Changing opinions

In the comments section to a post by Autonomous Mind entitled “Snatching defeat from the jaws of a straightforward victory” – and in which he links to this post by Richard North, EUReferendum – one commenter writes:

“Personally, I don’t understand the levels of antipathy directed at UKIP on this blog, EU Referendum, boling [sic] frog, witterings from witney etc. EU Referendum seems to only want to leave the EU if some sort of perfect re-casting of our political and governmental system is enacted.”

When considering the current discussion about changing our relationship with the European Union – and I refer to Cameron’s wish to ‘renegotiate’ our terms of membership, coupled with the vacuous wordage that has poured forth from various people, such as Open Europe, it becomes obvious that very few brain cells, if any, have been used either collectively or individually. There are two sides to the discussion that is being held and they are, in effect, two sides of the same coin – namely the head: “exit” and the tail: “thereafter”.

The condemnation of antipathy directed at the four bloggers mentioned is, I would suggest, misplaced as their writing is but illustrating a deficit in all the discussion that is taking place in the media by journalists, business leaders and the political class. As the europhiles can be accused of relying on the “fear, uncertainty, doubt” meme – or Euro-FUD, a term bestowed by Richard North – should the UK exit the EU, thus misrepresenting and misleading the British public; so can the same accusation of misrepresenting and misleading be laid at the door of some in the Eurosceptic movement for not discussing that which they should – they need not be named as they know who they are.

On the subject of renegotiation, as has been shown here, what is it that Cameron thinks has changed, whereby he can break up the Acquis and cherry pick those pieces that he wants back? Those that seem to believe, as apparently does Tim Congdon, we can leave the EU and then negotiate a free trade agreement need, with the utmost respect, their heads examined.

Reverting to the fear factor, there are those that prophesy doom, that the sky will fall in, should we leave the EU. Once again as shown here unless there is the recasting so decried by that commentor, the sky may well fall in – at least the bits of metal flying around in the sky, that is. There really is no point in leaving one home for another unless you can be satisfied that the new home has been well constructed and has all the facilities that are needed – plus having a route-map of how to get there.

On that last point, namely a route-map, if Cameron is serious about wanting to redefine the UK’s relationship with the EU and bearing in mind any break-up of the Acquis is impossible, then there is only one course of action he can take – and that is to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and negotiate entry into EFTA/EEA.

Membership of EFTA then leads Europhiles to bleat about “fax democracy”, an argument which should be dead and buried after the Open Europe debacle. Unfortunately it is still being repeated and the latest example comes from one who is described asScotland’s most distinguished political commentator:

“The PM says he wants to remain in the single market but leave the EU increasingly behind, and this is a perfectly possible objective if he wants the UK to join Norway in the European Economic Area. Norway is in the single market but out of the EU,  But this means it is subject to the rules and regulations of the single market without having any say in shaping them.”

Perhaps when our MPs have procured their Idiots Guide to the EU, they could send one to Scotland’s distinguished political commentator.

Left to their own devices, if and when a referendum on EU membership does appear it is becoming obvious that which ever side wins will have done so by default, while utilising the black arts of censorship and propaganda. It beggars belief that both Europhiles and Eurosceptics treat this subject, one which will have the most profound effect on the future of this country, with such gay abandon. That the debate also appears to be being held among themselves, one could possibly add the words “and incestuous” twixt “gay” and “abandon”.

To turn to the “tail” side of the problem, the “thereafter”, this period of the operation must not only deal with resolving which laws we wish to retain and which we wish to reject; negotiating further trade agreements, etc, etc; it also needs to include a realignment of our own democracy, involving this idea, with a view to ensuring that never again can our political class – or anyone else – lead us down the road to hell.


14 Responses

  1. kenomeat says:

    Perhaps there is much to be said for keeping the message simple. I watched QT again today to more closely analyse Farage’s performance and I think his statement “we don’t have to be part of the political union to trade with the EU” is simple, effective and memorable. Add to that “we cannot control immigration whilst we are members of the EU” and we have the mantra for the referendum campaign. Simple, and cannot be refuted by the europhiles.

    • david says:

      Maybe there is, however you have to explain to people all the ramifications from both sides. How else can they be expected to make an informed opinion.

      If you are denying that simple courtesy then are you not also guilty of practising black arts?

      For Farage to glibly state that which he did, whilst true, is but to lay him also open to that charge.

      Tim Congdon has today written that we leave and then we negotiate a free trade agreement. That is a recipe for disaster – what is it that you do not understand in what Richard North has written?

      You are content with a campaign containing misinformation and/or lack of information from both sides?


      • kenomeat says:

        Thank you for replying David. The reason I was suggesting keeping the message simple was because we live in an era of sound-bites and Sun headlines. Remember the pasty tax. People cling on to simple slogans and will base their vote accordingly. For every thoughtful blogger and commenter engaged on sites like yours there are a hundred Sun-readers who will base their referendum vote on a very simple message.
        The ramifications of leaving the EU can be explained to the 5% who bother to watch any debates about the EU (so long as X Factor isn’t on the other side).
        If I insult my fellow citizens look at the evidence – Miliband ahead in the polls!
        As for not understanding Richard’s writings, I fully understand them (I’m not an imbecile). But, much as I have always respected Richard’s views (having read two of his books and followed his blog for years), I don’t see why I have to slavishly agree with everything he writes.

