Monday, 16 November 2015

Weird Science

The fight for independence from the EU (and subsequently for greater presence at the global tier) is taking place at multiple levels. This isn't just happening within the realm of the Westminster bubble - even though legacy media would desperately love it to be that way. Science has now stood up and decided that it has something to say on the matter.





When we think of the EU debate and whether we'd be better off leaving, it's fair to say that the average person in the street doesn't spare much thought for the modern day wizards of the science profession. Science is all about specialism; they talk in their own unique and frequently impenetrable language requiring specialist translators like Brian Cox to act as a modern day babel fish. That's not a swipe at science - it's just the way it needs to be in order for them to work at the level they do. From the public perspective, it’s a mystical world - meaning that the detail of both science and the supporting mechanisms are hard to scrutinise or qualify.

The realm of science tends to be politically benign, rarely turning up for a punch up. Politics is an ugly realm of ground fighting and scientists will see little logic in wasting energy wrestling in the dirt when they can be changing the world one discovery at a time. Yet when it comes to our membership of the EU, things appear to be completely different.

Never ever expecting to get a majority government at the 2015 election, the Conservative party made all kinds of generous and appealing offers to the public. Offers which would be negotiated away during formation of the next coalition. Offers which included an In/Out referendum on membership of the EU. On the 7th of May, Lynton Crosby delivered them a majority.

On the 22nd of May 2015, the world of science suddenly blinked and issued this public statement:

Scientists for EU putting their stake in the ground in the national press

To paraphrase - UK science (and associated industry) is enriched by the benefits of EU membership in terms of funding and collaboration. So say the undersigned, including founders of "Scientists for EU" Dr Mike Galsworthy and Dr Rob Davidson, along with other prominent scientists including Professor Tom Blundell (think Charles Dickens) and Lord Rees of Ludlow.

I'm not going to criticise them for making a stand on what they believe - to do so would diminish the type of world that I want to live in. However, if they're going to stick their oar in to the public debate, then we're entitled to examine their position and the issue in general.

In sensitive discussions, it's only right and proper that you declare your interests so that people can judge whether you're 'under the influence' so to speak. The public perception will be that these are British scientists arguing that Britain is stronger as a result of our EU relationship - yet it's been revealed by Guido that three members of the Science for EU board have external links to the EU - with Guido stating - "Scientists for EU receives no money from the EU”, but their board members do…

http://order-order.com/2015/11/11/brussels-bungs-of-bexit-bashing-boffins/

Personally, I think the real issue here is one of transparency and hence subsequently it becomes one of perceived integrity. Are they arguing for the sake of all British science or self interest? Scientists for EU will have to defend themselves on the matter. Personally, I don’t think there’s a conspiracy here, just poor judgement.

It's worth pointing out here that Scientists for EU do not represent all UK scientists. Not do I believe that all UK scientists think along the lines of 'Scientists for EU'. Take 'Scientists 4 Britain' on Twitter, who state that they are: "UK scientists concerned that the EU uses science for political gain." and go on to suggest "International cooperation can continue outside of #EU constraints." It will be interesting to see whether they act as a significant counterpoint to 'Scientists for EU' as the debate rolls on.

I believe there are three key questions that all scientists need to address in this debate. Without engaging in these questions they risk being relegated to political cheerleader status:

Point 1 - Will science funding take a hit?

In their statement, Scientists for EU have pointed out that they are party to ambitious EU science funding programmes. Horizon 2020 is one such programme which will represent a significant chunk of change to the scientific community, so naturally there are concerns about loss of access to all that money.

The stock response to this from the Leave base will be that we’re net contributors to the EU; it’s only our money that they’re throwing back at us anyway so we should have the funds to support science on Brexit.

Yes, if we were entirely divorced from the rest of the EU scientific community then UK science would need guarantees that they wouldn't lose out. In addition, the perception conveyed from Scientists for EU is that we get back more than we put in (and I'm not going to argue with this notion), so to avoid diminishing their funding level, we may have an additional gap that would need to be bridged.

