Sunday, 19 June 2016

The Spirit of Brexit

"Bring me my Bow of burning gold; Bring me my Arrows of desire; Bring me my Spear; O clouds unfold! Bring me my Chariot of fire!"

When you feel that the race is run - you have to find that little bit more

This is likely to be my final blog post before the referendum and just possibly the last for UK Unleashed. It's been a long journey and a charged roller-coaster with all the twists and turns that you'd expect in a battle for the soul of one of the greatest nations on earth. And recently, it's become downright ugly.

We saw campaigning resume today after the tragic death of Jo Cox and regardless of the whimsical sentiment made in the aftermath by all sides, that we'd see a more respectful approach to campaigning, what rapidly emerged was an exceedingly grubby form of politics. It's not something that I'm going to dwell on because I'm sure that the Remain gang would love nothing more than to turn this in to a dirty ground fight in the final week; I will only say this.

When a tragedy happens, we condemn it - and we unite together in our protest, because it is the decent and human thing to do in the face of such horror. And if it's subsequently established that it was an assault on democracy, we agree that it's an affront to all of us. An act that served nobody but the twisted demons that inhabit the perpetrator's agonised mind. And we agree that to allow one deranged man to both drive a wedge, and be used to drive a wedge between people, does not provide fitting tribute to the person who was taken from us.

Yet, as if to instantly prove my naivety, the Remain campaign have immediately seized the opportunity of the moment. I will not sit here and count the many ways in which this tragedy has been gleefully exploited across social media or in the mainstream press, but I will bring one individual briefly under the microscope - because for someone of his stature, he really should know better.

Simply shameless. Win or lose, he can't go soon enough.

Let us be clear about this - this is an unconscionable act by a Prime Minister, one repugnantly ghoulish in character. If Nigel Farage's 'Breaking Point' poster demonstrated political naivety and campaign damaging hubris, David Cameron has gone so much further. Yes, Jo Cox should be honoured - but surely she deserves more respect than to be used as political collateral only days after her death. Shamelessly, that rather human concern appeared to count for little in David Cameron's eyes.

The tide comes in - it goes out

It's not entirely unbelievable to think that as things get tense over the remaining few days, we'll see new lows and be forced to inhale the sickly stench of more putrid political debauchery if we want to stay in the fight. But as Leavers, one thing has become abundantly clear - it's that we have a powerful and uplifting message that can help us rise above the sqalour. It's a tale that should be told and a song that should be sung (to loosely quote Hannan).

Right now, we're back to being the underdogs. Leave waxed in the polls last week and then waned over the weekend. That may be in part as a reaction to the sad death of Jo Cox, but Yougov polling data suggests that the contraction had already begun before Thursday and other polls support the trend*. This would indicate the expected 'status quo' effect where people recoil slightly from the prospect of change as we near the day of voting. It's not yet known though how it's going to play out because the dynamics are very different from other referenda such as Scotland and Quebec.

Because of the subtle and deceptive way in which power has transferred from from the UK to the EU over time, we've not had a hard transition where people have come to understand that the UK has changed immeasurably. The modus operandi of 'the project' is acquisition of power by stealth. In other words - it works by pretending that nothing has changed in the nation, when bit by bit it wrestles the sovereignty away in the margins. You only realise that things have taken a turn for the worse when you find out that your Chancellor has to consult 27 other nations in order to alter VAT on sanitary products.

Existential crisis - what crisis?

So for many people, this whole process may well be one whereby they wake up to find a very different existential crisis happening from the one David Cameron has been alluding to in the press today. They'll wake up during the debate to realise that their status quo - the one where Britain is a proud sovereign nation - has actually vanished. This realisation could result in a different reaction at the ballot box than has been seen elsewhere. In Scotland, there was a pronounced swing back to retention of the Union - but that was in a campaign where the threats were fundamental (currency / oil dependency) and nobody could claim to remember an independent Scotland.

The UK situation, being so very different, may result in the status quo effect being muted somewhat, yet perhaps not held in check entirely.

In the final hours of this fight, we need to focus on emphasising this point. Sovereignty is the baseline - the foundation stone on which our house is built. And of we don't have sovereignty - then we're just guests in someone else's house. Should the UK vote Remain, then we've just given the EU the biggest democratic endorsement that it's ever had - a democratic gift that it will never reciprocate.

So we must fight a fight. A clever fight not the vicious and nasty brawl that some people would like. We will use reason; we will use moderation; we will use intelligence; we will use history and we will use perspective. And win or lose, we will know that we have tried our damnedest to raise the spirit of Brexit to deliver the free and sovereign United Kingdom that future generations deserve.

Arm yourselves for the final battle.

*Footnote. I'm still trying to track the field work from Survation for the Mail on Sunday poll released over the weekend. It's become seemingly apparent that along with the question about intention for the referendum, many other questions were asked. At least one of which could be construed as a 'softener' designed to focus the interviewees mind in a particular direction. This is only possible if the dubious question precedes the all important 'Leave / Remain' one though. I'll update when I get the field work.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Vote Sovereignty and The Rest Will Follow

"The age is upon us where a significant transition is happening. Where the erosion of public engagement in the political process seems almost engineered and where, in the midst of this ambivalence, power will shift away from the electorate."