        • david says:

          And the fact that those people that read the Sun cling to simple slogans is why they need a proper education. The last thing we remember is the last thing we hear – I forget who said that, but it is true. And in the hands of such ill-informed lies a vote?

          Of course you have your own mind and opinions – that is accepted, however and with no offence, where lies the greater logic?

          • kenomeat says:

            They may need a proper education but they also need to be willing to learn. Most of them couldn’t be bothered with politics and will only vote in a referendum because they’re told it’s “historic” this time.

  2. Sean O'Hare says:

    It is true that apart from Roger Helmer no UKIP spokesman has actually referred to Article 50 as being part of the mechanism of UK exit. On the other hand I haven’t heard Farage or any other UKIP spokesman rule it out. UKIP have mentioned repeal of ECA 1972, but surely once we are out it would be wrong to leave it on the statute book. More people are aware of the existence of the running sore called ECA 1972 and its demise therefore more attractive to a Eurosceptic public.

    In the BOO article to which you refer Tim Congdon says:

    “Once we are outside we can negotiate a free trade agreement with the EU, as have several other countries.”

    This might be putting the chicken before the egg, but the two (Article 50 v repeal ECA) are not incompatible. Also as has been suggested by one of your quartet, (not sure which), once Article 50 has been invoked we could stop paying membership fees etc., as by the time they get around to imposing fines we will long gone. If that is true then we are effectively out immediately Article 50 has been invoked and Art 50 and repeal of ECA 1972 could happen more or less simultaneously.

  3. david says:

    It is the fact that Farage has ot mentioned Article 50 that bothers me – his meme of repeal ECA 1972 then negotiate an FTA (repeated by Congdon) is pure rubbish.

    Repeal of ECA1972 may well be popular, but how many know that EU law reigns over national law, even national constitutional law?

    Agreed Article 50 and repeal of ECA1972 are compatible but they have to be done in the right order. Digressing, it was The Boiling Frog if I recall correctly to whom you refer.

    The matters that RN has mentioned are vitally important, are daunting but have to be faced. It is not as simple as Farage and Congdon would have us believe.

    They both do us and themselves a disservice by presenting such a simplistic message – and demonstrate their ignorance. Whether intentionally or not is anyone’s guess.

  4. Flyinthesky says:

    While I can’t contest anything you’ve said, what I can say and I would stake my life on is if the populace were presented with 25% of aforsaid ramifications it will become and remain, ad infinitum, dead in the water.
    Impetus, time limited and one time offer, once it’s gone it’s gone, Lost time is never found again.
    Notwithstanding, it’s approval and general exictement of the potential of press regulation, by the time you have formulated your case it may well be ileagal to present it.
    Further, at every instance you present you will be outmanouvered.
    We have arrived at this position by being constantly mindful of the thinkers position, it’s time to let the doers have a go.
    Every giant leap forward by mankind has been achieved by doers never by worriers.

  5. Robin says:

    In Re WfW /Kenomeat .
    Why should EUrosceptics give the whole picture of the EU ? Its up to the EUrophile to show their side of the argument .

    If someone wants to leave the EU for reasons which you think are erroneous why disabue him/her of their viewpoint ?

  6. CredibleMan says:

    I posted the comment on Autonomous Minds that seems to have sparked this post.

    I feel that as I’m quoted here, I need to make a full response.
    Firstly, speaking purely for myself, a lot of thought went into the comment I posted, so I refute the suggestion that no brain cells were used. I obviously don’t agree with the approach being promoted by WfW, AM, Richard North et al to secure our exit from the EU – that doesn’t make me stupid, nor does it mean my opinion has no value. I am 100% in accord on the necessity of achieving an exit, but my opinions are founded in pragmatism, and also a strong understanding of the process of persuading people, which it seems to me the authors of these blogs lack.

    I run a business that sells a technically complex software product, a product that my company developed (my formal education is in software engineering), to a technically illiterate marketplace. This has to my mind huge parallels with the problem we have here. The greater majority of the voting population of this country have no interest in, and perhaps either don’t have the intellectual capabilities to understand the finer points of the position taken by blogs such as this one, or the time to research the subject in detail. This is not to denigrate my fellow citizen – to me it’s preposterous to suggest that UKIP or anybody else should present their campaign messages in such detailed, complex terms as these blogs do. And my rejection of the “explain everything” approach is based upon years of experience of presenting technical complexity to people whose skills lie elsewhere and who are only interested in the outcome of adopting our software.

    When I engage with a potential client, I do not describe the purpose of every line of code our team of engineers have developed, I describe the benefit of a particular feature implemented by that code. All cub sales people are taught to differentiate between features and benefits. The example I often quote when teaching our sales staff is a feature is something like “this fleece is made from Polartec 300” – which unless you know what Polartec 300 is, you won’t know what this means for you and will probably pass over this informational snippet without it penetrating your consciousness. If instead you say “this fleece keeps you warm on the coldest of winter days” everybody gets it. And most people will be satisfied by this.

