Saturday, 9 September 2017

Brexit: finding my place

Back in July I made conscious changes to my blog which I believe have been enormously beneficial. I am not just talking about a domain switch or changes to formatting and presentation. I am referring mostly to a deliberate narrowing of the scope of my content, subtle changes to my writing style and a renewed sense of purpose and focus. I've become more combative, especially with regard to emphasising detail and exposing falsehoods. 

This blog has largely developed into a campaigning tool for a specific kind of Brexit. It reflects my ongoing growing and learning process and is a product of research and careful consideration. I realised towards the end of spring that in order to improve I would need to find something resembling a specialism to write about, even if that is difficult to do at 21 years of age. I noticed that I was spraying my opinions (often based on inadequacy) around like a sprinkler, with very little grounding in topics, and thought it best to become a sort of hose instead. Streamlined and targeted with a type of audience in mind. Otherwise, I thought, I would go on as I was, with a much smaller and more bit-part readership, that would dip in and out of what I was saying, and if then only for the sake of leisure rather than with guidance or discovery in mind. 

The difference since then has been extraordinary. And I still remain independent and unfunded. Whereas once, an average post would attract perhaps 75 unique visitors, I now expect between 600 to 800 unique readers per entry, and such instances require only a tweet and a Facebook post. Posts which garner greater interest are read by up to 5,000. But not just that. It isn't how many readers I have that interests me, it is who reads that I prefer to concentrate on. This blog has attracted praise from academics, politicians and trade experts from all over the world. As you'd imagine, I'm extremely pleased with my progress. 

Blogging is not a lost art and it certainly isn't dead. My blog stands out because I have certain circumstantial advantages which have made me surprisingly effective when trying to influence opinion. I am unique in that I am a converted soft Brexiteer who worked close to the heart of Vote Leave. This gives me a certain independence, an interesting perspective of events and, crucially, means I retain a modest link to the Westminster machine which can be useful where and when publicity is necessary. That is, after all, how our media operates. If you smell of it, they'll come swarming.  

A part of me feels a little guilty about this. Various contributions to Flexcit have been profound and worthy of widespread appraisal. Its principle architects are fantastic researchers, the best of whom has for quite some time been Richard North. Such people have received almost no publicity despite their work being the most comprehensive and useful yet produced. This speaks volumes about the priorities of our media, and indeed about the scope of content that the public are being exposed to. The best research has been ignored, whilst politicians have been briefed by substandard material and hard Brexiteers have been granted a monopoly on Leave's discourse. In kind, the mainstream media has placed too much focus on triviality, petty character assassinations and the contributions of those solely in Westminster, and not enough on the wealth of knowledge that exists outside of it. 

I am currently in discussion with producers at Channel 4 News, who have picked up on my position and are interested in including me in debating formats and on their news programme towards the end of the month. I will also, from here on out, be making a concerted effort to pitch to newspapers in an attempt to spread messaging and raise awareness to the EFTA EEA position. I recognise acutely the need to be proactive. There isn't much time left and anything that individuals, particularly those who are pragmatic and well-informed, can do to wrestle negotiations from a hapless government is advised. I can have some impact, even at a young age, and feel a certain responsibility to be as active as I possibly can be. No matter the odds. 

I don't care how many ministers rule out the Norway option. Their recurring obsession with it only indicates how resilient it is to criticism and opposition. It is the only Brexit that will not die or surrender because it is the best way of conducting our withdrawal. Michel Barnier acknowledges this, and believes that the second best option for the UK (behind remaining in the EU) would be to remain a member of the European Economic Area. There is also the question of time. The Article 50 period is quickly closing and increasingly we are pressed to begin substantive trade talks. My gut feeling is that we will reach a point at which a large number of European countries, including those within EFTA, will panic, recognising the urgent need to conclude terms of trade. 

This is perhaps where EFTA EEA will come in. I think there is more chance of the Norway option being selected as we draw closer to the end of the Article 50 period. The big bonus presented by the EFTA EEA position is that it is a ready-made package and provides Britain with the quickest and securest way out of the European Union. Far be it from being EU membership by stealth. The irony is that our current approach to talks may achieve an EU-lite position, with a succession of vague, hopeless transitional arrangements which do not see us leave in any meaningful sense. Once those alarm bells start ringing, in the autumn and winter of 2018, when no doubt insufficient progress has been made, advocates of EFTA EEA will have their moment in the sun. 

