UK and the EU? Facts, unity, courage will get us out

If we get a referendum on staying or leaving the EU in 2017, the better off out side will win, if the facts and the arguments get across. The UK Europhiles' case betrays weakness and fear, and they know it

Cameron and Juncker seem to get on well enough...
Tim Hedges
On 13 August 2014 15:00

No referendum for nearly 40 years then two come along all at once. Aside from the fact that I’m a little bored by the Scottish one, the result seems increasingly certain and I think we should be turning our attention to the next: in 2017 (assuming Mr Cameron wins in 2015), on whether we should remain members of the European Union.

My views have been fixed for over twenty years: I am certain we should be better off democratically and financially if we left.

This is constitutionally even more important than whether Scotland remains in the UK, and certainly more relevant because the 55 million or so English, Welsh and Northern Irish will get a vote this time.

Opinion polls show the nation undecided but I am convinced that the vote to leave could quite easily win, provided we can get enough information across to calm people’s nerves about doing something new. This is the main reason Salmond will lose in Scotland: ‘Keep a’hold the hand of nurse for fear of finding something worse.’

It is time to decide how we go about this.

There will be bickering beforehand as we all discuss what we should like to change. For me this is long: the Agricultural and Fisheries Policies, I don’t want an army or common foreign policy, the single market doesn’t need tinkering with, it needs to turn into a free market. And I don’t want the vast set of job reducing regulations of the acquis communautaire.

Mr Cameron has been good at fending us off here. He has said he will negotiate without preconditions and that sounds reasonable until you think about it. I have plenty of red lines and so should he.

And Cameron has almost shut down discussion of the Single Market, as if it were a wholly good thing and just needs minor improvement. Information needs to be put in the public domain now to show the people we could live better without the stultifying regulation, and to challenge the nonsense that millions of jobs would be lost if we left.

But that is beforehand. The position we shall be in when the referendum comes, if it does, is that Mr Cameron will have held lengthy meetings with his counterparts in the EU and will eventually write his own report card. Of course he won’t achieve anything substantial and of course he will propose staying in – he is a pro-European.

You can imagine it: ‘After lengthy negotiations with our European counterparts we have managed to secure for the British people an opt-out from the Length of Courgettes Directive 1975 and I do think this is a good moment to say to the British people, ‘Let us say yes to British Independence, to a future with longer green vegetables..’

We then have to start the fight; and we must be ready.

I remember even in the 1992 General Election, when the Eurosceptic vote was in the low thousands nationally, it was still split. At least three of my fellow candidates in Bristol West were anti-EU. For the next election we had the Referendum Party. Now UKIP is the leading advocate of getting out, but it carries a certain amount of baggage, particularly on immigration, which puts some people off.

There are disaffected Tories, some of whom voted for Maastricht and Lisbon, but who would vote to leave now. There are Labour MPs who would leave. There are influential figures such as Boris Johnson and Daniel Hannan MEP.

There are journalists and newspaper proprietors; there are think tanks and formidable pressure groups such as ‘Get Britain Out’.

We must harness the pulling power of the Tory Right, the Old Labour Left, Nigel Farage, the economists and political pundits, Rupert Murdoch and Viscount Rothermere. We need to find a way to focus all these players, with their nuanced views, into a single issue force: ‘Out!’.

Let us take a lesson from Europe itself and organise a single overarching entity, not to replace the power of the constituent parts but to disseminate their information, to direct their energy to where it is needed and to give them feedback on polling and focus groups.

There should be a couple of spokesmen the media can refer to, who will give the general ‘Out’ view, as well as the Farages and Redwoods of this world who can talk their own corner but who may not be for everyone.

But more than anything it will be about information, about rebuttal of the Heseltines and Clarkes with facts.

If we are fragmented, we shall lose, be in no doubt. The unified campaign should start now.

Tim Hedges, The Commentator's Italy Correspondent, had a career in corporate finance before moving to Rome where he works as a freelance writer, novelist, and farmer. You can read more of his articles about Italy here

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