Thursday, 8 September 2016

The Last Straw

This is not an easy blog post to write – but it has been coming for a while.

First, a bit of background. If you've read my blogs, you'll know I have advocated the EFTA EEA option as an interim step for Brexit - based on the the ideas in Flexcit / The Market Solution, written by Dr Richard North, whose EU Referendum blog is frequently referenced in my own posts.

I was something of a latecomer to the EU debate. I first started searching for information beyond mainstream media in early 2015. Following the General election of 2015 and the prospect of an EU referendum, I accelerated my search. I went through as much pro and anti EU info as I could find : think-tanks ; books; various blogs etc – I tried to make sense of the competing arguments and visions.

After many months, I came back to EU Referendum blog and Flexcit and the penny dropped on what they were saying. I'd also read “The Great Deception” by Richard North & Christopher Booker (an excellently researched history of the EU up to rejection of the EU Constitutional treaty in 2005). I had reached a clear conviction that we needed to leave the EU, but that it would be complex and would need to be phased – especially to avoid trade and economic fall-out.

I actually went as far as setting up a monthly donation to EU Referendum – nothing spectacular, but I wanted to support what I saw as research far ahead of the crowd. I also responded to the call for bloggers issued by Pete North (Dr. North's son & working associate) and started blogging in the autumn of 2015. Later that year, a private message group was set up on Twitter for EU Referendum and associated bloggers, which I was invited to join.

A tale of two bloggers

I happily concede I was very much a newby and a junior figure in the group. I privately wondered if I was only invited because of my donation. Certainly there were 2 members of the group who stood out for their efforts and impact:
Roland Smith. Involved in the EU debate for decades – widely known as “White Wednesday” on social media. In March 2016, Roland voluntarily gave up work in the run-up to the Referendum in order to campaign full-time and promote Flexcit / interim EEA ideas in Westminster via his ASI institute connection - with notable success.
Ben Kelly has been an active blogger for many years (via “The Sceptic Isle” and Conservatives For Liberty) and was especially prolific during the Referendum campaign. He brought a significant social media profile to the group and also edited the Leave Alliance web site (Leave HQ) during the referendum.

But dont just take my word for it. Pete North marked Roland and Ben out for special praise on the eve of the Referendum vote here.

Yet within a matter of weeks of the Referendum victory, Dr North had attacked the reputations and integrity of Roland and Ben and accused them both of “plagiarism” and “intellectual theft”.

Roland had promoted interim EEA ideas via the ASI but shorn of their Flexcit label and Dr North's name in order to attract new audiences. This was undertaken with the full knowledge of Dr North and was a notable success - as confirmed by Dr. North himself. Furthermore, on 2nd June, the ASI had invited Dr North to write a blog post explaining Flexcit and how the ASI articles had drawn upon his ideas. The flashpoint for Dr North's change of attitude seemed to be an apparently innocuous blogpost written by Roland on June 10th referencing some comments by Daniel Hannan that were reported in the Evening Standard. Dr North has a longstanding antipathy to Hannan – who Dr North also accuses of intellectual theft. A subsequent ASI post co-authored by Roland Smith (after the Referendum) on the advantages of an interim EEA option prompted Dr North to launch a full-on attack on Roland. By this time, various voices had come out in support of the interim EEA option with no apparent connection to Roland or ASI. The ideas were in the public domain and out of anyone's control. Dr North never did take up the invitation to write his own post for the ASI.

During the Referendum campaign, Ben had written a number of guest articles for newspapers and web sites – again interim EEA ideas were floated without explicit reference to Flexcit or Dr North in order to gain a wider audience. Ben's crime was to write a similar article after the Referendum for the IEA. Dr North reserves particular venom for the IEA - in his eyes they “rigged” their 2014 IEA Brexit competition and “snubbed” his Flexcit submission. A full-on attack ensued, including a particularly low blow by Pete North regarding some payments made to Ben. As far as I am aware, the majority of funds collected via EU Referendum and Leave HQ web sites were directed to supporting Pete in his full-time blogging activities. As someone who donated to these funds, I am extremely glad that some of the money made its way to Ben. His efforts in the referendum campaign were unstinting – he deserves every penny.

