Tuesday 11 November 2014

Back on planet Earth...

One of the themes I keep returning to on this blog is the shape the debate will take in the run up to a referendum. The margin to win is a narrow one and it is volatile. The popularity of Ukip is an independent variable that has little or no relation to the referendum margin. Thus any in any discussion of Brexit, it's fair to say that Ukip is an irrelevance. This has been put to Ukip supporters over the last few posts and all we get is a litany of excuses, bluster and abuse. Plus ca change!

So as much as continued scrutiny of that party is necessary (and a great deal of fun), anyone who was hoping they might focus and professionalise toward a strategic end can pretty much forget it. It's not going to happen. They don't listen and they don't engage. They are busy indulging themselves in the fantasy that they are the silver bullet to establishment politics and their witless tinkering (which they are calling policies) will create a new Jeruselem.

Meanwhile, back on planet earth, I've been looking at the referendum swing voters and the undecideds - and how to construct arguments that will convince them to vote on our side. As more and more politics has moved onto the internet, and seemingly things are more polarised and tribal than ever they were, EU membership has become a red line issue between right and left. It is assumed that if you are anti-EU, you are by default a foaming right wing Ukipist.

However shrill the bleating about the "LibLabCon" and however strong the bluster about sovereignty, the harder the scream, the more repellent they become. It's an ugly thing to behold and it persuades nobody who isn't already persuaded. So we need to get real.

In a globalised world, the notion of total sovereignty is a fiction which exists only in the minds of hardcore Ukipists. Globalised markets need globalised governance and that means some degree of co-operation and compromise. The notion that nobody can tell us what to do is one that belongs to a bygone age and it doesn't carry much weight with modern progressive minded people. Even outside of the EU we will be negotiating at an international level which inevitably will resulting in a pooling of sovereignty that may override national law.

Yesterday, pharmaceutical regulators from ten countries met for urgent talks on ways of using existing laws and regulations to support dementia research and development. The meeting in Geneva, led by the British government, brought together the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and regulators from the European Union, the United States, Canada, Japan, Switzerland, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Such talks often produce the framework for new regulation which we would adopt in any case inside or out of the EU. It simply isn't true that we presently have no say, it simply isn't true that Brussels does anything to us that we wouldn't do to ourselves, and it doesn't follow that it is all necessarily bad by way of coming from "Europe". International co-operation is a good thing and technical regulation benefits for a global pool of resources.

It's not good enough to take a withdrawalist line and pretend that international governance and standards cease to apply to us should we leave the EU. It's an unrealistic fantasy and it will not stand up to scrutiny. With that in mind, it is for eurosceptics to demonstrate that outside of the EU we can have more influence at the international level, as indeed Norway does, and also demonstrate why the EU is an inhibitor in this regard. If anything, the bickering at the EU level means that the compromises produce inadequate law that neither meets our requirements and falls short of existing British standards.

The EU is yesterdays solution to today's problems. It is a middleman and it is a duplication of effort. Progressives like to think that the EU is a big vision when in fact it's lacking ambition. Outside the EU we can show a great deal more leadership and even show the EU how it's done. If there's one thing we Brits can do it's law and governance.

As much as pointing out the many flaws of the EU, we also need to have a carrot to offer the electorate - otherwise the campaign is entirely predicated on negatives. It is for this reason The Harrogate Agenda has been written into Flexcit so it becomes a roadmap to genuine democracy. Better to be selling something than to be rubbishing something.

Playing to the gallery is a waste of resources. There has always been a hardcore rump of the electorate who never needed persuading to leave the EU. Many of whom never voted to join in the first place. Their vote is and always was in the bag. Eurosceptics tempted by Ukip need to ask themselves if the crass behavior of Ukip, the populist imagery and the pub-bore speeches are going to advance our cause. I don't think they are.

The Guardianistas who have fears and doubts about TTIP are certain they don't want it, but few, if any are going to vote in such a way that identifies with Nigel Farage. The man is an oily worm, and the majority of people know it. Ukip's message predominantly appeals to lower middle class white men with a litany of gripes. It is horribly myopic to concentrate the message there because there aren't enough of them to swing a referendum.

Anyone who is serious about leaving the EU needs to take Ukipists to task for their public behaviour, their hackneyed schtick and their negativity, and their leadership should be reminded at every turn why winging it without a Brexit vision is going to create complications, especially since they can't get their line straight between them. Eurosceptics need to be strategising and thinking tactically, and thinking beyond simply advancing the purple tribe. If that tribe matters more to you than leaving the EU, then I would ask you what your real motives are - and what you hope to achieve.

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