29 Oct 2015

Vote Leave's Dominic Cummings now caught in his own web

In rushing forth to disown and discredit the Norway Option yesterday, Vote Leave's campaign director, Dominic Cummings (salary of no more than £99,000) leaves himself open to an obvious question, if not the Norway Option as the first step in a planned, staged withdrawal that protects British business interests, then what?

The problem for Cummings is that he has no plan. So he is left flapping like a gaffed fish and tweeting comments that reinforce the point that, i) his campaign is using the referendum only as leverage for a reform deal, not in order to leave the EU, and ii) that he has no grasp of EU politics because his undefined wishlist is unobtainable. Here's what Cummings said:
1/ DC is talking Britain down - we could negotiate a free trade deal with EU & access to SM without accepting supremacy of EU law.

2/ Lots of countries trade with EU without accepting supremacy of EU law. Why does DC think UK is too weak/useless to do this?

3/ UK future shd be based on sci/education/global cooperation/new institutions - not the failed 1950s experiment in bureaucratic centralism.

4/ Wrong to think Single Market all good. Eg. The disastrous Clinical Trials Directive was a SM measure. So are the awful procurement rules

5/ After we #VoteLeave we'll do what DC shd have done - have proper roadmap & serious negotiation > better deal for us AND Europe AND R.O.W.

6/ Now the PM is inviting ideas about what to do after he's failed, we will be v happy to set out a roadmap of how UK future cd be brighter.

7/ UK is better & stronger than DC realises. His low ambition negotiation is holding us back & undermining our influence in EU & world

On point 5, where is the roadmap and what exactly does he want negotiated? He doesn't say 'when we give notice we are leaving the EU' that negotiation should take place. Once again it is evident that his vision is a vote to leave triggering a more serious version of what Cameron claims to be doing now, which is getting crumbs from the table. Vote leave, but to what end? No plan, no roadmap, no commitment to permanent Brexit. Warning bells should be going off in the head of every person genuinely in favour of Britain leaving the EU.

Instead of a leave vote being an expression of the British people's wish to leave the EU, Cummings wants it to be a negotiating hand to secure a reform deal that gives Britain back some powers, but keeps this country in the EU in some form or other. This is clear in point 7, which begs the question, if the idea is to leave the EU, why does having influence in the EU matter? Outed by his own words, Cummings is caught up in his own web.

Cummings' wish for a new negotiated deal which removes the supremacy of EU law but without leaving the EU, is not achievable. He's paddling in a puddle of delusion. That much is made clear by Andrew Duff, who made this observation about David Cameron yesterday:
He has also discovered that he cannot demand a unilateral derogation from EU primary law, which consists mainly of the EU’s founding treaties. And he now seems to realize that to try to change ordinary EU legislation is too risky and lengthy a process because of the mandatory involvement of the European Commission and European Parliament.
That leaves Cummings' negotiated deal dead in the water. But perhaps that is by design, because the reform agenda he really wants pursued is the one that results in some form of associate membership of the EU. Matthew Elliott has called for a 'two tier Europe', Daniel Hannan has called for 'associate status'. They are two of the leading lights in Vote Leave, so they know what's really going on behind closed doors in that counterfeit campaign. 

It is an outcome the blogs have been talking about since the principal architect of associate membership status, Andrew Duff, began talking about it in 2013. Interestingly, it is only in recent weeks, since the notion was picked up by the media, that Duff has censored the term from his own articles. He has made reference recently to 'a new form of affiliate membership' and in yesterday's piece spoke about Tory failures to articulate 'a serious alternative to full EU membership' (emphasis mine).

The destination is obvious to all but the most die-hard Vote Leave supporters. So the question now has to be, when will Cummings come clean, be honest, and tell people his campaign isn't about leaving the EU at all? When will Cummings' role as the Tories' useful idiot, helping Cameron to keep Britain in the EU, be recognised for what it is and treated accordingly?

28 Oct 2015

The facts about the Norway Option

Britain Stronger in Europe (they mean the EU, but are desperate to mislead people) the people at British Influence, and David Cameron are working aggressively to rubbish the so called 'Norway Option'. Why? Their hope is that if they talk it down, people will dismiss it as an initial alternative to EU membership. They even call in aid Norwegian politicians, but are careful only to use those who want to join the EU, while ignoring the many who do not. What are they so scared of?

In short, copying Norway (a member of EFTA) would mean continued single market access after leaving the EU, a veto over EU directives and the ability to help write the laws and regulations made at international level before they are passed down to the EU to implement. If Britain had these things, why would we need to be stuck with the EU they are trying so hard to keep us a part of?

There are two main strands to their disinformation campaign...
  1. Influence: They claim Norway has no say over EU laws, but has to implement them all anyway
  2. Cost: They claim Norway has to pay much more per head to access the single market
So lets deal with these claims in turn:

Influence

 

Norway has no say over EU laws


Wrong. Norway and the other EFTA countries have more influence over the rules and regulations that are turned into laws. In fact, they actually get two bites of the cherry in influencing their shape. As a non-EU country, Norway represents itself on the world stage. Unlike every EU member state, Norway has seats on the international bodies where rules are developed and decided, before being handed down to the EU to implement. EU member states are not allowed to represent themselves, the insists on having a single position for all 28 member states, which is a generally a diluted, compromise position.

But then as members of the EEA (single market) the EU consults Norway and the other EFTA countries on the measures to be implemented, giving them an opportunity to influence the shape of the implementation. So Norway has more than just a say, it also gets to shape the rules from the outset and again at implementation. This gives Norway far more influence than any EU member state.

Norway has to implement all EU laws


Wrong. The number of legislative acts that apply to EU member states is far greater than applies to Norway and the other EFTA countries. The details are not collated centrally for easy reference, so Dr Richard North put a huge amount of time and effort into collecting the information in one place for comparative purposes.

North found there are over 20,800 legislative acts in force that apply to EU member states. However Norway and the other EFTA countries only have around 5,500 legislative acts that apply to them. He covers this in his roadmap for staged withdrawal from the EU, Flexcit (see from p172).

Cost

 

Norway pays a huge cost to access the Single Market


Wrong. The money paid by EFTA on behalf of its member countries, which includes Norway, is a contribution to help the functioning of the single market. EFTA's budget showed that in 2014 the total contribution for the single market was CHF22,360,000.

Converting those Swiss Francs into pounds gives a total of around £16 million. 55 percent of that total contribution was borne by Norway, which equated to around £8.4 million. Details here.

The claim the Europhiles keep making is something along the lines of 'Norway pays two-thirds as much per head for access to the Single Market as the UK pays as a full member of the European Union'. It simply isn't true. The single market contribution divided by the population of Norway means the cost for every man, woman in child was actually £1.66. This is a far cry from the £115 claimed by BSE.

You may be wondering how BSE arrive at such a grossly inflated figure. That's simple, they use a sleight of hand where they fold in voluntary contributions Norway makes that have nothing to do with the single market and most of which doesn't even go to the EU! Here's how...

Massaging the figures, misleading the public


BSE, Cameron and the others include in their false figure a number of voluntary payments called "Norway Grants", made by Norway to eastern enlargement countries to help with their post-Communist economic rehabilitation. In the six year period 2009-14, these voluntary grants amounted to €804 million and have nothing to do with the single market. That money does not go to the EU, it is not part of the EU budget. Details here.