A question of ownership and loyalty

So what exactly is the “intellectual property” that has allegedly been stolen ? Dr North describes the essence of Flexcit as
(i) The EEA option as an interim step. I can confirm that Dr North and Flexcit was how I came across this concept. But there have been suggestions of the EEA option as a way to leave the EU pre-dating Flexcit and I have also seen other suggestions that  EEA could be used as a transition ahead of a longer term deal that are not associated with Dr North. I do not see how Dr North can claim sole ownership over this idea.
(ii) EFTA/EEA members have independent voice/veto in international organisations (unlike the UK) where international regulations and standards are framed. It is quite possible that Dr North was responsible for revealing the role of international organisations in framing regulations and standards, in particular the discovery of the“ diqule ” (dual international quasi-legislation). Whether revealing the way international governance works is copy-rightable is another matter.

It is clear that Dr North sees these concepts as his own personal intellectual property. But what is he expecting as a result ? Royalties ? The right to stop other publications by injunction ? He has stated he simply wanted acknowledgement that articles are based on his ideas. But ask yourself why license was given during the Referendum campaign to re-use material without Dr North's name or the Flexcit brand – and why such a strategy was so successful in gaining traction.

The answer is self-evident – Dr North is toxic to the cause he espouses. He has a long-standing reputation as a hostile, angry person and a history of bitter fall-outs. He alluded to this history on his blog in July when he launched an attack on Roland Smith . In reality, he actually has a much longer list of people and events that he views as “betrayals”. Having seen the appalling treatment of Roland and Ben, I have plenty of reason to doubt Dr North's version of past events.

A classic example is provided by the Leave Alliance launch of Wednesday 16th March. Two conservative MPs attended but walked out after Dr North had insulted Vote Leave, its leaders and Conservative MPs. The events are described on Dr. North's blog and Pete North's blog – judge the tone for yourself. Pete North states “the consensus is that Dad arriving late and in a foul mood spoiled the presentation a bit …. we had yet more calls to moderate behavior and language” before dismissing such calls outright. In other words Dr North's own supporters were uneasy over events but got short shrift. This was the last straw for one particular member who subsequently left the group.

The case for Dr North's intellectual property is thin at best and the charges of plagiarism against Roland & Ben are baseless. Will anyone who has followed Roland and Ben not be aware of their association with Flexcit and Dr North ? Does anyone seriously believe Roland & Ben wrote the articles for personal gain ? Their crime appears to be that their loyalty was to securing Britain's independence, not to the promotion of Dr North and the denigration of his enemies.

The Last Straw

Dr North spent much of the rest of the campaign attacking Vote Leave and the Leave campaign. He assumed defeat was inevitable and seemed to be relishing the prospect of revenge on those he would blame. Nor did the Referendum victory mellow him at all. He continues to attack all and sundry while complaining that “the bubble” ignores him.

So what happens when someone in “the bubble” approaches Dr North, as John Mills (head of Labour Leave) did recently ? Dr North published their exchange of letters in his "The Mills File" blog post of 27th August. Mills is clearly trying to understand what can be achieved as a minimum within the 2 years Article 50 time-frame. Dr North's responses had a familiar "passive aggressive" edge.

Granted, Mills has weaknesses in this area of debate (like many public figures in Westminster), but he at least accepted the need for additional protocols/agreements over and above the WTO framework and was aware of the financial services passporting versus equivalence debate. But Dr North's focus seemed to be on attacking his "enemies" for proposing options that are impossible, specifically because of the 2-year Article 50 timescale. Notably:
North describes negotiating an MRA as a hugely complex and time-consuming task, although previous posts by him and Pete North paint a different picture.
North highlights issues associated with customs code and drafting new customs law. He neglects to mention that the Flexcit / EEA option will also suffer from the same drawback.
Finally, in the last response, North states “Even the Efta/EEA agreement could be very tight, in two years. We could even find ourselves having to seek an extension of time.”

The admission that EFTA/EEA may require an extension of the 2 years deadline is critical. In fact, Dr North has admitted this several times since the Referendum:
24/6/16Even with the best will in the worlds - adopting the EEA core acquis unchanged - concluding the settlement within two years is going to take Herculean effort.”
29/6/16We could, for instance, apply for a three-year extension, making five years in all – thus taking the time-limit off the agenda. We could even make the total ten years.”
12/7/16leveraging an early notification against an agreement by the EU to extend the negotiation period – say to five years”
2/8/16Even with a fair wind, though, with every possible stratagem adopted, no realistic assessment will suggest that there is any reason for optimism. The chances of completing negotiations within two years have to be considered slight.”

