Posts Tagged 'Withdrawal'

This should be of concern to every person who wants the UK to leave the EU

On 5th September, UKIP held what it described as its biggest ever rally as 900 people gathered to listen to Nigel Farage and others speak.

The event received a write up in the Shropshire Star, which covered the key points made by the speakers.  Those people who have looked or will look at the report in the expectation of seeing some red meat on the subject of withdrawal from the EU and plans for how such an exit can be delivered, can be forgiven for feeling some disappointment.  The report shows the EU barely warranted a mention, and when it did it wasn’t Farage talking about it.

Being a curious sort, this prompted me to have a discussion about it with a highly placed source in the party.  They confirmed that EU matters were only mentioned in passing, but more revealingly explained that after the event Farage was delighted that the focus on the biggest political issue affecting the UK – membership of the EU and its consequences – was minimal.  It wasn’t an accident, it was by design.

While David Cameron talked the talk in imploring his Conservative members to stop ‘banging on about Europe’, Farage is walking the walk by doing just that.

Previous insights provided to me by well placed UKIP sources, one of whom has just landed on the party’s MEP candidate list for next year’s elections, asserted that Farage is more interested in building a rival to the Conservatives in the hope of splitting that party and capturing a segment of it, than pushing for an exit from the EU.  The new focus on emulating the targeted campaign approach used by the Liberal Democrats, in order to win a few seats rather than putting resources into all constituencies, confirms their assessments.

But what should cause even more concern for withdrawal realists – who understand leaving the EU while preserving the UK’s commercial interests requires a structured approach where Article 50 is invoked and agreement is reached on the relationship the UK will have with the EU after departure, before the European Communities Act (ECA) is repealed – is my source’s confirmation that Farage sees such a negotation as time consuming and an opportunity for EU meddling.  Farage, who has carefully straddled the fence in public by not siding for or against the Article 50 route despite a clear split in his party on the matter, in private advocated the scorched earth approach of leaving first and trying to negotiate something after, which would leave UK commercial interests at serious risk of damage.

This represents a serious threat to an ‘out’ campaign in any future referendum on EU membership.  The withdrawalists would come under incessant attack from the business community which would only look kindly on withdrawal if they could be assured their interests would be protected after the UK leaves the EU.  The Farage approach does not and cannot give that assurance.  In the meantime, Farage will not let UKIP announce its policy and approach for fear it will alienate a substantial number of UKIP members and will see the party exposed to (justified) attack from the Europhiles who will seize on such naive stupidity with alacrity.

What this demonstrates is that, once again, a political party created to achieve a particular end has compromised itself to service internal party maintenance and management.  As Norway showed during its referendum campaign on EU membership, a non party political campaign is the only way of ensuring the objectives are not watered down or jettisoned in favour of a party’s interests.

By way of a closing thought, if you think it is ridiculous that an anti EU party such as UKIP could be pulled off to focus on other things at the whim of its leader in this way, then consider for yourself the evidence that Farage is reversing from EU matters as part of his dream of being a British MP and leading a party in Parliament.  In the Evening Standard we see Tony Blair getting substantial space to set out yet another FUD-laden argument against withdrawing from the EU.  You would think the UKIP leader and by definition the supposed leader of the Eurosceptic movement would be all over this, exposing the misrepresentation, falsehoods and errors in Blair’s and numerous others that have been published in recent weeks and months.

You would think Farage would be demanding a right of reply to set the record straight – or at the very least shotuing loudly that he is being denied a platform.  There is still no counter to this prolonged Europhile line of attack in the media, and certainly nothing rebutting it on the UKIP website.  But Farage did somehow find time to be quoted at length in the Daily Express on High Speed Rail 2… he didn’t even mention the EU origins of the project in order to create a high speed rail network across the union.  I’ll leave it to Farage’s vocal band of supporters to explain how this focus does anything to develop public support for withdrawal from the EU or move us foward on the journey to successfully leaving the union at a time the Europhiles are working the public and winning them over to supporting continued membership.

The implications of this are clear.  The Eurosceptic movement is not being helped by UKIP because Farage’s agenda means he has other fish to fry.  The campaign is weaker as a result.  UKIP should be a standard bearer, it should be the flag ship of the ‘out’ campaign.  But under Farage it has relegated itself to the position of day-tripping passenger on a support vessel.  Do UKIP’s members realise what’s happening, or do they even care?

Article 50: UKIP’s crucial weaknesses under the spotlight

Writing in the Telegraph today, City AM’s Allister Heath delivers a balanced if whistlestop article exploring some of the major problems that UKIP faces yet is doing little to overcome.

However Heath’s otherwise valuable piece gets off on the wrong foot from the get go with its title, ‘Nigel Farage’s biggest problem is Ukip doesn’t do details’.  For the piece to be more accurate that should have read, ‘UKIP’s biggest problem is Nigel Farage doesn’t do details’.  After all, Farage alone calls the shots and the party dances to whatever tune he chooses to play on any given day.

Even so, some of the analysis is penetrating and underlines much of what this blog has been arguing, even if Heath’s colour commentary about ties with the EU needing to be ‘significantly loosened’ is weak fluff.  The emphasis below is mine:

Ukip’s problem is that its policy positions are uncosted aspirations, rather than properly thought-through proposals. Until this is sorted, they risk being torn to shreds as media scrutiny increases. Those who simply wish to protest against a snooty establishment, or who like how Farage “represents people like us”, won’t mind; but much of the country will, and Ukip’s bubble would deflate almost as fast as it takes its leader to down a pint.

In particular, Ukip doesn’t have a plan to exit the EU and to introduce alternative trading arrangements that reflect the complexities of the modern economy. The challenge is especially acute when it comes to complex rules of origin for manufactured goods, and to protect London’s financial services industry against protectionism. This problem is shared by the broader Eurosceptic movement, including in the Tory party; a lot of work is needed, and fast. For those of us who agree that the European project is a busted flush and that the UK’s ties with the EU need to be significantly loosened, this is a source of major frustration.

The absence of a cohesive UKIP exit plan and vision for new trading arrangements is the most critical issue for the whole Eurosceptic movement.  This gap is a knife to the heart of the credibility of withdrawalists. It is the equivalent of a boxer not lifting his gloves and instead allowing his opponent to rain blow after blow on him.

Without a plan that triggers negotiation to bring about a replacement trading arrangement and access to the single market before the UK leaves the EU and abrogates existing treaties and agreements – which can only be achieved by invoking Article 50 – voters will be convinced to stick with the status quo, through a combination of Europhile FUD and the all-too-accurate exposure of the damaging consequences of simply leaving before securing trade deals that safeguard our economic interests.

Unless and until Farage gets serious about withdrawal, does detail and understands the mechanics and states the strategy to enable the UK to leave the EU, while maintaining our access to the single market – and crucially ensuring we can trade with those other countries around the world with whom trade agreements only cover EU member states – the ‘No’ campaign will lose any referendum.

Article 50 is the path to restoring our independence after which we can unpick the acquis at our leisure, secure in the knowledge we have access to the markets our businesses are so worried about losing.  If the Eurosceptics present a robust plan to give businesses confidence that decoupling from political union does not mean we lose access to the single market or the countries with whom we have EU-negotiated trade deals, they have no economic basis for opposing the out campaign.

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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