What's important here is that the argument is examined thoroughly and the facts presented squarely so that the UK can make an informed decision on the matter. However, as I'm going to allude to in the next section, I don't believe that Brexit would actually mean separation from those money rich EU science programmes, so this may turn out to be a moot point.


Point 2 - Will collaboration take a hit?

It's a fair question. Although science studies what happens in a vacuum, it doesn't operate in one. Like all aspects of life, wider collaboration delivers benefits. The perception being driven by Scientists for EU is that Brexit will mean abandonment of EU science collaboration. So even if we could secure funding, what's going to happen in respect of our collaborative ability?

Here’s a video by Dr Mike Galsworthy (who leads Scientists for EU) talking about the impact of Brexit to UK science which attempts to address this issue:



It may well be that this was unscripted and off the cuff but there are some statements here that are worth examining:

“.. some issues, as in health, such as rare diseases where you just can’t study effectively within one country ..”

It’s worth mentioning here that the EU is effectively moving to become one country. If the larger the scope, the better - why stop at the EU level?

If we were to step outside of the EU, it would be very hard to buy back in to full membership and hold the position that we do now ...”

Surely this is a complex game of poker that needs to be played out between the UK and the EU. If the EU decide that as some petty form of punishment, the UK need to be excluded from science programmes by some degree then, based on their response, both UK and remaining EU members are going to be poorer for it. Important to note - it would be the EU enforcing isolation here. But this response would clearly demonstrate the value of the Scientists 4 Britain message - that the EU is using science as a tool for political gain.

It also ignores the fact that the UK holds some significant bargaining chips. e.g. Cambridge and Oxford to name but two. Would the EU be happy to cut off their nose in order to spite their face?

But in reality, that's not what S4EU appear to be saying. Look at the terms 'full membership' and 'hold the position that we do now'. So could there be some form relationship avaiable - just not quite what they have now?

At the moment, we’re winning more money from this common pot of science funds than any other country. We've just pipped Germany.

Again, UK science proves to be huge a national asset - that’s surely a bargaining point in any collaborative renegotiation - or is our obvious expertise worth nothing?

British science is world leading, not just because of British scientists but because of all the scientists in Britain - and we’ve got a lot of foreigners here and a good 14 or 15 percent are EU nationals...”

A quick point to make here - I take the suggestion by Scientists for EU to be that we’re going to lose that 15 percent of top notch scientists by coming out of the EU, thereby devaluing UK science and threatening our world leading status. Of course, freedom of movement of labour is a condition of EEA membership, not just EU. It is highly unlikely and unrealistic that the UK will leave the EEA on Brexit so those scientists will still have the right to be here. Continued EEA membership would also give us other benefits.

“..and we’ve got a lot of foreigners here and a good 14 or 15 percent are EU nationals and a lot of them don’t like the xenophobic tone at the moment...”

Oh dear! We seem to have stumbled from a legitimate discussion about the impact of Brexit on UK science to one of ad hoc, unqualified commentary on people's attitudes and feelings toward other non UK nations. I think bringing xenophobia (so often equated to racism) in to the debate is a low blow by Scientists for EU and I'd urge them to withdraw that comment as it doesn't help advance discussion on the matter at all.

Interestingly enough, the video is hosted on the 'European Movement UK' YouTube channel. This would seem to be the very same organisation highlighted by Guido above in his report.

What’s not being mentioned here is the ERA (European Research Area). It’s important to acknowledge that funding programmes such as Horizon 2020 are open to EEA members as well as EU. I suspect that currently EU members have much more (perhaps all) of the say in the direction of that funding and so continued EU membership will be touted as ‘the only way’. To put it another way, the real fear is about loss of influence not loss of access to collaborative science or associated funding. I can’t help but wonder whether adding Britain’s scientific voice to the EEA side of the fence would give it enough weight to argue some right of direction. Quid pro quo.

Point 3 - Is Science greater than democracy?

