18 May 2015

Nine ways for Eurosceptics to win the referendum


  1. Be optimistic

Alex Salmond proved it in Scotland: cheerfulness pays. During the independence referendum campaign, he halved a 20-point deficit. (When it comes to the EU poll, the two sides are starting much closer to level pegging: this poll is eminently winnable.) Apparently, SNP leaders were taught to be sanguine by an American political strategist who, in an exercise, handed out bags of pennies and made them put one on the table every time they said something negative. That strategist was (for once the expression seems apt) worth every penny. Against the scare-mongering of the “No” campaign, Salmond’s optimism blazed like a supernova, and many voters were won over. So, my fellow Eurosceptics, don’t whine about being overrun by foreigners, or about the referendum being rigged, or about media bias. Talk, rather, about how Britain can thrive as a merchant and maritime power, playing its full part in world affairs while living under its own laws.

  1. Be cross-party

Broadcasters, in particular, love to frame the EU debate as some kind of internal Tory row. But that will be impossible in a national campaign. Representative government isn’t a Left- or Right-wing concept, for Heaven’s sake. Wanting to end the supremacy of EU law isn’t a “nationalist” position; it’s a democratic position. This campaign will be won, not by Tory backbenchers, nor by Ukippers, but by a broad alliance, in which the democratic Left will be well represented, and in which Eurosceptic business leaders will be prominent.

  1. Be positive

Don’t just bang on about Brussels scams and nuisances. I know there are plenty of them: the fraud, the waste, the over-regulation, the quashing of referendums, the fisheries disaster, the euro. But even when people agree individually with the points you’re making, they’re put off by a gloomy tone. Instead of moaning about what’s going wrong, talk about what will go right. Britain is a great country: the sixth economic power in the world and the fourth military power, a member of the G7 and the UN Security Council, home of the world’s chief city and foremost language. We can flourish as an independent nation, trading with our allies in Europe and also with older friends on more distant continents.

  1. Be business-friendly

Supporters of membership are floating the idea that withdrawal from the EU’s political structures implies withdrawal from the European market. This is piffle, and they know it, but one or two journalists, whether from partiality or credulousness, are running with the notion. In truth, every neighbouring state enjoys unrestricted trade with the EU: Iceland, Switzerland, Andorra, Macedonia, Turkey, the lot. Everyone in Brussels knows that Britain would remain in the common market, just as, say, the Channel Islands do today. Guy Verhofstadt made a speech last week in which he specifically proposed a category of “associate membership” open to the UK and any others who wanted it, based on full participation in the internal market without political union. Businesses would be able to trade with the EU on the same terms as now, but with lower regulatory costs. It suits Swiss firms; it would suit ours, too.

  1. Be practical

The EU pushes up our fuel bills (through directives on renewable energy) our food bills (through the Common Agricultural Policy) and our taxes (through the quadrupling of Britain’s net budget contribution since 2009). These are, for many people, the main components of a household budget. Why get into abstract discussions about sovereignty when there are such strong day-to-day arguments against membership? Your recycling is no longer collected on a weekly basis? That’s the EU’s Landfill Directive. The hassle of opening a bank account, with all your old utilities bills? That’s the Money Laundering Directive. The cost of a Home Information Pack? That’s the… oh, you get the picture.

  1. Be internationalist

Our future outside the EU is not as a nostalgic or parochial country. We are a global nation, connected by language and law to every continent and archipelago. Our objection to the EU is precisely that it is too self-regarding, too uninterested in the rest of the world. Brussels has suspended its free-trade talks with India, but the EFTA countries are pushing ahead. Brussels is conducting no trade negotiations with China, but Iceland and Switzerland have just signed FTAs with that country. As the share of our exports taken by the EU falls, the costs of being bound by a common external tariff and trade policy rise.

  1. Be modern

Of all the bizarre accusations thrown at Eurosceptics, the oddest is that we “want to live in the 1950s”. In truth, it’s the EU that is a product of that decade, and it’s showing its age. The rest of the world has moved on, but Eurocrats remain tied to their corporatism, their belief in big blocs, their price-fixing, their protectionism against Google and Uber and Apple. Britain can do better. We are a restless, bold, inventive people. Why remain in the world’s only stagnant customs union?

  1. Be inclusive

Don’t get trapped into talking about the supposed Eurosceptic core issues. Lots of trade unionists dislike the EU because of the immiseration of southern Europe. Lots of democratic socialists, echoing Tony Benn, shudder at the elitist and autocratic nature of the Brussels institutions. Lots of Britons from Commonwealth backgrounds resent – and are right to resent – the way that they have difficulty bringing auntie over for a wedding when we have open borders for EU nationals with no connection to the UK. A fairer deal for the Commonwealth is one of the great prizes of a post-EU future, and we should take every opportunity to say so.

  1. Be cheerful

All right, this is a repeat of 1. But I’m going to say it again anyway because it’s so bloody important. You can’t sound cheerful when you’re talking about Romanians undercutting wages or about health tourism. So don’t. Talk about the better future that awaits us as an independent people, fulfilling our global vocation. We can win this.

Daniel Hannan is a Conservative Member of the European Parliament and blogs at www.hannan.co.uk.