Note also what Dr North states regarding the bi-lateral option in his  Monograph 4:
"On this basis, it is highly improbable that a de novo (bespoke) bilateral agreement under the aegis of Article 50 could be concluded in two years - something which is being increasingly recognised. Five years is probably more realistic. Whatever their attractions in theory, the bilateral options seem hardly viable, purely on the grounds of the time needed to negotiate them."

If an extension is contemplated for the EEA option, it can be contemplated for other bi-lateral options. The core Flexcit argument is that the constraints of Article 50 dictate the EEA option as the only option - that no longer stands.  

This is a highly significant change, but not an isolated one. A series of posts over recent months have changed the nature of Flexcit considerably. Co-incidentally, the first of these posts appeared within days of Dr North accusing Roland of thievery. It is as if North feels that the “old” Flexcit has had its day, and new ideas are required to create a “new” Flexcit, distinct from the one that in his own mind has been “stolen” by imagined "enemies". 

Flexcit is essentially the container for Dr North's research, but it also seems to be the vehicle for his own private wars.  For me it has become an unreliable source.

Ultimately, the Mills File post was the last straw for me. Dr North complains of “the bubble” ignoring him - in reality he does not want to share his ideas with “the bubble” - as evidenced by his treatment of Roland and Ben, who were singularly successful in promoting these ideas. It seems to me that Dr North is actually inside his own bubble – one where only he is right and everyone outside his bubble is to be attacked as “morons”, “children” or "behind the curve".

I will happily acknowledge I have learnt a lot from the Norths and will acknowledge their work in my posts. They do provide unique and interesting research around trade and regulations and I would recommend reading their blogs – just try and ignore the angry rant stuff. I have wondered for a while whether I should just drift away from the group quietly (as others have done). In airing my views on this blog I have probably set myself up for some brick-bats and vitriol, although I may escape that if I am considered to be too small-fry to bother with, e.g. “why give him the publicity”. In the end I have decided to be honest about my views – I hope it is the right decision.


  1. I hope you stay engaged with the discussion.
    As Chairman of the cross party Campaign for an Independent Britain , I necessarily
    have to deal with disagreements between people and try to ensure that they are constructive and good humoured.
    Of course, feelings are strong and we don't always succeed but generally we manage to
    disagree without becoming too disagreeable. John Mills is a valued member of our committee where he represents LESC ( Labour Euro Safeguards Campaign).
    I too incurred Dr North's wrath a couple of years ago. Having attended his workshop meeting, I set up one of my own in Derby to spread the word, using fully attributed
    material from his colleague, the late Peter Troy, with a presentation by Robert Oulds of the Bruges Group. I was rather surprised at his vehement attack. He felt he should have been doing it all. I pointed out that, unless others joined in spreading the word, his progress would be
    slow. Eventually mollified, we continued our cooperation. So I hope you carry on too.

  2. Thank you for your kind comments Edward. They are much appreciated.

    I intend to carry on and I'm sure I will draw on Dr North's research, which is still excellent on the whole. Whilst I do not have anything like the same depth of experience and so on, I am reasonably good at analysing information and can hopefully make sense of issues, explain things & raise pertinent queries. I am very passionate about Britain making a success of Brexit and the opportunities offered - if my efforts help even in a small way I will be a very happy man.

    I also felt someone should speak up for Roland & Ben, who made very significant contributions (more than me !) in the Referendum campaign. I feel very strongly that we need to continue to hear their voices & contribution going forwards.

    1. Paul, thank you for your blog, one of the best in fact. It's challenging writing what is "at the right wavelength" but I'll try.

      But consider:-

      1. IEA cost North 100,000£.
      2. ASI may have cost North more than that amount.

      The 2. is a subtle point, call it a riddle, so when you say:-

      >"I also felt someone should speak up for Roland & Ben, who made very significant contributions", yes I agree they certainly were excellent; but be even-handed and consider how much they've also cost in their subsequent contributions?

