Two Years On: Many A Doubt But Few Changed Minds

Posted on 22 June 2018 by John Curtice

Britain spent just four months debating whether it should leave the EU or not after David Cameron had renegotiated our terms of membership. In contrast, the country has now spent as long as two years debating how the majority decision to leave should be handled. It is a debate that has left many voters doubtful about the ability of the politicians to deliver a successful Brexit, but so far it has largely failed to persuade them that they made the wrong choice on referendum day.

Given how divided the country was two years ago, it is perhaps not surprising that on balance voters were never that optimistic about what would transpire from the Brexit process.  For example, when towards the end of 2016 ORB started tracking attitudes towards Brexit on a regular monthly basis, they found that the 36% who agreed that ‘the Prime Minister will get the right deal for Britain in the EU negotiations’ were counterbalanced by the 36% who disagreed. Equally, our own research using NatCen’s mixed mode random probability panel found in February 2017 that while 33% thought that Britain would secure a good deal from the Brexit negotiations, 37% believed it would get a bad deal.

But now pessimism is the order of the day. Our own research found that by October last year only 19% thought that Britain would get a good deal, while no less than 52% believed that we would get a bad one. Meanwhile, although in their three most recent monthly readings ORB have found that the proportion who agree the Prime Minister will get the right deal is still as high as 34%, this group is more than outnumbered by the 47% who disagree. Although Mrs May’s Lancaster House speech instilled some confidence in the Brexit process for a while, that soon dissipated in the wake of her performance in last year’s snap general election – and has never been restored since.

Where the blame lies in most voters’ minds for this state of affairs is quite clear – with the politicians. In the last three months, no less than 62% have on average told ORB that they disapprove of the government’s handling of the Brexit negotiations, while just 38% approve. Meanwhile, in their near weekly readings of the public mood, YouGov are now reporting that more voters than ever feel that the government is handling Brexit badly. In their last four polls, no less than 63% have on average expressed that view, while just 22% believe that the government is handling the process well.

True, Leave voters still have more faith in the Brexit process than their Remain counterparts. In our most recent wave of research 28% of Leave voters still thought that Britain would get a good deal, whereas only 11% of Remain supporters did so. Meanwhile, in YouGov’s last half dozen polls, 36% of Leave supporters have said that the UK government is handling Brexit well, well above the 14% of Remain supporters who hold that view. Nevertheless, the loss of faith has been more marked amongst those who voted Leave. There has, for example, been a 21-point drop since April of last year in the proportion of Leave voters who think that the government has been handling Brexit well, compared with just a six-point fall among Remain supporters. Those who voted Remain were sceptical about the government’s handling of Brexit from the outset; now, however, many Leave voters share their view.

However, the blame is not just thought to lie with the UK government. The EU is widely thought to be handling the Brexit process badly too. In March, for example, Ipsos MORI found that while 54% thought the UK government was doing a bad job handling Britain’s exit from the EU and only 38% thought it was doing a good job, equally 58% reckoned the EU was doing a bad job and only 30% a good one. And while Leave voters may have become more doubtful about the UK government’s performance, they are, unsurprisingly perhaps, even more likely to be critical of the role being played by the EU. Such a perspective is unlikely to encourage Leave voters to change their minds about the wisdom of leaving.

In any event, Britain is still more or less evenly divided in its views about whether the UK should remain in the EU or leave, just as it was two years ago. In the last three months eight readings of how people might vote in a second referendum have been taken, albeit using slightly different approaches to asking the question (see here, here and here). On average (once the Don’t Knows are left to one side) these have been put Leave on 48.5%, Remain on 51.5%. The only (albeit potentially crucial) difference is that it is Remain that now appears to be slightly in the lead, whereas two years ago it was Leave that prevailed in the referendum.

But, of course, when the polls are this close, their real message is that nobody can be sure who might win if the referendum were to be run again – after all most, albeit not all, of the final referendum polls two years ago put Remain narrowly ahead, yet Leave still won. Moreover, in so far as there does appear to have been a slight swing to Remain, it is not the result of particular doubt amongst Leave voters about the wisdom of their choice. On average in recent polls, only 7% of those who said they voted Leave now say they would vote Remain – no more than the 7% of Remain voters who now say they would vote Leave. Rather the swing to Remain, such as it is, has been more or less wholly occasioned by the views of those who did not vote two years ago; 44% of this group now say they would vote Remain, while only 19% state that they would vote to Leave. Just how many of these voters would make it to the polls second time around is inevitably highly uncertain.