BSE and Co have also included monies paid into the EEA grants system, which again does not go to the EU, but rather the independent Financial Mechanism Committee, which is again nothing to do with the single market.  When added to the Norway Grants, the country made a total contribution of around €1.7 billion.

Additionally they have added in Norwegian voluntary contributions to various EU and inter-regional programmes, such as Erasmus+. Horizon 2020 and Copernicus, which again are nothing to do with the costs of the single market. In fact countries even outside the single market participate in these programmes.

Is the Norway Option the way to go?


Yes and no. It is not the panacea.

Yes, because it represents the best first step on the journey out of the EU. It means single market access without most of the political control by Brussels. As such it serves well as an interim solution as Britain re-develops the capability to self govern in those areas previously controlled by the EU.

No, because long term Britain can aim for a much better settlement where the single market is built on intergovernmental cooperation, through UNECE in Geneva. That would mean we could administer our international trading arrangements without having to give political control to a treaty organisation like the EU, which has political integration as its main objective.

Footnote: The perils of Associate Member status


If the pro-EU politicians in Norway and the EFTA countries can fool voters into supporting something like associate member status, then the EEA would effectively end and EFTA would be disemboweled. Norway would have to give up its seats on the executive committees of the main international bodies, because as part of the EU, it must let the EU speak for it, thus losing influence to shape regulations by being removed from the top table and escorted out of the room.

As one of the wealthier countries its EU contributions would almost certainly be far greater than what they pay now for the single market, for eastern European development, for grants and for programmes. By the time voters see what has happened, it would be too late. It would be locked in to the pathway to political integration.

26 Oct 2015

Vote Leave's plan to achieve a reform deal further exposed

It's frustrating that before Brexiteers can get at the real opponent in our fight to leave the EU, David Cameron, we have to tackle people who only want a vote to leave in order to secure a reform deal that keeps Britain in the EU.

Now the Financial Times has joined the Telegraph and Sunday Times in sharing with its readers the reality of Matthew Elliott and Dominic Cummings' devious plan to achieve the long standing reform aims of the Business for Britain campaign.



Make no mistake, this is not infighting. Infighting takes place between people on the same side. The Vote Leave campaign is not on the side of people who genuinely and permanently want to leave the EU.

For Vote Leave, the referendum is a means of Tory supporters strengthening the renegotiation hand of a Prime Minister who is completely committed to remaining in the EU. They only want a vote to leave so that Cameron has a better chance of negotiating a reform package to their liking.  Why the likes of Owen Paterson (Con), Kate Hoey (Lab) and Douglas Carswell (Ukip) appear unable to see and understand they are giving aid to people who want to remain in the EU, eludes me. Perhaps they share that reform objective?

People who support 'Vote Leave, Take Control' are, unwittingly or otherwise, backing a campaign that has no intention of Britain exiting the EU for good.

25 Oct 2015

The Dominic Cummings Grand Design

Dominic Cummings' idea of a second referendum has got the attention of the media via a piece in yesterday's Telegraph and a piece today in the Sunday Times.

Instead of it being about getting voters to approve the post-Brexit treaty that would need to be agreed between the newly independent UK and the EU (which would be sensible) the Cummings Grand Design makes a second referendum about getting approval for a new deal for associate member status, which would see Britain, instead of permanently leaving the EU, assuming associate member status that keeps us in a reformed EU. This is the outcome Business for Britain and Matthew Elliott have always pushed for.

We are asked to believe that, with the exception of a couple of Business for Britain supporters who have jumped ship, all of them have changed that position over the summer and back Vote Leave in wanting British voters to vote to leave the EU. How likely is that, especially as David Cameron is supposedly still talking to the rest of the EU to get that new deal? As conversions go, that puts Saul's on the road to Damascus in the lower leagues.

The fact that:
  • Vote Leave's website has a strictly limited focus on voting to leave and makes no mention of actually leaving the EU, instead saying 'Whatever the politicians claim, the best thing to do is to vote 'leave' and force the politicians to start negotiating'
  • that Vote Leave has no exit plan for execution in the event of a leave vote
  • that Matthew Elliott has not publicly disowned his June comment that if the government agrees a 'two-tier Europe' he would be 'very much in' and is now being kept out of the public eye to prevent the evident contradictions of his and Vote Leave's positions being scrutinised
  • that supposed leaver Daniel Hannan, has called for associate member status and has more recently said nothing would make him happier than 'for the PM to come back from Brussels with a deal that we could support'
shows that Brexit is not Vote Leave's end game.

Voting to leave at the referendum is just a stage in a process they are following that aims to deliver what the Business for Britain community and Conservative party hierarchy have long wanted. Namely, Britain staying in a reformed EU. If you wanted to leave the EU and be independent you would surely have a plan for how that could be done. Vote Leave doesn't. Go figure.

If this is incorrect why is it that when asked, Dominic Cummings has repeatedly refused to unequivocally state that Vote Leave's position is that Britain must leave the EU permanently?  He has never gone beyond saying the campaign's position is that people should vote to leave. The position even allows him to tell people that he personally supports Brexit, because in the Vote Leave plan matters would not be allowed to rest there.

Cummings has twisted and turned, claimed clarity exists on his website that simply does not, and eventually run away from the questioning on Twitter in the hope it will all go away before people realise the game he is playing.

The Cummings Grand Design seeks to have people vote to Leave, only to get Remain in a 'Reformed EU' after a second referendum, following a negotiation that has paved the way for EU associate member status. This is the so called 'reform' option. It keeps their Business for Britain backers on side.

If this isn't correct here is the challenge to Cummings... state today, clearly and unequivocally, that Vote Leave's position is that Britain must leave the EU for good. State that the only deal that should be sought is the one that establishes the new relationship between the EU and newly non-EU, non-associate member, independent Britain, where Britain stays out of the EU permanently.

How hard can that be?

22 Oct 2015

Dominic Cummings' plan: Vote to Leave, Get Remain in a 'Reformed EU'

If Vote Leave want Britain to leave the EU, why won't they say so?

It would be easier getting blood from a stone than getting a straight answer from Vote Leave on this subject. Since my last blog post Dominic Cummings has tweeted me in response to the questions I have been asking.

Cummings' tweets however take people no closer to an unequivocal statement about Vote Leave's objectives. So I have replied to this morning's three messages with some very clear and straightforward questions.



After all, €lliott has been silent since the campaign launch and has been deliberately kept out of the public eye exactly because everything he has said runs contrary to what Vote Leave want people to assume and believe the campaign stands for. If he has changed position, let him say so publicly and explain why.


Here again we see the Business for Britain line being taken... undefined references to 'change', and talk of a 'new UK-EU deal', but no mention of Brexit. Plus, you may wonder, what are 'maximum sensible changes'? Surely if Vote Leave wants people to vote to leave the EU, the only change that is needed is leaving the EU. But why do they doggedly avoid any mention of that? Why is Cummings' language about the Vote Leave position intentionally vague?

We can leave the EU or we can negotiate a hypothetical reform deal with them. The two outcomes are mutually exclusive. Cummings talks of a deal, so this is the 'stay in a reformed EU' agenda writ large.


