Why the UK can’t simply up and leave the EU

People who like Nigel Farage and feel I am unfair to him and should cut him some slack may not like this. But this is an issue that strikes at the heart of Farage’s credibility as a politician and explains why I cannot and will not support UKIP with him as leader.

Farage’s stated position is that the UK should simply up and leave the EU. It is what UKIP says it would do if by some quirk of fate it found itself forming a government. It is a broad stroke of a policy that utterly fails to acknowledge or address the difficulty and consequences of doing so. It demonstrates that Farage has not only failed to grasp the issues at stake but staggeringly, nae, disturbingly, that he has no coherent strategy for extracting the UK from the EU in a manner that protects this country’s economic and commercial interests.

There are thousands of different conventions, agreements, protocols and other arrangements which could realistically be affected by a UK withdrawal from the EU and make it more difficult to export goods to EU member states, with far reaching consequences for the UK economy.

By way of a short example Richard picks up on just one such issue to illustrate the complexity of what lays ahead; and separately explains how EU law could prevent our goods being shipped into EU ports – unless the UK carefully negotiates favourable new terms with the EU, something that can only be triggered with certainty by invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

That Farage has never presented a clear, positive explanation of how his policy could be realised in the absence of such detailed negotiation and essential housekeeping reduces his credibility to zero. It leaves the truly eurosceptic side of the EU membership argument open to fatal attack that would see an in-out referendum lost as people buy in to the europhile fearmongering that, for once, would be an accurate reflection of what could realistically happen.

Leaving the EU without securing terms that protect this country’s interests is worse than folly. Criticising those people who point out the fundamental flaws in Farage’s UKIP approach is a similar folly. Allowing Farage to hold a prominent position on the eurosceptic side of the argument in light of his ill-considered and shallow exit policy is nothing less than lethal.

Getting out of the EU demands more than Farage’s brand of Jack-the-Lad, cheeky chappie punchline populism. As Richard has demonstrated, the stakes are extremely high. We can’t just up and leave. We have to negotiate the dotting of every i and crossing of every t to extract ourselves from the tangled web woven over a period of decades. Withdrawal from the EU would be a serious business requiring serious people who can master fine details.

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45 Responses to “Why the UK can’t simply up and leave the EU”


  1. 1 Dave_G 03/01/2013 at 12:40 am

    Complications? There are a few.

    Most people however take the view that leaving the EU could be a simple matter comprising two steps.

    1. Stop paying ANY money to the EU immediately
    2. Stop implementing ANY new EU regulations

    ….thereafter the process could be completed by allowing businesses to make their own arrangements as to how they deal with necessary regulations to continue trading with EU countries. Much like ISO9000 it is optional as to whether you employ it or not – true, you will most likely be excluded from certain contracts should you forgo it BUT the choice is entirely YOURS.

    Simplification? There have been many.

  2. 2 Woodsy42 03/01/2013 at 12:58 am

    By the same argument a spouse can’t up and leave the family.But it happens and the world keeps turning.
    Leaving the Eu can be impossibly complicated if every aspect has to be unpicked first, but could be very simple if done at a stroke.
    Dave_G has it. Stop paying them, stop implementing anything new. Say we will abide by all other rules, and all other treaties will continue, unless and until they are specifically changed. Life would go on.

  3. 3 Peejos 03/01/2013 at 6:24 am

    There were dozens of treaties in place between the UK and between various countries of Europe in August 1939 yet Hitler ignored them all and many countries conveniently forgot theirs. True the result was hell, but it happened and the UK is still here. Unless you can identify a paragon who is all things to all men you have to accept what is on offer. The French have hardly elected a clear thinking individual, whilst the Italians may repeat their earlier folly, for all their faults such people have crowd appeal and such a person is essential to get the electorate to vote, offering years of tedious negotiations will never appeal to the UK man in the street. Just who would drive and most importantly maintain, the change: the FCO?

  4. 4 The Gray Monk 03/01/2013 at 8:38 am

    Well said, the whole affair is far more complex than simply stop paying or refusing to implement Directives. The bulk of Britain’s exports goes through the Europort for starters and a lot of it crosses Europe on trucks trains and barges. All of that would require renegotiation and that is only one very minor aspect.