This, though, has not stopped those who would like to see the Brexit decision reversed from campaigning in favour of a second referendum when the details of the deal have eventually been finalised. But this is an issue on which voters themselves are not only divided but is also one where the balance of opinion depends on how the issue is addressed. When on numerous occasions both Opinium and YouGov have asked voters whether there should be a referendum, they have consistently found that a majority are opposed. But when both companies have asked a different question, that is, whether the public should have a vote on the ‘final deal’ or should be allowed to have the ‘final say’, they have found majorities in favour (see here and here). That helps explain why the ‘People’s Vote’ campaign that is arguing in favour of another referendum describe the ballot as a ‘vote on the final Brexit deal’. But whether in the event voters would welcome another referendum on the deal is as uncertain as the likely outcome of any such ballot.

Still, in truth, much of the negotiating about Brexit has yet to happen. The next few months leading up to the October Council of Ministers will be crucial. Maybe they will see a decisive tilt in the balance of public opinion in one direction or the other. But, so far at least, voters have proven remarkably reluctant to change their minds even though many are now doubtful about what Brexit will bring.


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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.

39 thoughts on “Two Years On: Many A Doubt But Few Changed Minds

  1. Colin

    If there is a 2nd Ref and Remain win I can accept many Brexit voters not accepting it but they can’t stop it cos nothing actually has to happen. So they will whinge and complain about their vote being ignored but that’s all they can do. In the end no one will want to listen as the relief of having the word BREXIT removed from every day in the paper on the TV on the radio down the pub etc will be palpable. It will be 30yrs before anyone listens to a Brexit argument again. This country is so sick of it and just wants it over with but we are stuck in the middle.

  2. People pushing for a new referendum should realise it will be close again and if it went with remain why should the people who voted leave accept it as the first vote has not been accepted its a recipe for disaster you can’t accept the votes you prefer it doesn’t work that way when a general election comes those who betrayed the people will find out no more easy street expenses for them Report

  3. Most people in my country (LT) believe UK is “five star europe”, for many reasons that would not fit in this comment (UK brings huge values to EU, not only money, its also wisdom, culture, democracy skills, etc. – even comments here show how high the culture is). It was so big honour and achievement for LT to be accepted in the EU club with five star countries in it. But I do not understand why transitional arrangements for relocations of job seekers were so short for UK, where there is no language and other barriers that other countries have naturally to prevent immigration – if I remember correctly, just 7 years? Who could believe economies of UK and the new EU country that was 50 years devastated by soviets and now slowly raising again with EU and UK help, will be close to equal within just 7 years? It will take 50 years or more. With the same prices due to open borders but with average salary 5 times less, the result is that half of the population would want to move to the country with best infrastructure, to get the best life quality now, not after 50 years, creating too fast growth, culture, national identity, load to local social security systems, and other related problems in UK, and also creating problems for LT, where only pensioners will not move (30% of country already emigrated, best brains and skills leaving for UK. Who will pay local taxes to support pensioners?). Who would like to hard work here for 500eur/month if they can apply for same job in UK for 2500 per month? I believe it is UK right to not accept millions of cheaper workers until economy levels even out and this problem naturally disappears. Why just this single mistake in the transition term duration was not re-negotiated, changing 7 to 50, but instead 5 star EU country was forced to vote for leave? How long transitional period was negotiated for Hong-Kong? 50 years. Why UK agreed with just 7 years for own country?

