One thing about the coming EU referendum is certain: it will be a much fairer fight than that which occurred in 1975 when the stay-in camp had captured most leading politicians including all the party leaders, all the mainstream media and most of big business . In addition, the stay-in side then had funding which utterly dwarfed that of the get-out campaign and, not content with that advantage, used the government machine to produce its own pamphlet on the renegotiations to go alongside those of the stay-in and leave campaigns. Perhaps most damaging was a lack of preparation for the vote by those who wanted to leave the EEC.
Today we have an established mainstream party Ukip unequivocally urging a vote to leave, substantial support within both the Tory and Labour parliamentary parties, including frontbenchers and senior backbenchers. In addition voices such as Lord Bamford of JCB Ltd and business groups such as Business for Britain are raising their voice to both allay fears that the British economy would collapse in a heap if we left the EU and advertise the considerable costs, both economic and political, which membership of the EU entails. There are even signs that the unions may be turning against the EU with the leader of Britain’s largest union Unit, Len McCluskey, suggesting that Britain might have to pull out if the EU’s labour legislation is watered down as a result of Cameron’s renegotiation.
There is a further important difference between 1975 and now. In 1975 Britain had been in what was then the European Economic Community (EEC) for less than three years. There was little for voters to go on to say whether the EEC was going to be a good or bad thing. Nor was the EEC anything like as intrusive as the EU is now. Today the British people know that the EU has not turned out to be the driver of economic growth that was promised in the 1970s, but a supranational entity in which the Europhile political elites are willing to ruthlessly enforce their will to achieve their end of a United States of Europe (is the only honest interpretation of the Treaty of Rome) regardless of the effects this has on ordinary people, something of which the people of Greece are now only too savagely aware.
It is true that David Cameron is doing his best to fix the result. His government has announced that the civil service will not have to cease publicly commenting on the referendum for the last four weeks of campaigning before the referendum and the proposed referendum question –Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union? – is clearly biased because it emphasises membership as the status quo and gifts the YES vote to those who want to remain in the EU.. Perhaps most importantly, the spending rules in the referendum are slanted to favour those parties which will be likely to support a vote to stay in. But none of these disadvantages are set in stone and could be challenged as the European Referendum Bill makes its way through Parliament or by judicial review. Moreover, even if all these pro-stay-in pieces of jigger-pokery remain unchanged they will not be insuperable obstacles to a vote to leave because our circumstances are so very different from those of 1975. . There is also a possibility that Cameron will carry through his threat to insist that all those in his government must support whatever terms he decides to put to the country or resign. However, that would backfire if many did leave the government or Cameron backed down on his threat. Either way he would look weak and strengthen the impression that leading politicians increasingly want to leave the EU.
It is vital not to panic over polls which show that a majority will vote to stay in the EU. Since Britain joined the EEC the polls have regularly swung violently. The determining factor will be political leadership or perhaps more exactly what the British elite – politicians, mediafolk, businessmen, academics – say in public . The vast majority of electors do not make their decisions by careful unemotional analysis of abstruse economic data or ideological belief, but on basic emotional responses such as fear and hope. If there is support for leaving the EU, or even just an acknowledgement that leaving would not be a disaster for Britain, from a broad swathe of those with a public voice, enough of the general public are likely to be persuaded to vote to leave to win the referendum.
At the heart of the OUT campaign must be Britain’s complete inability to control her borders while we remain in the EU. Polls consistently show that immigration is one of the major concerns of the British public and, when the politically correct inspired terror of speaking honestly about race and immigration is taken into account, it is odds on that immigration is the number one issue by a wide margin. A British Future report in 2014found that 25% of those included in the research wanted not only an end to immigration but the removal of all immigrants already in the UK and a YouGov poll commissioned by Channel 5 in 2014 found that 70% of those questioned wanted an end to mass immigration. If Britain leaves the EU it will not only allow the legal control of EU migrants but also removes from British politicians any excuse for not controlling immigration generally.
Putting immigration at the heart of the OUT campaign would also have the bonus of appealing to the Scots through a subject on which they feel much the same as the rest of the UK, that is they are opposed to mass immigration. That is important because the SNP are trying to establish grounds for Scotland having a veto over the UK leaving the EU if Scotland votes to stay in the EU and either England or England, Wales and Northern Ireland vote to leave. The larger the vote to leave the EU in Scotland is, the less moral leverage they will have for either a veto over Britain leaving the EU or another independence referendum.
The other central plank to for the campaign should be the fact that it does not matter what Cameron obtains by his renegotiation, because whilst we remain within the EU any concessions given now may be reversed at a later date by the EU, most probably in cahoots with a British government consisting of Europhiles. “Legal” guarantees such as Britain’s opt-out for the Social Chapter were rapidly undermined by using EU workplace health and safety rules to impose much of the Social Chapter.
Nigel Farage does not need to be the campaign’s sole leader, but he does need to be a very prominent part of the leadership. If he does not take a lead role the OUT campaign is likely to end up in the hands of people who have bought into the politically correct view of the world. That would mean the immigration card will not be played with the vigour it demands or even played meaningfully at all.
More generally, what this campaign needs is emphatic, unambiguous and above all honest unvarnished explanation of what the EU represents, it needs Farage at the forefront of the OUT campaign to set that tone. No one else will do it.