      As for my role in this "palaver", I started much like yourself: I only started a blog at the invitation to encourage a cascade of higher quality information into the public domain, a task not asking too much of it's applicants. If I was asked to "shut up you complete and utter moron!" then I'd close it down just as simply as I began (!). Really the volume of work done by both Norths is not only higher but more significant in quality than perhaps 9/10ths of the entire political analyst/commentariat industry - it seems to me? And what a lucrative industry it can be (or so I'm reliably informed!).

      Is that such a strange idea for most people?

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Bill,

      Point 2 is certainly a riddle.

      How exactly might the ASI have cost North more than £100k? Especially because after my three main ASI papers (the last one published on 3rd May) the ASI offered North some blog space on their site to "bring it all together" and explain how all my published material related to Flexcit. He was very happy with this deal. This was done on 2nd June after North had suddenly become sniffy towards me and the ASI in private (for the first time, incidentally) just because the ASI's name had appeared alongside his name in an Ambrose article on that date. [Note, the article had come as a complete surprise to me and the ASI].

      This is why a short blogpost by me on the ASI blog site on 6th June then subtly referred to Richard/Flexcit for the first time: . It was in anticipation of his ASI blogpost - a big "coming out" expected to land shortly with a bit of a splash.

      Until then we - yes we - had adopted the so-called "Sinn Fein/IRA" strategy. A term defined by North himself and even discussed at a Leave Alliance meeting back in March. In short: onlookers suspect and even know there's a connection but the 'joins' between the nice public face (me) and the angry street fighters behind (called North) are not made explicit.

      If we are talking about lost consultancy fees (are we?) then Richard had the perfect open door to take the 'market' by storm from June onwards, starting with that offered ASI blogpost. He could have had many people in Westminster and well beyond "bashing down his door" for comment/insights etc. Who knows - perhaps even the Government itself.

      Instead, it became clear that he preferred to carry on with his own private wars, ranting and raving in his default way. His choice, I guess. He was rude and insulting towards me through June up to the vote and cut off/blocked me on Twitter around 21st June.

      The ASI offer was then finally withdrawn after his nasty and ultimately incoherent post on 25th July and I understand he was also blocked by the ASI on Twitter at that point. They never received the offered blogpost from him.

      The ASI paper (that Richard was responding to) in July was a genuine collaboration between Leavers & Remainers. It was actually first drafted by a Remain lawyer and knocked around by a series of people, not all of whom wanted their names put "in lights" when it was finally published. In Richard's poison blogpost on 25th, he said he wanted the ASI document to explicitly credit him and Flexcit (and even demanded it on Twitter)...and yet at the same time, he said he *didn’t* it "wasn't Flexcit". As long as the ASI document didn’t mention or attempt to link to Flexcit (which it didn’t), then that’s fine.

      Work that one out. And recall that this is over a month after North himself had cut me off.

      For the record I have lost £60k in earnings (not potential earnings; *actual* earnings) since I gave up a lucrative contract in March to subtly promote the ideas contained in Flexcit that I felt deserved a much greater hearing than they were getting. After all that and after my own treatment, it's actually a miracle that I haven't charmlessly told the Norths to "basically f*** off" (which I haven't - another lie repeated below). The whole experience was deeply hurtful and weird, like nothing I've ever experienced before in my life.

      And no I haven't received a single penny for all of my troubles - from anyone. Nor did I do it for 'fame' - another accusation from the North stable.

      In the end, I'm afraid that in my humble opinion we are talking about a deeply troubled individual. I had believed that we could somehow look past all of that to the brilliant ideas beneath. But I (and others) have learned the hard way that we can't.

      So I say all this with no sense of anger - I'm over that.

      But it is a tragedy - of potentially epic proportions.

    4. I had already drafted a response to Bill, before Roland published his own response, which made many of the same points. I thought I may as well post anyway - see below:

      “IEA cost North £100,000.” It's a bit presumptious to suggest North had a guaranteed right to the IEA Brexit prize money ( €100,000 ) - regardless of the quality of his research.

      “ASI may have cost North more than that amount.” How exactly ? Such a statement needs justifying. As explained above, ASI offered North a blogpost – a platform that could have been used to promote Flexcit & his research - an opportunity spurned.

      “political analyst/commentariat industry … a lucrative industry”. Some people get paid far more than their talent and quality warrants – hardly headline news is it ? That aspect really doesn't enter my thinking at all, although I doubt that a blogger penning the odd article for the ASI or the IEA is in any way "lucrative". I got involved in the Referendum and this debate because I thought we were interested in promoting the best ideas to win a Referendum and secure a successful exit from the EU. None of us were involved for money, fame or glory – epitomised by Roland's decision to dedicate several months to campaigning and hence foregoing earned income in that period.

