Has There Been A Swing Against Brexit?

Posted on 18 October 2017 by John Curtice

Something of a flutter was created last week by the latest reading on attitudes towards Brexit from YouGov for The Times. Ever since the EU referendum last year, the company has regularly been asking its respondents, ‘In hindsight, do you think Britain was right or wrong to vote to leave the European Union?’. In the most recent poll, as many as 47% said that they thought the decision was wrong, while only 42% felt that it was right. It was quite easily the biggest lead for ‘wrong’ yet recorded by the company.

Perhaps inevitably, there have been two divergent reactions to the finding. Whilst some have leapt on it as evidence that the public are beginning to regret the decision that they made in June of last year, others have suggested that too much attention was being paid to one poll that might in the event prove to be a bit of a rogue.

The most recent YouGov reading is, in truth, neither a wholly isolated nor an utterly surprising result. Before the general election campaign got under way YouGov regularly found that slightly more people thought the decision to leave was right than reckoned it was wrong. For example, in six polls conducted in March and early April the company reported that on average 45% thought the decision to leave was right while 42.5% reckoned it was wrong. In contrast, since the election the two groups have been evenly balanced, with on average (across eight polls) 44% saying the decision was right and 44% that it was wrong. In short, the pattern of responses to the ‘In hindsight’ question have for some time suggested that the balance of opinion might have shifted a little, albeit still leaving the country split more or less down the middle on the subject.

There is also some corroboration for this apparent a slight tilt away from Leave from one other company, BMG Research. It recently released the results of regular monthly readings that it had taken since November of last year of how people would vote now in response to the question that appeared on the referendum ballot paper (readings that had not previously been published). In the three polls BMG conducted at the beginning of this year, on average 45% said they would vote for Remain, 46% for Leave. In the company’s three most recent polls, the equivalent figures have been Remain 46%, Leave 44%.

No other company, however, has asked people their current referendum vote intention with sufficient consistency to establish whether there has been something of a tilt towards Remain since the election. Survation have recently been asking people on a regular basis how they would vote now in response to the question that appeared on the ballot paper last year, but only started doing so after the general election was over. All we can do is but note is that on the six occasions they have done so, on average Remain were on 48% and Leave on 47%. Similarly, Opinium have on three recent occasions asked people how they would vote if a referendum were held now – and on average put Remain on 43% and Leave on 41%. However (as is also true of Survation) prior to these three recent readings Opinium had only asked respondents this question on one previous occasion, and that was many, many months ago. In short, all we can secure from these two companies is corroboration that the balance of opinion on the subject is still very evenly divided.

We might though look for further evidence on the issue from the responses to questions that have asked people on a consistent basis what kind of Brexit they would prefer. Two companies, Opinium and ORB International, have been doing so on a regular basis since before the general election. Opinium have asked their respondents which should be the UK government’s priority in the negotiations with the EU, ‘staying in the single market even if it means allowing free movement of labour’ or ‘ending free movement of labour even if it means we leave the single market’. In three readings taken up to and including the beginning of May, Opinium reported on average that 36% prioritised single market access, and 38% favoyred freedom of movement. In contrast, in three readings taken since the election, the equivalent figures have been 39% and 37% respectively. So here there again seems to be a slight tilt, in this case towards a softer Brexit. However, this result has not been replicated by ORB who have regularly asked their respondents whether they agree or disagree that, ‘Having greater control over immigration is more important than having access to free trade with the EU’? In four readings taken before the election, 45% said on average that they agreed, 41% that they disagreed. In the four most recent (post-election) readings the equivalent figures have been 44% and 41% respectively.

Against this backdrop the wise commentator treads warily. There clearly is some evidence beyond that provided by the most recent YouGov reading to suggest that there might have been a slight tilt of opinion in favour or Remain and, in turn, a softer Brexit. But, equally that evidence is both limited and not entirely consistent while, such as it is, only points to the slightest of tilts. Of course, it would only take a slight shift for a second referendum to produce a different outcome from that in the ballot  last year – but it is far from certain that the result would indeed be different if a second contest were to be held now. The one and only safe conclusion we can draw is that Britain is divided about Brexit – and that has been the case ever since June 23rd last year.




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By John Curtice

John Curtice is Senior Research Fellow at NatCen and at 'UK in a Changing Europe', Professor of Politics at Strathclyde University, and Chief Commentator on the What UK Thinks: EU website.

77 thoughts on “Has There Been A Swing Against Brexit?

  1. I am a 70 year old business man and i can tell you this. When I had one shop i had to pay twice as much for my goods as to when I had three shops. When i was selling to shops i would charge the small corner shop at least twice as much as the supermarket s. And that is why 27 countries together will always get a better deal. You don’t need a lot of brains to know that. Report

  2. Should Brexit be a failure all politicians associated with driving it on or supporting it will not be forgiven by the general Public. Even those who voted for it as they have a short term memory, but politicians will not ever be forgotten ok Boris. Report

  3. It all just goes to show that no major constitutional change should be made without a significant majority of the electorate backing it (i.e. at least a threshold of 40% of the TOTAL electorate). Otherwise, major changes are instigated on the basis of the ‘swinging vote’ and no sooner begun, the putative ‘mandate’ disappears. Cameron has a lot to answer for by permitting a marginal win for the Leave vote to drive the process of Brexit. There was no threshold and although the mandate has now seemingly disappeared, it seems unlikely that there is much political will to go back to the electorate for another referendum and even if there was, it wouldn’t solve the issue. The dispute would still rumble on. The only solution is along the lines that the PM is pursuing (and I’m a Labour voter); i.e. a damage-limiting soft Brexit. Back to the Common Market and out of the EU.Report

  4. To take so momentous a step, should there not be clear support for such a change?

    Basing a move on sliver-thin majorities, or worse, sliver thin-minorities seems somewhat debonair.Report

  5. Well of course there has. We have the entire establishment & their media churning out doomsday predictions one after the other. Civil servants who have vested interests in wanting us to remain while manipulating figures and stats. Yes it does happen, just look at Nicola Sturgeons white paper on the Indy ref. She has since admitted oil revenue figures were over estimated & wrong.

