George Osborne’s Newsnight interview has drawn ire from the Eurosceptics chiefly because the Chancellor used it to stamp on any suggestion that there might be a second EU referendum in which Brussels offered the UK all the changes it wanted in the first place in order to tempt it back into the European Union. But Osborne also reiterated last night that the ‘Treasury is 100 per cent now focused on achieving the renegotiation’ and wasn’t drawing up contingency plans for Brexit.
The problem for ministers is that any admission or leak of such contingency plans would be written up as a Whitehall panic, or a secret desire on the part of the Prime Minister to leave the EU. And no contingency plans are written up as Downing Street being hopelessly complacent and taking risks with Britain’s future, and so on.
Those who want to leave the EU are naturally arguing the latter, but as Fraser says in the Telegraph today, the onus is really on them to produce a picture of what leaving would entail – and one that answers the key charge that will be levelled at them during the campaign by the Prime Minister and others, which is that Brexit would be bad for this country’s security.