    We no longer live in 1939, we no longer have the industries, merchant shipping or armed forces we had then and we couldn’t rebuild them if we tried. The EU needs reform and it needs rethinking as to what it really is or should be, but pulling out without considering the consequences won’t solve anything and might, just, actually precipitate a much worse situation in England. I exclude the prospect of the UK continuing beyond 2014 as I suspect Scotland will leave and then leap into bed with the EU and the “Auld Alliance.”

  5. 5 Autonomous Mind 03/01/2013 at 8:53 am

    There are none so blind as those that will not see.

    I don’t like criticising commenters who kindly share their thoughts on these pages, but come on.

    Not one of the first three comments so far has acknowledged the critical issue here, one of adherence to the laws this country has signed up to.

    Dave – It is not as simple as saying businesses can make their own arrangements. How can they sell anything if EU law prevents the export of those goods to the continent? Every other trading nation has agreements in place with the EU, yet you are suggesting the UK uniquely can do what it likes without any legal consequences. Are you also proposing we ask Cornish folk to recommence smuggling operations?

    Woodsy – A spouse can up and leave the family, it they still have to follow processes put in place under the law. The world will keep turning, absolutely. But while it does the UK will be hamstrung commercially. Ceasing to pay the EU and ceasing to implement anything new does not reverse the legal position we are in or enable us to avoid the consequences of default and breaking a legal agreement. Life would go on, but not as we currently know it, it would be worse.

    Peejos – We are proposing to leave a political union, not launch a continental war of domination. Break the law and the UK will still be here. The same is true for an individual. But by the same token, break the law and there will be punishment. For the UK this would result in economic chaos that would cause us immense harm.

    Sorry guys but sticking your fingers in your ears and singing lalalalalala doesn’t make the reality go away. Has burying your heads in the sand and just wishing it all away ever worked for you, with anything?

    You are in utter denial of reality if you think your desired approach will work. I truly cannot understand your logic and I am staggered by your lack of grasp of the situation and understanding of how the real world works. If you guys are indicative of the wider perceptions of the UK population then I may as well give up now and move overseas and let you get on with changing nothing. Your kind of attitudes would with absolute certainty ensure a referendum defeat and the UK beng dragged deeper into ever closer union.

  6. 6 Andrew Duffin 03/01/2013 at 9:06 am

    AN, you’re correct of course.

    But if people say to Farage “do you want us to leave the EU” and he says “Yeah, man, just do it”, then he may get their vote.

    If people ask the same question and he says “Well, it’s kinda complicated, there are lots of things to think about”, then they turn away in disgust muttering “he’s just the same as all the others”.

    Politics is sometimes about more than just telling the truth; you have to get peoples’ emotional support first. Farage understands this. He probably isn’t quite as daft as you fear.

  7. 7 Peejos 03/01/2013 at 10:24 am

    AM, I accept part of your rebuff, but you have still not explained just how and who maintains the pressure to negotiate new or alternative treaties. To complete things the way you describe would take many years, certainly more than at least one political administration’s 5 year tenure. Unless that body enjoys continuing popular support, the whole enterprise will collapse, no matter how well intentioned are the negotiators. That will be chaos

  8. 8 theboilledfrog 03/01/2013 at 10:57 am

    @DaveG “1. Stop paying ANY money to the EU immediately
    2. Stop implementing ANY new EU regulations”

    The rule of law underpins any democracy, your proposals in effect are asking our Government to break the law. That is a situation I would strongly suggest you do not want to encourage.

    Our membership of the EU, our compliance of EU law and payment to the EU has been entered into willingly by our Parliament. Asking them to unilaterally treat it like a Woolworth’s pick n mix would do huge damage to our reputation as a country. No longer would we ever get favourable trade deals again as we then gain negativity of not being trusted and treating law as a play thing – Parliament’s word would no longer be treated seriously.

    It is precisely because the EU rules great swathes of our country that unpicking will take time and patience.

    Referendum’s tend to favour the status quo, and in the middle of economic turmoil, where people are worried about jobs, anything that causes trade disruption is rightly going to be exploited by those that want to stay in. They will completely outgun us with ‘Apocalypse Now’ warnings of economic disaster, unless we negate such things with a credible workable exit plan that limits any disruption to the bare minimum. Conversely your proposals would create a trade war

    A wise man fights the battles he can win, arbitrarily exiting the EU overnight is not one of them.

  9. 9 Autonomous Mind 03/01/2013 at 11:52 am

    Andrew, your suggestion is somewhat limited.