And I will be there waiting, doing my bit to help shape the path the country travels down. This isn't over until it's over and there are certain Brexiteers who can't, for the sake of sanity and our economy, be awarded victory. There is a golden opportunity for me to act as a bridge between pragmatic Leavers who appear not to be in receipt of promotion of publicity, such as those at the Leave Alliance and EFTA4UK, and audiences retained by our media. I need to seize it. 


  1. I certainly admire your dedication to address the detail of Brexit from a Leaver perspective.
    It's certainly refreshing to have a debate with a Leaver that doesn't descend into fake patriotism & optimistic assumptions on how other countries (EU & global FTA partners) react to Brexit.

    The problem with the Norway-style EEA deal of course is the reality of Norway.
    In the Flexit case the arguments flow as follows;

    1. We can have input to regulation in EFTA - I accept international standards have commonality but reality for Norway is they don't have voting rights & some key regulations are a problem even for a small country. With our industrial base this is likely to centralise business in the EU and leave us outside sphere of influence.

    2. We can have some controls on FoM - again look at Norway. It's very limited & not politically acceptable to Brexiters

    3. We must pay substantial sums - again based on Norway & this is not ever going to get past "the will of the people"

    You need to jump through all those hurdles and we can then get full access to the SM for services. This also helps trade in goods from an invoicing perspective and removes some in-market barriers. It does not remove borders for goods unfortunately.

    The problem then remains the EU Customs Union.
    In the desperation to reccommend the Norway option the CU is branded as irrelevent by Flexit but as Barnier points out - it does matter.
    Flexit point out the EU CU is inherent in EU treaties, TR is a separate inferior customs union, and actually it is a form of customs cooperation we require, but waffle on how to get around this issue.
    We want global FTAs (frankly of little benefit other than tariff reductions on specific products) but want seamless trade.
    To assess reality we need to look at Norway/Sweden or CH/DE and understand every product needs to be customs cleared.
    Mostly the Flexit emphasis is on agriculture where being in the SM is less complex once standards can be agreed.

    So basically we can't join the EEA because there are too many political hurdles & even if we could the barriers to trade in goods from being outside the EU CU are a massive economic burden.

    D Morison

  2. Hi Oliver,
    "a large number of European countries, including those within EFTA, will panic".

    Why should they panic just because the UK cannot make any deal by March 2019? I don't think you really understand how the european mentality works. Sacrifices - when they are perceived as needed - are seen as a means to an end instead of a punctual problem.

    European mentality can be very different to UK one in certain points. For example: I pointed out to you in my previous comment this tendency UK citizens have to blame someone else to avoid recognising your part of responsibility on something that you were part of. You see it as being clever but this tendency is perceived in Europe as a serious flaw and it generates distrust and makes the one doing it to be perceived as manipulative, selfish, irresponsible and mean.

    Opening your eyes to how Europe sees sacrifice will help you understand what's more or less probable to happen here. As a european I tell you that I would let UK to go down the cliff edge in March 2019 without even blinking if you don't change the current attitude on the negotiation. I would see the sacrifices needed to compensate the loss of UK as part of Europe as something worth it, as we would avoid a bigger problem by doing so.

    Your post shows the need that the EU finally decides not to let you down as a country and that's totally understandable but they are trying to do that now. That's why the negotiations are about really but if UK doesn't change the approach by March 2019 they will see you as a 'lost case'.

    In fact a recent poll in France shows that most people wants the UK to be outside of the EU by now. People is getting tired of this circus. And being honest, if it wouldn't be because every day one of the clowns does something that I personally find hilarious I probably would have stopped following it.

    At a personal level I think what you're doing has its merit and I encourage you to continue, I believe you personally will grow as a person/professional through this. It could even be that you help your country to find the right path, why not?

    I'm with you that EFTA is probably the best option for the UK at the moment because the clock is ticking and these clowns are just time wasters but also because Cameron, the Leave campaign and Farage altogether did no efforts whatsoever to have a plan before the referendum so you need something out-of-the-shelf that would allow you to recover stability, plan the next step forwards and shape your final alternative.

    The issue you'll face to convince Leave voters is that EFTA comes with freedom of movement at the moment ...but the UK could try to convince the other EFTA countries to reject it. Who knows what can happen.

    Continue with your efforts and do not surrender, don't give much important to what others (included myself) will say because everyone has an opinion so they are worth the same as yours but if you want to pick up an advice from me just pick up this: try to enjoy the circus every now and then, it will release tensions ...and it really has some unmissable moments.