Ultimately what sticks in the craw, from my perspective at least, is the question above.

The truth of the matter is that Brexit could mean significant changes for UK science funding and collaboration and I can’t tell you that it’s going to be easy or that somehow there will be any substantial overall benefit to UK science. Freedom of movement shouldn’t be the issue here, it’s the unknowns around funding, collaboration and influence that will need effort to resolve.

For many people engaged in this debate, the real fight is one about true democratic accountability. With every passing treaty, we’ve handed significant powers to the EU without once being asked whether we’re happy with this dilution of UK parliamentary democracy. It’s horrendously undemocratic so why should the people of the UK accept it?

When you ask this question and then contrast it with the stance of Scientists for EU - the question then becomes ‘Why do we need political union in order to facilitate scientific collaboration?’

To accept this is reasonable is to play in to the hands of the EU’s wider political ambitions.

Summary

The Scientists for EU site needs to do a lot to justify the stance it's taking. Parading the faces and names of prominent scientists in front of us in HTML5 without addressing the detail of the debate doesn't get it favourable peer review in my book.

If they're serious about their position, points one and two should be put under the microscope and properly argued and debated.

As for the third point - there's some real soul searching to be done here by Scientists for EU. Even if the first two points can be argued away, they have to stop and think, are there any limits to what should be done for the sake of science? Where is the morality in handing over hard won democratic rights, just to facilitate the ease of science funding and collaboration? Are they advocating a technocracy where the rights of non-scientific members of the population are demeaned purely because it suits the lifestyles, professions and outcomes of the chosen few?

In my opinion, to stand up and declare such open and unquestionable support for the EU in this debate is tantamount to announcing the primacy of the needs of the scientific community. Without tactful consideration for the wider debate, they will further alienate science (and hence the appreciation of science) from the public.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Mr Middleground and his halfhearted vision of Bland Britain

In what must be the most desperately stretched analogy of all time - At some point in this post, I'm going to compare the EU referendum to a curry

What is it about David Cameron that irks me so much? He's getting away with it - he's leading the population down the path to 'credible' alternative. He has the best strategists around him and every uncontentious step he takes edges him closer and closer to the finish line. All he has to do is offer something that kind of looks like it's what the people want - without waking them up to the reality of his proposal.

There was a brilliant observation made on the Leavehq.com site today - the kind of observation that Vote Lave and Leave.eu won't pick up on for some time knowing their run of form - and the observation goes like this (loosely paraphrased):

When looked at in the context of Britain's EU membership, Cameron's four demands seem innocuous. When looked at in the context of a revised EU, they are the four horsemen of the apocalypse for the UK. As the EU moves in to a new phase, if we follow David Cameron's approach, we stand to lose everything and gain nothing.

See here for the full post: http://www.leavehq.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=64

It's the kind of blog post that puts shivers down your spine and keeps you awake at night. A bucket of literary iced water tipped down your neck. If you read it and still cannot see the real danger of the PMs approach then you may want to give up chasing politics and put your feet up and read 'Ok' magazine instead (in the same way that during the three minute pre nuclear strike warning - I intend to steal a Masarati and take it to 180 down the M4 - to find some comforting joy before I'm vaporised).

On the face of it, it all seems so inoffensive. Bernard Jenkin stood in the House of Commons today and said 'Is that it?" ... like a luke warm cup of tea, or a drink of flat, room temperature lemonade, Cameron's proposals do not appear to excite or offend or animate or infuriate. If the EU referendum was supposed to be a firecracker vindaloo, the PM is trying his hardest to make it a korma (probably with a plain naan .. absolutely no lime pickle). The blander he can make it, the more chance he has of feeding it to people without any regurgitation.