    Yes, if people say to Farage “do you want us to leave the EU” and he says “Yeah, man, just do it”, then he may get their vote. But what he should be doing – and sadly isn’t – is saying:

    “We have a carefully considered and detailed plan that will enable us to leave the EU, beginning by announcing our intent to leave under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

    “Our comprehensive exit plan takes into account all the reciprocal agreements and legal frameworks that need to be negotiated and put in place to protect this country’s commercial and trading interests. It fully addresses the concerns of our business community and ensures companies based in the UK will continue to do business with our European friends as they do today.

    “As a result of this change our country will no longer be governed by the EU, but will govern itself democratically and be properly accountable to the UK’s voters. The billions of pounds we will save every year will be used to reduce our debt, enhance our infrastructure and improve services for the vulnerable in our society. This independence will mean in future we can speak confidently with our own voice, make agreements and treaties with countries around the world on terms favourable to the UK and cooperate with nations around the world on matters of shared interest.”

    Politics needs to be about more than offering bland, dumbed down messages and cheap soundbites such as “we will just leave”. Politicians wanting to make a major change such as this need to present a positive vision and demonstrate they understand what has to be done and have a detailed plan to achieve it.

    Farage should understand this. It’s common bloody sense. But from his public pronouncements there is no evidence he does. So I have no reason to believe he isn’t quite as daft, as disconnected and as vacuous as I fear.

  10. 10 Autonomous Mind 03/01/2013 at 12:02 pm

    Peejos, the electorate would maintain the pressure to negotiate new or alternative treaties, having voted for it in a binding referendum.

    Of course it could take years. Getting us this entwined in the EU has taken decades. That is why the eurosceptics should already be planning the details of what needs to be done and how, so the exit blueprint is in place. It would give voters confidence to vote positively for withdrawal knowing there is a workable strategy ready to be executed. It would mean when europhiles argue it isn’t possible, evidence can be provided to show it is, thereby destroying their arguments.

    The alternative is we give up and go home, saying it’s too hard so we shouldn’t bother. The europhiles want us to do just that. Do you want to hand them that win and keep us trapped inside ever closer union for good?

  11. 11 Richard North 03/01/2013 at 1:03 pm

    Peejos

    You assert that to complete things in the way AM describes “would take many years, certainly more than at least one political administration’s 5 year tenure”. Upon that false premise, you then assert that, “unless that body enjoys continuing popular support, the whole enterprise will collapse, no matter how well intentioned are the negotiators. That will be chaos”.

    But this is not the case. A half-way house approach could be adopted, whereby the UK sought continued (but time-limited) membership of the EEA (via EFTA) and then nationalised the whole of the EU acquis. That would then leave the UK the ability to unpick the acquis at its leisure, replacing it with UK legislation as necessary, and time to consider whether to continue EEA membership or seek bilateral trade agreements.

  12. 12 Andy Baxter 03/01/2013 at 1:04 pm

    I’m with AM and TBF on this one: all nation states (unless you want to be treated as a rogue one; North Korea, Iran et al) must fundamentally adhere to the ‘Rule of Law’ for failing to do so creates immediate chaos.

    No one wants to live under chaos, its arbritary, unpredictable, damaging and a recipe for disaster.

    Under a decision such as Farage’s where chaos is the natural consequence, credibility disappears, in future treaty negotiations with any country and in any domestic policy implemenetation one wants to undertake.

    I’ll use a simple analogy to illustrate the flaws in Farage’s argument under the law of contract;

    If I run a business; I have to enter into contracts for all sorts of things from obtaining credit, obtaining material from suppliers, to finding distribution channels for my products and or services to dealing with customers needs and expectations and to providing evidence of compliance to a multitude of legislative requirements. All are contracts; Whether I sign such (which carries huge legal weight) or are deemed to do so via legislative requirements.

    An international Treaty is just such a contract albeit on a larger scale than that between to companies or individuals, but the basic principle remains.

    If I wake up one day and arbritraily decide I just don’t like the terms with supplier A because the contract I signed gave suplier A the ability to do change things or I want to stop supplying (when under contract to do so) my end user the customer just because I didn’t want to deal with them anymore, or I think I’m paying my workers too much so give them a pay cut. I am in breach of contract. the injured party not only has a right to sue me for such but the damage to my reputation can be profound.

    I might never be able to obtain credit again, suppliers may refuse to provide me with raw materials, and my workforce might just walk out en masse and then sue me for breach of contract.

