The official period of campaigning for the EU referendum has begun. Vote Remain and Vote Leave are setting out their positions – sort of – and it makes interesting reading. Vote Remain has the easier task as far as campaigning goes. You don’t have to work so hard to explain the status quo. Of course, their main strategy is to point out their perceived dangers of Brexit. Which is, by its very nature, nothing but speculation.
Vote Leave, on the other hand, have to offer a vision of a future with Britain existing outside of Europe, and being better off for it. A certain amount of speculation is, to be fair, going to be part and parcel of their vision. But Vote Leave also need to have plans. Ideas that have been thought through, widely discussed and turned into concrete policy pledges.
What both sides seem to agree on is that access to the EU free market is essential to the economic well-being of the UK. So here goes. Vote Leave plan to enter into a free trade agreement not only outside of the EU, but also outside of the European Economic Area. But it’s ok, because lots of countries thrive outside of the EU, Germany won’t want it’s car makers denied access to the British market and the ingenuity of our bankers will sort something out. We’ll have access to the free trade area, won’t have to pay for it and we can keep the EU riff raff out of the UK. Well, that’s settled then. It’s hard to fault such a brilliant plan. But if one were to translate that plan into real world policy, it reads something like this:
We’re going to piss off a lot of countries, many of whom don’t like us much already. Once we have achieved peak piss-off, we are going to ask them for a massive favour. We’re going to ask them to let us have the very best bits of the European community’s benefits. For next to nothing. It will give us a ridiculously unfair advantage over the paying members, who despite their intense level of pissed-offiness and that fact that such a deal would likely hurt many of them, they will grant us all our wishes. And we’re completely confident that this will happen.
I guess this is why the Vote Leave campaign find it difficult to find reputable studies showing the UK as better off in the event of Brexit. It’s a slightly nuts policy when you boil it down to the nitty gritty. But then, the Vote Leave camp contain a lots of slightly nutty (and self serving) individuals. But what I would really like to hear from the Vote Leave campaign is an answer to perhaps the most important potential issue of them all. When they go to the EU after a Brexit vote with their begging cap and none of the influence that comes from being part of the EU, what happens if they turn around and say….non. What is Plan B? Because at the moment, Plan B seems to look a lot like a blank page.