    Now as the first thing it shall be agreed to postpone the brexit date so that businesses can continue normally, and work out the EU-UK future without hurry with cool heads. 2 years term (400 workdays) was same too short for job at this scale, as 7 years transitional period term was too short to avoid migration issues.Report

  4. UK has long been a reluctant member of the EU, partly because of a hostile tabloid press, partly because of slow adjustment to a lost imperial past.
    Favourable trade terms possible with China and India during an imperial past in the 19th century, are very unrealistic for a world which has moved on. But what was crystal clear to no less than 5 UK prime ministers, was delegated to the vote of a mass referendum. We now need to go through the process of honouring that vote, and learn by experience. We will discover whether the 5 UK insiders were wise or other wise.Report

  5. to all leave remain EU patrons .we had a vote leave or remain .not on how we would leave or remain just leave or remain.
    Many people put lives on the line for my right to vote .how dare anybody take their sacrifice so cheaply as to say lets have a peoples vote.
    we have had one !!! the whole UK voted and the result was we leave .
    I am not bothered good deal bad deal no deal ,i want to leave along with 17 million others.
    sick of all the well they didn’t know what they were voting for absolute rubbish.
    it was on the ballot paper . its a disgrace and now it is people too young to vote saying they want their say .a disgraceReport

  6. After Scotland votes for independence again and I’m sure that they will succeed, will they then join the EU? Will the “Irish backstop” then move to be between England and Scotland? Report

  7. I will be attending the ‘Edinburgh People’s Vote Rally’ next weekend in the hope of reversing Brexit. The Tory party will never be forgiven. Let’s see what happens to productivity, eh?Report

    1. Emma,
      Once again another that talks only about money .tell me one subject we will miss ,without mentioning money and production.

      Any company within the EU has to have their books looked at every year,just not the biggest one the EU.

      All the time never once had an audit done .!!!!!

      and you wish to keep within this company .

      smell the coffee ,like 17 odd million others did .Report

  8. I do like Mathew Parris’s view that should people vote “ye”s in a referendum that pigs should fly , however large the majority in the referendum, it is unlikely that the poor beasts would oblige.Report

  9. Thank you all for such thoughtful, respectful dialogue. If you were in charge I would feel much happier about Brexit.
    I’m also encouraged by the objective analysis of the polls by this site, such a breath of fresh air among the heady stench of hysteria across a media stoking ideological conflict, lacking in journalistic objectivity and desperate for clicks.Report

  10. My take on May’s brexit proposal was that it was very good politics, because it fulfilled two important requirements. One: that if the EU accepted it, or a close enough version, we in the UK could live with that, because although it changed very little economically, it made big changes politically and legally, since agreeing to observe standards voluntarily, under the control of your own courts, is very different to EU Courts having jurisidiction in the UK.

    Second: since it was a very moderate offer economically, if the EU refused it, they would look like the unreasonable party, and it would be clear that jurisdiction over UK affairs is what they are really after.

    Taking those together, I thought that May’s offer would actually *increase* the chance of a no-deal Brexit, since it is my personal belief that political integration and legal jurisdiction is what really is most important to the EU, and the idea of an off-shore UK acting as an EU member eonomically, but legally able to diverge as and when they wanted – at a relatively small cost to trade – would be the very last message the EU would wish to convey to the remaining EU27.

    The resignation of David Davis does not change my opinion, because in effect what he is saying is that the proposal is even *more* reasonable – to the benefit of the EU and therefore even less acceptable to hard Brexiteers – than it was presented.

    This is going to give the EU27 an interesting problem. If they accept May’s proposal it becomes a dangerous model that offers temptations to other EU members. And if they reject it, they will be rejecting a proposal that Brexiteers like Davis consider to be too generous to the EUReport

  11. The European economy is just that: the European economy. Its distinctive nature lies in the way it is integrated with just in time delivery of items from one country to another through transport : BAE systems a thousand lorries a day i and out of the country is reliant on this for its existence. Leave the integrated system and you loose almost everything. We all become poorer. Of course the EU is imperfect. But it is as Macron says “all we have got and we have to make it work” That is common sense. Bur common sense is not the driver here now. What is? the ruthless ideology of the Tory right wingers. As an aside: a long time ago we had an integrated transport system in London organized by London Transport for whom I worked. Thatcher destroyed it and now we have a disintegrated atomized system that provides dearly bought profit for some people and an inferior system for the rest.
    Apply this in the Brexit situation and you can envisage the marginalized nature of Brexit Britain should our right wingers get their way.Report

  12. There’s another factor entirely: large parts of the UK have lost hope that remaining will benefit them. So they believe that some change is better than none. So they vote to leave.

    It may be illogical but this is where the heart element comes from.Report

    1. Farrell,

      I do like the way you can read the minds of all that voted leave .to you they all had the same reason .

      you are not a mind reader just a nice man ,who whines when he doesn’t get his way .15 % interest rates /massive employment emergency budget ,all with a day of the leave vote winning .