    An international Treaty is no different, it is a contract, entered into willingly (by the Government of the day, and one can argue till the cows come home about sovereignty, will of the people, treason and all the other nonsense we’d love to have control over but in fact don’t) the basic fact remains it is a legal contract and just waking up arbritrality one day and saying ‘No thanks we don’t think were going to comply with this anymore’ just doesn’t work!

    How for example would the EU or any other trading naton deal with us if in breach of contract? would any one of us deal with or trust another party who just decided on a whim that they could renege on a willingly entered into contract or would we sue for redress?

    Its that simple: article 50 gives one side of the contract i.e. us the right to leave the contract and renegotiate the terms of any future contract.

    And all within the ‘Rule of Law’ and with our credibility intact.

    wake up guys, puhhh…leeese………

  13. 13 John Ryan 03/01/2013 at 1:27 pm

    The Farage line has the merit of simplicity and is a winner. I have no doubt that he is knows full well the problems but try explaining those to the great British electorate and they will lose interest. It is only such “wonks” as we who follow your blog who take a deep interests in such matters. Those who ride the Clapham omnibus have other matters on their minds.

  14. 14 Richard North 03/01/2013 at 1:53 pm

    Simplicity has merit, but over-simplification does not. In any referendum on the EU, the status quo will be a powerful influence, and will be fuelled by the scare stories propagated by the europhiles, warning of the dire consequences of leaving the EU.

    It is then that an exit plan will become an issue. Unless we can come up with a credible strategy, which reassures people that the economic health of the country is safeguarded, we risk losing the referendum.

  15. 15 John Ryan 03/01/2013 at 2:17 pm

    Richard you are of course right and when the time comes for a referendum the great work you do will bear fruit. Until that time keep it simple and “don’t frighten the horses”. I well remember chairing a packed UKIP meeting in Salisbury when both you and Farage spoke to great effect. I long to see that unity again!

  16. 16 Autonomous Mind 03/01/2013 at 2:23 pm

    John, if you have no doubt Farage knows all this where is the evidence for it?

    What, in my comment above, is in any way too complex or detailed? The reassuring message is simplicity itself. It shows people that there has been forethought and there is awareness of what needs to be done, but presents the positive outcome to be had.

  17. 17 Bill 03/01/2013 at 2:23 pm

    Playing by the rules is a British disease. There is no such thing as ‘The Rule of Law’. All there is what ‘both sides’ feel is acceptable and agree to. Either side is free to walk away assuming they accept any consequences and assuming there are any consequences.

    The power lies with the consent of the governed not with the government not the cretins within it who put their names on bits of paper.

    Mr North’s halfway house approach makes sense and would appear to be the best solution BUT it is no good ‘playing the white man’ with criminals. The EU is a criminal organisation which makes the Mafioso look like a benevolent society.
    With people like this it’s all down to brinkmanship or violent change. They are the only options on the table that they respond to. IF we the people of Britain stopped paying the EU tithes we immediately become more powerful than the EU. They can impose whatever trade embargo’s they want and they may hurt for while but the rest of the world is a much bigger market than the EU and freed from EU criminal stupidity I know British entrepreneurs would be quickly able to replace any ‘lost sales’.

    Article 50 may well be the saviour but speaking softly whilst carrying a big stick is the only way to talk to people you know are criminals. The only two big sticks we seem to possess are ‘an immediate stop on payments’ and ‘stop consenting to play by the rules’.

    The real problem is the European Union is playing a blinder. They have ensured that a majority of people in Britain earn a living from the state either by working within it, for it or being paid a benefit from it thus they are bound to it. It really is a spectacular achievement and is the most effective form of slavery I have come across.

    That is the real problem facing those who think playing by the criminals rules is the way forward and is as much a problem for those who favour revolution either violent or non-violent.

    As for this contract twaddle. To be legally binding it has to have ‘full disclosure within the terms and conditions’ and there sure as hell wasn’t full disclosure given to anyone when Heath & Co signed a piece of paper so EVERYTHING and I do mean EVERYTHING that has come into play since then is null and void.

  18. 18 Richard North 03/01/2013 at 2:31 pm

    Bill, undoubtedly you mean well, but I am afraid you epitomise much that is wrong with the eurosceptic “community”. Your brand of prejudice, unsupported assertion and naked paranoia simply does not reflect any real world, or suggest a way forward, by which we can leave the EU without a severe economic penalty.

