Tuesday, 1 March 2016

EU vote if you want to

In the handful of days since the "renegotiation" agreement was announced, I think we have got a flavour of the referendum campaign. The Remainers have launched Project Fear and the Leavers are painting various pictures of what a post-referendum Britain might look like.

For my part, I have spent the time between the historic announcement outside Number Ten and now trying to work out what is going on. Two years ago the PM promised fundamental reform, and up until relatively recently hinted that he might be prepared to back Exit if the other EU nations did not come up with some of the goods. Yet, on the face of it, the "deal" is an empty vessel. 

Post-deal, the PM has appeared to swing from being a Eurosceptic to threatening all sorts of calamity if we vote to leave. Even as he announced the agreement (or was it earlier, I forget) he admitted that Britain could thrive outside the EU, but that it could do even better within. Now that position appears to have been abandoned: it is EU or literally bust for Mr Cameron. 

Some have accused Dave of lying; others have said he is deflecting from how little the agreement changes. He seems to have fallen out with his bessie mate, and appears to be genuinely furious that some of his colleagues are now campaigning for Out, and carrying large numbers of MPs and activists with them. Surely if Cameron had never intended to change anything, he would not be reacting this way.

The scare stories have an air of the desperate, and we are only a few days in. We should hear some real corkers in the final days of the campaign. It seems obvious to me that nobody is going to get stranded, The Terminal-style, on the day after the Article 50 period is up. Why would they? Are the French et al. really likely to stop recognising UK passports just because the final polish hasn't been put on an exit agreement? Of course not.

In the interests of ensuring that my decision on how to vote is properly informed, I am reading up and doing lots of thinking. As part of that I went over to EU Referendum (not a site I normally look at). They have a detailed plan for how to manage Brexit, called Flexcit. I haven't read the whole thing... but the introductory section reminds us of the background to this referendum.

The point I was reminded of is that there is a bigger picture. We are not voting to stay or leave a club which is in a steady state. What Britain seems to want is economic involvement in Europe (via the single market or something similar) without taking too much part in the political centralisation. Even EU Referendum concedes that for at least a transitional period the UK is likely to need to join the EEA on exit. So even quite hardcore Outers accept that at least at the start, the UK is not going to have complete control over its affairs.

Another issue is where will the EU go from here? If we vote to stay in will we get roped into more projects against our will, with no way to express our dismay because we have just voted to stay in?

But there is an even bigger EU story, of course: that of the reforms which are likely to happen to shore up the Eurozone. The Euro countries need to decide whether to integrate further or to break up the Euro - the current situation is clearly unsustainable beyond the very short term. Those countries will need a new arrangement and that will mean Treaty Change. When Treaty Change comes around, non-Euro countries will surely be relegated to a second-tier status within the EU that emerges. And of course Britain may be in a much stronger position to negotiate a looser arrangement when the new treaty will need to be agreed and ratified by all member countries.

So I can't help wondering whether the present referendum actually provides us with very little real choice. If we vote Out, we are likely to end up in the short- to medium-term in a kind of Norwegian status - outside the EU but deeply connected with it. In we vote In, we are likely to end up in the short- to medium term in a kind of Norwegian status - but formally inside a very different EU.

This idea may just join the dots. Mr Cameron's original plan to time a referendum to a major treaty change process has failed, but with major treaty change on the horizon perhaps he has been persuaded to sit on his hands for the moment. And if I'm right, then there is no particular reason to get exercised about this referendum one way or the other. There are likely to be others.


Electro-Kevin said...

There most certainly won't be others if we vote IN.

estwdjhn said...

That still doesn't explain Cameron's increasingly frantic efforts to get us to vote in.

He must be of the view that out is likely to actually mean out, while in will mean in for the foreseeable future - if he didn't believe either of these, he wouldn't be so madly keen on us voting in.

He must know the Tory party will sack him at the first opportunity afterwards whatever way the vote goes, so it can hardly be that.

O.t. but not completely unrelated, it's rather amusing to see Osborne trying to stitch up the next leadership for himself despite having made himself totally unacceptable to the grassroots by backing in. It's hard to see it not being Boris now, given almost all the other plausible contenders have backed the wrong horse on the issue the membership care about the most...

Anonymous said...

I often think that you, like North, miss the point by a country mile, there is underlying a principle going off with this EU plebiscite. Also in defence of R. North if you read to the end of Flexcit - you'll find there is a road map, enabling Britain to travel: out of the EU.

OUT is what we want.

A vote for leave, will be cathartic for the British public, a vote out is a two fingered gesture to the great and the not so good, it is two fingered salute to the OWG control freaks who are telling us that the EU is heaven made real on earth.

I hate being lied to, whatever it is about and by God on all things EU: we've been sold a pup.

Furthermore, the EU accrues no tangible benefits for ordinary Brits, it never did and despite what Ken, Nick, Jeremy and Dave will tell you - the EU is bad for you.............

The EU is nothing other than, a STITCH-UP. IT IS, a comfortable club for the corporate blob, which has free rein to wantonly abuse its privileges (think NO2 emissions and EU regulations among hundreds of other abuses) and to dominate the markets in a perpetual cartel and in which the politicians are in cahoots. Evidently, it is, a unhealthy symbiosis (corporate blob and EU Kommissars-Mafia) which prevents real competition and the major reason why this corruption is the disease (and with the lunatic single currency) which is killing EUropean business enterprise.

A vote for leave puts a spike up the ars*s of the BritanoEU elite - to say,

"we hear you loud and clear and we say shove it".

Principles, we need to show that 'we the people' still abide by some.

Peter Whale said...