The fact is, despite Cummings' claim, there is nothing on their website that is any different from the Business for Britain narrative on securing reforms, some powers coming back to Britain, undefined new relationships and opt outs from some EU laws. Nowhere on the Vote Leave website is there any talk of Britain leaving the EU. Hence the need for a yes/no answer to the question I have replied with.

However, his subsequent reply a few minutes ago as I am writing this post, shows he is dancing on a pin head. I asked him, 'Is your campaign's aim Brexit from the EU? Yes or no. His response is nothing short of farcical.


Cummings is clinging to a ridiculously narrow premise and dodging the question. If Vote Leave's destination is Britain leaving the EU, why not simply say so? Why this pathetic attempt to avoid answering the question asked and focus on voting to leave with no mention of what the desired outcome is after that? We know the answer, and he knows we know the answer...

Cummings is trying to convince ordinary voters who want Brexit to support Vote Leave in order to bolster the unchanged Business for Britain EU reform agenda. Negotiating with the EU for a new deal can result in continued membership... it is not the same as leaving the EU. He intends a vote to leave to be used as nothing more than leverage for David Cameron to secure the reforms his business backers want, which will result in Britain remaining in the EU. Britain leaving the EU is not part of Vote Leave's agenda. That is why Cummings will not say that it is.

Their desired outcome is clear. Vote to Leave, get Remain in a reformed EU.

Vote Leave: The obfuscation to play down their objective continues

Returning readers may recall a blog post we published 10 days ago explaining why there is enormous doubt about Vote Leave's suitability to be designated as the official referendum leave campaign. Now there is no doubt. Vote Leave must not get the designation as the official leave campaign.

The piece noted above shows the Twitter exchanges with Vote Leave co-owner and campaign director, Dominic Cummings which culminated with this:



Cummings didn't reply to the question. With that in mind, I began asking the head of media for Vote Leave, Robert Oxley, a yes/no question about whether Vote Leave pledge to fight to leave the EU no matter what 'reforms'/'deals' Cameron presents to the British public. There was no reply to that either, despite a good number of retweets and my posing the question several times.

However, Cummings did decide to reply last night to a separate question concerning Vote Leave's plans regarding the referendum.


It was a piece of misdirection, because they have not ever said they will campaign to leave the EU, only to vote to leave in the referendum. Vote Leave have said on their website that people should vote to leave the EU, even if Cameron presents a 'deal' offering Britain some form of associate membership of the EU.

But Vote Leave have stayed doggedly silent every time they are asked if they will fight for Brexit no matter what.

Vote Leave only ever go as far as saying we should vote to leave in the referendum, but they never refer to leaving the EU. The evidence suggests they only want people to vote to leave in order to strengthen Cameron's hand in pushing for a reform deal that keeps Britain in the EU. So, as we need to ask very explicit questions to pin Dominic Cummings down on this point, we replied with the following two tweets.


No reply yet...

Vote Leave's website deploys a range of soundbites, such as 'need a new relationship', 'new UK-EU deal based on free trade and friendly cooperation', and 'better, friendlier relationship with the EU'. But they do not say Britain should LEAVE the EU, and they don't call for that outcome. So what is Vote Leave's end game?  We don't need to speculate. They state it on their website
Whatever the politicians claim, the best thing to do is to vote 'leave' and force the politicians to start negotiating.
This is exactly what Daniel Hannan called for in his recent article on Conservative Home we covered the other day. Having spent years making out he wants Britain to leave the EU, he explained how nothing would make him happier than for David Cameron to come back from Brussels with a deal that he could support, before going on to say that as a result of campaigning to leave, if the polls swing far enough to the 'leave' way, and a David-Owen-type deal follows, Brexit will become unnecessary.

€lliott and Cummings' campaign is significant not for what they say, but for what they don't say. Nowhere do they say anything about leaving the EU, and that is because they want a reform deal that keeps Britain in a 'reformed' EU.

Vote Leave is the ultimate Judas Goat, a campaign seeking the support of people who genuinely want to leave the EU, while having no intention of bringing about that outcome. In its own way it is a form of entryism, trying to control the campaign to leave in order to change its principles and stop Brexit coming to pass.

If €lliott and Cummings win the designation as the official leave campaign, we will either lose the referendum, or win it but see their campaign backing Cameron to secure reforms so Britain will remain in the EU, almost certainly in the two-tier structure €lliott has already declared he wants to see.

The challenge is clear. Before we can defeat Cameron and the pro-EU BSE campaign, we have to defeat €lliott and Cummings' counterfeit operation. If you want Brexit, they are not on your side.

21 Oct 2015

Challenging The Economist, its europhilia and dishonesty

In the latest edition of the committed pro-EU magazine, The Economist, we find one of its 'special reports' on Britain and Europe.

It's noteworthy for the angle it has taken. It has attempted to steal some of the Leave side's thunder by shifting away from the usual Europhile approach of fearmongering about imagined economic consequences of Brexit, and talking about the real issue at the referendum... politics.

You can read it online. Most of the questionable arguments deployed by The Economist will be familiar to many readers here, but as many people are not as energised by the Brexit debate as us, there is still a requirement to counter with some simple messages. Therefore I left a comment under the piece last night, which is reproduced below in case it gets moderated out:
Right off the bat this article set out to assert that leaving the EU would mean Britain lost influence. It later set out to suggest some make believe common position that 'Eurosceptics' hold regarding the 'Anglosphere'.

Britain's EU membership prevents this country from representing itself or its own interests on the bodies where the rules and standards that become laws, are made. That isn't influence. That is being rendered silent and invisible and having to accept whatever deal the EU signs up to. On more than 70 occasions Britain has opposed proposals from the European Commission. Each time it has been over ruled, undermining British interests. So where is this mythical influence?

Some people who want to leave the EU have romantic notions of turning back towards the Commonwealth, some of forging a loose bloc of English speaking nations. The fact is most 'Leavers' want Britain to turn its face towards the whole world and seize opportunities not realised by the EU because of the interests of other member states. The ability to set our own terms of trade and to co-operate on an intergovernmental basis with any non-EU country would benefit business and restore our influence in the world.

The EU is a supranational entity rooted in a 1950s mindset that sets out to subvert democracy, and ill-serves the interests of modern, industrialised nations with large economies and a global outlook. We should vote to leave the EU.
Hopefully some of this might be useful to those of you who engage online on blogs, Twitter and Facebook. Please help challenge the dishonesty of our opponents and spread the word about what we stand for.

Let's take on and defeat those who want to cement Britain in the diminished position we find ourselves, where we're invisible in the corridors of power and voiceless in the rooms where decisions that affect British people and businesses are made.

20 Oct 2015

Putting the Europhiles in their place by using facts

What I find most frustrating about the respective EU referendum Leave campaigns is that they have an open goal to attack in the shape of the 'Britain Stronger in Europe' (BSE) operation, yet they are not even trying to shoot.

BSE are so utterly devoid of compelling arguments for Britain to remain in the EU they are left repeating false, discredited claims that are easily countered with facts. An example of this came this evening in the shape of a brief Twitter exchange with Lucy Thomas, the deputy director of BSE who yet again cited the lie that Norway has to follow all the rules set down by the EU with 'no say over them':


I was able to challenge her with some facts that she cannot counter. As such she has retreated until a time when she can try her ridiculous claims on someone else.This shows the importance of being informed and having access to details that I can draw on in such encounters.
 

