Tuesday 24 March 2015

Economic babytalk and false promises

Ukip's economic spokesman
It's commonly accepted among virtually everyone I interact with that we need to leave the EU. With that I have no argument. The critical question is how. What we have seen is a procession of ideal world "solutions", all of which fail to address the fact we do not live in an ideal world, we're not going to get everything we want up front, and we are going to have to make certain comprises for mutual benefit.

Leaving the EU doesn't necessarily free up billions to spend on nurses as the idiotic Ukip would have it. This is the economics of infants. Few have really thought about Brexit in the terms that actually accomplishes. It is assumed there will be billions to spend on nurses, billions to spend on defence from ending foreign aid, and jobs aplenty by slamming the doors shut at the borders. Oh, and booming business thanks to a bonfire of regulations. That's Ukip's message. Does that sound even vaguely adult to you?

For a long time saner folk have been banging their heads against a brick wall while Ukip continue to make promises that Brexit alone cannot deliver. Closing the borders doesn't come without a cost and it doesn't come without red tape either. Differing regulatory regimes closes down trade and doubles up red tape for exporters. As to the billions leaving the EU will save, this is a fiction. I can't envisage any scenario where we will not have to cooperate with the EU to curb immigration, not least by tackling the causes of it. Ukip's proposition is a false one, and so pure in its naivety it would be funny - if it weren't coming from the supposedly eurosceptic party.

Even the he IEA understands that Brexit cannot deliver on those terms. "We’ll thrive if we’re open to the world" says Ryan Bourne of the IEA over at City AM. He said "At the border, we would need to maintain a fairly liberal approach to the movement of people, if not the complete free movement of EU citizens we are currently bound by". Amusingly, having made my case for me, he then goes on to eulogise Iain Mansfield's IEA Brexit plan in which Mansfield says "The Government should end the automatic right to free movement to EU citizens and treat future immigration from EU nations in the same way as immigration from outside the EU". Helps if they actually read their own amateur drivel.

But while Ukip and the IEA flail around, struggling with their ignorance, we have Flexcit. As much as Flexcit is a Brexit plan, it is one derived from how we anticipate a referendum battle will be fought. Referendums very often favour the status quo. Anything perceived as change is often met with fear and uncertainty and people change their minds at the last minute. That means there is a massive mountain to climb to win over the public and that means neutralising the tactics of fear, uncertainty and doubt the media will use. 

Big business will fill the airwaves with FUD about "three million jobs" along with all the usual boilerplate scaremongering, but by staying in the EEA (the single market) as Flexcit proposes, it removes that entire argument. That is primarily the point of the EEA option. It makes the referendum a lot easier to win in that we can say it's entirely risk free to business as nothing immediately changes. We can also say it puts us into what we thought we were voting for in 1975 -which DID have a mandate.

If we take their arguments head on, assuming we can deregulate and close the borders then we enter unwinnable arguments (such as the three million jobs meme which still stands to this day), to which even the IEA has only assumptions and optimistic assertions. We are then making promises that Brexit alone simply cannot deliver - and those weak arguments will be demolished. Our model shifts the goalposts and changes the shape of the debate to one which the opposition is not prepared to argue. THAT is the strategic merit of it.

We have to acknowledge that the status quo effect in referendums is what loses referendums, so you have to play to that dynamic to win it, otherwise you're making promises based on guesses and selling ideas it won't deliver. In or out of the EU, regulation isn't going away, nor is globalisation and if you think the establishment is conspiring against Ukip, wait until you see what they do to keep us in the EU. And if hardline libertarians and kippers, with their babytalk and hackneyed liblabconnery make the case for Brexit, making wild and unverifiable claims about what it will achieve, we'll lose it and will deserve to.

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