      Do you wish to comment on why none of these statements actually happened .

      project fear is dead in the water, peoples vote credit for the change of wording from second referendum very clever play on words .
      that is also dead ,it wasn’t even going to happen.

      we will leave and lets build the UK up without EU.we do not need them .

      where are they going to find our payments into their coffers .

      this is what this is all about .for the EU i myself do not care .we have left ..


  13. I can’t really see why remainers should change our minds. Cutting so many ties to all of our neighbours and half of our allies; destructively disrupting practically every sector of the economy, plus academia and the NHS; having to internally build an equivalent to every single EU agency; these just aren’t, and never could be, good ideas. And then you have the ongoing trainwreck of incompetents like May, BoJo and Davis trying to deliver it.

    If I didn’t have aging relatives to keep an eye on, I’d be leaving this country.Report

    1. Logically I agree with you. However, the polls show opinion changing only at a glacial speed. It remains to be seen if the recent spate of announcements from business can achieve a change of mind among those in Britain who do not pay much attention to politics. A Peoples Vote which still decides to Leave is not ruled out yet. The EU reforming to give us something positive to say about it would be of very considerable help.Report

    2. Why don’t you take your aging relatives to the Irish republic. You could still visit UK if you wished. I may be wrong but your name infers your heritage.Report

  14. Hello S Macaren. Your response avoids the main points I raised.
    Firstly we do not have the political leaders to give us a clear vision of life either in or out of the EU.
    Secondly the demographic of the electorate has changed significantly since June 2016 in relation to the size of the majority.
    The government did have the option to put the referendum to a “super-vote” as in the case of the Scottish Independence referendum but chose not to. Although prior to the general election last year the two main parties said they would implement Brexit, neither gave a clear idea of what that meant then, any more than they can today. The result of the election showed that the public did not trust the Conservatives to implement Brexit.
    I suggested that advocates of remain should put forward more positive arguments for remaining in the EU. It would also be constructive to the argument to hear from Brexiteers exactly which EU laws they would repeal and tell us who would benefit and how. It is also interesting to note that you accept it could be years before any benefit from leaving would accrue. This point was part of project fear you deride so much and glossed over by the Brexit campaign in June 2016.
    It is quite common in other countries for a major change such as Brexit to be determined by two referendums. Given the lack of leadership and the ambivalence within both major parties the final decision should be in the hands of the electorate.
    As Clive Sneddon suggests I believe it is far better to try for change from within. Report

    1. Andrew,

      So 2 years down the line AFTER a general election.Things change people start to think they didn’t vote for this or that. OK we will just asked the electorate again to see if they still wish this party to govern us .

      absolutely laughable

  15. Hello S. Maclaren. You may have noticed that I too criticise the EU, but my preferred option is to work within it to change it. My distinction between head and heart rests on the nature of the economic arguments which involve the head, which were dismissed as Project fear by the leavers and are now coming to pass. Equally the arguments about immigration and loss of sovereignty involve the heart, even if they also involve concerns about infrastructure and a failure to realise treaties are just agreements between governments which may or may not be enforceable. The EU is trying to establish a United States of Europe by stealth, and it is that which is leading to Brussels encroaching on the sovereignty of member states. This is driven by some European governments through the Council of Ministers, and will continue whether the UK is in or not. Leaving leaves us with no trade deals for the foreseeable future, and does nothing to help us economically, or to ensure that the benefits of any growth reach everybody, or that any of the problems associated with the EU can be resolved. Engagement has a better chance of success than walking away.Report

    1. Clive nothing is coming to pass,once again project fear.

      lets move on the leavers wish to ask them ,the remainers certainly do not wish to move on .

      you cannot engage with some body that will not add anything to something you have already stated is not going to happen .

      so leave simple ,forget about the money fears ,,,,,please as they say its the route to all evil .Report

  16. John Curtice, You hit the nail on the head in blaming politicians. With neither of the two main parties able to put forward a credible consistent view on Brexit and large numbers of MPs holding views directly opposed to those of their constituencies it is hardly surprising. The argument for a people’s vote is greater than ever. Only 37% of the electorate voted in favour of Brexit and between 23 June 2016 and the date we are set to leave the EU some 2 million voters will have died. Furthermore about 2 million people will have become eligible to vote. What “the will of the people”, as Brexiteers and our feeble politicians are fond of quoting, could not be more uncertain. It should also not be forgotten that the referendum had “Advisory “ status only. Research shows that many voted to leave as a protest – in hope that a change would improve their lot.