    The same fearmongering tatics used before the EUref are being used now to try and get leave voters to change their minds. The EU doesn’t have to lift a finger it has remainers right here doing their bidding.Report

  6. Ray,
    I don’t want to get into a public slanging match with you. So let’s drop the historical comparisons between Brexit and other past catastrophes, and let’s focus on the huge number of positive aspects of the European Union instead.
    1. Our membership of the EU gives us the automatic right to live, work, study or retire in 27 other member states. This is called European Citizenship. Even if the EU had done nothing else since its formation, this would be enough to justify its existence as the most amazing and progressive political organisation in post-war Europe.
    However, after Brexit, I’m going to be stripped of my European Citizenship forever. If I want to leave the UK, I will have to go cap-in-hand to bureaucrats to ask their permission for a visa or work permit, with no certainty that I will succeed.
    2. Our membership of the EU gives us the right to vote for MEPs in European Elections, and to be represented in the European Parliament. This matters a lot to me, as I regularly contact MEPs about various issues. I’ve voted in every European Election since I turned 18.
    However, after Brexit, I am going to be stripped of my right to vote in European Elections forever. I will no longer be represented in the European Parliament at all. My life is about to become a lot less democratic, as I’m about to be stripped of my fundamental voting rights.
    3. Our membership of the EU gives us automatic access to the Single Market. This is the largest free-trade area in the world, which has no internal tariffs, quotas or other barriers to trade. Membership of this vast free-trade zone has enabled our country to become wealthy beyond belief.
    However, it isn’t the EU’s fault that this wealth is not distributed more evenly among the British population, it’s the British government’s fault. Many people voted for Brexit to punish the British government (under Cameron and Osborne) for its austerity measures, not because of anything that the EU did or didn’t do.
    I don’t know what will happen to our economy after Brexit. Does anyone? Of course not. It’s by no means certain that our economy will suffer a huge hit. But it’s clear that there will be massive uncertainty and instability for a long time to come. It’s going to take decades to negotiate all those trade deals. If there’s ever going to be a ‘Brexit dividend’, neither you nor I will benefit from it, as we’ll both be dead by then.
    4. Freedom of movement of labour: now I would imagine that you and I profoundly disagree about this. Personally I think that free movement of labour is a stunning achievement. It means that the free market can decide on the best allocation of labour resources across the whole continent, rather than politicians and bureaucrats, who always get it wrong.
    5. The Schengen Zone: another stunning achievement, whereby borders between member states are kept open at all times. Borders are basically just arbitrary or random checkpoints which serve no real purpose. Crossing the border from France to England should be no different from crossing the border from England to Scotland, or from Kent to Sussex. Unfortunately this has never been the case for the UK.
    6. Regional policy: the EU invests heavily in deprived areas, such as Northern Ireland, in order to distribute resources more evenly across the continent and to harmonise living standards across the continent as far as possible. This is the right and fair thing to do. Why should some regions enjoy great wealth while others struggle with massive deprivation? The EU is fixing this problem. The British government isn’t. The only time in post-war Britain when all demographic groups in all regions of our country enjoyed real increases in wages, pensions and living standards was under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s governments from 1997 until 2010. Under all other UK governments, the rich have gotten richer and the poor have gotten poorer.
    I could go on, but I won’t, as I’m sure that nothing I will ever say could change your mind. That’s not a dig at you, because nothing you could ever say about the EU will change my mind either. If Britain continues down the road of the diamond-hard Brexit which it seems hellbent on pursuing, then I’m simply going to move to another EU member state and get a better nationality. The simple fact is that I don’t recognise my own country any more. When I was growing up, Britain seemed to be to be the most open, tolerant, diverse, free and multicultural nation on Earth. Our history of religious tolerance, free speech, political freedom and living side-by-side with others of all creeds and colours in peace and harmony has stretched back for centuries. But during the past couple of years, Britain has increasingly seemed like a small-minded, backward, mean, closed, xenophobic and racist country, run by liars, bigots and cheats. I used to be deeply proud of my country and extremely proud to be British, but since the Brexit referendum, I’m ashamed and embarrassed to be British. Brexit has stolen my pride in my own country from me.Report

  7. Ray,
    You come across as profoundly reactionary. You have trotted out a whole load of tired and pointless cliches which are simply untrue.
    The Eurozone is currently doing very nicely (much better than ‘Poundland’, i.e. the UK) and the Euro is widely loved by nearly all Europeans, except the British (who consider it a threat).
    Despite their financial problems, the Greeks never wanted to leave the Euro, and much less the EU. They’re not that stupid. Greece is now on the road to recovery.
    Italy also has a booming economy at the moment. In fact the worst-performing economy in the EU is currently the UK. No surprises there, because ignorant racists have taken over the political debate.
    You talk about the EU cancelling a “European wide public vote”. I’m not sure what you’re referring to, but please be aware that my right to vote for MEPs and to be represented in the European Parliament is about to be taken away from me. Why and by whom? Simply because of far-right Brexiteers who want to “control immigration”, such as Farage, Gove and Johnson, and who are happy to tell the biggest and filthiest lies imaginable in order to get their way.
    If you want to mention the 1930s and 1940s, you should be aware that Brexit Britain is very similar to the Third Reich. We have a minority government, unwilling to listen and insistent on forcing its agenda regardless of the consequences; ever-increasing hatred of “foreigners” and racism; a corrupt referendum, used as propaganda by the state; an increasingly far-right media trying to shut down all debate (e.g. high court judges described as “enemies of the state”, MPs with principles called “mutineers”) and ever-increasing hate crimes against minorities, which the police continue to overlook, doubtless having been instructed to do so by their political masters. Make no mistake, Brexit is just a re-run of 1930s Germany. And it’s going to get a whole lot worse. Once we’ve left the EU, you won’t just be stripped of your rights to free movement and to vote in European elections, you will be stripped of numerous other basic and essential human rights too. Worst of all, you won’t even be able to leave the UK to avoid the pain and misery that Brexit will bring. Ray, you need to consider far more carefully where you get your information from. You have been fed a pack of lies and have been duped into believing all of them. Why do you, like all Brexiteers, hate Britain so much?Report