    Most alarmingly, you fail to be able to comprehend the realities of power, and of law. Those that have power assert that the EU is held together by a series of binding treaties, and as long as they have power, that is the reality. And it is the reality that we have to deal with – not what you would like it to be.

  19. 19 Autonomous Mind 03/01/2013 at 2:32 pm

    Bill, we don’t have the big stick. If we break our end of the agreement this country’s businesses and economy can be seriously damaged. And all for the sake of saying we don’t think the rules should apply to us.

    Your argument is so juvenile it is frightening. What you are saying is we should ignore the rule of law, but you try to justify your argument by citing the law of contract? Interesting.

  20. 20 Richard North 03/01/2013 at 2:33 pm

    John Ryan – I agree. Unity would be a great thing. But it is not going to happen without agreement as to the message.

  21. 21 John Ryan 03/01/2013 at 2:40 pm

    Autonomous Mouse, I have no doubt that Farage believes that the world is round but I cannot provide any evidence.

  22. 22 Bill 03/01/2013 at 2:44 pm

    Well best of luck with your adult approach to everything AM and Mr North. I sincerely hope you manage to get what you want out of the criminals.

    You clearly have a much better handle on this problem than anyone else and so I return to the land of the sheeple where I clearly belong.

  23. 23 Autonomous Mind 03/01/2013 at 3:38 pm

    John, Autonomous Mouse? Hysterical! No, really.

  24. 24 Autonomous Mind 03/01/2013 at 3:40 pm

    Bill, many thanks, Always pleased to see when good sense takes over from flights of unrealistic fancy. Enjoy the grazing.

  25. 25 Captain Ranty 03/01/2013 at 3:47 pm

    I want out.

    Like Scottish independence it will take some untangling. Like any divorce, many things have to change but it is not impossible nor need it be overly complex. I suspect it would take many years to undo what has been done. How can Scotland walk away from a 300 year old relationship? How can we walk away from a 40 year old relationship? With a bit of care.

    Protecting the UK and British businesses are number one priorities. The rest? The straight bananas, and the other 140,000 regulations? We can deal with them one at a time. The same way they were introduced. There is nothing stopping us from using legislation produced in Brussels if it makes sense to do so.

    I’d just like to hear the announcement “We are leaving”. Everything else will follow from that.

    CR.

  26. 26 Sniper 03/01/2013 at 4:13 pm

    Just to say, NF used the “A50″ word in his New Year Message. Is there an oncoming train?

  27. 27 cosmic 03/01/2013 at 4:22 pm

    Captin Ranty,

    The Article 50 route involves saying “We are leaving”. No permission from the others is required, it’s handing in our notice. However, it also provides for sorting out the numerous loose ends.

    If you are going to amputate a limb, you could just go at it with a big saw, but you’d be more likely not to kill the patient if you’d given some thought as to how you were going to deal with blood vessels, anaesthetise the patient etc.

  28. 28 Peter S 03/01/2013 at 4:50 pm

    If I want to go on holiday to Australia, I go. I don’t need to understand every minor mechanical detail of how the aeroplane works that will carry me to my destination. My considered will is for the event and I entrust its success to those backroom mechanics who have the expertise to organise the means by which I can achieve it.

    I enjoy reading both AM and RN’s websites. But this endless tut-tutting over the political ignorance of the general public is getting tiresome. Not only does it exactly echo the hard left (and is similarly used to excuse the failure of their doctrines), but it is also a grossly distorted view of the electorate. Guess what?.. there are some areas of life in which my knowledge is far greater than the vast number of people in Britain. Why?.. because it interests me to the extent where I have little time left to wade through acres of political fine-print. I enjoy it when others appreciate what I know and offer – but I don’t belittle and attack them for their own clumsy grasp of it.

    People like Farage understand this and paint in broader brush strokes for people like me (ie, the vast majority). If he lacks the backroom mechanics to deliver what clearly appeals to a growing number of the electorate… then some of the fault lies with those mechanics who appear to enjoy snorting haughty contempt in his direction far more than swallowing their pride and jumping aboard to help deliver a political goal they claim to share a passion for.

  29. 29 Captain Ranty 03/01/2013 at 4:54 pm

    Cosmic,

    I agree.

    Much as I would love to run away, screaming with delirious glee, I accept that an anaesthetic is required and quite a bit of after-care.