Anonymous is correct the EU is a playground for politicians and large corporations with the tax payer footing the bill for their extravagances.Where could the likes of Kinnock et Al ever have made their millions other than the EU cesspit which he was sent to clean up. Get out and let the rotten unelected blob implode.

Antisthenes said...

"There are likely to be others"

Do not bank on it. A new treaty is likely to be at least a decade away if at all. The EU can pretty much get on with political and economic union within the framework of existing treaties. Besides the EU does not like new treaties as some countries tend to unobligingly reject them. Besides the EU is a sinking ship it is in a mess because of the euro and their other dumb policies. Best to leave now while still in harbour rather than have to take to the lifeboats later.

Nick Drew said...

While we're on the ad hominem kick, Mandelson deserves a mention (did you see him on C4 last night? "There'll be armed violence if we leave ... Project Fear? there is no such thing". And I swear he's been on the botox or the steroids)

I used to believe in the Treaty-opportunities-that-are-to-come, but the migration thing (inter alia) is so serious, I now think they'll find ways of dispensing with them in future - particularly if, as seems increasingly likely, our referendum is a close-run thing: why would they trust the German or the French or the Danes to have a go?

"Surely if Cameron had never intended to change anything, he would not be reacting this way". OK, while a dispassionate observer such as yourself, BE, can conclude what DC asked for / has obtained = not changing anything, from DC's perspective (as a seasoned EU insider, in terms of processes, jamborees, day-to-day interactions with Merkel etc) it actually is a half-way decent set of changes, given his well-informed "sensible" views as to what was ever practically possible

[e.g. - "absolute no point" in calling for the CAP to be scrapped, it would just be taking the piss. Ditto stopping the monthly move to Strasbourg, even tho this was in the 2010 Tory manifesto!]

as you will know from your extensive recent reading (!) the actual 'deal' he brought back runs to a lot more than the 5 headline points we've been treated to in the MSM

and I persist in the view that the Sovereignty Bill has the potential to be a corker (one of the reasons I'm starting to think this whole thing could be a bit of a no-lose result, provided one is realistic about what is possible)

so I'd say, DC thinks "I'm doing more-or-less as much as ever could realistically be done (what more did they expect?) but now I'm back out of the Brussels bubble I do kinda see how it still looks a bit thin - so it had better be Project Fear, then"

Electro-Kevin said...

The forgotten issue is that this referendum was given reluctantly.

It had to be fought for and wrested from David Cameron's grasp - by 80 back benchers and the UKIP threat which we now know to be supported by well in excess of 4 million voters.

David Cameron had to offer the referendum as it was looking like a Miliband/Sturgeon win in 2015.

What he did not expect was an outright majority and the need to honour his promise - and this surprise majority shows just how many people were seriously considering ticking the UKIP box. I venture that the difference between the polls and the actual vote is accounted for by Ukippers returning on this promise.

David Cameron does not want this referendum. Nor does the EU.

You can be damn sure they don't want another one if the result is IN.

DC wants the Conservative split healed once and for all and his Europhile tendencies are now in the open for all to see. There is not one ounce of the man that is Eurosceptic.

So much for those who thought he was a real Tory in disguise.

Steven_L said...

That still doesn't explain Cameron's increasingly frantic efforts to get us to vote in

Wouldn't it make him ineligible for work / pensions from the EU in the future if he spoke out of turn?

andrew said...

Surely one of the peaks of a true Conservative leader's achievements is that under their watch, things might have changed, but didn't

Cameron is sooo close to delivering.

CityUnslicker said...

Andrew - point well made.

But things have changed. In the last 5 years there has been the utterly predicatble Euro Crisis which will return with vengeance and the disaster over Syria and Ukraine.

These latter two are existential drama's for the EU and allow reasonable people to conclude it is very broken.

DC himself is simply cuahgt by producer capture. All the civil service etc are against leaving and eventually have convinced him. It is a good reason we should limit PM's to 8 years, they have mroe resistance to start with but all will go native eventually.

Electro-Kevin said...

CU - Andrew made a very funny and clever point. I don't think Mr Cameron would be flattered by it.

I don't think he's changed at all. He's turned out exactly as some of us predicted.

2010 was the election to have lost. I said it then. I say it now.

Electro-Kevin said...

The Cameron Delusion (which I've not read) was published early 2010.

Peter Hitchen's prescience is quite uncanny.

Thud said...

A good post for the undecided like myself who already is sick of the ferocity of some of the attacks launched by both sides elsewhere.

andrew said...

CU, yes things have changed in other countries
Here in the UK even the deficit has hardly changed over the last 5 years.

andrew said...

Oh, and I have just found a good reason for staying in the EU:

It seems to be the only way to stop the Home office turning this country into a police state - the new draft of the RIPA will fail once it gets appealed to Europe

A bit sad when Europe is stronger on personal freedom from state interference than the UK and some of the reasons we want out is to get away from EU state interference so we can interfere with ourselves more freely.

MyQuandaryName said...

I'm well known as a Pro-Euro poster who'll be voting 'Out' in the referendum, but I'd like to ask something of the Anti crowd.
Assume that there are no alternatives and this is a simple binary question:

Is the break-up of the British Union (Scotland voting Out to stay in Europe), a price worth paying for (ultimately) England to leave the EU?

Electro-Kevin said...

MQN - Yes.

The Scots would prefer (it seems) to be ruled *by* Brussels than *from* London.

Such is the childish antipathy towards the English (a now mythical and non existent race that they like to rail against.)

What you're saying is that the Scots can determine whether or not we remain in the EU.

I find that situation highly offensive.

Thud - I'm afraid it will all come down to shouting and scare tactics. There is worse to come. John Redwood, however, gives a thoroughly civilised and informative read for the Outs if you wish to visit his blog.

Thud said...

Ek.I'll take a look.