    1. My comment is “profoundly reactionary?”
      You are surely having a laugh!
      That which you have trotted out, say’s all I need to know.
      It appears that in your world black is white and as long as you believe it to be true, it therefore must be!
      The points you have listed have little truth to them. Yes we have a minority and useless government, just one of many over the decades, but I still see no swastika flags over parliament. However, they are acting on a majority decision made by the people (something you seem unable to accept).
      As for far right media pushing the leave agenda….what country are you living in? Do you not read the endless articles and public comments on BBC, Guardian, Idependent, and a whole host of other biased outlets!
      As for shutting down all debate, again you are living in denial. Those who voted to leave have been labeled as racists, zimmer frame generation, uneducated and benefit scroungers! At least they turned out for the referendum on a day of intense wind, rain and flooding. Unlike the young, (that Brexit will most affect) who the government lowered the voting age for, just to make sure the remainers won. The fact that only 23% of the under 24’s voted should show you their degree of interest, whilst proving the “zimmer frame” generation were prepared to hobble through terrible weather conditions and prove their metal!
      Again, “police turning their backs on hate crime”….please!
      The comparison of the UK to Nazi Germany just about summed up your argument. You know little about history and less about today! What is clear however, is that you, like so many of the remainers, are prepared to sign a blank contract. For if you understood the EU you could never support an outdated institution, led by publicly unelected oligachs, that showed no remorse in cancelling public votes on an EU constitution (that no country wanted), then calling it a Treaty, that required no public support, thus pushing it through by stealth. It appears you endorse such underhand modi operandi.
      As for the last 3 lines of your reply, I would say it applies more to you than I, but sadly, is typical of the losing sides belief in their own superiority and shows only contempt and loathing for UK democracy! Report

  8. Brexit and speculation go hand in hand. We’ve all become amateur forecasters of the future following the Brexit vote. So let’s put speculation to one side and just stick to two undeniable truths.
    1. After Brexit, all British citizens will be stripped of their European citizenship forever. The words ‘European Union’ will disappear from our passports. The automatic right of all British citizens to live, work, retire or study in 27 other countries will be lost forever.
    2. After Brexit, all British citizens will be stripped of their right to vote in European elections forever. We will no longer have the right to vote for MEPs. The UK will no longer be represented by MEPs in the European Parliament.
    I’ve met a few leave supporters who have stated that they can’t see anything positive about the EU, viewing it as a ‘protectionist racket’ etc. I find that strange: surely our right to circulate freely in the entire EU, and our right to vote in pan-European elections, are two of the most astonishing and inspiring political developments to have occurred since WW2? I guess there must be a lot of Brexiteers out there who couldn’t care less about losing their right to love in Europe nor about losing their right to vote in European elections. Well I do – and so do millions of other Brits. Being stripped of these rights is no less traumatic for me than, say, having my arms and legs chopped off. Brexiteers remind me of ‘the Knights who say nee’ in Monty Python and the Holy Grail – they’ll be stripped of all these rights but will just carry on regardless.
    There’s far too much focus on money in the Brexit debate. So what if we lose trillions and go into a deep recession, with vast unemployment and hyperinflation, after Brexit? It’s by no means certain and even if it does happen, it would probably only be temporary. Our economy would recover in time, even if it takes 20 or 30 years. However, being stripped of our rights will be permanent. Forever. No going back. That’s why Brexit must be stopped. The EU is a wonderful and fantastic institution which has given us rights and freedoms (and wealth) beyond our wildest dreams. I haven’t yet met a Brexiteer who can explain to me why they voted to leave the EU, other than because they hate foreigners and foreign countries, and few Brexiteers want to openly admit to holding such views.Report

    1. In my Oppinion:
      It isn’t about hating anyone, it’s about loving ourselves as a nation again.
      Check what country has given and continues to give the most in foreign aid per capita head! What country raises the most for international charities, especially during the TV fund raisers! Brits can be proud, we give because we feel for those worse off than ourselves.
      On the part of immigration, this country has always welcomed foreigners….but under natural conditions, where numbers came in at a speed with which we could willingly accept and in a manner that benefitted both the new arrivals and those born here! Simply allowing millions into Europe, without asking the EU population if they wanted their culture to rapidly change, is not democracy! Neither is ordering countries to take quotas they may not be able to accomodate.
      Poland is under attack for refusing immigrants. However, they have already taken in 2 million Ukranians following the EU’s disastrous intervention that resulted in Russian backed seperation and resulting conflict there!
      You speak as if the EU is some kind of heaven! I can assure you it is not. When it loses a referendum it simply cancels a European wide public vote and turns it into a treaty which requires no public vote (Lisbon Treaty). When it creates an unstable currency, it simply backs the ECB printing of money to support it with 80 billion Euros a month for 2 years, reduced to 60 billion since, and soon to reduce again to 30 billion……thereafter it will stop! When it does, you will witness a financial disaster that will lay waste to the whole continent and beyond!
      I want to be as far removed from that as possible….and so should you!
      As for its founding principles look up the 1944 “Red House Report” (EW-Pa 128) and the 1942 Nazi Confederation plans, known in German as “Europaische Wirtschaftsgemeinschaft, (in English “European Economic Community”). After reading them ask yourself why Greece, Cyprus, Italy etc are bust, but Germany enjoys a vast financial surplus!
      You, I am afraid, fell for the propoganda pumped out by those that make millions from volatile markets and those elites will continue to divide and rule for as long as YOU allow it! Report

  9. Surely the question should be: “Would you want Brexit if it makes our country poorer?” That is the real question – the others look too abstract to have much direct meaning to people.
    A key task for those in favour of staying in the EU is to keep saying that we can stop this if we want to.
    We should also keep reminding people that the referendum was advisory and does not commit us to anything we don’t really want.
    And please use plain English, not jargon.Report

