Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Brexit: let's unify the moderates...before it's too late

Earlier on I spoke with Huw Edwards about the current state of our Brexit negotiations and the economic menaces posed by a no-deal scenario. Huw has a warm smile, firm handshake and good banter; exactly what you need in an impartial presenter. Somebody to make everybody feel at home, no matter your opinions. I thank him for the enjoyable interview, to which I will link below, and for having me on. 

I am currently enjoying a no doubt brief period in something resembling spotlight. I wrote for the Telegraph this week and I'll be on Channel 4 News next week in Wakefield for an hour-long debate with other Brexiteers. It'll no doubt be interesting and I look forward to exercising my intellectual muscles. I have a lot of useful information to pass on and, as a former hard Brexiteer and Vote Leave staffer who converted to adopting the Norway (soft Brexit) position, I fall into quite a niche category of Leave campaigner. 

I won't waste the opportunities I get. This Article 50 period will not last forever and the economic and political ramifications of a hard Brexit will be profound. If I am able to influence opinion in a positive and pragmatic way then this will make me extremely happy. Which brings me to the point of all this. 

What Britain needs is somebody who can rally the moderates on both sides of a stinging debate. We have been gripped by ultra-partisanship, with the political consensus swinging from the Brexit Taliban to hard Remainers who will not let go of membership of their euro-federalist wet dream. It isn't healthy for a democracy to have the middle ground chastised and sidelined in this way. Without individuals who can unify and propose solutions which will satisfy a broad strand of the public, we go nowhere. Political schisms will turn to violence, and Brexit will be a chaotic nightmare. Not at all what I envisaged it would be. 

My Brexit mission over the next year and a half is to be a middleman; somebody who can provide some sort of guidance to Leavers who are unaware of the benefits of the Single Market and who are being given an undue monopoly on Brexit discourse. I blame solely the media for this. It is a rare occasion in which a so-called 'Liberal Leaver' like myself is given any sort of time on broadcast or column inches. Which is why my recent break could be of some significance. 

Richard North, the best researcher in this game and an absolute engine over at, is not to be mentioned in the Telegraph. So too has his son Pete been removed from any sort of publicity. I mention them because I know a large number of journalists and producers read this blog. It's a shame they have been entirely omitted given how much knowledge they could pump into the Brexit bubble. The only other time I remember a soft Brexiteer being given some kind of rub was Roland Smith, who appeared on Newsnight about two weeks before the referendum to (like me) propose the Norway option. 

The mantle is left with me, and that isn't saying much. I have various limitations: I'm 21, which naturally erects credibility barriers, I have a number of gaps in my knowledge which I will need to spend time plugging and I don't have access to the kinds of funding or audience that I would like to promote my work. I have a lot to learn, both personally and politically, and this will take time. This is why I am anxious about gaining traction and therefore publicity. It can be difficult for me to deal with mentally. 

I am actively trying to be the unifier that I mentioned earlier. I want to draw debate towards a sensible compromise that can address the demands of both Leavers and Remainers during the referendum. Leaving the EU is a national effort, not the plaything of Brexiters. Especially not hard Leavers, who do not make up all of the 52% by any means. Not, of course, perfectly, but what Brexit is a perfect one? Is remaining in the European Union perfect? For some it will be, but for the democratic legitimacy of Westminster and our media it won't be. They'll never be trusted again. And we'll lose certain opt-outs, so it'll be a hard Remain, rather than the current soft one. 

I think I can use certain circumstantial advantages that I may have at my disposal to de-hollow the moderate centre ground. The debate needs wrenching from hard Leavers, who don't, on their own terms, need to see Britain leave the Single Market. We can address freedom of movement in many different ways, we've a few chestnuts at our disposal, and I will go into more detail on this in future posts. Nor is there any real national guide on whether we should leave the Single Market. The margin between voters was 1.9% last year, with many Leavers voting out as per specific issues, like control of fisheries, which EFTA EEA membership allows us to regain, and a large number of soft Brexiteers marginalised completely, made to swallow endless nonsense about leavers uniformly wanting to leave the Single Market. 

There is an appetite and an anger amongst EFTA supporters. We feel let down by journalists who've not shown us a moment's notice, and now they are left to unravel and reflect public opinion in a way that is objective. Well, if you hollow out those of us in the centre, you are of course left in a scenario of ceaseless political headbutting between opposing camps. Somebody needs to stand up and say: 'I'm a Leaver who wants the Single Market, and I believe I have a solution which will heal a fractured electorate'. There aren't many candidates for this position. But if it needs to be me, I will give it my all. 

See my BBC interview in full here, in which I become the first man in history to mention Flexcit on live television. 


