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 eureferendum.com, 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.