    1. Surely, the question should REALLY be: “Would you want to Remain if it meant that your children or grandchildren would grow up with no meaningful democracy?”
      When “ever closer union” finally reaches its goal – TOTAL union – our supreme government will be in a foreign country and those we currently elect to represent us in the running of OUR country would no longer be ‘representing’, but merely administering the will of Brussels.
      Currently, if our government does a bad job, we can replace them at a general election. With an EU ‘super-government’ NOBODY can replace them. If the people of ANY member state are dissatisfied with the impact of an EU government on their particular nation, it doesn’t matter if 100% of that country’s people want a change of government, because their votes cannot bring that about.
      The result is an untouchable political elite wielding absolute power. And we know what absolute power does, don’t we. An untouchable government can do whatever it likes and will eventually become a dictatorship.
      THIS for me is the crucial issue, not economics or immigration or some Utopian notion of a big happy global melting pot. You want to put an inordinate amount of power into the hands of a tiny minority of self-interested, power hungry politicians. The world has seen where that leads enough times.
      Power is best left in the hands of the people.

      And on another point, I take great exception to the bigot who suggests that Leave voters are racist neanderthals. Quite ironic really.Report

      1. Incidentally, if we had been voting on remaining in a ‘trading bloc’, like the common market, I would have voted to stay. But we weren’t. The common market is gone and what we have now is a political movement that seeks to merge 28 countries under one political umbrella, removing national democracy in the process. I don’t believe any freedom loving, rational individual could vote for thatReport

  10. I confess that I voted Remain but before you Leavers write me off, I recognize that there were perfectly reasonable people who voted Leave for other than racist reasons (though a few of those too). What I do not understand is the willingness ever since to push this deeply divisive, suicidal hard Brexit agenda upon the rest of us when at least half the country bitterly opposes it, including a fair chunk of Leave voters. If you doubt this, let’s just see at the polls if there is majority support for hard Brexit. The polls have drifted steadily towards a realistic assessment of the downside. I also honestly don’t see how Leave voters (the non bigots) imagine a better future for the UK outside the EU, whatever its undeniable faults. I also don’t understand how Leavers can blithely drag the whole country to a hard Brexit which damages everyone else, even themselves. Do they really feel entitled to damage the economic and social futures of everyone else in order to satify some Little England pipedream (as part of the Trans Pacific Partnership for heaven’s sake?) despite all the evidence to the contrary. Perhaps they do, but if hard Brexit goes through then bitter social and political battles will continue thereafter – especially when the economic downside hits the fan up to and after departure. And please, give us a break with the Brexiter “Project Fear” line of defense. The real problems are long term, not immediate, whatever George Osborne may have claimed. However the drop of 20% in the value of Sterling against the Euro (with whom we do half our trade) has not resulted in the manufacturing boom that Leavers predicted, but has blighted those of us who actually saved for retirement. Report

  11. I’m still baffled by the result, annoyed that a large part of the Leaver vote was made up of simpleton racists who wanted to stop immigration at all costs despite having no immigration anywhere near them. Whereas in more metropolitan areas the vote went to Remain where folk rub along great with lots of different nationalities.

    I’m baffled that the Leavers claim they voted for sovereignty when I see the world (and the UK) as being run by large corporations and banks and we live with a unelected Monarch and House of Lords and were we voted with the EU Parliament 95% of the time.

    The notion of getting our country back, I mean from whom the Polish, the Pakistanis, the Muslims, the banks and for what so we can go fishing, unregulated?

    In the forty years or so since we first joined our country (in my eyes) has improved in terms of it’s outlook and that snarling british bulldog was being replaced by a more accepting tolerant open society (yes of course there’s no such thing) now I fear we’re retreating backwards to our dark caves rolling back hard fought for rights and equalities

  12. A different take. In the referendum and these opinions there is a resolute 50/50 split, each side arguing their case economically and socially in a somewhat blinkered accusative fashion. In the British zeitgeist ‘head’ this is stress. The result as in a single persons’ head is poor performance, bad decisions and a lack of vitality and vision for the future. The UK socially and governmentally seems to be unconsciously plotting its own decline. The Cameron referendum opened a fissure of neurosis in this ongoing process. We are no longer the country that started the industrial revolution or that ‘never had it so good’, they’re the reminiscences of a prise fighter, we must grasp the opportunities we now have, and in that sense we can and do lead the way. As our planets’ resources dwindle and human ingenuity and profligacy become destructive we have a new role to play because the world has a whole new set of needs. From John Lennon to David Attenborough we have a certain sensibility we don’t give credit to. Our future is not trade deals but a different economic; one that matches the changing times and that gives us pride in the world again. When Big Pharma is proving a pariah, Monsanto a carcinogen and petrol a planetary pollutant profit itself is becoming the bane of our unconscious. In or out this is our best trajectory, Brexit is just a side issue. Report

  13. The UK’s Brexit negotiation approach has the fundamental weakness in that there is no set of detailed requirements to be negotiated by the UK. A series of ever changing and very general “Red Lines”, which are themselves not agreed within the Cabinet and various UK regions, means that; there are multiple sets of negotiations taking place; several internally within the UK and another with the EU. The EU has clear requirements and a very united and clear approach. It is a completely unbalanced negotiation with the UK in a very weak position and this will not change. Even the so called “impact analyses” are vague research reports and little else – these should have defined specific trade and negotiation requirements but alas not.

    In the 44 years that the UK has been in the EU, the rest of the World has changed radically. The past English attitudes don’t carry much weight in the modern world where China has gone from basically zero to being the World’s second largest economy and nearly every country in the world has developed financial systems as well multiple trade agreements over many years. It’s true that the UK has produced brilliant ideas and concepts but, as usual, other countries have cashed in and exploited them commercially. The City of London will shrink in size after Brexit, in the same way it mushroomed in size during Big Bang. Financial markets simply move to where the money and opportunities are – it has shown itself to be incapable of conducting itself in an ethical manner after decades of corrupt practices such as Libor, faulty mortgage insurance etc.etc.