  1. youre an absolute idiot you helped those conmen swindle our nation

    weve gone from a democracy to a tory dictatorship

    youre hard tory wet dream disgusts me

    i remember hearing 4 times promises leaving the eu doesnt mean leaving the single market

    you should be in prison for your deceptions not on tv

    1. If you decide to post here again, please don't be a scaredy-cat hiding behind "Anonymous", let's see who you are. Start looking at, actually read Flexcit and find out the facts. You are obviously passionate about Brexit so don't just rant, be constructive.

  2. Interesting that you mentioned Flexcit twice (I think) but Huw Edwards completely ignored it. He never asked you what Flexcit was......
    You are doing sterling work. Well done.

    1. Not quite true - the interview starts with a mention of "Flexcit and the Norway option" and Huw asks what that actually means; perfectly understandably, Oliver doesn't answer the whole question. Lesson to learn: drip feed one new idea at a time into an interview.

  3. Very good interview. I voted remain, but was not happy with the direction of travel of the EU. If I had understood the flexcit option and it was offered I would have voted for that
    If you are debating with hard Brexiteers I think you need to be prepared for some of the propaganda they are surrounding themselves with and have some snappy comebacks. Some examples of their thinking :

    1) EU will crumble because they need us more than them.
    (They won't and they don't - as Barnier said recently we either chose the Canada option or the Norway option and take the consequences . The Canada option does not help us with any of the issues when we become a third country)
    2) Trade from the rest of the world will replace that from the EU
    (One of the most resilient economic findings is the gravity equation of economics - also time-how long to negotiate new agreements )
    3) We won't practically be allowed to suspend freedom of movement
    (It is a unilateral right written into the agreement)
    4) there might be some short term pain, but we will get over it and it will be worth it
    (This isn't short term pain this is Argameddon - much of our current trade relies on us being part of the single market - if we moved to a Canada option it wouldn't be economic, even when we got all the legal and administration stuff in place)

    Good Luck !

  4. Oliver, you may be only 21, but you were superb with Huw Edwards. I watched the whole thing. I deeply respect your nervousness which you were obviously struggling with. You had all the right facts. You answered clearly. Huw Edwards was impressed and he asked kindly questions.
    Please do not be upset by the rude comment above.
    Moose is right!

  5. I voted remain and would still prefer to stay in the EU. I live in France and have a french partner. I think the vote to leave was perhaps the most disastrous thing that has happened to the UK in my lifetime. However I recognise that Britain sees itself as separate from the rest of the EU and wants some distance, especially politically.

    I would go along with the Norway option as a decent compromise between remaining and following the clean break madness proposed by many in the tory party.

    If I can support it, I'm sure other remainers would. Given the choice between that and the sort of Brexit that is envisaged by May and her band of dimwits there's no real competition.

    It's just a matter of getting over the message of the benefits of the Norway option and the risks of what the government is proposing. People don't understand exactly what the risks are and have bought in to the mantra that staying in the SM is staying in the EU by the backdoor.

    So I hope you're successful. Keep on plugging EFTA / EEA and hopefully more people will come on board.

  6. You did brilliantly for a first appearance. And I haven't heard any more experienced leavers talk as much sense. I voted leave fully expecting that a win would see a much more positive and meaningful renegotiation of our place in Europe resulting in something like EFTA/EEA. I didn't vote for hard brexit, that was never on the ballot. Keep at it, please.

  7. Saw the interview via a link from EUReferendum - very good. Like Moose above, I noticed the Flexcit mentions being ignored. Keep mentioning it :-)

  8. As a reformed former UKIPer I was heartened and impressed by your promotion of the Flexcit-Brexit and the perils of the WTO option. There are hopeful signs that your BBC appearance shows that Flexcit is gaining traction and can unite the moderates across the 48 / 52 % divide. Please keep up the good work.
    Clearly you were nervous but one thing I have found when speaking (in-semi-public) is that a slower than my usual speed of delivery gives me more time to choose my words and consequently greater confidence, and the audience gains an impression of greater authority.
    I hope that your Blog does not hinder your MSc studies.

  9. Congratulations on your interview with Hew Edwards. I share your views and was incredibly impressed with the amount of solid facts that you managed to get across. As to Flexcit, it would be useful to mention that it can be downloaded via the site and then people just might be inclined to also read Richard North's daily writeups.

    Once again, well done.


    1. Don't you just hate it when you can't correct a stupid mistype? Huw. His name is Huw. :-)))

  10. Does the truth not matter anymore? I'm currently completing an LLM in EU Law. I can tell you right now that Article 112 will never be applicable to the UK. It was inserted to protect Liechtenstein, a country with a population of less that 50,000 people. This is the exception to the rule, not the rule. The single market and the EU are both based on 4 main pillars. Free movement of people is one of them and cannot be changed. It speaks to the ignorance of the British population that they are even listening to this fella. There are even signs of delusions of grandeur in his personality thinking that the country's future rests on his shoulders. Why has he removed all his blogs about immigrations and his blogs on brexit? He didn't advocate leaving the single market because he didn't know what it was. Idiot.