    We need politicians and business leaders to tell us why staying in the EU will be positive for the UK. The constant claims of the negative impact of Brexit do not encourage those that could be persuaded to remain. We have seen enough posturing from The USA, China, and India to realise that trade deals with those countries would come at a price, part of which would be a loss of sovereignty. Deals with Australia and New Zealand would be likely to adversely affect our farming industry. We are unlikely to match the deal recently concluded between Canada and The EU and any “bossing” from Brussels involved in a trade deal with the EU is likely to be increased.

    Our influence in the operation of the Brussels machine will be missed by many of the members. We should use our influence if it still lasts to improve and reform the EU for the good of the U.K. and the EU.

    Andrew ErskineReport

    1. Hello Andrew. You stated that “Research shows that many voted to leave as a protest” – So what? And you suggest pompously ” in hope that a change would improve their lot.”
      Well, well! How very amusing that you STILL fail to see the hilarity elicited by your high-brow comments! We “voted the wrong way ” then. – But perhaps the “protest” that you are now protesting against, was something that some felt was extremely valid perhaps, in watching the EU reformers fail for over 20 years and Cameron’s little waltz around Europe, cap-in-hand, having dinner with the leaders & influencers, and also failing to get the result you and I might both agree would be required for any chance of the EU surviving? But do tell: Why would such a protest vote, if so, not be acceptable to your intellect? Of course some of us ‘more intellectual types’ would never dream of voting with our heart! Ha ha! Oh dear. What a lot of nonsense. And this really is not funny.

      And re. the tired mantra “It should also not be forgotten that the referendum had ‘Advisory’ status only.”
      But of course, the government and opposition put it to the voters, that “This is your decision; the government will implement what you decide.” Yes, yes; we KNOW that the 2015 Referendum Bill stated that this result could not force a government to implement the result. But that is our constitution – there are no arrangement in law that can tie the UK government’s hand, since parliament is sovereign (what is left of it, after being savaged by anti democratic legislation from Brussels, that is). The political onus and intention is clear, however, and that government was not simply taking soundings, as if it might have been, where casually carrying out a large poll of opinion every few years, and this was one of them. Some would agree that we wouldn’t need a referendum to tell us that. A wide poll could have done it, and of course, the polls all showed popular support for leaving for years.

      The reasons for the referendum are quite profound, and not just due to Tory party infighting, but a national disquiet and disillusionment with the political status quo over EU policy making and power-political mischief making. (Such as, for example, the insistence of freedom of movement for all EU members at any price, regardless of the risks (which were ignored). And you, sir, cannot ignore those depths which have been brought to the surface of our political life, in ALL sectors of society, rich and poor, socially left and right, and over 3 generations during which there have been many political projects within the EU that we never originally would have wished to have anything to do with, let alone the dire consequences to many other aspects of our national life. I could go on.

      But finally, your trump card (a wet rag) ” We should use our influence if it still lasts to improve and reform the EU”. Well, the gate was left open for that one, but rather than put the stray bull back inside, the EU bull has gone on the rampage, to the indifference and apathy of many. Rottenness, bribery, and dishonest accounting notwithstanding, it could, I agree, have BEEN SO DIFFERENT. Enough. No more excuses. Project EU, the world’s most gloriously arrogant and self aggrandizing get-rich-quick scheme for the few is coming to an end, at last. It is very sad, and might have been so different, if the lust for power with socialist idealism had not ruled the hearts of so many. Yes, Andrew, The hearts, which is where you wanted to start.