Laws: EEA Acquis vs EEA Acquis

Richard North painstakingly established the information about the number of laws applicable to non-EU members of the single market, such as Norway, from a large number of sources as the information isn't collated in one place for comparative purposes. He found that over 20,800 legislative acts that apply to EU member states are in force. However Norway and the other EFTA members do not have to follow all the laws. In fact they are subject to around 5,500.

As for having no say over the rules, Norway and the other EFTA countries actually get two bites of the cherry. As non-EU countries they represent themselves on the world stage and have membership of the bodies where rules are developed and decided, before being handed down to the EU to implement. EU member states are not allowed to represent themselves, the EU does it for them and presents a diluted, compromise EU-wide position. So Norway has more than just a say, it gets to shape the rules from the outset.

But then as members of the EEA (single market) the EU consults Norway and the other EFTA countries on the measures to be implemented, giving them an opportunity to influence the shape of implementation. This demonstrates that Lucy Thomas' claim is moonshine.
 

Single Market Costs

If you've ever read Lucy's ramblings elsewhere you may be asking where the figure of £8 million for the cost to Norway of single market access comes from. After all, Lucy and her Europhile friends keep claiming the cost to Norway of single market access is huge.

In short, the cost is a contribution to the functioning of the single market and it is paid centrally by EFTA. In 2014 the annual budgeted figure EFTA paid towards single market costs was 22,360,000 Swiss Francs (about £16 million), of which 55 percent was borne by Norway - which at the exchange rate means around £8.4 million. http://www.efta.int/about-efta/efta-budget

The claim the Europhiles usually make is something along the lines of 'Norway pays two-thirds as much per head for access to the Single Market as the UK pays as a full member of the European Union'. It simply isn't true.
 

Massaging the figures

What the Europhiles have done is include voluntary payments called "Norway Grants", made by Norway to eastern enlargement countries to help with their post-Communist economic rehabilitation. In the six year period 2009-14, these voluntary grants amounted to €804 million and have nothing to do with the single market. That money does not go to the EU. http://www.eu-norway.org/eu/Financial-contribution/#.Vial9StBl-9

They have also included money paid to the EEA grants system, which again does not go to the EU, but rather the independent Financial Mechanism Committee, again not connected to single market, which when added to the Norway grants meant a total contribution of around €1.7 billion. Additionally they have added in Norwegian voluntary contributions to various EU and inter-regional programmes, such as Erasmus+. Horizon 2020 and Copernicus, which again are nothing to do with the costs of the single market.
 

Conclusion

We can defeat BSE and their cynical spin merchants just by using the facts. It would be nice if Leave.EU started doing this instead of churning out dodgy claims of their own just to attract attention, but we seem a long way from that level of competence. They are throwing red meat to the people who are already on our side. They are doing nothing to win over undecided voters who will want powerful reasons to vote to leave.

As for the Vote Leave campaign, there's no point hoping for anything from them. They are only interested in using the referendum as leverage to achieve the reform agenda they have long pushed for as Business for Britain. They pointedly refuse to state they will campaign to leave the EU no matter what. Vote Leave's co-owner, Matthew €lliott, is on record as saying:
'If the Government gets a two-tier Europe, we’re very much in.'
(Source: Evening Standard
And Vote Leave poster boy, Daniel Hannan, has said in recent days that 'Nothing would make me happier than for the PM to come back from Brussels with a deal that we could support,' and 'The only way to inspire them to greater radicalism is to start campaigning to leave. If the polls swing far enough our way, and a David-Owen-type deal follows, Brexit will become unnecessary.' Vote Leave is no more a fifth column pretending to want to leave in order to service their reform agenda.

19 Oct 2015

The real 'Vote Leave' objective they won't openly admit to

The problem with having a Leave campaign that is owned and run by people who have never publicly called for Britain to leave the EU, but instead have long urged David Cameron to secure a deal to  'reform' of our EU membership, is that you cannot trust their apparent conversion.

Prominent Vote Leave supporter, the Tory MEP and arch Eurosceptic (the now useless noun that describes everyone from those who want to leave the EU immediately, no ifs and no buts, to those who want to hand the EU complete control over every aspect of governance of Britain) Daniel Hannan, has signalled the real objective of the Matthew €lliott/Dominic Cummings campaign with these words in a piece he wrote for ConservativeHome (run by €lliott protege, Mark Wallace):

Ah, some readers will say, Hannan and the Eurosceptics are just trying to raise the bar impossibly high. Actually, we’re not. Our key aims – the supremacy of UK law on our own soil, more freedom to strike bilateral trade deals with non-EU states and the right to determine who can settle on our territory – are remarkably moderate. Nothing would make me happier than for the PM to come back from Brussels with a deal that we could support.
Followed by this closing argument,
As long as Sir Humphrey in Brussels and Jim Hacker in Westminster believe that they can win a referendum with only minor changes, that’s all they’ll ask for. The only way to inspire them to greater radicalism is to start campaigning to leave. If the polls swing far enough our way, and a David-Owen-type deal follows, Brexit will become unnecessary.
Hannan has revealed his dishonesty and his willingness to put Tory interests before all else. He has performed his role as a Judas Goat to a tee. This is a man who has built a large following of people who genuinely want to leave the EU and believed he wanted the same, but kept them on the side of the Tory party machine that has no intention of leaving. Hannan's own words reveal that he is happy for Britain to remain subordinate to the EU provided some crumbs from the table are forthcoming.

Even though I've not tweeted any messages directly to Hannan, tweeting these quotes has resulted in Hannan blocking me on Twitter. The truth is clearly hard to take. But what is also interesting is that my tweet below to Vote Leave's head of media, Robert Oxley, and to Vote Leave's twitter account, has been pointedly ignored for three days, despite it being sent more than once:



People can draw their own conclusions about this silence, but any reasonable person might conclude as I do that that the duplicitous Hannan and the Vote Leave operation are campaigning for a vote to leave at the referendum, not so the Britain exits the EU, but in order to give Cameron leverage to force a deal from the EU that ensures Britain remains docked permanently to Brussels.

Ronseal might do what it says on the tin, but Vote Leave doesn't.

By way of an illustration, Vote Leave's thinking is neatly encapsulated in the third paragraph of this letter to the Telegraph shown below, which was published on Sunday.
  
  
That third paragraph is what Vote Leave wants to achieve. There was no conversion from the Business for Britain push for continued membership with some reforms. As pro-EU people have corrupted the word Eurosceptic, the €lliott/Cummings business venture is corrupting the word Leave.

People who genuinely want to leave the EU no matter what, need to be aware that supporting Vote Leave is to support a plan to keep Britain in the EU. It is just a plot hatched by a small group of Tories, aided by a couple of useful idiots from Labour and Ukip, to strengthen Cameron's hand to secure as yet unspecified reforms. These people are not for Brexit. Their whole campaign is a sham. Don't be taken in by it.