You need to look carefully at the ingredients that Cameron is using:
  • He wants Euro members to go ahead and create their superstate - yet he also wants respect for non Euro members.
  • He wants a reduction of EU regulation on business
  • An end to ever closer union
  • Benefit restrictions for evil migrants.
He's going to get some notional stage managed victory for these, that's for sure - the last probably being the most contentious legally, but ultimately he's created a fuzzy eiderdown of words that will nestle between the disaffected yet lazy voter and the new 'associate membership' bed that the EU are making for us, in an attempt to create a soft landing for the revised world.

Nobody but nobody can be truly happy with the languid pitch that he's tossed to Tusk yet Cameron's ploy is that the sop will be enough to neutralise critical thinking. My guess is that, in the long term - when the time suits the EU project, there will be another engineered EU reboot where these satellite members will be brought back in to line - and at that point, it will be as full members, lock stock and barrel.

So where are there glimmers of hope? Who is going to upset the apple cart?

The Leave campaign need to work hard to provide clear contrast to Mr Middleground and his halfhearted vision of Bland Britain. This recipe is hot and spicy and contains two key but complex ingredients:

1 - True democracy.

We don't go to town enough about erosion and abuse of our democratic freedoms. But rather than moan about it - fire up some passion and add a dash of meaning.  My advice would be to use "The Harrogate Agenda" as the constitutional convention is likely to be a highly desired flavour.

http://harrogateagenda.org.uk/

2 - The road to freedom.

Nobody follows a man without a plan in to battle. Leadership demands vision if it's to command respect. If you don't have this on your menu, people will move in to eat elsewhere. Only the finest dining establishments will recognise Flexcit as the top ingredient here.

Right now, Cameron is telling us where 'he' intends to lead us - and the vacuum of leadership from Vote Leave and Leave.eu is giving him the credibility he needs to achieve his objective. Yet with the a subtle change in stance and use of the right tools, we could have the electorate asking him just why we need to go there. We just need to show the risk in his milk-warm (I'm running out of synonyms for tepid) approach to our nation's future (as highlighted by the Leavehq.com post above) and demonstrate the potential for top table representation and democratic accountability.

Failing that, our hope may fall to party in fighting. Much as I would love to see May or Johnson destabilise their own PM (and George Mandelborn for that matter), I don't really believe that they will be prepared to put their careers in jeopardy - even if it were for the sake of saving the nation from David Cameron renegotiating us in to obscurity.






Sunday, 8 November 2015

Pantomime Season


"We're rapidly heading towards Christmas now and the Remain campaign are getting in to the spirit, treading the boards and entertaining the masses with petty, fairytale inspired drama."


The Ugly Sisters of the EU Remain camp

Norway Fax Democracy (Oh no it isn't ... oh yes it is ... actually, no it really isn't).

I'd never been particularly vexed about Norway until the EU referendum became a reality and the 'Norway Option' became a target for the Remain campaign. Prior to that, only Adrian Mole 'Norwegian Lumber Exports' sprang to mind.

The Norway option is a credible short term alternative arrangement that the UK could adopt as part of a Brexit strategy whilst working on the bigger long term picture (again - I urge you to Google 'Flexcit' for the clearest example on this). It's a target for attack by the 'Remain' campaign because it's a clear and legitimate path away from the octopus like clutches of the EU. They hate it - but funnily enough, Norwegians love it.

It won't give us everything that the UK want as a nation, hence it is only suitable as a transition phase but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be a first step. The 'Remain' team constantly attack it as if it's being proposed as the end game but I've yet to find anyone in the 'Leave' team suggesting that this is the case. Straw man politics at its best.

Central to this attack is the premise that Norway are forced to adopt 'most' EU laws anyway in order to have a trade arrangement with them. The confidence with which this has been asserted would make most people believe that it's true - but it's not. I know this because I've checked it and so can you.

When the 'Fax Democracy' weapon was wielded by the 'Remain' team this autumn, I didn't see a reasonable rebuttal from either Vote Leave or Leave.EU. However,  a blog post titled 'EU Referendum: the EEA acquis' from eureferendum.com (http://www.eureferendum.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=85798) attacks the notion in some detail. Citing reference from the EFTA Secretariat, it explains that in terms of acts that are 'in force', the EEA (hence Norway) currently have just under 5000 applicable. It works out to around 21%. Including other applicable regulations, they're subject to around 28% in total compared to full EU members.