    London’s financial markets can quite easily rever to a mid sized, comfortable, old-boys network again and prosper at a medium level but never again at the heady heights of the past few decades – those days are over. For example, the LSEG has been clearly ruled out of the running for the Aramco flotation and Rolet’s departure nails the lid on that particular coffin with “Brexit” inscribed on the casket. The LSEG will not be able to claim an increase in market cap of up to 2 trillion USD, the first of a series of missed opportunities not coming its way.

  14. As the Irish border issue has highlighted, continued EEA membership plus a customs agreement (via the UK rejoining EFTA perhaps) is the only logical solution at this time.
    It is essential that we understand Brexit is a process not an event.
    For the confused (or, reality-free) “ultras” out there: there a many of us who voted to “leave the EU” (the sole issue on the ballot) who did not vote for economic suicide (leaving of the EEA without any alternatives in place).
    Pragmatism based upon what the world actually is (rather than as we’d wish it to be) must prevail, or we will merely self harm as reality demolishes ultra illusions.

    In due course, when we’ve had sufficient time to develop trade negotiating skills (absent from the UK due to same being an EEC/EU competence) then me may be better placed for mature reflection of options.
    Meanwhile (note to remainders) as an EFTA member under EEA Treaty provisions we will have restored the requirement for our “consent” viz ‘single market’ issues – which the Euro group of countries had managed to circumvent within the EU using en-bloc exercise of the Lisbon Treaty majority vote provisions, in particular viz ongoing monetary union & related fiscal union matters – driven by post financial crises imperatives. We were not core EU, we were periferal due to non Euro status, and this was a growing gulf of divergence – and thus ‘leave EU’ still makes sense.Report

  15. What everyone seems to have forgotten is that the 2016 referendum on remaining/leaving the EU is the 2nd such referendum. The 1975 referendum asked the same question. So, the UK changed its mind once and can do so again if it wishes with a 3rd referendum, particularly if significant illegal actions were taken during the most recent referendum which may call into question its veracity.Report

  16. It would be astonishing if the sustained campaign against Brexit, waged almost daily since June 2016 by the BBC, had not produced a swing away.

    When this is added to the deliberate sabotage of Remainers in all parties and the Conservative government’s extraordinarily muddled thinking, it is a miracle that the Remain side is not ahead by a country mile.

    If there were to be another referendum there would need to be a new balanced campaign. Project Fear’s arguments would have no traction after their previous abject failure. The EU is now seen as a hostile foreign power. Leave would walk it.Report

  17. Radio and TV soundbites have favoured the Remain argument since the referendum. If a more balanced reporting strategy was in place I believe the leave vote would be higher. It was only by trawling through You Tube I learnt about CANZUK, an idea to form the fourth largest trading block. Why has this not been brought to our attention in the UK. We all have a common language, have same political and legal ideals, the same belief in free trade. And, other nations have already expressed an interest in being an associate free trade member of CANZUK. Leaving the EU could be an incredibly exciting new era for the UK and not the isolation “project fear” advocates.Report

  18. I don’t suggest politicians would bargain away the opt out itself, rather that they will succumb to pressure on individual points, or be forced to in return for something else we want. Such is the nature of bargaining.

    The rise of the monolithic EU state is far from delusion: what do you think ever closer union means? Everything they do affects the internal affairs of member states… so to claim they have zero control over internal affairs is laughable.

    Our internal affairs become EU affairs, then they tell us what to do, and that control will only increase. Control over foreign policy, including deployment of forces, is high on the EU hit list at present. How long until we succumb to pressure for our UN seat to become an EU seat? Once a common foreign policy is agreed it would only be a matter of time. Report

    1. “Control over foreign policy, including deployment of forces, is high on the EU hit list at present”.

      The europhobic media have been saying that for donkeys’ years: since well before the end of the 20th century. You sneer at “Project Fear” not having “come true”, yet you simultaneously peddle all this ancient “project fear” stuff.Report

  19. There certainly is a connection between the Nazi party and Brexit. However, the connection is that Nigel Farage rallied the AfD prior to the recent German election. This had some irony as during Brexit there was an atmosphere of not allowing “foreigners” to speak about our “democracy”. His AfD host was the grandchild of a prominent member of the Nazi party.

    Thank you John for this article, very informed as always.


    1. And where are you going to find a German who doesnt have older relations from the Nazi party.
      And anyway, whats that got to do with us taking back control of our own country. For 42 of the last 43 years we have had a negative trade balance with the EU. The prime reason we joined was to improve our trade with europe, This has not happened..instead we have closed our industries , opened our borders and stacked up billions of debt for our children and grandchildren.Report

  20. Dear Ian
    Here are a few arguments for staying in the single market.

    Brexit will not work economically if we leave-

    Why will not we be fine trading under WTO rules when other countries are? The answer is that countries do not simply trade under WTO rules they also have Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRA) which they have negotiated on an individual basis over time. Without an MRA goods moving from one country to another must be inspected. For an average container this will mean an £800 inspection fee, 10 days in dock (£80/day ) whilst a sample is sent to a laboratory for testing which will cost £500. So £2000 in expenses and a 10 day delay will be added to the shipping of each container. Quite apart from the expense the delay is no good for “just in time manufacturing”. If you are a manufacturer this will make it difficult for you to send goods anywhere in the world until the UK has agreed an MRA with the country which may take years. If you sell enough for instance into Europe you will be tempted to set up your major manufacturing facility in Europe. Possibly leaving a small capability in the UK for the UK market.

    Incidentally proportion of our exports that goes to the EU had been falling but has just risen again in recent figures to almost 50%.

