We are told by some that having a plan is not necessary or helpful and that we are wrong to worry about “unnecessary detail”. Obviously, we couldn’t disagree more. The purpose of a plan is not so that the whole public should read it, but so that it gives our campaign and our arguments an intellectual foundation. It is absolutely necessary to know the details so that when people raise questions, as they inevitably will, we have the answers. Brexit is complex and people are worried about the details, therefore to refuse to worry about details or offer any kind of plan when proposing what amounts to the biggest political change in 50 years and a huge geopolitical event is an abdication of responsibility.
The questions come thick and fast in this debate: How will the economy be affected by Brexit? Will I still be able to live and work in Europe? What about our trade deals with other countries, will they need to be renegotiated? How will the negotiations work? Will the EU look to punish us for leaving? What about agriculture subsidies after the abolition of the Common Agricultural Policy, will farmers lose out? The financial sector is vital for Britain, will leaving be detrimental? Will we get a say in its regulation? They go on and on.
We are able to answer these questions because we have a plan informing our arguments and research as a foundation for our campaign, thus we know the details. That plan has many functions, it shows that a de-risked, economically secure Brexit is possible and we can develop the new relationship with the EU Britain wants. It is a detailed analysis that addresses people’s fears, uncertainties and doubts. It acts as a resource for our campaigners and bloggers and informs the wider debate. We know it is being read in Whitehall, we know it has been read by a great many people, having been downloaded over 50,000 times at EUreferendum.com alone, never mind the multiple other sources it can be downloaded. Nobody can tell us that it is pointless or that we shouldn’t bother having a plan.
Eurosceptics so often have wholly unsatisfactory or unconvincing answers to questions that come up, it’s because they don’t know the details, don’t have a plan and think they can blag it with dubious assertions. So, instead of coming back with uncertainty neutralising answers, they huff and puff about being the world’s fifth largest economy, and having a trade imbalance. That doesn’t actually give an answer as to how we will get a trading arrangement concluded in the timeframe allowed (2 years), which whatever bluster they muster doesn’t take away from the fact it cannot be done and has never been done before:
The reason being that if we chose to change entirely our trade arrangement, a brand new, bespoke trade arrangement would be extremely complex and thus take a long time to negotiate. Add to that the complexities and intricacies of our deeply integrated political and judicial union with the EU, all the programmes we participate in, all the obligations we hold, then you have a recipe for long and difficult negotiations. This is, of course, all covered in our plan.
To pretend it will be easy or that the EU will be forced to do a deal because “they need us more than we need them”, and keep advancing the better deal fallacy, simply is not good enough. Of course other eurosceptics propose “simply” repealing the 1972 European Communities Act, which is not feasible and the government will not consider it for a moment, and “falling back” on WTO rules, which is economically irresponsible, in doing so they actively add to the uncertainty of Brexit, play into the opposition’s hands, and expose their weak grasp of the facts. This might be fine when you are preaching to the choir, but will leave sceptical swing voters cold and will be exposed in the press.
In Flexcit: The Market Solution we explore all the withdrawal options, and conclude that retaining our access to the European Economic Area is the best option as it provides a “soft landing”, protects the economy, neutralises risk and uncertainty and provides a strong platform to build on. Using an existing model also greatly simplifies the negotiation process and means we can conclude the arrangement in the timeframe and the business environment will remain the same. This is simply the first stage, but the first stage is vital.
Rather than making assumptions, we propose alternative methods of retaining EEA access should other routes be closed off in negotiations. However, the optimal solution, which is eminently achievable, is the EFTA/EEA route also known as the “Norway option”, which has the benefit of being a realistic option because it is the Government’s most likely course of action and well known in Whitehall as the best route.
Unfortunately, the main leave campaigns have irrationally rejected this option whenadopting it and defending it would have been weakened the Remain campaign severely, killing their fearmongering dead. They’d have been left asserting weak arguments about Norway having no influence, when it actually it punches above its weight as a player in the global forums, and the myths about what it pays for EEA access and the laws it adoptscan be easily disproven, and the “rules” of the Single Market actually originate from global bodies where an independent UK would be able to exert its influence. Remainers say we need to be at the “top table”, we say the EU is not the top table. We know all of this because we have done the research, know the details and have a plan.
Sadly, the mainstream campaigns are rejecting the best and most realistic option; an economically secure option that is almost certainly going to be the arrangement the Government seeks – as evidenced again by sources in Whitehall. It has given the Remain campaign a stronger hand to sell their doomsday scenario which is entirely based on the outcome if we chose to abolish freedom of movement and leave the single market in one fell swoop, and cannot countered convincingly by campaigners who don’t know the details.
Having a plan and a good grasp of the details is necessary. While other eurosceptics flap about when scrutinised, we can respond confidently. So when a Foreign and Commonwealth Office report raised concerns about Brexit, many Leave campaigners had no real response, aside from dismissing it as “baloney”; but the report raised pertinent and real issues and our plan answers their concerns. When the CBI produced its report other Leave campaigners were reduced to the same old line about the CBI being on the EU payroll, were as we could expose it as a straw man.
Having a plan has multiple benefits; as a resource, a campaign tool, a vision and guide. When asked, we can say what Brexit will look like and answer uncertainties. So you can go into battle without adequate weaponry if you want to, but we will be armed to the teeth.
Read our plan here.
Read the pamphlet here.
This link was originally published by Ben Kelly on 26 March 2016