    CR.

  30. 30 Andy Baxter 03/01/2013 at 4:57 pm

    Bill: as RN says “Most alarmingly, you fail to be able to comprehend the realities of power, and of law.”

    You make an very pertinent comment (when we have Harrogate implemented in “power lies with the consent of the governed not with the government…..” however you singularly fail to recognise that The Rule of Law stems from the principle of consent.

    Rule of Law is not only a pillar of constitutional law it is the basis of all civilised behaviour, in fact all civilised societies would singularly fail to function effectively without it, it is the single most important concept in almost everything you do from the way you interact with others on a personal and professional level to the contracts you enter into, not just with others but in the contracts you tacitly or voluntary enter into via legislation, for example driving at no greater than 30mph within a built up area or agreeing to pay a fixed penalty notice for overstaying an alloted parking time.

    I would add there are ways to overcome such things as penalty charge notices, council tax et al completely lawfully and within the Rule of Law but one has to know how to act and speak if called to account in court. but thats another story.

    As I stated without the Rule of Law there is only chaos….would you want to live in a world where as you put it “‘both sides’ feel is acceptable and agree to”?

    That is abritrary for what is to prevent any other party from changing how they “feel” and doing exacly what they want; would you feel happy if I just decided I could take your car and use it, or live in your house and prevent you from enjoying things you’d worked hard for without consequence and if you objected if I felt like it I could just let you have them back or assault or kill you just because I “feel it is acceptable” for without The Rule of Law there is chaos.

    Without the Rule of Law there is only chaos and no Justice for any party hard dealt with. I hate the EU with as much loathing as many and however personally satisfying it would feel to stick two fingers up at them we are bound by The Rule of Law.

    I’ll leave you with some very powerful quotes from Robert Bolt ‘A Man for All Seasons’

    ““The law is not a “light” for you or any man to see by; the law is not an instrument of any kind. …The law is a causeway upon which, so long as he keeps to it, a citizen may walk safely.”

    see what I mean the Rule of Law is fundamental to all else that follows.

    and

    “WILLIAM ROPER: So now you’d give the Devil benefit of law!

    THOMAS MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

    ROPER: I’d cut down every law in England to do that!

    MORE: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you -where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast -man’s laws, not God’s -and if you cut them down- and you’re just the man to do it -d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil the benefit of the law, for my own safety’s sake.”

  31. 31 Perry 03/01/2013 at 5:35 pm

    Having followed Richard North’s excellent posts about Article 50, I wish to draw attention to a European Central Bank paper dated from 2009 & referenced in Wikipedia. (The author seems to know little about plain English.)

    Abstract,

    This paper examines the issues of secession and expulsion from the European Union (EU) and Economic and Monetary Union (EMU).

    It concludes that negotiated withdrawal from the EU would not be legally impossible even prior to the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, and that unilateral withdrawal would undoubtedly be legally controversial; that, while permissible, a recently enacted exit clause is, prima facie, not in harmony with the rationale of the European unification project and is otherwise problematic, mainly from a legal perspective; that a Member State’s exit from EMU, without a parallel withdrawal from the EU, would be legally inconceivable; and that, while perhaps feasible through indirect means, a Member State’s expulsion from the EU or EMU, would be legally next to impossible.

    This paper concludes with a reminder that while, institutionally, a Member State’s membership of the euro area would not survive the discontinuation of its membership of the EU, the same need not be true of the former
    Member State’s use of the euro.

    http://www.ecb.int/pub/pdf/scplps/ecblwp10.pdf

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Withdrawal_from_the_European_Union#Pre-Lisbon_situation

    It occurs to me that if the UK were to invoke Article 50 and commence negotiations to leave the EU, other EU states might also invoke the same article and yet others might quit the euro. The Spillikins law of unintended consequences may very well apply here.

    BTW, what are Iceland’s intentions now?

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-11283616

    http://ec.europa.eu/enlargement/countries/detailed-country-information/iceland/index_en.htm

    (Sorry for the delay Perry, your comment was trapped in the spam filter – AM)

  32. 32 Autonomous Mind 03/01/2013 at 5:53 pm

    Peter S – It’s not the ‘political ignorance’ of the general public being frowned at here. It’s the deliberate ignorance of those who claim leadership of a vital strand of public opinion, but are undermining it because of their ignorance. The two are very different.

