Regular readers will know this blog has had some strong disagreements with Roger Helmer in months gone by. Credit where it’s due, Helmer finally abandoned his indefensible membership of the europhile Conservatives and defected to UKIP – a party that reflects his eurosceptic viewpoint.
As this blog did on Saturday, Helmer has taken issue with the weekend editorial piece by the Telegraph’s Head of Business, Damian Reece, and has responded with an open letter on the Better Off Out site, a campaign group whose objectives this blog wholeheartedly supports.
While the sentiment of Helmer’s response is spot on, parts of the response leave eurosceptics open to accusations of woolly thinking, such as in this following paragraph (emphasis is mine):
Those of us who believe that we should be “Better Off Out” would argue for full independence, plus a free trade agreement. Such an agreement can certainly be achieved, because it is overwhelmingly in the interests of both parties, and of Brussels more than the UK (since we are a net importer from the EU). It is also required in the Treaties for the EU to negotiate such an agreement with a departing member-state. Even in the unthinkable case that we left the EU with no such agreement, the duties we should pay on our exports to the EU would be a mere fraction of our current net EU budget contributions.
This is ludicrously simplistic and fails to recognise major issues Helmer should be well aware of. For example, if we left the EU without agreements covering a wide range of matters the UK could find itself in breach of international conventions such as the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), which Richard recently outlined on his blog to illustrate the attention to detail needed when exiting the EU.
Unilateral withdrawal from the EU without an agreement is indeed unthinkable – which is why it is unbelievable that Helmer has needlessly opened up a line of attack against eurosceptics with his detour on to discussion of duties and budget contributions. There are literally thousands of different conventions, agreements, protocols and other arrangements like CCAMLR which could be affected by our withdrawal from the EU and damage the UK economy by making it more difficult for this country to export. Comparing export duties with budget contributions is utterly irrelevant, particularly if this country finds itself unable to export to the EU because of the absence of an agreement.
Sadly this is another frustrating heads-in-hands moment caused by a lack of determined focus and a need to ramble. The withdrawalist argument and pledge to the nation needs be clear and unambiguous and leave the europhiles with no opportunity to scaremonger that withdrawal will damage the UK’s interests. The manner of withhdrawal needs to be certain and sure-footed, the arguments for it completely positive, and commitment to securing agreement to safeguard the UK’s economic and commercial interests absolute.
There is more than a hint of the Farage UKIP party line in Helmer’s letter, which is only to be expected given Helmer is a party political animal. But Helmer should know better. This is another positive argument for a strong and leaderless, organic, grassroots movement that is free of the baggage of a political party and direction set by an autocratic leader.