For those of us that are not steeped in the wonderful world of laws and regs, it can all become a bit confusing but the blog post not only shows its workings - but also explains where other people have gone wrong and where some 'leaps of faith' have been made in the past by those willing to marginalise the notion that Norway have got anything better than those inside the EU prison.

How can I find this out for myself? The tools appear to be openly available, so I checked the EU law aspect.

EUR-Lex allows you to check EU legislation in force:
http://eur-lex.europa.eu/browse/directories/legislation.html

At time of writing - this appears to work out to around: 23068

EEA-Lex gives you the same ability - allowing you to filter by "Incorporated into the EEA Agreement and in force"

http://www.efta.int/eea-lex?l=English&lang=Icelandic&type=All&f[0]=field_case_status_short_desc%3A11

Today - this appears to work out to around: 5041

That would appear to be about 21.8%, so largely in line with the eureferendum.com figures and a whole world away from the constant tripe spewing forth from Nick Clegg's EU loving lips.


Cameron's "reforms" (oh no he isn't .... errr - and everyone agrees. He's not)

David Cameron's renegotiation has become a bit of a running joke in all quarters. Each end every time he steps up to make an announcement, the commentariat fall over themselves laughing - because it's a sham.

Here, ( http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-34759063 ) the BBC trumpets his latest one-man good cop / bad cop exercise. Apparently, Cameron is going to give a blunt warning that we'll exit if we don't get what we want. Yet none of us even know if what the PM wants is what we want?

Many of us have a suspicion that all he's really planning to do is dovetail the referendum in to pre-ordained changes that will conjure up EU associate membership status. If you look at his approach, he's so obviously walking the middle ground here, saying the EU needs reform but that ultimately we still need to be in the EU. Associate membership will be his proposed panacea but it seems like more snake oil to me.

When he finally does publish his demands to Donald Tusk, things will become interesting from a number of perspectives. No doubt he'll try to muddy the waters, but will it be enough to pacify the electorate? Just as interesting will be the reaction from his own party because we should start seeing whether it polarises the likes of May and Johnson. Will we see a continuation of their 'wait and see' attitude on the matter or could we expect some unhappy briefings or even public denouncement? The latter is unlikely but once the demands are known, it's going to be increasingly difficult for politicians not to address the specific points and state whether they're substantial enough.

For the Leave camp, this is an opportunity that simply cannot be missed. We should all be primed and ready to respond - exposing whatever cracks appear at the heart of the Remain campaign, exposing it for the tepid and fragile affair that it really is. Prepare yourselves.



Friday, 6 November 2015

The Circle Jerk Effect

Sometimes we have to give things up for the greater good and step outside our comfort zone to make a difference.

If you think about your life, you can probably find countless examples where you've taken this step in order to make a meaningful change. Perhaps you sacrificed some of your drinking friends in order to settle down with a partner and start a family. Deep down, you know the two lifestyles don't mix and if you want a successful family, you can't make that happen if you spend every evening necking Glenfiddich at the bar with your mates.

So what's the greater good in this instance? The aim of the 'Leave' campaign should be to exit the EU and as a consequence, regain our position at the top tables where decisions are truly made. In the process, we regain the democratic accountability that's been eroded. That's the greater good.

How can we get there? On the face of it, this is simple, right? We march down to the polling station and cast our vote when the referendum comes. If we've won enough arguments and encouraged enough people, we win the referendum. Then David Cameron is forced to flick a magic switch in 10 Downing Street, the drawbridge across the channel comes up and then the Easter bunny skips up and down the country handing each and every citizen a large pile of notes no longer being sent to the EU (which they would subsequently have rebranded as EU money and largely handed back to the UK anyway).

In my facetious little diatribe above, there are a couple of serious points.