    If the knowledge is there and is being offered, why would a leader commited to succeeding in his declared goal ignore it and continue down a path that will result in the defeat of the eurosceptic cause? The stakes are too high to sit back and accept it. It’s a shame you would prefer not to understand it.

    In response to the end of your comment, Farage lacks the backroom mechanics to deliver what clearly appeals to a growing number of the electorate because he refuses to listen to those people you say should jump aboard his party. In fact they were already on board but Farage has pushed them out because he doesn’t want to hear any voice other than his own. This is despite him claiming to want to deliver the same political goal he supposedly shares a passion for. So why exactly are you having a go at those people Farage has pushed away and those who want to rescue the eurosceptic cause from impending defeat?

    Would you prefer we say nothing so everyone can grumble in the future about how the chance has been lost for good after Farage, Hannan, Open Europe, the Tax Payers Alliance and others have muddled things so badly the ‘in’ campaign win a referendum? Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory doesn’t appeal, thanks. The stakes are too damned high.

  33. 33 Brian Hull 03/01/2013 at 6:47 pm

    I always thought Farage plays to his audience, I’ve never heard him offer any solid in-depth policy, but then most of our elected representatives are fond of hearing their own voices in a soundbite world. If more could be brought to consider the points you made AM and also those added by Richard North, our position would be much improved, keep plugging away!

  34. 34 Peter S 03/01/2013 at 6:52 pm

    AM – “The stakes are too damned high”.

    Too right… too damned high for old grudges to get in the way. Love him or loath him, Farage will be likely gone in a political eyeblink (probably along with his party too). But it so happens that he is currently the figurehead and public voice of a popular desire the leave the EU.

    It may so happen that he is a proud man and reluctant to allow others to bask too much in the success he has worked long and hard to achieve.

    If the able technocrats who share his goal believe he is unequipped to deliver it, then the best they can do is seek to influence him by any means. And that is far more likely to happen if they cease ridiculing and attacking him at every opportunity (sometimes descending to levels far beneath his own in doing so).

    For example, all the other mainstream parties attract ‘named’ independent websites set up and run by a collective of those whose hands are nowhere near the levers of party power but who care enough about the direction of a party to offer constructive criticism, ideas, detailed policy, roadmaps and arguments towards desired outcomes.

    Of course, there is no guarantee that any of this will be taken on board by those at the top table. But it is a far more productive, intelligent and promising use of resources – and far more likely to influence – that sitting on the sidelines lobbing in sardonic whinges.

    ‘UKIPForward.com’ is free!

  35. 35 Autonomous Mind 03/01/2013 at 7:48 pm

    So Peter, first it was that we were at fault not not getting on board with Farage. Now that has been refuted, it’s that we are at fault for holding old grudges. Regardless, Farage is blameless in your eyes. Yet he is a ‘leader’. At what point does he become accountable? Only after he’s scuppered a referendum campaign?

    So you go on to say we should seek to influence him by any means. What the hell do you think we are doing? It might be hard for Nigel groupies to take, but we are sharing the facts so people understand what needs to be done and how it can be achieved.

    Farage refuses to be the conduit, instead revelling in style over substance. Personally I refuse to fall in behind someone who has got it wrong, and I refuse to be quiet as he marches his band of unquestioning true believers into defeat. Sorry if the facts are hard to take, but you can always follow Nigel’s lead and pretend it’s all so easy then blame everyone else when it all goes pear shaped.

  36. 36 Richard North 03/01/2013 at 8:03 pm

    Peter S – grudges are not the issue here. This is a schism which has existed for over ten years, arising from Farage’s determination to concentrate the entire resources of UKIP on elections, paralleled by his refusal to invest in developing an exit strategy for the UK.

    Given that Farage’s response was (and still is) to get rid of anyone who does not agree with him, there is little one can do with UKIP other that (a) to agree with it from the inside or (b) disagree with it from the outside.

    Since we cannot do the former, the latter is the only option available to us.

  37. 37 Peter S 03/01/2013 at 9:30 pm

    AM and RN –

    If the will is there to develop a coherent and viable exit strategy for the UK, it will be done. And the best way of doing so is to associate it in every way alongside UKIP’s popular cause and, at the same time, attracting as big an audience as possible to its collective, inclusive and ongoing formulation.