15 Oct 2015

Brexiteers: Europhiles at play, so be precise in what you say

In the months ahead, the referendum debate will see claims and counter claims made by both sides of the Brexit campaign. Not only will this turn off people who aren't political anoraks, but it could lead to the loss of credibility if incorrect 'facts' are used and debunked.

Brexiteers should avoid churning out figures and claims that are disputable. They may look impressive on graphics fired out on Twitter and other digital media, but most data are compiled using different methodologies, or make false assumptions that can be challenged and make a nonsense of those figures. Also, the Leave side must resist the temptation to call in aid long standing prominent opponents when they make highly qualified statements, such as the comment by Lord Blackwell, who will almost certainly vote to remain in the EU when the day comes.

However, setting those things aside, the message I want to convey in this post is that it's vital to be precise in what you say.

An anecdotal example of why this is so important can be seen on my Twitter feed today. A Europhile made a comment regarding my post about the Netherlands referendum. Keen to make the Dutch Eurosceptics look irrational and give the impression they are wrong to believe the EU-Ukraine association agreement will lead to full Ukrainian membership of the EU, he said they had 'swallowed hysteria' and that:
Ukraine's Association Agreement with EU does not open door to EU membership. End of
The problem is, his assertion as written is wrong. It's not just me that says this, the Ukrainians says so too. On their official website on Ukraine-EU relations, they say that in specific reference to the association agreement that:
In order to maintain stable relations with the EU, Ukraine shall conclude an Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, the implementation of which shall become the first step towards its association and, later, full membership in this organization.
This destroyed his original assertion. The Ukrainians themselves make clear the association agreement is a step in the process to becoming a full member of the EU. The Dutch eurosceptics are therefore not being hysterical, instead they have correctly identified what is happening, this is part of the journey to full membership.

When this was pointed out to the excitable Europhile, he sought to shift his position to say that Ukraine will not become a candidate country by concluding the Association Agreement (emphasis mine). Even if that's what he meant, that wasn't his initial point, and I had never claimed the agreement made Ukraine a candidate country. That, after all, is a different step in the process. The Europhile had got it wrong and had to resort to constructing a strawman in an effort to save face.

He was imprecise in what he said, or he had made a claim in ignorance of the facts. He has been discredited as a result. This is why all Brexiteers need to be careful, because the Europhiles are at play and if we are imprecise or make ignorant claims, they will pounce on us in an effort to discredit us in the same way.

Stick to hard facts rather than mere opinion and be precise in what you say, and you will maintain your credibility for the time when undecided voters start to look at the arguments and claims just before the referendum. They won't support people who have been exposed as inaccurate and unreliable.

14 Oct 2015

Netherlands referendum: How very dare they!

Oh dear. It seems the Dutch are in the EU dog house.

The EU is annoyed that the Dutch political system makes it possible for mere ordinary voters to force a referendum, as long as more than 300,000 verifiable signatures are collected in support of one.

Such displays of democratic behaviour are considered unacceptable by the EU, which insists is knows what is best for everyone in the EU and decides outcomes for us without mandate or reference to the population. The EU doesn't care what the Dutch people think, it just wants them to be quiet and not rock the boat. The outcome of the Dutch referendum about the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement is non binding on the government. But it would be hugely embarrassing if the government, which has already ratified the agreement, saw its population oppose it

With 420,000 signatures, the Dutch people will now have to debate and vote about whether the Netherlands should have ratified the agreement. This is where things have the potential to become interesting.  If people question exactly what the association agreement is designed to achieve, the EU will end up looking dishonest. Looking at section of the merged screenshot from EurActiv below, which is underlined in red, we can see what the EU wants people to think the association agreement is about:


However the reality is somewhat different. We need only delve into the EU's own documents to see that trade barely figures in this deal. The association agreement is about EU expansion and extending its desire for political control to more countries:


Note the EU's priorities and what the bloc considers to be the key parts of the deal. Trade doesn't feature. Instead, trade is a bolt-on that comes a long way down the list of objectives. It has played down the co-operation in foreign and security matters, although this was a major pillar of the agreement as the EU sought to show Russia who had political muscle, and failed. Title II of the association agreement included a section called Article 10 and you can read for yourself what that was all about. It was prioritised above anything to do with trade.


Watching the Dutch debate could be instructive for people in Britain, helping them to understand the EU is not about trade, but about political control and hegemony. It could expose once again the unacceptable fundamental nature of the EU and remind us why we need to defeat David Cameron and his unilateral, arrogant decree that Britain should remain firmly anchored to the EU, by voting to leave.

To think this direction of travel can be reformed, or that member states can opt out of it is plain fantasy. It's another reason to vote to leave the EU.

12 Oct 2015

Vote Leave campaign: The truth they are desperate to hide from people

Inconvenient as it may be for the Vote Leave campaign, wholly owned and run by Matthew Elliott and Dominic Cummings, there is enormous doubt about its suitability to be designated as the official leave campaign.

This stems from the fact that Elliott has expressed views and aims that are fundamentally contrary to those of someone who wishes Britain to leave the EU.

One of Elliott's contradictions concerns what he would do if David Cameron achieved some form of Associate Membership deal for Britain, which would leave this country in the EU. Elliott's view is shown below:


Blogger, White Wednesday, raised this again directly with Dominic Cummings on Twitter. Cummings declared that if Cameron came back from his renegotiation with a two-tier Europe deal, Vote Leave's position is that people should vote to leave, which directly contradicts what the 'formidable' Elliott said above. The Twitter exchange from yesterday (Sunday 11 Oct) is shown in full below:


As you can see, Cummings is claiming Elliott's position hasn't changed. This means either Cummings doesn't know what his own boss wants, or Cummings is misleading people about Elliott's views. But of an explanation there is no sign. Despite me asking three further times when Elliott's position had changed, Cummings has ignored the question. It's worth noting Cummings has been on Twitter and tweeted me since these questions were asked:


However, since 8.20am, in keeping with his selective vision and radio silence of yesterday, Cummings has still provided no answer. The hatch has been battened down and they are hoping it will all fade away. But it won't.

The public has a right to know what the media's favourite to lead the official Leave campaign really thinks and the reasons why he wants to lead the Leave campaign despite every public utterance being in favour of remaining in a reformed EU.

Some people will be frustrated by this piece. Many will argue that everyone on the Leave side should come together to work to the common goal of winning the referendum and leaving the EU. Some will describe this as sniping as harmful to the cause, while others will say this is a circular firing squad that will undermine efforts to achieve Brexit. But the fact is the rival campaigns have different agendas. This is not an effort to undermine a rival, but an effort to expose and defeat an opponent.

Regardless of the quality or inaccuracy of some of Leave.EU's campaign work so far, Arron Banks and his team genuinely believe that Britain should leave the EU no matter what, as a point of principle, and they are investing money, time and hard work to help enable it to happen. For them leaving the EU is a cause. That's how it should be. They are allies in this fight.

But when it comes to Matthew Elliott, it's impossible for any rational person to make a similar argument. He has spent years arguing, pressing and calling for Britain to remain in a reformed EU, opposing those of us who have been consistently made the case that Britain should leave. That isn't the behaviour or mindset of someone who believes in leaving the EU. Never has he said Britain should leave the EU on principle.

