LeaveHQ, 07/05/2017  

Sometimes you just have to go back to basics. We want to leave the European Union. We want the United Kingdom as an entirely self-governing, self-confident, free trading nation state.

It is the view of  leavers that Brexit could unleash the potential of the UK by way of being free of certain restraints imposed upon us by the EU. We take the view that the frameworks and parameters imposed upon us are often unnecessary, counter-productive and ultimately corrosive to public life. We seek to correct that.

For whatever reason, Britain has been unable to secure adequate flexibility from the EU and it is the near uniform view of eurosceptics that the fault lies in the constitution of the EU which is unlikely to ever be reformed. To do so would require substantial modifications to the founding treaties thus changing the nature of the European Union as an institution.

For the moment it would appear that there is no real desire on the continent to commit to such an undertaking therefore Britain must transform its relationship with the EU by the only real means possible. Departure.

For reasons that we could debate into the small hours, the UK has a different mentality to that of the continent. Perhaps that is something that comes with being an island. Perhaps that is to do with a long standing tradition of independence. Britain has influenced the world and still feels able to continue in that tradition.

It is, however, a grave mistake to assume that our departure from the EU does not come with certain political and moral obligations. Further still there is nothing to be gained by needlessly antagonising our European allies. An orderly and amicable exit is in the best interests of further relations.

If anything, the purpose of Brexit is to restore the right to choose our own path and our own allies in common endeavours. Membership of the EU is not always compatible with our national objectives and the inability to act in the direct national interest is intolerable. It should be noted, however, that it is in the national interest to ensure we have a close relationship with the EU based on cooperation and friendship. The ability to choose a different path does not rule out cooperation with the EU.

It is a matter of concern, therefore, that this government is already ramping up unhelpful rhetoric. In these such negotiations it is essential that we not lose sight of the broader objectives. There are some principles where we must make a stand, but on matters such as the financial settlement, though we should apply robust scrutiny to any demands, we should not let disagreement endanger the process.

Though the departure of the UK leaves the EU without a substantial contributor, we must still recognise that an union of twenty seven nations is still a power to be reckoned with and one which hold significant leverage. They have an agreed set of rules which we had some influence in the creation of, and we cannot expect or demand any special treatment. We have known from the outset what it means to be a third country and that is where we have chosen to be of our own volition.

What we would seek to achieve is a more commercially minded relationship allowing for the maximum level of economic integration and free trade as we can obtain without giving up overall control. That much should not be controversial or indeed impossible. What makes that less likely though is to quibble over minutia and create roadblocks over legacy issues.

In this we should not lose sight of the fact that we will be calling upon the EU to assist us in the transition. We would hope for a good deal of understanding while we prepare our own mechanisms of government and devise our own means of administration. It is in our best interests to ensure to continuity of the EU and its shared endeavours, not least because we will seek to participate in many of them as a partner in the future.

Since, were we to remain in the EU, we would be making considerable contributions to the EU budget, there is no real urgency in ending payments to the EU and contrary to the sloganeering of the Vote Leave campaign the matter of contributions was never the central issue for leavers. If the financial settlement requires that we make concessions then in the broader scheme of things it is better that we take the high road.

In this it is essential that the government reacts only to that which is said in an official capacity rather than innuendo and the fabrications of our print media. The mischief making of the Telegraph and the Financial Times has the potential to turn the public mood sour. The government would be well advised not to walk into these such ambushes.

We would also note that there is no time to be distracted by pointless bickering. The first order of business after the election should be to secure an extension to the talks. If it is still the view of the government that a complete settlement is achievable in two years then we can only conclude that it has not fully understood the size and scope of this undertaking. It risks a calamitous collapse or a complete surrender of leverage when time runs short.

It is presently a cause for alarm that this government believes that walking away is an option. It is impossible to overstate just how damaging an acrimonious split would be for both parties. As a negotiating ploy, such brinkmanship is irresponsible. More to the point it is simply not credible.

What we need to see from this government is is a recognition of the gravity of these talks. Thus far the cavalier attitude of Brexit ministers does not inspire confidence. They are playing fast and lose with the livelihoods of millions and putting all of our European trade at risk. The blithe assertion that we can function on WTO rules is in defiance of every learned opinion in the field.

There are times when experts can be disregarded. On the matter of who governs us, that is a something only the voters can decide. On matters of law and treaty though, the opinions of long retired party grandees and partisan think tanks cannot take precedence. There is no serious analysis that believes WTO rules alone are sufficient to even secure basic continuity of trade.

The Leave Alliance believes that the UK can do a great deal to enhance its trade with the rest of the world, but this should augment, not substitute EU trade. Though there is enormous potential to kick start global trade through multilateralism, for the interim, there is nothing that can replace the trade we stand to lose if these talks are mishandled. Further to this, soured relations with the EU would undoubtedly make our post-EU life far more difficult than it need be. It is difficult to see how we can entice other partners to enter agreements with us if we fail to honour our obligations.

Finally it should be noted that the government does not have a mandate for a more extreme Brexit. The support it presently enjoys is down to a collapse of coherent opposition. If for no other reason than enlightened self-preservation this government should be mindful that its political fortunes can very rapidly change if it fails to deliver a workable agreement. The referendum has thus far obliterated Labour and Ukip. The Conservative Party is not immune in these turbulent times. Since this government is evidently playing for party advantage over the good of the country, they would do well to think beyond the election in June.

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