  17. Joop Hulsen, I think you are misreading what happened in Britain. There was a choice between heart (leave) and head (remain). Those whose heart wanted to take back control, not least of migration which EU leaders consistently described as a fundamental single market principle while saying we could impose the same constraints they did, won the referendum. There is now greater clarity about the material consequences, but that only motivated the remainers, and some leave voters voted leave in reaction against George Osborne’s threat of a major austerity budget. What people in the Netherlands need to be asking themselves is what the EU can do to appeal to the heart, and not just to material self-interest. The vision of bringing together the peoples of Europe by working together and getting to know each other is a noble vision, but it is being wrecked by bossy Brussels which is now generating nationalist reactions. And how will the EU succeed against China, India and the USA if it is internally divided by competing nationalisms?Report

    1. Hi Clive, your assumption that “There was a choice between heart (leave) and head (remain).” is interesting, but I would not give the Remainers the concession of that particular analysis at all! Why was the remain vote necessarily the “head” vote? I feel the opposite was often the case, since many of those younger than I in my company appear to have voted to stay in, yet, when asked if they understood some of the real problems that the EU has allowed to fester unresolved, they cannot give me answers. I have watched the EU brief against common sense for years, but some of our voters are either too young to have watched what was going on, or they have previously taken little if any interest in the issues, which suggests that a huge swathe of the population really does not really understand what it voted for – the Remainers; not the Leavers. It many be true that many voted “with their hearts” but why should one label leavers with that, when the most emotive and ranting minority call the leavers xenophobes and racists? It is really quite bizarre.

      Indeed, I feel that the government did quite a good job in duping a huge cross section of the vote, so much so that even a barrister friend of mine still believes the ‘project fear’ propaganda that the rich classes have bought into. Sure, as I have said, we shall have a few years of strain and pain, likely. However, the Cameron government-stamped remain-in argument within was, an is, a flawed prospectus, and shall be seen to be so in a few years after we have suffered (and we shall) for being stupid enough to get into cloud cookoo land with the EU over far too many years, and narrowly missing being dragged into the Euro. (Praise God we were not), which could even collapse, to no-one’s satisfaction whatsoever. It is not the ordinary people of Europe’s fault that this could happen of course, but the way that the Euro has hamstrung so many economies (Italy for example) making them very uncompetitive with Germany.

      It is looking very nasty, with many crises to face in Europe. This will affect us with additional pain, whatever the British exit brings. Many of us voted to leave for lots of practical reasons and long term economic reasons, not just an objection to having our country manipulated by Brussels, which has always been repugnant for us. Although there have been some economic benefits, we had for a long time anxiously, and increasingly despairingly, believed this would eventually end in tears. The competitiveness of Europe as a whole has dropped behind the USA over the past 20 years, and there are more than a few countries struggling. Further: When we consider what China is now doing and the businesses it is growing and dominating, the existence of protectionist agreements and economic barriers in Europe are for a by-gone age, and can only hurt all of our economies. Enough is enough. The politics of hot air and deal making is now all that is left and we shall have to weather the coming storm, which, if we survive it, will be worth the effort, we trust. After all, no-one really knows. But to imagine Remain was a ‘head’ (mind and logic) vote is a far too simplistic view.

      The deluded EU mandarins have restated this year their determination to continue the project; to move towards ‘ever greater’ union – a massive mistake, at which even the Russians are probably laughing. They have been there.

      1. The point with head vs heart, I suppose, is that every serious, costed analysis showed we’d lose a significant % of our economy from Brexit. A price paid in business flight and factory closures. Plus lost diplomatic clout from going it alone, plus NHS staffing concerns, plus agricultuural staffing concerns, plus having to independently rebuild the work done by every single EU agency with a domestic equivalent.

        Whereas Leave advocates could only offer fanciful visions of all this pain magically transforming into gain in some distant future too far off for any sensible forecasts to be made, or paint the EU as something far worse than it is, or if they couldn’t paint it as sufficiantly bad today, forecast a fanciful worst-case scenario, such as a future transformation into some kind of dystopia, or complete internal collapse. And add a dash of appeal to patriotism plus general fear of the Brussels bogeyman that they’d scapegoat for a ton of internal British problems.