    1. "Article 112 will never be applicable to the UK"

      It's a clause in a treaty for goodness sake. You do expect all EFTA/EEA members to obey treaties, don't you?
      Oh, and keep to the subject. You should try to be above personal attacks. It demeans yourself and your arguments.

    2. Anonymous writes: "I'm currently completing an LLM in EU Law. I can tell you right now that Article 112 will never be applicable to the UK. It was inserted to protect Liechtenstein, a country with a population of less that 50,000 people".

      This is not true. Liechtenstein introduced its immigration controls when the EEA Agreement came into force (1994) and has maintained them since, not invoking Art 112. As Dr Richard North has set out more than once, the Principality of Liechtenstein's immigration controls are not based on Art 112 of the 1992 Agreement but on an original agreement with all other signatories which has been renewed unilaterally by Liechtenstein every 5 years.

      Art 112 was not 'inserted to protect Liechtenstein'. It allows for unilaterally imposed controls by a member state. Iceland used it when its banking crisis risked a capital flight from the country, to impose temporary capital controls; that worked and it then lifted these.

      There are other ways than Art 112 to introduce immigration controls for non-EU EA Member states. See the papers by Lord (David) Owen and C & G Yarrow on the nature of the EEA Agreement.

    3. From the EEA Agreement;
      Article 112
      1. If serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties of a sectorial or regional nature liable to persist are arising, a Contracting Party may unilaterally take appropriate measures under the conditions and procedures laid down in Article 113.
      2. Such safeguard measures shall be restricted with regard to their scope and duration to what is strictly necessary in order to remedy the situation. Priority shall be given to such measures as will least disturb the functioning of this Agreement.
      3. The safeguard measures shall apply with regard to all Contracting Parties.

    4. Thank you for the text of Article 112 of the 1992 EEA Agreement. These words (and those of associated paragraphs) have been trawled over regularly. See various postings and monographs on Dr Richard North's website .

  11. Keep at it. You're doing great. Ignore all the rude BS that gets thrown at you. The country needs you!

  12. the promotion of Efta/EEA/A112 blah blah blah as an antidote to the "take back control" shtick leave consistently banged on about during the ref campaign is simple delusional nonsense

    and the proposition that we could seriously join an organisation which has FOM at its core, with the express wish to trigger A112 just shows the bankruptcy of the whole 40 years anti EU campaign

    and further demonstrates to the rest of the world what a laughing stock we are

    the lost of our international reputation will be the biggest legacy of Brexit

    1. I agree that we've become a laughing stock, but not because of the reason you state. It's because the Government and most politicians, with a few notable exceptions, are proving themselves to be simply not up to the job. Before the last election I mentioned Flexcit to my local Conservative MP (who voted Leave!) and when I said that the 400+ page document was the only full-blown plan illustrating our options for leaving the EU, he said (I quote) "I don't have time to read a 400+ page document, I'm putting my trust in Mrs May - she knows what she is doing" ...

    2. really, have you read our position papers - they essentially say, "we like how things work at the moment (frictionless trade etc etc) can you alter your rules to accommodate us as a third country

      the EU press are saying they look more like an application to join the EU - pathetic really

      and totally predictable with a fraudulent leave campaign based on "unicorns sunlit uplands and all the cake we could eat"

      and the real problem is no politician has the balls to come clean, they are still trying to convince a supine electorate that it is possible to draw a 4 sided triangle

      as I said we are a laughing stock

  13. Oliver: I think you did superbly. I saw how nervous you were. You took a deep breath and went for it. You can only be credited for that. Sending you moral support - Knoweuro

  14. Agree with the comment above. You did well!
    Live TV with little time to get your points across is scary. And no second chances. I think Huw Edwards, if you can believe his final comments, has some thinking to do as do many of the listeners.

    I too am horrified at the direction May and co appear to be taking the country. You mentioned economic suicide, and sadly, I agree.
    Well done again

  15. Oliver, this is another great contribution and it's fantastic to see your important insights getting the media attention they deserve. I'm more heartened by your work than anything coming from the pro-EU movement now - the same messages can only be repeated so many times and they are just not getting the traction we remainers hoped for.

    Indeed, I'm embarrassed to be on the same side of the debate as those remainers who choose you of all people to harass and blame. They display the same level of ignorance as the diehard Brexiters they so detest. I strongly support your call for moderates to come together and am very grateful to you and the Norths for leading the call.

    Alison Wakefield

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  17. Hi Oliver,
    Great interview mate and well done for the Torygraph and Graun articles. Ignore the idiot posters on both those sites (as well as here).
    Well done for mentioning and Flexcit - you seem to have got your foot in the door, keep pushing.
    DC in Devon