    5. Paul, I did not see an edit button otherwise I would have chosen the word "cheated" not "cost" (as in "could have cost" which is not the meaning intended anyway), so apologies for that misunderstanding I had wished to correct.

      There's no riddle when you understand it of course:-

      > The President of the ASI, Madsen Pirie, has sought to describe the activity of the organisation as "We propose things which people regard as being on the edge of lunacy. The next thing you know, they're on the edge of policy"

      >"The arguably most influential think tank in British history... benefited from the close alignment of IEA's neoliberal agenda with corporate interests and the priorities of the Thatcher government.

      >In 2007, Scottish journalist Andrew Marr called the Institute "undoubtedly the most influential think tank in modern British history". Damien Cahill, a Professor of Political Economy at the University of Sydney, has characterised the IEA as, "Britain's oldest and leading neoliberal think tank".

      Meanwhile concerning "Northern Bastard":

      >"North was one of seventeen shortlisted entrants invited to submit a full submission to the Institute of Economic Affairs's 2013 Brexit Prize competition. Entrants were asked to imagine an 'out' vote in a proposed referendum on United Kingdom membership of the European Union and asked to compose a blueprint for the process of withdrawal, taking account of Britain's relationship to global governance and trade systems.[13] His submission, 'FLexCit', proposed that Britain should rejoin the European Free Trade Association via membership of the European Economic Area...

      ... Though not a finalist in the contest, North continues to develop the Flexcit plan in cooperation with readers of the EUReferendum blog, and others."

      Meanwhile ASI website: "ASI on Brexit" pops up magically...

      * Watch Sam explain what comes next for the UK, now that we've voted to Leave.
      * Read how Brexit gives us an opportunity to 'reboot' Britain with radical policy reforms to boost growth and freedom.
      * Read why the EEA is the best interim solution for the UK as we negotiate a new relationship with the EU.
      * Read why Britain will have more control over the regulation that affects it outside the bloc.
      * Read why Britain should join the EEA and adopt an 'evolution, not revolution' approach when it leaves.
      * Read our 'Liberal case for Leave'.

    6. Roland: Riddles have their uses: value is a question of attitude as well. If so, Dr. North's "enfant terrible" attitude may be more understandable.

      Given the history I've posted to Paul, are the ASI asking Dr. North to put a lead around his neck so that he may trot along behind them like a well behaved, little lap-dog at their beck and call?

      To end on a positive note seeing as you've been such a stellar figure, you compare with ASI/IEA and consider: "What can be achieved by so few with so little compared to those with so much." All the gongs and plaudits don't change that nor money.

    7. I'm afraid you have not clarified your riddle at all. I have no idea why Andrew Marr's opinion of the ASI is relevant. Or why you quote “northern bastard” (I'm guessing you mean Pete North's “complete bastard” blogpost ?). You seem to be attempting to divert attention away from recent history as described in the post and in Roland's response above. You were in the same Twitter DM group, so you will already know the truth of the matter:
      - Roland took time out at of employment at personal expense to “smuggle” Flexcit ideas into Westminster.
      - Dr North “endorsed” this approach and stated Roland “ did exceptionally well in getting the material published”.
      - The ASI offer of a blog post for Dr North to explain how all Roland's ASI papers fit into the full Flexcit concept was described by Dr North as “fair”.

      Your suggestion that this amounts to “ASI asking Dr. North to put a lead around his neck “ is a ludicrous mis-characterisation.

      Your final paragraph is an unsubtle allusion to acclaim & money. Why not just come right-out with your accusations ? Perhaps you don't really believe them.

      In fact you seem to be the one obsessed with money. You seem particularly bothered by what the commentariat may or may not earn. You now claim that North was “cheated” out of €100,000. You have singularly failed to explain or substantiate your claim that the ASI have cost North even more than €100,000. Answer that point directly, without diversion, before making any more accusations please.

    8. I would like to know what happened to the money raised on the EU Ref blog. Who got it and in return for what?

  3. Interesting. I should point out that I suggested an interim EEA as a way *in* to the EU in a 1994 article in the Common Market Law Review. And there's no copyright in ideas, just in exact words.