Point 1 - We need to win the arguments

You don't win an argument, without actually having an argument. That means you may have to step outside your comfort zone - but it's worth it. There are plenty of people who will attempt to bully you out of the park over the matter of the EU. The better educated you are on the matter and the more armed with appropriate facts, the better.

Better still, you need to be smart about this and pick the right arguments. There are plenty of topical weapons that can be wielded in this fight that will do significant damage to the 'Remain' cause, yet picking the wrong arguments will do significant damage to the reputation for 'Leave'.

Look at the people who matter in the Remain campaign (know your enemy) not the people that don't. Don't waste your energy attacking the guy who believes that a reduction in mobile roaming charges is worth conceding democracy for - look at Cameron, Osborne, Mandelson, Clarke etc. See where they're going and then head them off at the pass (and as a hint - I'd say associate membership is worth getting to grips with here).

Likewise, if the 'Leave' campaigns are missing the point, get stuck in and give them a *gentle kicking to help them understand when they're wasting time. They frequently need it.

*heavy

Point 2 - We need to encourage enough people


It's easy to turn up to the debate with confused thoughts, conflating all manner of issues and then venting them at the first opportunity on the internet. I'm sure I've done it enough times - but now really isn't the time to walk in to the ballroom with your flies undone.

You think the right thing to discuss is immigration or bang on about Islam? Well done, you've just polarised the debate in the manner that the 'Remain' campaign will relish and repulsed a large section of the potential voting base. Think about it - it matters!

You've decided to point out the democratic deficit or argue that we need to become world players by taking back our seats at a global level? You're moving the debate in to uncomfortable, indefensible territory for the 'Remain' camp and you're much more likely to usefully educate people and have them rally to your cause.

And this is where it's going to become really difficult for some people.

You have to realise that the EU referendum is a constitutional matter - and although political bodies facilitate our democracy, ultimately it's a matter for the people. Your say and my say - that's what counts. So what this referendum shouldn't be about is furthering the ambitions of any political party. This isn't a gift for UKIP to drive up membership. Let's be 100% clear about this - if you think that somehow, within the space of one and a half years, enough people will wake up and rally behind that political flag to make Brexit a reality as a party political movement, you're entirely mistaken.

Don't get me wrong here, I laughed like many others when I saw an apoplectic Farage describe Van Rompuy as a low-grade bank clerk - but Suzanne Evans let the truth slip when she said that he was 'a very divisive character'. People have made their minds up and you're going to be on the back foot if you think that you can change their views in time for the referendum. You may as well give the 'Remain' campaign a three year head start. I'm not saying to ditch the party if you happen to be aligned to it - but UKIP members will already vote for Brexit, and taking the UKIP branding to the wider battlefield is only going to muddy the waters.

As Darth Vader once said 'Search your feelings, you know it to be true'.

We may need more than the force to win this referendum. Try facts.


Point 3 - We need to be realistic about what we can achieve and when

There are a lot of infographics flying around the internet from both sides making all kinds of laughable claims. The one I particularly hate is the suggestion that 'we'll all be £1000 better off out of the EU'. Much of that money will still need to go to academia and farming etc - just via a less indirect route.

You've also got to realise that Brexit is not a switch. You don't vote 'Leave' one day and walk out in to the street the next day to find it covered in union jack bunting, crowned by a rainbow. Think of divorce proceedings and how messy they can get. The UK is like the person that wakes up realising that they've been in a bad relationship and that they can get on with their life by moving on. The EU wants the UK to stay at home cooking dinner whilst it swans off to all the big parties giving it all the big 'I am' talk. When the UK leaves, it needs a planned / phased exit. Much of the real debate that is going on right now with the referendum is focussed around this and it is critical, if you're going to be effective, that you understand the mechanics.

