We are a few weeks into the referendum campaign. Arguably
the most important vote for British people in over 40 years, what have we
learned? Perhaps more importantly, what are we yet to learn?

Naturally, the parameters for early debate would be set by
the Prime Minister. Beforehand, we were told that we would have the choice
about staying in a “reformed” European Union.

Reform amounted to some tinkering around welfare payments
with a promise that Britain would be able to opt out of the ‘acquis
communautaire’, the drive to ever deepening union. Whatever has been achieved
at Council of Ministers level has yet to be ratified by EU member states. Was
the promise false?

Cameron’s campaign had a head start. He knew that he would
be championing the cause of Remain. Revelations have emerged that in fact he
was building up support, the evidence being dated 8th February in a
reply, 11 days even before his “reform” negotiations were complete. In
practice, he has had 6 years to build up his arsenal of dubious evidence.

It was not until 14th April that the Electoral
Commission
published its decision, which of 3 alternative groups should
lead the Out cause. The decision was to designate Vote Leave, fronted by Boris Johnson
who, ostensibly at least, had not made his decision in which way to go until 21st
February. At the time, Johnson denied that he would take a leading role.

That Electoral Commission decision effectively threw two Conservative
Old Etonians and Oxford graduates against each other. Were we in for a balanced
debate representing a broad cross section of British society? The UKIP based Go
faction has been marginalised.

So the campaign began, arguably ahead of schedule with £9.3m
worth of leaflets outlining the “government” position. With its early start the
Remain crowd were able to dictate the content of early exchanges. The lines
were drawn on the economy, safety, strength and incomes.

Both the Labour party and Liberals are ostensibly pro Europe
but on the whole, are strangely quiet. Perhaps this is a planned tactic with the
next election in mind? Certainly, Corbyn in the past has voted against steps to
further integration. Farron is clear in his views but has refrained from his repeating
his inaugural conference speech, where he branded the Leave camp as “little Englanders”.

So how does the Remain argument translate?

Firstly, the extra time has allowed the Remain side to
develop support. This has come from 150 Royal Society members (out of 1,653)
felt we should Remain. Of Britain’s economists, 200 say we should Remain. Quite
how many economists there are in the UK, perhaps several thousand, the rest did
not sign.

From the international stage, Obama made a splash by
relegating Britain to the back of the queue for trade deals. He conveniently omitted
to mention that he would not expect Britain to be back of the queue for
military support in Libya, Iraq and Syria. Neither did he put Britain at the
back of the queue for a Trident replacement or the purchase of American fighter
aircraft.

The popular view is that Project Fear has begun. If we
leave, inflation rises, unemployment rises, exchange rate drops, incomes fall,
Putin and Daesh are dancing in the streets, World War 3 will break out. Surely
it couldn’t get much worse? Incidentally, EU trade sanctions against Putin are
estimated to have hit Russian GDP by 1-1.5% which puts the wilder claims into
perspective.

The economic views seem at first sight to be repeated by a
variety of supposedly independent bodies. Of those, at least the International Monetary
Fund and Institute of Fiscal Studies have quoted a barely credible Treasury
report, the Treasury being stripped of its forecasting role by the very same
Chancellor who advocates the Treasury model.

There is a sad absence of a positive message. The biggest
objection is that we don’t know what Out looks like. That is hardly surprising,
the Leave campaign has yet to derive a consensus to decide for sure but there
is a serious point, the government of the day can decide.

So what of the Leaves?

There is a view of what Remain looks like. As yet, that
particular fight has to be taken to the Remain camp. Strangely, the German white
paper on defence, as revealed in the Financial Times, has not been flagged as a
significant debating point.

The 5 presidents’ report from the EU has not been
capitalised on. The Leave side have not picked up on shaky ground, that the
direction of reform in the EU is towards further integration.

The Leave camp has not picked apart the harsh realities that
the only currency unions that have provided success are those that include
political integration. Given the late start, the Leave’s have been unwilling or
unable to take the fight of what Remain looks like with the associated
uncertainty that integration brings.

Instead, they have been left with the open goal to miss,
that of immigration. It has been an ironic set up, that those who argue to
prevent Eastern EU citizens can be dubbed as racist. Ironically, Britain
remains able to control immigration by those from the Commonwealth Indian sub continent,
from Africa and from the West Indies whose citizens’ sacrifices are strongly
represented on the Menin Gate and war graves across Europe.

The Leave campaign as it stands have been unable or
unprepared to challenge some basic spin, a classic example being the portrayal
of trade figures such as 44% of our exports go to Europe but less than 10% of
EU exports come to Britain.

In practice, this is an argument easily refuted. Prior to
EEC membership, less than 25% of British exports went to the current EU. In
terms of value, British imports make a net injection of, by the latest figures,
£8billion per month into EU economies. Percentage
and value are different beasts. More EU jobs rely on trade with Britain than
vice versa.

There are many arguments left to explore. How would the flow
of manufacturing jobs from the UK to the EU core or cheaper fringes change either
in or out? Are trade deals with Europe worth more than trade deals with the Commonwealth
and new friends in South America, Asia and globally?

Which trade model would suit Britain best? Should we decide
our own with a deficit that our EU partners would want to continue?

There are decent arguments on both sides, perhaps the most
convincing for Remain being that an extreme British government can be
neutralised by Europe, the most convincing for Leave being that British voters
can help shape our own future.

Despite the head start, Remain flounder in presenting a
positive message. Since one of the arguments is whether it is the EU or NATO and
the UN that have kept peace in Europe, please forgive an analogy. Remain are
fighting a rearguard action, seeking to minimise casualties, akin to Dunkirk in
1940.

Leave have 4 weeks rather than 4 years, to form the sort of
alliance that can provide a vision for victory. Their own D (for democracy) Day
is June 23rd. There is time yet for them to come up with a positive
vision to capture the imagination of an outward looking nation.

Ultimately, Electoral Commission rules, which supposedly
provide for a fair fight, have stifled planning, Leave having to fight a guerrilla
war so far. The vote will ultimately be decided by those currently wavering. It
seems to be a straight choice between fear and freedom but can either side
provide a popular vision?