  4. Well, that was interesting.

    I long since realised that Dr North was the reason that Flexcit couldn't get any traction. If you mention the ideas you get a good reception but the moment you mention Dr North people switch off. Presumably that was what Roland and Ben realised too.

    Hurling abuse at anyone with the temerity to ask a question and calling the idots, doesn't really hit the button, does it? I think that if Dr North had written Flexcit and then added By Ben Kelly and Roland Smith to the cover and kept completely off the radar, the debate about a method of brexit would largely be over all ready.

    Dr North is a clever man but he is seriously flawed at the same time

  5. "The case for Dr North's intellectual property is thin at best and the charges of plagiarism against Roland & Ben are baseless. "

    Except the British Future report published last week cites The Adam Smith Institute report alongside Flexcit as a work in its own right, yet you know full well it is a derivative - something we warned Roland against - yet he basically told us to fuck off. Nice! So now the ASI has a product distinct from Flexcit which they can use to further their own standing which is in fact the work of someone else. Exactly what we said would happen.

    As to Ben, as much as we put a lot of effort into bringing him up to speed, he told us that he was onside with the idea of developing an ideas base in competition with the think tank bubble - but then goes off and pens for the IEA at the first opportunity, without mentioning it, - knowing full well how we'd feel about it. Some gratitude. Had it been someone else I might not have even cared but we thought Ben a friend. Knowing what the IEA did, a friend would have declined to pen for them - or would at least have attributed the source.

    So these are two people enjoying a good deal of credit for their referendum efforts who were happy to suck Flexcit dry but it seems a bit of loyalty and respect for our wishes was too much to ask - because getting their name about evidently matters more.

    As to Mills, he was the one who who was basically seeking confirmation for his unworkable ideas and because RN wouldn't validate them, he went ahead and produced his report unmodified. His dishonesty.

    As to you, I was wondering what all the passive aggressive undermining tweets were about. Now I know. You didn't even have the guts to come at me straight.

    As to Brexit timeframes, we will be saying different things as we model different scenarios. Just because you can't keep up doesn't mean there is a contradiction.

    You'd get a more detailed reply if I could honestly say I cared but Ben and Roland have revealed the sort of men they are, and we're grateful for that because it means we're not wasting another nanosecond on them - or you.

    You have no idea what's gone on behind the scenes or the sacrifices made to do what we do, and in the end it's not how we say what we say. It's the fact that we say it at all. These ideas weren't kosher for the years we were talking about them. Only when they are separated from the originator will the ASI and IEA consider them - and only after the other options have been closed down. That's their fundamental dishonesty which Ben and Roland have aided and abetted. And somehow we're supposed to be grateful now that they have.

    As to our attitude to these people, well, it's cause and effect. If you'd had the same done to you time and again you wouldn't be sweetness and light either.


  6. I think Pete North mischaracterises the role and value of the ASI paper. It is absolutely obvious to me, as the British Future author of the piece you are squabbling about, that the ASI report both draws on the Flexcit model *and* adds new value to the argument: it involved Remainers (including Professor Steve Pears, George Peretz, Simon Hix) and others in shaping a political case that could appeal to both real world Leave and pragmatic ex-Remain. It addresses some of the emerging post-referendum issues - the position of Scotland, Gibraltar - and I think articulates well, in its opening point, an absolutely crucial political issue: that an interim EEA model has strong potential for a Remain-Leave alliance, but is also then in danger of being positioned as a Remain continuity project, not one with authentic support from Leavers (albeit a minority of Leavers, in political terms). I had not previously seen that issue addressed clearly enough: obviously, the issue of post-referendum alliances across the referendum was of new importance after the result.

    I found Flexcit useful, when looking into the question of the range of Out models in the summer/autumn of 2016 I was somewhat bemused that it had not picked up greater media and political traction, being well known to those involved in Leave wonkish circles but not well known to quite a number of generalist voices who do engage with EU issues. I saw many pieces arguing this was a deliberate conspiracy given the position of "in": maybe for some; I am absolutely certain lots of people simply hadn't encountered it. (Obviously, what form does "out" take was of narrower general interest pre-2013, pre-the 2015 GE and pre-23/6 than it became at stages after)

    While there is lots of good analysis on the EU referendum blog, one does have to navigate through a lot of personal attacks on everybody when reading it. It soon became clear that the level of the antagonism to "the bubble" and aggression towards the media was a bit of a barrier, so I was glad to see a range of voices trying to broaden the audience and appeal. It is useful to those of us who would like there to be a better informed debate about the choices that the country now faces, without having been more than intermittently involved in 15 years of political advocacy (and personal relationships, clearly good and bad) on the sceptic side.