        This whole mess is just a big story of hubris and nemesis. And the price to be paid for acting without planning – failure to plan, is, after all, effectively planning to fail.Report

      2. Well said! Remainers I meet most definitely voted with their heart and have very limited knowledge of the workings of the EU. The majority of Leave voters I know were Eurosceptic long before campaigning began.Report

    2. Ah, yes, the “bossy Brussels” meme, never supported by evidence. Of course it was “F*** Business” Johnson who worked so hard to develop this meme in the Torygraph, fabricating evidence in the process. The reality is that the National govts in the EU continue to hold the whip hand, not the invariably vaguely defined “Brussels”.Report

      1. ‘Bossy Brussels’ has the merit of alliterating and of describing where decisions are taken. You are right that it is National governments in the Council of Ministers which actually have the whip hand, which comes in part from the doctrine of the ‘acquis’ and in part from the majority voting rule. What has been decided cannot be undecided, such as the common fisheries policy and common agricultural policy, both imposed by France in the days of the unanimity rule. Under majority voting, the most recent statistics I have seen showed the German government losing out slightly more often than the British, but if insincere leavers like Boris Johnson wish to say UK sovereignty has gone, they do have some facts to support them. I want the European project to succeed, but the EU is on the wrong path to achieve it. It needs to take the Council of Ministers out of decision-making, provide a route to a United States of Europe for those states who want one and can show their citizens agree, and allow national parliaments to decide what EU legislation they wish to adopt or keep. That way the EU would become a coalition of the willing on every policy. The jargon would no doubt call this variable geometry, but that is something that sustains flight.Report

    3. Dear All,

      I have considerable sympathy with Clive’s view and would expect him to receive Brexiteers’ reactions that imply they feel he is denigrating their mental powers. Such is human nature.
      It is worrying to think that, even if the British people were consulted again today ……..particularly in the light of the threat to the geographic integrity of the United Kingdom and the Irish border ……. the vote would, even now, be too close to call.
      I fear the future will be more word-smithery for a considerable time, which will do nobody any good.


  18. I’m from Holland. It seems to me that Brexit is a sort of intelligent test for many brittains. Brittain is not anymore a worldempire. Stick together with the EU to defend our interests beyond China, India and USA.

    Greetings from HollandReport

    1. Hi Joop. Holland will vote to leave within 10 years. I would put my hard earned GBP on it. Best wishes, and no hard feelings to friends on your side of the pond, S.Report

      1. But you wouldn’t put Euros on it? Only devalued pounds. I think within 10 years, either the UK will vote to rejoin the EU, or Scotland and NI will have left, and there will be no UK. Whether England would ever vote to rejoin, depends perhaps on how hard Brexit is. Report

        1. I am glad to say that is total nonsense. You must be living on a different planet. You might want to gamble of the Euro, but it will collapse at the last. The EU will face a declining of income, increased political mistrust, and increased trouble from massive people movements (which all countries will feel, including the UK). The Italians, having learned lessons from the treatment of Greece, and being unable to devalue their own currency will leave the Euro, and/or the EU in full, but this won’t happen quickly. There is too much at stake, and they will watch with interest to see how badly we are treated or how good / bad a deal the UK is able to make.

          Other countries will face unrest, and and there may be real civil conflict as the economics shift. The failed states and oppressed peoples of the Middle East have no hope for a successful future without us (or being ruled with a rod of iron by those who would do deals with Russian and China and oppress then further). Therefore ALL (and I mean all) western countries will have to invest in them to try to bolster the peace.

          It is extremely sad that the EU project became so politically motivated, as this was not the original intention with the Treaty of Rome by most viewpoints. I suggest we all reflect on the warnings from history, soberly and quietly. Report

          1. Lol. The UK has the 2nd largest trade deficit in the world but it’s the EU that’s going to struggle…hmmm….Report

    2. Interesting begged questions: “Brittain (sic) is not anymore a worldempire.” Yes, so? Neither is Switzerland, nor Singapore. What do world empires have to do with EU membership? You are giving us what’s often called the “excluded middle”. There is, in fact, plenty of territory between being a World Empire and being ruled from Brussels, and most countries occupy that territory.

      “Stick together with the EU to defend our interests beyond China, India and USA.” Well, yes, certainly many Europeans like to free ride on UK and US defence, and have done since 1945. Is that really a reason to continue paying for others’ defences?Report

    3. It think it is you who have to rethink your views on the EU. Google The EU’s dirty secret. Check out the Barcelona declaration which your government secretly signed Holland up to. I have known of the EU’s project for years and am not prepared for my country to become multicultural. My culture is important to my identity.Report

      1. Love your views. Exactly mine too. I’m an Englishman and don’t want my culture and traditions changed for a worse culture and way of life caused by a Middle East way of life Report

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