    For this, there need be no bitter snipping at Farage and his many faults and no sarcastic jibes at his past mistakes. Simply, a project maturing right under his nose (and even wearing his colours) which he will, eventually, need to pick up and use.

    In other words, Farage will – sooner or later – have to jump aboard your train (if it is ready in the station), rather than you his… whether he is big enough to acknowledge it or not.

    As I said, the UKIP leader will be gone before we know it. What a pity if, in hindsight, glaring opportunities for Britain were wasted by a failure of those with huge ability and focus to realise there is more than one route to reach a desired destination.

  38. 38 Autonomous Mind 03/01/2013 at 9:47 pm

    What a pity if, in hindsight, glaring opportunities for Britain were wasted by a failure of the UKIP leader with his huge profile and public platform to realise there is more than soundbites required to reach a desired destination.

    Peter, you want me to leave Farage alone. I want him to bloody well do what is required of him. Let’s be honest, neither is going to happen.

  39. 39 Autonomous Mind 03/01/2013 at 10:02 pm

    Brian Hull, thanks for your kind comment!

  40. 40 Peter S 03/01/2013 at 10:43 pm

    AM – if all you want Farage to do is ask you to write him an exit strategy, what’s to stop you writing him one anyway? His skills are clearly better suited to building a ‘huge profile and public platform’ and yours and Richard’s (et al.) to the referred-to task.

    If he is currently too thick to realise he needs an exit strategy, he soon will when the heavy-weight questions start coming his way (as they surely will, if his meteoric rise continues).

    This all sounds to me like the ship is being spoilt for a ha’porth of tar.

  41. 41 Autonomous Mind 03/01/2013 at 10:56 pm

    I can’t explain the situation any more clearly than I have. Even Richard has tried to explain the situation, but you won’t accept it.

    Farage is leading UKIP round in circles and the possible referendum is getting closer. Farage will likely wreck the ‘out’ campaign because his vision is not backed up with a strategy and the europhiles will destroy him for lacking credibility and pursuing an approach that would harm the UK economy.

    Why on earth would I want to help him do that by not exposing his folly in the hope he corrects it before it’s too late?

  42. 42 Vanessa 03/01/2013 at 11:29 pm

    I follow Richard North’s blog closely as I find it sensible and measured and am also impressed with yours. I am a member of UKIP but am completely in agreement that Farage is the worst leader and will certainly do us damage if he is allowed to lead UKIP for much longer. There are some sensible people but it is an uphill struggle to be heard. The trouble is that Farage resonates with the majority of the ignorant public – we have to keep telling the truth and hope that it leads to Britain’s withdrawal.

  43. 43 George Earle 04/01/2013 at 11:13 am

    “Farage is leading UKIP round in circles and the possible referendum is getting closer”. And “Farage is the worst leader and will certainly do us damage if he is allowed to lead UKIP for much longer”. These are part of the theme that Farage has driven all the good people out of UKIP.
    By unashamedly concentrating effort and resources on by elections he has built up our poll ratings, put huge pressure on the Tories and brought the whole idea of quitting the EU into the mainstream.This is Stage one of getting out and it has further to go. The right method for doing that and the selling of it to the public is still to come. That needs the backroom brain boxes to produce the answer and we need one soon.
    Whilst we should fear a snap referendum now I cannot see it happening this side of the 2015 GE. The Eurowithdrawalist movement should be much bigger than UKIP so I hope we see others making their contributions publicly.

  44. 44 George Earle 04/01/2013 at 11:25 am

    Add to the end of my post – ‘as indeed they were doing on the Open Europe blog on Wednesday evening’.

  45. 45 Peter S 04/01/2013 at 3:20 pm

    AM – “Farage is leading UKIP round in circles and the possible referendum is getting closer.”

    With the greatest respect AM, the only circles I see here are your responses. I have suggested a very clear way forward – in which you, Richard, WfW etc, move in parallel to UKIP as a separate and independent collective effort to formulate a coherent and grow-up exit strategy.

    As for Farage, if you wish to be taken seriously in “exposing his folly”, then the best way to do so is to lead by example… rather than barking (what often gets lost as) impotent rage to a small group of like-minded followers.

    We are faced with a once in a generation opportunity for Britain and her future course. Credit where it’s due, the UKIP leader has played a very significant role in achieving this. If it fails, I’m afraid history will hold equally responsible those who allowed a festering old schism become an insurmountable obstacle to their talents… rather than navigating around it towards a common goal.


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