the eyes of most of the swing voters we must win over, their job is more important than immigration – we must guarantee their job for them, and only then can a genuine debate about the national interest begin.
The cause of the levels of immigration to Britain is not primarily the EU – it is the British establishment itself that is to blame. I’m not denying that European commitments to the free movement of people require us to keep an open border – more that our government positively wants that open border, rather than being forced to accept it.
That our government wants high levels of immigration is not idle speculation. Osborne is dependent on immigration for 1% of annual GDP growth (out of about 2-3%) in order to fulfil his political obligation and promote the narrative of a recovery. This immigration does not make us all richer – it is simply a fact of there being more people in the country which expands the economy. Hidden away in the small print of the budget is a little-touted admission by the government – Osborne’s budgets require at least 185,000 net migrants per year to work, almost double the nominal conservative target of 100,000. Moreover, immigration from outside the EU is at record levels, and there is very little stopping the government reforming that.
The conservatives do not want lower immigration.
This coming referendum is on the question of EU membership, and I would argue that it is pretty much binding on that. I don’t think that any government could simply ignore a leave vote. But the nature of that ‘leave’ will be heavily determined by parliament. Parliament will pass all of the legislation of ‘leave’ – and parliament is fundamentally pro-immigration bar some conservative MPs. Even your MP, Douglas Carswell, is not really anti-immigrant.
I do not think that a conservative government would feel it necessary for any immigration reform, even if we were leaving the EU, and it is a conservative government and pro-immigration parliament that will be handling any Brexits. The next general election is in 2020. The EU referendum is before the end of 2017. Article 50 negotiations give us two years. Therefore, logically, if we invoke Article 50 (which is almost certain given the nature of the parliament), negotiations for leaving will take place before the 2020 election. This means that all Brexit matters, beyond exceptional circumstances, will have been handled by the pro-immigration conservative government and pro-immigration parliament that we have now.
The upshot of this is that Brexit will not lead to lower immigration in itself – it will merely free us to reform immigration should we grow the collective balls as a democracy to panic the establishment into doing something. This parliament is not going to put immigration on the agenda with ensuing EU negotiations (it would merely create an intractable issue that would hold up progress), let alone deciding to abandon the single market and accept the hit to the UK economy, which all of the other options entail.
We are left with the situation where we need Brexit to lower immigration (as the government’s hands are tied by EU laws in a way that they wouldn’t be afterwards), but Brexit in itself will not lower immigration because our parliament do not want this. It is only the campaigning that comes afterward any potential Brexit that can actually succeed in freedom of movement reform. Therefore, the path to lowering immigration must start with Brexit, Brexit at all costs – the only way that both you and I can achieve our future aims is in pushing the leave vote well above 50%.
To leave the EU, we need the Norway option because the key to winning undecided voters is in persuading that there will be no economic crisis resulting from Brexit, and in order for that, we need to guarantee single market access. The rationale of this is that if we are still in the same market, then as now, we cannot possibly have a crisis caused by leaving that market. The WTO option does not entail access to the single market – and so will not win undecided voters. The Swiss option does entail access to the single market – but only after more than a decade, and even then, the Swiss agreement is in severe trouble verging on collapse (over precisely this issue).
The argument that they sell us more than we sell them, while having an economic base, does not take into account political reality – the EU cannot give us a better deal leaving than staying (otherwise everyone will want one and the EU simply cannot tolerate this). Bear in mind that EU politicians spent the best part of a trillion Euros pumping stimulus into bankrupt, un-reformable dumps rather than simply have them leave the euro for a bit, the economic equivalent of pumping air into a corpse until the blood starts to flow again to avoid having to pronounce death. The level of political megalomania that inhabits the higher echelons of the EU over-rides any economic sense and almost certainly will not let us part on those terms – anyone who tells you otherwise is lying.
I must stress, the key is to reassuring undecideds, not embarking on pipe-dream scenarios, when discussing the referendum – because parliament will be the body that negotiates the form of post-EU Britain anyway, in conjunction with the EU itself. Only after the Brexit can we influence parliament in the way that we might want through our domestic democratic institutions, and so the terms upon which we win Brexit, or the plan which we espouse, bears only marginal relevance to the actual outcome.
Hence, the Norway option is the only way that undecided voters can be convinced enough of their economic security enough to vote with us in restoring democracy – Cameron et al. do not have any seriously potent arguments on their side when their scare-mongering is stripped away.
And so, please, please join us. We totally understand your ideological revulsion at the Norway option’s capitulation on free movement, but we beg you to consider two things. Firstly, parliament isn’t suddenly going to turn anti-immigrant overnight in the event of a leave vote. Secondly, once outside the EU, under almost any terms, immigration can be reformed comprehensively over time to reflect public opinion more accurately – hence, the only way that you can get the reform you so want is through Brexit, and the most likely chance of that happening is by weaponising the Norway option to undermine any arguments about the economy.
Oh, and truce over – you tin-foil hat wearing morons ;-)