  7. It seems to me particularly bizarre for Pete North to be offended at the British Future report: here is the relevant passage, which acknowledges Richard North's role as the pioneer of Flexcit, and the ASI advocacy of such as interim model backed by both Leave and Remain voices.

    "The logic suggests that Brexit will be a process, rather than an event, with more than one stage. That was an idea pioneered by Richard North, a long-standing Eurosceptic, who devised the ‘Flexcit’ model of leaving the European Union via a period in the EEA. The Adam Smith Institute has set out the case for EEA membership as an interim option, as a proposal co-authored by Leave and Remain advocates. The interim phase enables the UK to leave the EU itself, in a de-risked and stable way, which could help to address the concerns of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar".

    Could the sourcing have been put more fairly than that? Who else anywhere on the political spectrum would take offence at their ideas being engaged with and growing in appeal, rather than seeing that as a positive development that the work and advocacy is for?

  8. I meant the summer/autumn of 2015 (when I was writing 'How (not) to talk about Europe' and trying to find the extent to which Outers had proposed models of Out.

    Also this recent exchange with Richard North on the topic of growing interest and attention to this.

  9. As someone who was unceremoniously ejected from both the forum and on social media by Pete I can emphasize with both Paul, Roland and Ben. My crime was to believe that perhaps the message of a steady transition away from the EU to a globalised world was far too important a message to let labels and egos keep it down (though I've no doubt Pete will have some other set of words to finesse my thoughts as just being silly; hopefully this time without the ensuing personal stream of saxon vulgarities that accompanied it).

    I was warned of course; I'd taken to trying to promote Flexcit to researchers on Brexit: The Movie only to be told they had approached Dr. North for a piece on his ideas but found him unwilling to contribute. As a VL campaigner I'd taken to the streets trying my hardest to engage people with the Flexcit message only to have to hand out the awful leaflets VL had churned out; I gave Matthew Elliot a gloss copy of The Market Solution which he politely accepted before explaining Dr. North hadn't wanted to help them either (I don't actually blame the North's for this; what he churned out the week following was just absurd).

    The general tone at the eureferendum family of blogs has changed from one of measured, pragmatism and assured superiority to one more akin to bile and amusement at the stupidity of others. There is no doubt that their ideas are the most advanced out there by a country mile but by singly rejecting and thwarting every attempt to spread it they are doing the idea a disservice. Claiming fatalism and foul play only works when your ideas are on the fringes but now they are surely not and that is a pity.

  10. This small extract from your post shows how you simply have not yet grasped how and why Dr North works.

    "Dr North spent much of the rest of the campaign attacking Vote Leave and the Leave campaign. He assumed defeat was inevitable and seemed to be relishing the prospect of revenge on those he would blame. Nor did the Referendum victory mellow him at all. He continues to attack all and sundry while complaining that “the bubble” ignores him."

    First, Dr North quite rightly attacked Vote Leave and their campaign as it was completely inept and if you really don't think so you prove how you still don't understand the dynamics of the debate. Second, I think you ASSUMED he assumed that defeat was inevitable because while it did seem likely I don't think he ever expressed that it was inevitable we would lose. You also clearly ASSUME he would relish the prospect of revenge because I have NEVER heard him deal in revenge. His stock in trade is VERY ROBUST criticism of ANYBODY who gets any details wrong about the EU which he sees as inexcusable when the information is available for free on his blog and he will talk to anyone who cares to make contact. As to the bubble he accepts that he is ignored but still produces his work for anyone to use. This raises a further point which is that his work, especially over matters EU, is continually under review and being updated and if anyone is going to use his work then it behoves them, out of basic politeness if nothing else, to ensure they are up to date and this was where for example Roland fell down.

    Finally there are only two ways to get any message into the bubble. The first is to schmooze your way in and risk things being watered down to the point of little value or stand alone and let things slowly filter through. It is the second that Dr North does and it is working.

