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.