Has any work been done on a planned / phased / measured exit? The good news is 'Yes' - it's called Flexcit and it's very comprehensive. You can access the work by Dr Richard A E North in pdf form here: http://www.eureferendum.com/documents/flexcit.pdf

I'd also recommend taking a good look at http://eureferendum.com/ in general along with associated blogs and sites. It may seem 'frank' in some places but you will struggle to find a more comprehensive and strategically accurate resource for Brexit on the internet.

The 'Remain' campaign likely love nothing more than 'Leave' spouting all manner of unqualified promises - because they can then position us as fantasists. Don't give them that gift this Christmas. Instead, force feed them the 'Brussels sprouts' that they can't stomach until they're sick of it. If you ever put sprouts on the plate of someone who doesn't like them, no matter how smart they seem, they soon become irrational and defensive.

Circle Jerk

If you're brave enough to step outside of mob mentality and take these three steps, at the very least you're going to make a small but meaningful difference; you may just reach out to people who would not have listened in the past.

Alternatively, you can join in the with the circle jerk. You'll be 'passionate' (I hate that term) about your cause and you'll spend time and energy making noise, but you'll only be hiding in the pack with the other sheep.

Step out of the flock. Become a wolf.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

It doesn't matter if it's right - as long as it's first

We've found out a thing or two since my last post.

Firstly, the CBI have been exposed, yet again, to be the Pro EU sock puppets that they really are. The Telegraph discuss Lord Maude being petitioned by the CBI in a concerted effort to campaign for Britain to remain in the EU. This quote from the Telegraph is quite relevant:

"The minutes – marked ‘confidential’– show that the CBI was ‘stepping up’ its plans to campaign for the UK to stay in the EU and that its former President Sir Mike Rake urged his successor Paul Drechsler to ‘use [the] CBI's influence to keep us in’. "

The full article can be read HERE

But the CBI are also under scrutiny for defining misleading polls that potentially skew the perception of the love of the EU by British business. Claims that 8 out of 10 cats businesses want us to stay in the EU appear to look rather anaemic when you find out that the CBI have hand picked the companies polled (by YouGov) - with only 20% of them having 50 or less employees, when 99% of businesses in Britain are staffed to that level. This is brought up by the Vote Leave campaign - see HERE

Details of the spat also reported in The Mail HERE

Yet when the likes of The BBC want to roll out 'the face of business' to discuss the EU situation, time and time again they pick the CBI as if it's a politically neutral body. Well, it's obvious to anyone with an ear to the ground that they're anything but. I'm angry with the CBI - but I'm also angry at the BBC for being so predictable on the matter.

On another note - a lot was made of comments from US Trade Representative Michael Froman at the end of October (see previous post). The 'Remain' campaign were quick to capitalise, as if it undermined claims that Britain could ever hope to have a free trade agreement with the US.

Lo and behold, it surfaces that both he and his wife worked for the EU. From Guido:

"Froman worked as part of the European Commission’s Forward Studies Unit, a department tasked with monitoring and evaluating European integration. ..... Not only did Froman work for Brussels, his wife Nancy Goodman did as well. She took on a post at the Directorate General For Competition, which is also part of the European Commission"

You couldn't make it up.

The full Guido post can be found HERE

The campaign to Leave the EU is going to be full of this activity. I suspect that the true relationship of said people and organisations to the EU were always expected to be exposed at some point - yet getting in there first and setting the agenda appears to be more important to the Pro EU lobby than being right. After all, the BBC will never follow through on the Froman quote and throw it in to a new, more appropriate context. Most people will have read THIS and then accepted it at face value.

This is why, in my humble opinion, Leave campaigns need to push back against this kind of activity with their own searching questions, setting the tempo and the agenda. As the FUD flies in, they need to parry and riposte - moving attention back in the other direction. As of now, I've yet to see this level of capability from either Vote Leave or Leave.eu. Take the reaction to the Prime Minister's attack on the Norway option - they made a right hash of the matter, giving both Cameron and Osborne exactly the response they needed.

See the following article on eureferendum.com to fully understand the danger their response has put the Leave campaign in: http://www.eureferendum.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=85804#disqus_thread