    1. "ensure they are up to date and this was where for example Roland fell down."

      For the record, that accusation was made by North on 19/20 June after a Sunday Telegraph article which quoted (and slightly misquoted) some off the record comments I made to the journalista on 7th June over a coffee.

      I was accused of being "out of date" because North had changed the game in the interim (on 14 June) with the Liechtenstein manoeuvre.

      North also seemed to assume that I wrote the article or maybe reviewed/approved it, which of course is nonsense.

      But again, no discussion, no phonecall, nothing but spewing bile on his blog which then gets lodged in the minds of his followers as though it were a hard truth.

      As you demonstrate.


    2. I accept your point on timings. However my general comment still stands that those who use his work owe Dr North, at the very least, that they check and check again to ensure what they are using is the most up to date version of his work and most importantly completely understand what he is actually saying and why.

  11. Richard North is unwilling to contribute to anything because it's his ball and only he is allowed to play with it. He wants attention, he wants praise and he wants a public profile where the world revolves around him and his supposed brilliance. Yet he mocks and abuses the very people he needs on side to make that happen.

    Each time before I open his blog I ask myself "who is he going to be abusing and insulting today?" and without fail some poor mortal is on the receiving end of a downpour of bile and mockery. All too often North doesn't give a straight answer to a straight question. He is over rated. Several times he claimed something was in Flexcit but he refused to say where, and on searching carefully I would find that the desired detailed explanation of something important was indeed missing. That was recently demonstrated again without a hint of self awareness in his exchanges with John Mills. All North wanted to do was embarrass the poor man.

    You would think North would seize the chance to win over someone and give him lots of patient guidance. But no, the man who had gone in search of answers ended up with abuse. Over two decades of North's obsession has resulted in him being bypassed because of his behaviour. It's pretty sad really, but he decided settling imagined scores was more important than winning people over and getting them onside, so it's completely self inflicted. The man is an idiot.

    1. Sadly your posts ASSUMES far TOO much and is simply wrong and by calling Dr North an idiot this says far more about you than it does him.

      Dr North is uncompromisingly critical of people, who given the information, after hours of his research, then refuse to think things through and go onto to get things wrong. Most people on his blog accepted that with John Mills he tried his best to get him to understand the issues and see reason. Only a small minority on his blog sided with John Mills as you obviously do. The first thing in understanding a complex issue is to open ones mind and discard previous views and think things through.

      If you honestly believe that our current batch of politicians and Establishment figures can be reasoned with then you are very misguided.

    2. Very much the point of many comments here, including my own, is that the establishment and the politicians therein *have* to be reasoned with in order to exact the kind of changes we want now; we would all like to see it different but the Flexcit message is doomed if it can't be communicated to power brokers effectively.

    3. The lessons of history are actually very clear which is that radical political change is never achieved by 'sitting down comfortably' with politicians or the Establishment.

      Whatever you think of his approach Dr North does it for a reason and it is slowly proving successful.

    4. If it's proving successful why is he whining like a spoiled child about other people getting traction in the media while he is ignored?

  12. What else do you call a man whose behaviour is self defeating and continues behaving that way even after people have explained why he is marginalised?

    I wasn't aware John Mills and Richard North were on different sides. Didn't they both want to leave the EU? What I read was questions being asked, partly answered, clarifications sought and being met with irritable replies that didn't address what was being asked.

    I didn't make any points about politicians of establishment figures. I made points about Richard North, none of which have been dispelled by you.

    1. What is undeniable is that there are far more comments of support, for his work and his uncompromising approach, on his blog than dissent.

      If reading the communication between Dr North and John Mills you honestly felt Dr North's replies where 'irritable' then you were reading a different set of e-mails to me.

      The point about politicians and establishment figures is how best to get through to them and as I say above history proves being a thorn in their side is best something Dr North is pretty good at.

    2. Far more people read his blog than comment on it. There could easily be a silent majority who respect the research and knowledge on display, but who disagree with the confrontational and abusive approach North employs. As for being a thorn in the side, on this subject that is more likely to push people away rather than see them embrace North's ideas.

  13. North's blog serves no purpose other than as an echo-chamber, with half a dozen sycophants hanging on his every word. He is intellectually dishonest, putting together whatever words tell him he is automatically right on any question raised.

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