Union Jack flags and red buses on Parliament Street - without sovereignty, it's all just tourist fodder
If ever a comment from the political class threw our dilemma in to stark relief, this was it. Edwina Currie cheaply dismisses sovereignty with vague and unfathomable insinuation that a nation with the economic clout of the UK cannot put food on the table unless it gives up its sovereignty.

Ex-politician and quasi game-show celebrity - Edwina dismisses our right to self determination

It's a suggestive comment, not explicit. One which deliberately attempts to trivialise the notion of self rule by conjuring up base images of jobless poverty. Just how did we get to this?

Regardless of all the micro arguments that affect various different interest groups, we come back to the macro argument that sovereignty is the thing from which all else flows. It's the root cause, the first premise and the beating heart of any nation. Without it, we are no longer a nation carving a path and making our destiny - we are rudderless state being towed helplessly in one direction. Many think the waters are flowing toward Niagara Falls, yet the crew steadfastly refuse to cut the tether. At times like these, it makes you wonder just how much control the electorate have.

For many, parliamentary democracy is a bit like undergoing constant major surgery. After careful analysis you make a judgement about what work is required, then you choose the best surgeons to make the alterations you need. For the next five years, you're out cold whilst the surgeon puts you under the knife does his or her work, setting about the perceived problems as agreed in the surgery manifesto. After coming round, you review what's been done and then repeat the process for the next five years.

Those that we have entrusted to look after us during our anaesthetic slumber have ulterior motives it seems. What we're witnessing is an attempted stealth transplant in some Frankenstein like horror B movie, where the hearts of individuals are given over to some vivisect creation that we've been stitched to. We end up like a vulgar human centipede with Germany at the front and Greece at the back. After we've been surgically hollowed out, when we awake we find ourselves powerless to reverse the operation and walk away - and to calm our protestations, the surgeons gleefully enthuse that for our own collective benefit, we've been 'pooled'.

During the referendum, we've come around yet we haven't woken up properly. We know there's a vote but many have not grasped the true depth of what is at stake. Although I refused to believe it at first, it's now clear to me that there is a strata of international politicians and corporations who have greater affinity with each other than they do with the electorate/consumers (we're becoming more like the later than the former it would seem).

The age is upon us where a significant transition is happening. Where the erosion of public engagement in the political process seems almost engineered and where, in the midst of this ambivalence, power will shift away from the electorate. Your right to determine your nation's future is now held in obvious contempt. Not just by one or two political ghouls who have shared DNA, like Currie and Major, but by successive senior politicians from all parties. Whether it's Clegg or Cameron manufacturing the deceit of 'pooled sovereignty' or whether it's Brown and Miliband (David) reneging on a manifesto pledge for a referendum - these are people who no longer see themselves as temporary custodians of your nation, but as successive Sherpas leading us up the EU mountain.

When you realise just how deep the rot has set in, you'll realise that a vote to Leave will not cure this situation. The people need protecting from this kind of manipulation and if parliamentary democracy cannot safeguard our rights, then we need a constitution that enshrines the right to directly hire and fire those that make the laws of the land. Further still, direct democracy is needed to act as a defibrillator jump starting democracy up and down the land on all matters of consequence.

So how do we get back down this mountain that has taken well over forty years to climb? Do we strap a parachute to our backs and jump off the nearest ridge? Or do we carefully descend, avoiding peril and harm? The former is a quick way out but we need to avoid dashing ourselves on the rock-face as we spiral down. The latter is more of a journey where we want to reach the same destination but accept that we don't get everything we want in one go.

For most people it would seem, taking the safe route pays dividends. According to recent research by the Adam Smith Institute, faced with the prospect of Brexit, the electorate would overwhelmingly support a Norway style relationship.

It's a least impact approach to the transition away from EU governance. We retain single market access paying half per head for access of what we're required to pay now - we regain the ability to make our own FTAs - we ditch CAP - we retain access to EU science and education programmes etc etc. For the best comparative illustration of what's available, the Euquestion blog by Paul Reynolds says it best here:

The sticking point for some is that it still requires 'Freedom of Movement' - yet even faced with the prospect of that, we're given a unilateral emergency brake to pull.

Ben Kelly, reviewing the research on his Sceptic Isle site recognises the need for phased exit, stating:

"Brexit is a complex process that will necessarily be done in stages and joining the European Free Trade Association and trading with the EU via the European Economic Area agreement is a ready-made transitional arrangement that will facilitate negotiations and provide a “soft landing” and a secure platform to build on."

(Here: )

Other commentators also emphasise similar points. On his White Wednesday blog (named after the UK's ejection from the ERM), Fellow of the ASI, Roland Smith, suggests:

"The option, which would see Britain initially moving to a Norway-like single-market-based position outside the EU, is actually a stage in a broader multi-step roadmap of gradual disengagement from the EU and re-engagement with the rest of the world.

(Here: )

Facing the real prospect of Brexit, this is quickly becoming a consensus view and a middle ground approach toward the complex issue of extrication of the UK from the tendrils of the European Union. There is no realistic light switch style boolean operation available. Disentanglement requires time and financial assurances. EFTA/EEA is the right first step along that path - not the final destination to park our bus. We need to get used to it.

Politics is often about compromise and things tend to be at their worst and most unstable when it's not. So if you're a hard-line Brexiteer and want out, be prepared for long journey; a journey in which you will need to be engaged for many years to come in order to reach the desired outcome of free trade, intergovernmental collaboration and sovereign nations.