The decision to remain or leave the EU will come down to the silent majority’s assessment of the economic risks, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury David Gauke MP told an AERL meeting hosted by the Swiss Embassy.
The impact of BREXIT on bread-and-butter issues such as jobs and living standards were more likely to resonate with the British public than idealistic issues such as the EU’s role in peace and stability on the continent.
A “disciplined, focused and consistent” message about the economic risks of leaving was more likely to “sway the undecided” to the Remain side, he told diplomats.
“If people are complaining in May or June that the Remain campaign is a bit boring I wouldn’t worry too much. Boring can be good,” said the Minister, who was involved in the campaign strategy that won the Conservatives the election in 2015.
Comparing the EU vote to the Scottish referendum, he said the silent “‘small c’ conservatives” had turned out to vote because they were worried about the uncertainty.
“I think there is a group of voters who are not enthusiasts for the European project and who do worry about levels of immigration and define themselves as Eurosceptics but who, when it comes down to it, will look at the economic argument and say leaving is too much of a risk.”
Taking on the economic arguments of the Leave campaign was also essential, said Gauke, who accused them of misleading the public by claiming they could negotiate access to the single market without agreeing to free movement or paying into the EU budget.
“No country has that arrangement. The idea that you can get every single negotiating demand is frankly misleading the British people as to the strength of the British negotiating position and the likelihood of reaching any such deal. That just is not going to happen,” he said.
Even if access to the single market was shelved and Britain decided to negotiate a free-trade deal with the EU in the transition period, there would be challenges, argued Gauke. “A two-year period in terms of trade negotiations is very short. If you are the party in any negotiation with a deadline, you are the one that is essentially in the weaker position.”