Yet as he has always planned and his media contacts have long trailed, he's position himself to lead the official Leave campaign. Like an agile chameleon, he has transformed himself in an attempt to seize control of something he has stood against having always pushed his line of staying in the EU with reforms. Take a moment to let the enormity of what has happened to sink in. A man who has been pushing for Britain to stay in a reformed EU always had the intention of controlling the campaign of people whose views he rejected. Why?

Elliott and his closest colleagues have conveniently set out the most likely reason themselves. They've formed companies between them, used Elliott's position in the No to AV campaign to get official positions which has then allowed them to award contracts to themselves (h/t Boiling Frog) which is a massive conflict of interest.

But they have gone further, with an objective of building a database containing voter preferences, key issues and intentions from around 500,000 data records into one containing over 10 million records, but with a target of 20 million voter records, unprecedented in UK politics. The value of this data to political parties and campaigns is huge and the proceeds from selling it would be lucrative. The nationwide campaign ahead of a referendum will not only result in jobs and contracts for Elliott's friends, but essentially it will also enable the harvesting that data.

For Elliott and his inner circle leaving the EU is a massive business opportunity. That's is not how it should be. They are not allies in this fight. And every time they are questioned or challenged about this as shown at the top of this post, they go silent, refuse to reply, and hide away hoping it will all quietly go away.

Taking all this into consideration, is Vote Leave an appropriate organisation to lead the official Leave campaign? People can draw their own conclusions.

8 Oct 2015

Andrew Duff... the best ally Brexiteers have in the fight against Cameron

Andrew Duff is a Liberal Democrat arch federalist. He was MEP for East of England until defeated in the European elections last year.

As a Visiting Fellow at the European Policy Centre and President of the Union of European Federalists, he is a true EU insider. His connections and access to people who really know what is going on in Brussels is beyond contest.

With that in mind, when Duff writes a piece focusing on the David Cameron's 'renegotiation', the EU reaction to it and what can or cannot be achieved, he is worth reading. He has written one such piece for the German Verfassungsblog. It is worth reading in full, but below are some key sections along with some commentary of my own to put things in context.

Tory stitch up

Some important truths that Duff shares include the fact that the party conference season has shown that Cameron cannot expect the ‘pro-European’ opposition forces of Labour, the Liberal Democrats, SNP or Greens to weigh in cosily behind a partisan Tory renegotiation. He goes on:
As things stand, it looks as though the prime minister will be fighting a fairly lonely referendum campaign with the backing of some but by no means all representatives of business and the City of London – and with his own government and party split asunder.
This is because the campaign is an overtly Tory stitch up. That's why hangers on like Matthew Elliott, are being backed by Tory grandees who are also supporting Cameron. It's an absolute con.

Elliott and his friends, 'Elliott's Four', stand to make a lot of money from the campaign if they win official Leave campaign designation by awarding themselves positions and contracts as they did in the No to AV campaign, enabling them to hoover up huge volumes of data. The Tories stand to gain electoral and political intelligence about millions of voters from the purchase of that data from Elliott's Four and with Elliott at the helm the Leave campaign will almost certainly be as badly run as the No to AV campaign, and lose.

The sham renegotiation

Belated recognition of these apparently unforeseen difficulties has forced Cameron to delay presenting his EU partners with a substantial catalogue of explicit demands. Instead, he and his team are going about Europe talking of ‘baskets’ of issues such as transparency, vetoes for national parliaments and reserve powers for non-eurozone states to block the eurozone majority: no texts have yet been tabled. The result is that nobody quite knows what the British are doing. London’s vague and often conflicting messages are mystifying.
This more than anything underlines what genuine Eurosceptics have long argued, that the renegotiation is a sham, it's all for show. Behind the spin there is no substance. Cameron isn't serious about a new deal, he is a paid up member of the Remain club and he won't demand anything meaningful. Cameron's team is giving the impression of being busy while doing nothing. Duff goes on:
At the EU institutions, indeed, other important matters are more pressing than Brexit.
While the sham renegotiation and run up to the referendum gives the UK media the kind of bust up it loves to drool over, observations about the relative lack of importance of the Brexit saga in Europe is an inconvenient reality. The EU has bigger fish to fry. For the EU this isn't an important matter because they know Cameron isn't serious. It's all theatre.

Ever closer union

Duff also deals with the commitment to ever closer union. Dismissed by Nick Clegg as 'flim-flam before you get to the meat and potatoes', and routinely dismissed by Europhiles desperate to conceal the truth as a matter only taken seriously by the British and just a preamble and nothing else, Duff as a true EU insider is happy to be open about its true nature (bold emphasis is mine):
Amid this general British grumpiness there is the very specific demand to extricate the UK from the historic mission of the Union to ‘ever closer union among the peoples of Europe’. This issue is not merely of marginal significance, as is often alleged by pro-Europeans who should know better. The phrase has always appeared in the preambles of successive European treaties, but was upgraded in the Maastricht treaty (signed by Cameron’s predecessor as Tory prime minister, John Major) and given pride of place in Article 1 of the Treaty on European Union.

Worthless binding promises

Another valuable piece of Duff's commentary concerns the worth of binding pledges to address any demands Cameron eventually makes, in a forthcoming treaty. The EU approach to such pledges is exposed for all to see (further bold emphasis from me):
There is no precedent in the history of the EU of a member state ripping up its existing treaty obligations. It is true that both Denmark and Ireland were granted special Council decisions and (non-binding) declarations in the effort to overcome negative referendum votes on the Treaties of Maastricht, Nice or Lisbon. But these were concessions designed to permit treaties that had already been signed by every head of government to enter into force. The supplementary agreements were mainly of a tautological or oxymoronic nature – affirming that the treaties meant in fact what they said – although some took the form of promised future additions to treaty texts. (A similar agreement after the signing of the Lisbon treaty was made with the Czech Republic concerning the Charter of Fundamental Rights but was never delivered.) It is important to note, however, that none of those special measures amounted to new opt-outs; none made any substantive change to the treaties as agreed; and all were crafted, with a mixture of high politics and low cunning, to accomplish a successful ratification of a treaty change which deepened the integration of Europe.
Such honesty cannot be found among Cameron and his team. It would not help their case for remaining in a dishonest and anti democratic union that revels in tricking people in order to further its own interests at their expense, and making promises it has no intention of keeping.

Treaty change reality

What Duff goes on to talk about isn't new for those who have carefully monitored the EU Referendum blog, but is nonetheless dynamite because it is a Europhile admission of reality that reinforces what will not be possible, despite Tory assurances to the contrary.
To be fair to David Cameron, he has been talking for ages about the need for treaty change. He must now accept that the next general revision of the treaties will not begin until after 2017 when the French and German elections and the British referendum are out of the way. So the temptation now looms to go for a limited bilateral treaty between the UK and the EU to ‘resolve the relationship’, as Hammond puts it.