    Further regarding trade deals the EU has just negotiated one with Japan which is expected to increase trade by 30%. We will participate in this but when we leave the EU we cease to participate and our trade with Japan will drop 30% until we do a new trade deal. So we will then have to do a trade deal to increase our exports 60% to offset the loss of exports to the EU. How will a country of 60 million people get a very much better trade deal with Japan than the EU-a trading block of 400 million people?
    In addition the current US Trade Secretary has said that now is a really good time to take business from the UK.

    Much of our economy is in services and we will lose a damaging and increasing amount of financial services to Frankfurt over the next 20 years. The tax contribution to the UK government is £70 billion per year and losing even half of this will be practically impossible to replace.

    One of the world’s leading economists Paul Krugman who actually won a Nobel Prize for his work on international trade, ie the very thing that is meant to save us from the economic consequences of Brexit, said that there is “ZERO CHANCE” of the UK being better off after Brexit. He did not say that there was a “diminished probability…” he said “ZERO CHANCE”.

    “We can turn ourself into a free trading economy like Singapore”. We could try to have a very low tax economy but the problem is that low taxes mean that the government will not have much to spend on health, education, social care… The truth is that although right wing politicians and leave supporters like this idea as their workers can work longer with less holiday whilst as the owners of businesses pay less tax. However as the voters see their healthcare, education, social care…… being withdrawn they will revolt. This makes a low tax economy impossible to deliver politically.

    We had all better start getting used to the idea of being very substantially poorer if Brexit goes ahead. As wealth is a relative concept we will not notice much if we all become poorer together. However we will not be able to afford the most advanced healthcare and that will hurt both ourselves and our families.

    1. Thank you, Simon. It’s good to read well-explained, reasoned arguments that show the damage Brexit will do to trade and to our economy. One of the key problems with the referendum campaign was the lack of informed debate and real explanation of the consequences of leaving the EU. Instead people (and a large part of the press) preferred to listen to unfounded but seductive slogans like ‘Take back control’ which effectively drowned out any sensible discussion. And on forums like these we see Brexiteers resorting desperately to the same tactics, by for instance referring to the EU as Armageddon and comparing its supporters to Nazis. The aim is to shut down debate. But what is the motive? Is someone paying you, Ian?Report

    2. The Remain “experts” have spoken before. And none of their predictions have come true. And yet they continue, just kicking the can down the road. 20 years down the road, now? A week is a long time in economics… 20 years?

      Europe depends on the City for financial services, and that is unlikely to change because London has the infrastructure which the rest of Europe doesn’t. It would take a generation for Europe to replace it, and London will have found ways around the problems long before then.

      In fact, they already are. Having small subsidiaries in Europe which funnel business to London, for example.

      And what if we leave with no trade deal and revert to WTO rules? We can set our taffifs at zero if we wish, REDUCING the cost of food and clothes because the EU has protectionist tariffs set agains the rest of the world in these goods. This would be of net benefit to the British people and our economy.

      And even if we left without a trade deal, a deal would eventually be struck because it is in the interests of all concerned. It may have to wait until Junker and Barnier had left, taking theri egos with them, but a deal would be struck, and probably far more favourable than any struck while the EU holds our feet to the fire.

      Yes, there would be changes to the economy, but the balance between benefit and harm is not so great as Project Fear would have us believe.

      But this is just one part of the argument. Most in this country did NOT vote for Brexit on economic grounds, they voted with their heart. They voted because they don’t like being a vassal state of the European Empire. And they voted because the European Project is far from finished: ever closer union means ever closer union, and slowly but surely the UK would be dragged into it. Common foreign policy, EU control over the use of armed forces, etc.

      Most voters balanced the ecomonic uncertainty against the freedom of our country to follow its own beliefs and priorities and voted to leave despite project fear.Report

      1. Economically, we’re trading four mostly fat birds in hand:
        – Being Europe’s financial services hub
        – Membership of the common market
        – Existing and imminent EU trade deals with the rest of the world
        – The benefits in striking new trade deals to be found in the clout of the entire EU economy and the experience in current EU trade negotiation infrastructure

        For one rather suspect bird in the bush:
        – Greater flexibility in striking future trade deals, since they wouldn’t have to be agreeable to all other EU member states as well.

        At a rate of one bird in hand being equal to two in the bush, you might argue that what we’re getting is worth one eighth of what we’re losing. I would say that that’s an overestimate, however, since that one bird looks particularly suspect; it may well be we’ll have to be flexible in ways we really don’t like.Report

          1. How long have you got ! What is sense is to not give our money to the rest of Europe for no reason. We voted out..get over it.Report

          2. Philip, so “social solidarity” is no reason? I can see that for the non-altruistic (yourself??) there is no reason to pay for such things. I guess you’d probably want to see an end to international aid as well, which again is an expression of trans-national solidarity.

            Just because “we” (i.e. you) voted out doesn’t make it a good thing.Report

      2. As for the fear of ever closer union, we have an opt out and a veto, which mean we don’t have to be drawn into anything we don’t want to. You’re talking about a non-existant threat there.Report

        1. You are deluded if you really believe an opt out will work long term. The EU is all about deals and pressure: we have already lost some of our rebate. I simply do not trust future politicians not to bargain away our independence just as all previous governments slowly but surely have. Report

          1. It’s certainly reasonable to distrust politicians. But to expect them to bargain away the opt out is a little too much – they rather like having clout in negotiations.

            And the delusion here is your fixed belief in the rise of a monolithic oppressive European super state, when what we have seen is decades of cooperation where every nation has to give consent to new EU treaties, the central administration in Brussels continues to have zero powers over the internal affairs of member states etc. It was a working, collaborative arrangement, but now we’ve chosen isolation instead and will cease to benefit from the fruits of that collaboration. So it goes.Report

    3. And here is an argument for leaving..We won a referendum and it was agreed all round that we should leave.
      You lost ,get over it.Report

      1. well said phillip harris, Barnier and Tusk are nothing but bullies and we are best out of it.,
        just annoys me if the government give them 40 billion to leave,hope they have a written accounts for where it comes from.don’t hold your breath as the EU accounts have never been inspected properly.Report

  21. What Remain voters consistently fail to understand is that the vote was not an anti-Eu stand. It was stating that we who voted to Leave are willing to take responsibility for the governance of this country. I have yet to see a legitimate advantage to remaining in the EU or indeed a legitimate argument. The idea that this federal state can continue attracting members is absurd. There are 28 members. At what point does “us” become “them”. THe EU is operating a protectionist racket which only serves to provoke other countries and blocks into retaliation. The EU is Armageddon come home to roost. The pro EU supporters want to stop life on earth in its tracks and close down all forms of progress. Just like the Nazis.Report

    1. Ian, Thank you for that succinct exposition of the brexiteers’ very own project fear, or rather projects fear: “EU as Armageddon, Just like the Nazis, Close down all forms of progress”.

