There is so much that can be said about his little fetishes for Britain's foreign policy role, the quality of British democracy, and the obsequious deference accorded the things the Tories are in the process of dismantling: the NHS, schools, and the very liberty that he name checks as Britain's lasting gift to the world. There's also some economic illiteracy about the Euro as the cause of economic stagnation on the continent, and bad taste gloating about mass unemployment in the EU's other advanced economies.
As it's a Saturday night and there are better things to do, this is not a line-by-line rebuttal. But there are some annoying bits of his argument that cannot be allowed to lie, as the 57 varieties of vote leave campaigns throw them around like silver bullets.
Even though we are outside the euro we are still subject to an unelected EU commission which is generating new laws every day and an unaccountable European Court in Luxembourg which is extending its reach every week, increasingly using the Charter of Fundamental Rights which in many ways gives the EU more power and reach than ever before. This growing EU bureaucracy holds us back in every area. EU rules dictate everything from the maximum size of containers in which olive oil may be sold (five litres) to the distance houses have to be from heathland to prevent cats chasing birds (five kilometres).We all hate unnecessary bureaucracy because it gets in the way of things. The problem Michael has that in the event of removing ourselves from the EU, a lot of that red tape will remain. There's a chance it could get worse. Assuming a post-Dave, post-EU Britain is able to negotiate a settlement similar to a Swiss or a Norwegian arrangement, to continue trading in that market those pinnikity missives about straight bananas will have to be implemented. Contrary to what the right think, markets generate bureaucracy because they need for regulatory mechanisms and authorities that can adjudicate. As the "Court in Luxembourg" has jurisdiction on these matters, a "sovereign" Britain shall have to submit to its dictates and expend sums lobbying governments to get the sorts of rule changes favourable to its needs.
On the small matter of movements of goods and people. While Gove doesn't touch on this in his piece, Farage and friends have been mind-bogglingly complacent about a post-exit Britain getting favourable trading terms on the grounds that, as a large economy, the EU is also dependent on the UK. This is magical thinking. Removing Britain from the EU is a business opportunity for others, and there will be sections in all the EU's most important countries minded to punish us. Look at what's going on in Greece - it's not rational to impose crippling austerity from a business standpoint, yet it happens all the same. If favourable terms aren't secured, then a resurgence of bureaucracy around visas, transport permits and the like are more than possible. A vote out isn't a vote against unaccountable rule making. By depriving Britain a seat at the EU's top table, Gove and co would exacerbate it.
Then there is the money. What of the money?
But by leaving the EU we can take control ... We can take back the billions we give to the EU, the money which is squandered on grand parliamentary buildings and bureaucratic follies, and invest it in science and technology, schools and apprenticeships. We can get rid of the regulations which big business uses to crush competition and instead support new start-up businesses and creative talent ...Given the Tories' poor record of investing in industry whenever they've received a windfall, from North Sea Oil to better-than-expected returns to the Treasury, it's reasonable to conclude any savings would be frittered away on further tax cuts for the rich. I digress. The point is, as Sion Simon noted in his visit to last night's meeting of Stoke Central CLP, costs and benefits go far beyond the subs the government pays the Commission, and the trade deficit between ourselves and the EU (which stood at £3.6bn for December 2015). The UK is the favoured destination within the EU for capital coming from the rest of the world. Some of it is speculative and socially useless (hello, Russian oligarchs), but some of it is productive and stimulates economic activity in the real economy. In his talk, Sion discussed Tata Steel, but it can equally apply to car manufacturers, drugs companies, and anything whose operation sets up chains of supply that in turn sustain hundreds of businesses and tens of thousands of jobs. The reason why Britain attracts a disproportionate share of foreign direct investment isn't because we're Jolly Nice Chaps: it's that we're the country with the global language, an unparalleled level of economic openness, and because we're in the EU. We're the ideal springboard for companies from the Commonwealth because we have the world's biggest, most affluent market on our doorstep, and free and easy access to it.
In the event of us leaving, I can't see large companies immediately pulling their investment. But because of the uncertainty surrounding the exit negotiations, investment plans would be put on hold and you could see a running down of operations over a period of time. Why wouldn't firms like Toyota start thinking about alternative sites in the EU proper if access to the market is jeopardised? They'd be foolish not to. And haven't the Tories spent the last 30-odd years telling us that business would bugger off if we can't provide them what they want?
I will give Gove some credit though. His piece does articulate a little bit of a vision and offers something new: an Arcadian future of a free-born nation facing the world on its own terms. It's a nice fairy story, and one that would warm hearts grown wretched on beggar-thy-neighbour politics, xenophobia, and acute social anxiety. But in the real world millions of jobs and the long-term viability of British industry is at stake.