Yet this is another false trail. Such a new treaty would have to amend the UK’s treaty of accession to the European Community which was signed by the then Conservative prime minister Edward Heath on 22 January 1972. The preamble to that treaty says its signatories were ‘united in their desire to pursue the attainment of the objectives’ of the Treaties, and ‘determined in the spirit of those Treaties to construct an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe on the foundation already laid’. That statement, incidentally, rather gives the lie to those British eurosceptics like David Cameron who pretend that the decision to join the EEC was about a common market only. But it suddenly carries greater weight as one of Heath’s Tory successors seeks to remove it.
Article 6 of the Act attached to the accession treaty says:
The provisions of this Act may not, unless otherwise provided herein, be suspended, amended or repealed other than by means of the procedure laid down in the original Treaties enabling those Treaties to be revised.
So short cuts are ruled out. Today, the relevant revision procedure is found in Article 48 TEU which lays down that an amendment to or derogation from Article 1 would require all the works: a constitutional Convention (if the European Parliament so insisted, as it would), followed by unanimous agreement between and ratification by all twenty-eight member states of the Union according to their own constitutional requirements (which in many cases means referenda).

Associate Membership or Brexit only, reform not possible

Again, not new to readers of EU Referendum, but no doubt this will be breaking news to Matthew Elliott's special enrichment vehicle and the cor blimey gang over at Leave.EU:
Try as they might, the cleverest EU lawyers will find no route to satiate the British desire for an irreversible, legal guarantee that would change the nature of the European project. The likelihood increases, therefore, that the Brexit renegotiation is doomed to fail and that the referendum results in a vote to leave the EU. Once that happens we are plunged into Article 50 territory and complicated secession negotiations lasting about two years. The end product will be a ‘withdrawal agreement’ in the form of a bilateral treaty between the UK and the EU. It will be negotiated by the Commission and concluded by the Council, acting by qualified majority without the British, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament. If treated with care, that new treaty might possibly comprise a package deal to craft a new form of affiliate membership of the Union that might suit the UK as well as other determinedly anti-federalist, non-eurozone states. Once the full facts are known, a second referendum should not be ruled out.
Once again, it is worth reading the whole original piece as there are other valuable insights that can help inform an effective Leave campaign. Duff's candour does little to help Cameron and the Remain campaign, rather it makes him one of the best allies the Brexiteers have in the fight to leave the EU. It cannot be overstated how vital it is to understand your opponents, and to that end Duff is great resource to have.

7 Oct 2015

Encounter with a true believer

Every so often on Twitter you get to encounter a Europhile.

They are easy to spot because they uncritically retweet utter rubbish published by pro-EU organisations, or ask innocuous but evidently ridiculous questions, inviting you to come back with a reply. They think they are laying a cunning trap for you to walk into. However, constrained by their own narrow thinking and ignorance, they don't think there is any argument you can possibly make that undermines their article of faith.

Here's an example of one such encounter today and the arguments I used to dispense with the Europhile's claim that the EU is democratic. Hope it helps.


If you don't already, do please consider adding me on Twitter https://twitter.com/MrBrexit and joining in the online effort to expose inaccurate and untrue Europhile claims. 

UPDATE: The Europhile chap has come back with a response to my tweets... as you can see, like all Europhiles, they are impervious to facts and reality and persist with their self delusion.

 

6 Oct 2015

David Cameron: A culture of bullshit and lies

David Cameron, being interviewed on BBC's Today programme on Radio 4, has claimed that:
  • People said there would never be a referendum, but it is taking place
  • People said he could never kick start a renegotiation, but it is well underway
  • People said he won't be able to secure changes he wants, but as he delivered on the other two, there's no reason to think he won't be successful
On the first point, it was clear once he has made his Bloomberg speech in 2013, that he had no wriggle room and would have to keep his promise if the Conservatives won the general election.

It was really only Ukip who kept claiming it wouldn't happen. Incidentally, now it is taking place Ukip claim it's only happening because of them.

On the second point, the lies and bullshit begin to flow. The Telegraph told its readers on 26 September that:
With even like-minded, eurosceptic member states resistant to Britain’s desire to opt out of core EU principles on freedom of movement and equal treatment for all workers, they say they cannot be sure when the detailed work of renegotiation will start - let alone finish.
”We just haven’t heard anything from the British about what they want for ages,” said one EU diplomat. “It does seem to have stalled. It’s very awkward for us all.”
“There is not a word,” another exasperated senior official added to The Sunday Telegraph. “Not a single word typed on a single sheet of paper.”
Last week, France expressed its growing impatience with Britain’s refusal to provide details on the crunch issues of benefits and borders.

But what really underlines Cameron's deceit here are the comments of his own Foreign Secretary carried in the same piece in which readers were told:
Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, admitted last week that there were no quick deals in sight and that Britain still did not have “hard and fast demands”. He said the government was still testing the “appetite” for reform among member states.
He said earlier hopes that negotiations could be completed by December were now “unrealistic” and that negotiations would not begin in earnest until early next year, paving the way a referendum “as quickly as possible” thereafter.
“Realistically the December European Council is going to represent the start of the serious and multi-lateral negotiations around the British package,” Mr Hammond said.

Yet Cameron brazenly made his claim that things are progressing well on Radio 4 this morning. Either he is lying through his teeth, or Hammond and EU diplomats are lying through theirs. When you consider who has the most to gain from a lie, it becomes clear that Cameron is the one whose word cannot be trusted in this renegotiation scam.

Needless to say, the BBC interviewer did not even attempt to challenge Cameron about his claim or raise the clear contradiction with Hammond's and the EU's comments. Either they were appallingly prepared, or unwilling to put a spoke in the wheel of the Europhile side of the Tory party. Either way, the listeners were left misled.

On the third point, EU diplomats have told the media that Cameron's team are refusing to put a single proposal in writing. This is because the government is terrified people will discover what Cameron is asking for and will therefore know if he has failed to achieve what he sought. Back to that Telegraph piece again:
Downing Street is determined not to be made a hostage to fortune by leaked demands that it later fails to achieve.
However, this newspaper has been told that the failure to give a written document means the detailed legal work - key preparatory work for the negotiations - has not yet begun. "It's just three months to Christmas," said a source.
UK officials reject the criticism, arguing that the “broad parameters” of UK demands are known to EU states – but EU officials say the details are all-important.

What Cameron has been doing is asking what concessions he can get. The idea being he can formally request them in the knowledge they will be agreed, at which point he will declare total victory. It is no different to senior military officers going to the MoD and saying, 'If we were to ask for 20 more helicopters to support our operations, would we get them?' and the MoD saying no, meaning no formal request is made.

But with the urgent need for a new treaty to pave the way for deeper integration between Eurozone member countries to bring about fiscal union and improve the function of the single currency, Cameron has recognised that some of what he claims to want might be achieved by the new two-tier structure. The plan now seems to be to string things along for as long as possible while the new structure firms up and seize that as the successful renegotiation.

The upshot of all this is that nothing Cameron is saying regarding this sham process can be trusted. He is presiding over a culture of bullshit and lies, playing the electorate for fools, aided and abetted by an incompetent media.

3 Oct 2015

Why Matthew Elliott is completely unfit to lead the official Leave campaign

It's becoming perfectly clear that Elliott is completely unfit to lead any official leave campaign. Never has he advocated leaving the EU instead arguing that we stay in with unspecified reforms. More serious is the deep suspicion that his campaigns are being constructed largely to allow close friends to award themselves contracts.
So writes The Boiling Frog, who has been meticulously piecing together the fascinating web of connections, company formations, ownerships and placing of business between Matthew Elliott and his friends/colleagues Jag Singh, Paul Staines and Andrew Whitehurst, his latest installment calling in evidence invoices of spending controlled by Elliott when he ran the national No to AV campaign.