      It’s interesting how much more frequent these lurid prognostications and demonisations have become now that it’s clear that the big brexiteer claim – that the size of the UK market means that the EU-27 are bound to give us a highly favourable deal – is now discredited. Frankly the UK on its own isn’t all that important.


    2. But we are not really talking about the ‘young’, we are talking about people under the age of 50. I very much doubt people are going to reach an epiphany on turning 51.Report

  22. As the last election showed, public opinion can move rapidly. Brexit is taking a lot of flack because the government is in difficulty and the media is largely hostile to it. In the event of a “second referendum”, the Brexiteers would get an equal hearing again and would claim (with some justification) that Brexit was being sabotaged by the Remainer Elite at home and the Brussels Elite abroad. The electorate might take a very dim view of being asked the same question twice – as the Scots have recently demonstated. Moreover, several polls have illustrated that most Remain voters accept the result of the referendum and believe it should be respected. You have to be very naiive to imagine that if Brexit were abandoned the country would return to the “status quo ante” as if nothing had happened. Civil insurrection and a total collapse of confidence in UK democracy is equally probable. Consider Catalonia.Report

  23. No big surprise, really, both on account of Brexit indeed turning out to be a mess and because of demographics (over 80% of 16 and 17 year olds backed Remain at the time of the referendum, and they are now turning 18 and entering the electorate, while about 75% of those leaving the electorate at the other age extreme backed Leave).

    If the polls continue to move this way, it’s possible a second referendum on the final deal may yet come to pass. We need to convince more people of the need for this to make it happen, though.Report

      1. With respect, Josie, only 37% of the electorate voted Leave. The others either voted Remain or didn’t vote. What ‘we’ meant was by no means leave and from the opinion polls on this site it looks as if, with more information about what Brexit will mean for the economy and the future of our children, more and more people are thinking it was wrong to trigger Article 50. They have the right to change their minds especially as the consequences of leaving the EU were never properly explained. Brexit hasn’t happened yet and already we have the lowest growth and highest inflation among the leading industrialised nations.Report

        1. I voted leave to get rid of Cameron & Osborne, just a shame we have been left with May & Hammond.
          If Tory remainers want to stop Brexit, in a year’s time, when we can see what a mess negotiations are in, all they need do is demand a new referendum from May & threaten to vote with the opposition in a motion of no confidence. If she won’t give a second referendum, and they force an election the result is likely to be a hung parliament where either the SNP or Liberals can demand one for the price of their support.
          I wouldn’t bet on Brexit going ahead?Report

        2. With respect Colin, those that did not vote are irrelevant in a system where only your vote IS relevant. They are discounted; not deemed to be remainers – or leavers.
          It is a majority voting system.

          The question on the ballot paper was simple.
          Do you wish to remain a member of the EU or Do you wish to leave the EU.
          Any fallout from the decision is wholly and utterly irrelevant.
          The governments job is to carry out the will of the majority – who rightly or wrongly in whichever view you take – voted leave.
          That is democracy.


          1. Yes but in case you haven’t realised we live in the UK Not Switzerland! The vote was taken using UK rules and that Vote was to Leave! Report

      2. I think you mean ‘third vote’. I’ve voted in two referendums so far. The first one went to the Remain option by about two-thirds. The second was almost 50-50, but the Leave vote just edged it. What’s the issue of principle that says a clear Remain result can be re-run, but a bare Leave vote can’t?Report

        1. In 1975 you voted to Remain a member of the European Economic Community, not the EU.

          Then as now the political project was disguised and sold as an economic one.

          The difference between 1975 and 2016 is that the majority of voters can see the reality.

          I voted Leave but would be willing to countenance a Leave/Remain vote on membership of the Single Market via EFTA/EEA, provided it had provision for automatic referendums on leaving EEA if the EU starts eroding sovereignty of non-EU EEA members or using Single Market legislation to inflict social measures on EEA members.


    1. The young have ALWAYS tended towards socialist ideals (and communal living with the rest of Europe falls into this category.) Yet the young have always grown up and swopped their idealistic beliefs for realistic beliefs. The young who voted Remain will also grow up and become more realistic so it could be argued that the older generation have done them a favour voting Leave.

      When I was young and foolish, I was young and foolish.Report

      1. Had there been enough voters who lived through the WW2 the result would have been different. The old who voted tp leave are the baby boomers, spoon fed on the NHS and all of the advantages during peace in Europe and because of our ties with Europe. I’m 89 years of age and voted to remain I’m disappointed at the ignorance and selfish attitude of those who are prepared to bring ruin to Britain because hatred of foreigners which when you boil it down is why they voted out. They had no clue as to the economics of the decision nor it seems has the current goverment. Report

        1. Mr Harris. You hit the nail on the head. Both my parents were strong supporters of the European Union. My father fought in the front lines in Normandy. My mother escaped Singapore soon before it fell. My Grandfather was wounded in the trenches twice…in fact mine is the first generation for a long time which has not had to worry about being sent to fight in European wars. Europe’s problems have always been our problems. If we leave the EU, they will still be our problems. The slogan should not have been Britain Stronger in Europe…but rather Europe Stronger with Britain. A lot of Europeans with longer memories would agree with this.Report

      2. The difference between the young and old today is where they obtain their sources of information. The internet offers a vast fragmentation of media that informs (tmajority of the younger voters 18 – 42). Nigel Currie, not meaning to be a “Mr. Know It All” as you attempted with the psyche of a young voter but I would say young voters are better informed than their older colleagues who may read only one newspaper (i.e. Telegraph and Daily Mail).

