Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Brexit: Questions To Answer

We were aware that Richard North’s Flexcit submission probably wasn’t going to win. Reservations were evident from the start. Conclusions were drawn that the nature and arguments of the submission were at odds with the economic bias of the IEA. That we knew and anticipated.

But what we, (and nearly all the contestations who entered – just short of 150), expected was for it to be a fair competition. It’s not unreasonable to expect that everyone should have had a chance.

With the publication of the final six shortlisted (another rule change that was unexpectedly announced half way through the competition) it’s becoming clear that being fair the IEA prize most certainly was not. All of the final six papers breach the original competition rules, in some cases strongly. In addition Richard points out in a very revealing analytic piece there are also some other far more serious concerns.

There are in essence three widely publically acknowledged ways of leaving the EU, the pros and cons of which were addressed in the FleXit plan as per the competition requirements.

The first way of leaving are variations on the “Norway Option” (EFTA/EEA), the second is the Swiss bilateral agreements and the third is what I consider the “Life on Mars” option; we are all involved in a car crash, enter a coma and wake up in the early '70s. This is also known as the “just repeal the ECA and the WTO will just rescue us” option.

As Richard notes, the final six which were shortlisted all considered a completely different (but crucially the same) option – "EFTA only". The final six argue to pursue the Swiss arrangement via EFTA membership:
It should be noted that EFTA membership is not required to pursue the so-called "Swiss option", as the Association played no role in the bilateral agreements between Switzerland and the EU. This we know from René Schwok, writing in an official EFTA anniversary book. In other words, the "Swiss option" doesn't need EFTA membership.

In fact, the advantage of the bilateral route for Switzerland is that it allowed her to make her own agreements without being bound by the EFTA framework. Thus, the only advantage the UK would gain from the “EFTA-only” option would be the ability to tap into EFTA's existing trade deals. But if that was the sole motivation, it is unlikely that the UK would be accepted as a returning member.
It is an argument that is so rare, if not unique, that there are very few academic papers on it (if at all) and an argument that largely cannot be found expressed on the internet in any form whatsoever - until the conclusion of the Brexit prize (very likely because it's completely unworkable).

In the age of the internet, we would expect academic papers to rely heavily on it in terms of research. Indeed there are a number of passages in the final six – including the winning entry that are very familiar to this blogger. But that is to be expected. Any information posted on here is for free use.

What is unexpected to say the least is that all six have come up with the same argument which is not freely available on the internet nor indeed widely argued within eurosceptic circles - and hasn’t been as long as many of us have campaigned against EU membership.

One such paper showing such “original thought” is fair enough, two could be a coincidence. More than that and we’re suspicious. That six have entered, then have been shortlisted and they're the only ones…well we don’t need to make clear the statistic improbabilities of that.

We also note that Roger Bootle, one of the original judges, stepped down after complaints that he expressed himself in a way that was unfit to be a judge during an ongoing competition. Interestingly it is also understood that the judges only managed to see and evaluate the final six papers - they were vetted in advance. Odd then that the only reference to an "EFTA only" solution aka "EFTA + bilaterals" was made by Roger Bootle published while the IEA competition was ongoing.

For those whom wish EU exit, the IEA has serious questions to answer about the conduct of its competition and whether it invited participants to enter papers on a false premise. Thus I currently have an ongoing complaint with them requesting that they publish all of the original 17 shortlisted so we can come to our own conclusions.

I was born into the then EEC (the UK joined 18 months earlier) so I don't have direct experience of the lies that took us in - I can only observe it from a generation apart. However what is clear is that the lies continue; history is repeating itself.  For eurosceptics who genuinely want EU exit our furrow as a result is being ploughed a little lonelier.

If the IEA competition was a banana we wonder whether it would comply with Commission Regulation (EC) No 2257/94


  1. The likely reason for why the six finalists were EFTA entries is because it is in all probability the only kind of agreement the EU would accept with the UK. Let's not forget that the reason the Swiss got such a sweet deal with their bilateral agreements was because the EU was expecting a future Swiss referendum to vote 'yes'. After all, the referendum to join the EU was only lost 49.7 to 50.3. A series of bilateral deals that would not be prejudicial to the Swiss was seen as, effectively, a way to create a transition period until what was considered to be the inevitable 'yes' vote. Given the UK is likely *leaving* the EU, the EU has no incentive to offer the UK anything more than what it would get under the EFTA.


  2. Sorry, that was meant to say along the same lines as the EFTA members in the EEA.


  3. I don't see the logic here. The EFTA + bilaterals option is probably politically unattainable and, as it stands, is known to be unacceptable to the EU. None of the finalists actually acknowledge the problems with this option, even though they are recorded in published papers, and therefore do not argue their case.

    Other submissions, however, do argue the pitfalls, and make cogent arguments as to why the EFTA-only options should not be accepted. Thus, we have a situation where the judges apparently rejected those arguments and accepted an unargued case put by six of the finalists, all of whom became prize winners.

    Thus, six, identical "impossible" options were accepted in preference to other options which may or may not have been workable ... but you are never allowed to see them.

    But before you go any further, you ought to read this ...


  4. Alternatively we could just tell the EU to fuck off. Seems to work for the French...

    1. Aye, but given that the French made the thing they have an inbuilt advantage... :-)

  5. We see increasingly glaring examples of bias in all things EU - from MSM/BBC to Brexit competitions and 'polls'.
    If the evidence is as I suggest then it may be time to rethink the ACTUAL public perception of the EU in terms of in/out and start to go with our 'feelings' rather than on published (rigged?) polls on the subject.
    Worries that a referendum will be 'too close to call' may be a figment of manipulation.

  6. 'what we [, ... ,] expected was for it to be a fair competition'

    I don't normally expect such naivety here or chez Richard North!

    Still, I suppose it's the only thing that keeps us sceptics [EU, climate change, 'democracy', etc ] going - though personally I now go forward with, at best, a marked limp

    1. No, no you misunderstand...it was a cunning plan to expose another europhile think-tank disguised as a eurosceptic one :-)

  7. ...I was born into the then EEC (the UK joined 18 months earlier) so I don't have direct experience of the lies that took us in - I can only observe it from a generation apart....

    I am old enough to remember the treaty of accession. At the time there was very little actually talked about it that I can remember. The establishment view, and hence the view the BBC presented was that it was 'just a trade treaty and nothing to do with sovereignty at all'.

    Anyone who pointed out that it seemed to be more than that was occasionally reported, but studiously ignored thereafter on the grounds that this was 'not what society thought' - much the same as climate change today.

    When the vote arrived later I was old enough to take more of an interest, and the BBC had to report the positions - there were establishment figures in both the pro and anti camps.

    The Anti camp pointed out that the treaty included the words 'ever closer political union'. This seemed to be an important point to me, but the pro camp simply ignored it, and refused to address the issue. Occasionally, if a direct question was asked, it would be brushed aside with words such as "That may be what the words say, but that's not what they mean...political union is not on the cards...". This technique was similar to the technique used today to suspend our judicial freedoms - "The law may say that anyone can be imprisoned on suspicion, but it will only be used against terrorists...".

    The anti camp made a strong play of the idea that Britain would be 'Left Behind' if they refused to join. At that time Britain was still a major world power with strong Empire/Commonwealth connections , and the idea that we would be 'left behind' by France or Germany was laughable.

    In the end the people voted the way they were told to...though I still wonder about some of those ballot boxes...