The motivation behind Elliott's determination to lead the official leave campaign can't be explained by politics or ideology, as none of Elliott and his friends have ever called or campaigned for Britain to leave the EU. Instead that leaves the driver as financial.

While lacking the drama and scale of George Clooney's Ocean's Eleven, the plot of Elliott's Four has all the makings of a heist story in its own right. Elliott's Four are so publicity hungry, they explained it to PR Week. The objective of gathering millions of pieces of electoral intelligence about voters is making a lucrative financial gain. There is a ready made market for that data, which Elliott's Four have happily shown their interest in fulfilling.

What better opportunity to do that than controlling a national campaign ahead of a crucial referendum, where they can hoover up data to create millions of records that would sell for big money?


2 Oct 2015

Philip Hammond's slippery little con trick

The Telegraph's Peter Dominiczak has published a piece in the last hour reporting that Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, has warned that British people will vote to leave the European Union unless Brussels gives "substantial and irreversible" reforms to the UK.

But Hammond is being slippery. This isn't the government telling the EU to give Cameron what he wants or else they will take Britain out of the EU, this is Hammond saying that the British people will vote to leave unless the EU gives concessions. He is playing 'watch the birdie' to distract people from the real story, which is the government using delaying tactics to string along the sham renegotiation as the concept of associate membership of the EU is finalised. The piece says that:
In a significant hardening of the Government’s language on the prospect of a British exit from the EU, Mr Hammond made clear that the UK Government is not bluffing when it tells leaders on the continent that a Britain could opt to leave.
It isn't a hardening of the government's language at all. It is a cynical continuation of Hammond's bluster about the 'stalled' renegotiation where EU leaders have bemoaned the British government not committing a single demand to paper because, incredibly, it has no hard and fast demands about what it wants from the EU! Small wonder really, because Cameron is pinning all his hopes on a new two-tier Europe giving him something he can pretend is a great victory for him.

As part of the performance, Hammond has reportedly made clear to his counterparts across Europe that British voters will leave if there are not “robust” guarantees that any reform package is “irreversible”. This is the con trick writ large. Interestingly, Dominiczak has not quite let Hammond get away with it, pointing out in its next paragraph:
Jean-Claude Piris, the EU's former top lawyer, said that Mr Hammond’s demands for a legally-watertight package of reforms are impossible because they could simply be reversed by future governments.
That's the polite version. What Piris actually said was more far reaching. When asked if there was a name for a political commitment to change the treaty at some point in the future, he said:
Yes, it’s called bullshit. There is no possibility to make a promise that would be legally binding to change the treaty later.
What Piris is saying is not that future governments could reverse the reforms, but that the EU cannot be bound by a mere 'promise' to make any agreed changes to the treaty. This is Cameron's big concern. He needs the two-tier treaty outline in place to declare he has achieved something through his renegotiation. As Piris makes clear, Cameron can't go into a referendum with legally meaningless pledges.

Going back to Hammond's recent pronouncements, he keeps playing up one element in particular... the issue of ever closer union. He is clearly preparing the ground for what constitutes a successful renegotiation. Cameron clearly wants to come back and declare he has secured a promise to exclude the UK from ever closer union. That is what the notional EU associate membership is designed to deliver. Cameron would be claiming to demand something the EU has already largely developed to enable the Eurozone countries to push on with fiscal integration.

David Cameron's renegotiation is a sham and Hammond is trying to keep people looking in another direction in case it becomes obvious that the EU, not Cameron, is dictating events.

Arron Banks, please don't... this would kill your campaign


It's in the Telegraph so the accuracy of the claim comes with a health warning. But Christopher Hope writes that Nigel Farage could consider standing down as UK Independence Party leader and leading (my emphasis) the campaign for Britain to leave the European Union, according to Arron Banks of Leave.EU.

Hope writes that Banks said he would support Farage if he decided to stand aside from Ukip and give his “total focus” to the ‘out’ campaign. It's a 'leave' campaign, so you can see what I mean about accuracy. Add to that that nowhere in Banks' quoted comments does he mention leadership of the campaign. So this could just be Hope sexing up the piece to get attention.

The article goes on to mention that following the announcement that Nigel Lawson is leading the Conservatives for Britain campaign, Banks and two of Leave.EU's millionaire backers, Richard Tice and Jim Mellon, issued a statement in which they said:
It would be better if the Eurosceptic Tories just 'shut up' as they are going to alienate the vast majority of people who will look at this campaign as a Tory stitch-up.
This is interesting because if these three men have any kind of political radar worthy of the name, they would know that having Farage lead the Leave.EU campaign would alienate the vast majority of voters who cannot stand him, and would not consider him to lead it.

Leave.EU is the best placed operation to prevent the troughing carpetbaggers of Business for Britain/Campaign to Leave/Elliott for Elliott from being designated as the official leave campaign. Appointing Farage as leader of the Leave.EU campaign would not mean it couldn't secure official designation, but it would ensure a resounding defeat in the referendum if Leave.EU were the official grouping.

Like it or not, Farage's appeal is very limited and he doesn't have what's needed to win the support of undecided voters and those who are only slightly leaning to the 'remain' side. His rhetoric focuses too much on immigration and even if he laid off the topic during the campaign the media would drag it up continually and put off voters. Plus it would be difficult if not impossible for the unions Arron Banks is trying to woo to sit in the same tent as Farage during the referendum campaign.

We can only hope Arron Banks doesn't let Farage have a leadership role in the campaign. It would be a suicidal move by someone who is devoting a huge amount of time, money and resource to freeing Britain from the EU.

1 Oct 2015

To remain or to leave the EU, which way should people vote?

With all the talk about renegotiation, reform, remaining in the EU or leaving it, some people think the whole Brexit issue is very complicated.

It isn't really. All you need is a view about what you want Britain's future to look like. Then you can make an informed decision about how to use your vote.

If you're unsure, the question below might help.

Your answer will enable you to identify your viewpoint and help you understand whether you should be voting to remain in the EU or voting to leave the EU, when the referendum is held.

-----------------

Do you want Britain to run its own domestic affairs such as how we generate energy and dispose of waste, speak for itself on the world stage about international matters, make beneficial trade deals and treaties directly with other countries, influence regulations and standards being made by global bodies that affect businesses and consumers, and work together with other countries in matters of mutual interest on a case by case basis?

-----------------

If your answer is yes, then you should vote to leave the EU.

The scenario above will only be possible if Britain leaves the EU. By remaining in the EU, whether as a full member or some kind of associate member, the EU will continue to control most or all of these matters. People from 27 other countries will be making and implementing decisions we must follow, even if they are unhelpful or damaging, and even if we oppose them in the council, commission or European Parliament.

'Reform' or 'renegotiation' will keep Britain in the EU. This is because it doesn't address the essential and all important core issue... namely, who should run Britain?

There is no other way to put this. Any campaigner or campaign group who claims to want to leave the EU but adds words such as 'unless there is reform' is lying. They are saying in reality they want to stay in the EU. Supporting them is to support continued EU membership.