        Naturally it is up to the reader to dissect the information and work out where there is bias.Report

  24. If the British public had been aware of the complications and costs of Brexit prior to the referendum I think there is no doubt that the result would have been different.And now the facts and figures are available perhaps this is the right moment to have a more realistic second referendum..Albeit advisory as was the precedent.

    1. How many people were swayed by the dire predictions from those in authority before the vote, and how many were swayed by the overly enthusiastic claims of £350 million for the NHS? I suspect project fear swayed far more than the side of the bus, yet the people STILL voted to leave.
      Despite none of the dire predictions having come true, Project Fear is still in full swing, moving the predictions down the road but maintaining the fear, while predictions and expectations of the gains from Brexit have moderated.
      As a consequence I suspect the polls are still far away from the true feelings of the British people, and as the dire predictions of Project Fear continue to fail to materialise, more and more will show their true Brexit colours.Report

      1. ‘Fail to materialise’, as in reducing numbers of EU nurses, declining retail sector, inflation, weak Pound? And BTW, we haven’t left, so we ain’t seen nothing yet! Irish border issues, tariffs (further inflation) and border delays, a weakening global influence, as countries want to deal with a 500m people trading block, not a 60m people one, companies leaving the UK and not therefore paying tax and employing people etc.Report

        1. You seem to suggest that the UK will only trade with itself after Brexit, surely you don’t actually think that? Shouldn’t you subtract the 60m from the 500m for a fair comparison? If we had an FTA with NAFTA that would be a bigger market, with higher GDP and stronger growth; add a few others that we aren’t permitted to negatiate and we’d be in a far, far bigger market.
          The £ was overvalued and a lower £ has mostly been helpful e.g. growth in manufacturing, at last. It has spiked inflation but that will wash through the system quite soon. Not many companies/employees have left and some have come or expanded their presence while employment has remained high (far better than in most of the EU). You are forecasting doom, it didn’t happen in accordance with previous forecasts from your presumed sources.
          So Toby, cheer up.Report

          1. We don’t want a junior partnership with NAFTA to replace a senior partnership in the EU. That undermines the whole argument that we’re ‘taking back control’.Report

          2. We have always been ‘junior’ compared with the Germans and French – what others EU members aren’t? That’s how (and why) it was set up. If we remain after what’s happened already it’s clear our ‘seniority’ will diminish drastically – it already has. None of the others take us seriously, even the Irish and Maltese leaders feel they can lecture us. I agree that NAFTA might not be the right answer either, but for the same reason.
            We have to leave this bloody Union:
            “I am in blood stepped in so far that should I wade no more, Returning were as tedious as go o’er,” Report

          3. Nick, Ah, yes, the Franco-German domination claim: yet another of the Brexiteers’ “Project Fears”, or should that be “Projects fear”?Report

        2. “reducing numbers of EU nurses”.

          Purely because the English test is now at the level it should have been in the first place.
          The rest of your comment is the usual regurgitated drivel.

          1. Can’t help you with evidence about the test, but I am aware that the NHS has confirmed that over 5,000 EU nationals have left the NHS since the referendum, and that the NHS website used to recruit nurses from the EU reports a 95% drop in inquiries on that site.

            Add to that, the removal of nursing Bursaries if favour of “Student Loans”, and to quote Al Jolson, “You ain’t seen nothing yet”! Numbers are down by 6-7k this year,Report

    2. When will people realise that to have another referendum on the same topic as was posted as a definitive, once in a generation decision would reduce it to an opinion poll. Referendums should be used sparingly by government to decide major national issues. The result of a referendum should be sacrosanct. We must leave the EU one way or another. Given the arrogant and hostile behaviour of Michel Barnier and co, not to do so would be a national humiliation.

      1. Why would a second referendum on accepting the deal the UK will eventually make (which could be no deal at all) in any way undermine the result of the first? The questions will be quite different. If direct democracy is so good why do you fear more of the same?Report

      2. Clive, your argument is exactly why all sane countries insist on a super-majority (e.g. 60%) for constitutional changes. Having a first past the post result guarantees that the issue will remain open.

        Even Nigel Farage said that a 52-48 result would not resolve the question (admittedly before he knew the result…).Report

      3. @Clive Pearce: Since the referendum, the public have become somewhat wiser about lies told on both sides. A similar thing happened in Ireland. The voters were told that a vote for the Lisbon Treaty would mean that Ireland would lose it’s EU Commissioner. Irishmen could be conscripted into an EU Army, and there would be abortion on demand. The vote went 55/45 against Lisbon. However, when these three particular lies were nailed, a second referendum was held and the vote was reversed 65/35.

        Now, it’s become apparent that when Bojo and Gove promised an extra £350 mill a week for the NHS, and told the voters that we could leave the EU, still remain part of the single market, end free movement, ignore the ECJ and not pay a penny for the privilege. And who wouldn’t vote for free beer? The trouble is that those who voted for free beer, now realise that not only is there no free beer, and that jobs are at risk, but the people organising it could not manage a booze up in a brewery.

        I am sure I will be told about “Project Fear”, but now we know that certain parts of Project Fear did turn out to be right, Had the Irish not been lied to a second referendum would have confirmed the result of the first no doubt. But they were lied to. For all we know, now that the lies told by Bojo have been exposed, it may make no difference to the result and we may still vote to leave. What I can’t understand is why people who invoke “democracy” as the will of the people, seem to be so opposed to democracy to see if this is still the will of the people?Report

    3. How many – best of 3 ? or 5 ? We had a referendum; we voted and result was clear (if close) – we leave. You risk destroying a great democracy if you do anything else. Anyway, it might actually work out OK …………French and Germans want more Centralisation ………….nope, not for me. Thanks. Report

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