    For those who want you to substantiate this claim, you then point out the feature that gives the benefit, and can wax lyrical on the benefits of Polartec fabrics.

    What AM, WfW, EU Referendum, TBF etc. are doing is building a huge, impenetrable list of features and completely missing the point that if UKIP tried to sell the features list to the public, they would fail spectacularly. The fact that UKIP have gained popularity, and that the authors of these blogs haven’t is because they understand better how to present their case to the populace – they sell the benefits. The astute amongst you will realise that what I’m describing is in effect what in political jargon is referred to as sound bites. The humble sound bite is widely ridiculed, but it is a very effective communication strategy for a time poor society. And anybody who ridicules sound bites does not understand current communication strategy.

    Although I’m only guessing as I’m not a party member (though I’m meeting Roger Helmer on Friday and will ask him directly), I assume that UKIP’s strategy is to get the issue into mainstream debate first, and then when discussion and dialog on the issue becomes more fluent, to then step in with the more substantive statements to flesh out the detail.

    I would also like to add that to me, it seems logical that the community of sceptics band together and pool ideas. The deep thought and intellectual rigour that WfW, AM, Richard North etc. bring to the table has huge value, and I’m sure that rather than constantly griping about UKIP, if attempts were made to build bridges and communicate without handbags at dawn, then we’d all be closer to our goal. I appreciate that AM is certain that Mr. Farage won’t speak to him. As far as I know, AM has not pulled any punches in expressing his opinion of Mr. Farage (and Roger Helmer), and consequently, Mr. Farage is unlikely to be receptive to the idea. Neither would I in the same circumstances. Again, AM seems to demonstrate a lack of understanding of human nature.

    I realise I’m probably wasting my time, but given that UKIP is experiencing a surge in popularity (i.e. to them, what they are doing is working), to get a dissenting voice heard by them is going to take some tact and diplomacy – but I do REALLY think it worthwhile that ALL sceptics pull together.

    As my wife is fond of saying, being right isn’t always enough. To make a bigger impact, the bloggers need to figure out that they need to change the opinions of human beings, they need to “engage” with them – and your collective approach is not engaging at all, either with the public, or UKIP (the public face of the out campaign). Richard North claims that the actions of UKIP could lead to an “in” outcome. You all need to consider that your actions, by muddying the waters and being too high brow to engage with UKIP could well achieve the same thing.

    Cue the flame war………

    • david says:


      First, no one is saying you are stupid or that you have no right to the opinion you hold. Second, the comment about not using brain cells was not directed at, nor intended to include, you. Having got that out of the way…..

      No-one is asking Ukip to present their arguments in the detail that the blogs you mention enter into. All we ask is that they do so in a logical and truthful manner. For example, until a few days ago the Ukip message was: repeal ECA1972 and then negotiate a free trade agreement. This was folly and was totally unworkable. Only yesterday did Farage mention that the only way to get a new agreement, an FTA, was by use of Article 50.

      Anyone can state that the europhile’s argument is based on fear, uncertainty and doubt and that it is wrong. What we try to do, for those interested, is to show why the europhiles are wrong – as for example was done about the government by fax meme.

      It is not surprising that the public are unaware of matters EU when the political class won’t talk about it, or the ramifications of being ‘In’. It is the presentation of the idea that to be in the Single Market can only be accomplished by also being a full member that is disingenuous and is in fact lying to the public. Now I can say that, but I feel it is important, in refuting an opponent’s argument, to do so while showing why that opponent is wrong by presenting evidence. Whether people wish to read it is up to them, but it is there if they do.

      I have complained many times previously about the failure of the eurosceptic movement to ‘band together’ and pool resources – unfortunately it appears there are too many egos involved. Cue peals of laughter…….

      Your point about sound bites is well made and accepted – as long as they are founded on fact. Farage wants a free and fair referendum – and so do I. How can the people form an opinion on something that at present they know little about unless – as those two women on QT said – they are educated and the public are not being educated by those who should know better lying to them, as again Cameron did in his speech on the status of Norway and other matters.

      A free and fair referendum would be one in which financial expenditure is capped, where each side presents its case honestly and truthfully, where the EU – and the US – keeps its nose and money out.

      In conclusion, I accept the points you make, but would suggest that we both may be right?

      • CredibleMan says:

        Thank you for your reasoned and balanced response. Thank you also for the clarification that the brain cell comment wasn’t directed at me.

        I am glad my comments about sound bites was accepted and I do agree with you entirely that at all times when engaging with any audience it is essential to be honest, factual and credible.

        Mr. Farage, in his exuberancce, isn’t always credible – though he is in many ways a good communicator. That said, I was interested to see that the UKIP PR machine was well prepared for yesterday, including a longish document they disseminated in a number of ways including Facebook.

        I am happy to conclude we’re both right.

        Thank you again

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