We are in serious danger of losing this referendum. Leave campaigners are treating it as an opportunity to have an all out whinge about every obscure little thing they hate about the EU. Just watch over the coming days what they say about the EU in the wake of the Dutch referendum. Everything from the EU being a corrupt dictatorship that ignores democracy (much like our own government) and that the EU provoked Russia into invading Crimea. On that latter score, there is a contentious debate for historians, but it's just not relevant to winning the referendum.
Swing voters who don't hate the EU and only mildly dislike it could be persuaded to dislike it more, but they are still not going to hate the EU as much as they do Ukip and the eurosceptic headbangers. Certainly you wouldn't make an adult choice on the basis of their witless and often comedic gruntings. Empty insistences that "of cooouurse they'll want to trade with us!" are not really going to convince key opinion formers. Nor will this "they need us more than we need them" nonsense.
You have to look in the trade journals to see what the bosses are saying. Patrick Cairns, CEO of the UK arm of Netherlands-based Wessanen, a multinational food company, is rather less sanguine. "As a business, we have a preference for certainty, and as a large proportion of our sales are exported to Europe we would rather the terms of trade were as simple and unencumbered as possible. A Brexit is not going to be helpful in either of these regards. What the impact of such a move would be and how this would affect our business and the investment decisions that we make would very much depend on the new terms agreed with the rest of Europe."
That is the expression of considered concern - not a rabid europhile. Not every businessman who speaks out is a corporate shill. He at least recognises that the how matters more than the why. And he's an opinion former. What is the Leave side saying to reassure him? Nothing.
We have Dominic Cummings insisting on repealing the European Communities Act, which doesn't compel the EU to enter talks with us, relying on the vagaries of WTO rules to replace the single market. Such a simplistic approach is instantly suspicious. And while Boris Johnson is liked by the bloke in the pub, influencers like Patrick Cairns will have noticed the Canada approach being comprehensively demolished by a still credible prime minister.
Eurosceptics lack the perceptive abilities to notice when they are being trounced. The Institute for Fiscal Studies, a prestigious think tank, has demolished Vote Leave's assertion that we will save £350m a week, and rather than eurosceptics realising have picked a bad line of attack, they defend a failing argument out of some misplaced sense of unity. Our side is in serious trouble.
Up to now, The Leave Alliance blog team has been busy promoting our exit strategy and we've had one or two victories. We certainly do shape the debate on Twitter, but we are out on our own, persistently undermined by the damaging arguments of Vote Leave. In this we have been targeting journalists who do their best to try and ignore us, but they do know who we are and what we are pushing.
The objection from our own side is that they see an EEA solution as unconscionable due to the temporary concession on freedom of movement. This overlooks the fact that the UK added to Efta forms the fourth largest bloc in the world. More than enough clout to renegotiate the EEA agreement at a later date. What matters in order to win is to assure continuity of trade, otherwise forget it.
In this, I think we have pushed it as far as we can. We are only reaching a very narrow audience of twenty thousand people. Vote Leave and Leave.EU may be speaking to a great many more but they are not transmitting anything worth hearing. They are not promoting an incentive nor are they pushing a plan. They are simply adding to the white noise by whingeing about the EU. They have no grounding philosophy and assume the vote can be won with the promise of a few extra quid and a somewhat condescending line that we can build more hospitals if we leave. It's no good.
What we really need to be doing is targeting the mid level opinion formers by addressing those who write for trade magazines from manufacturing to shipping and food production - even mid size aerospace and engineering firms. We need to be having direct conversations with bosses, not hacks. We need to show them that Brexit is safe, their business isn't affected and there is a realistic incentive. Painting some pie in the sky populist utopia won't wash with people who are mainly concerned with the next quarter balance sheet.
In this, we need as many people as possible promoting the plan, delivering it via tweet or email. I'd say we have about twenty reliable tweeters and fifteen bloggers. That's enough to make a dent but we need more. If you want to win, promoting the plan must come first.
In that regard I am trying an experiment with promoted tweets. It's very expensive and I'm not even sure how effective it is, but there's only one way to find out. That's why we are raising funds as you can see on the sidebar. If you can donate, please do.
You will notice the Remain camp never attacks the Leave Alliance. To attack us and the Flexcit plan would be to acknowledge we exist. If they did that they would have to address the arguments, and they know if they pick a fight with us they will lose. That's why we need you to get active and get involved. It's the only way. We cannot rely on Vote Leave and nobody else is going to do us any favours. If you are reading this, you are the resistance.