I’ve been on holiday for the last week, but hopefully haven’t missed too much polling in the August after a general election! One thing that did happen was the Electoral Commission recommending (and the government accepting) a change in the wording of the EU referendum, from a YES/NO question to a REMAIN/LEAVE question. This raises the question of whether or not the wording makes a difference.

At the end of May ICM ran a split sample experiment, asking the then Yes/No version of the question and the remain/leave question that the Electoral Commission ended up recommending. On the Yes/No wording the result was YES 47%, NO 33%, DK 20%; on the Remain/Leave wording the result was YES 43%, NO 35%, DK 22%. Results are here.

ComRes ran a similar experiment at the same time, they asked the then Yes/No version of the question, and a more general question on whether people would vote to stay or leave in a referendum (it didn’t use the exact wording the Electoral Commission have now recommended). On the Yes/No wording the result was YES 58%, NO 31%, DK 11%. On the Stay/Leave question the result was STAY 51%, LEAVE 33%, DK 16%. Results are here.

YouGov haven’t done a split sample, but since the general election they have asked the question in two different ways – one asking the old Yes/No referendum question, and one asking if people would like Britain to remain or leave the European Union. Using the Yes/No referendum question they have found an average YES lead of 8 points. Using a question asking if people would vote for Britain to remain or stay, they have found an average REMAIN lead of 6 points (figures are here, here and here)

The scale of the difference varies between 2 and 9 points and only the ICM poll used the actual question wording. However, the general trend is clear, a remain/leave question seems to produce a smaller pro-EU lead than a yes/no question.

However, what difference the wording makes in an opinion poll is not necessarily the same question as what difference the wording makes in a referendum. An opinion poll is getting someone’s instant reaction having bombarded them with a question they may not have had a firm opinion upon until you asked. A referendum takes place after several weeks campaigning on the pros and cons on each side of the argument and what the implications and consequences of voting Yes or No (or Stay or Leave) might be. I suspect in a referendum, as opposed to an opinion poll, there is very little real difference between Yes/No and Remain/Leave.

311 Responses to “The European referendum question”

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  1. “Liz Kendall on 9.1% [of the vote]”

    Blimey that one person showed a hell of a lot of dedication (or should that be aspiration?) ;)


    “I’ve noticed Corbyn’s been very restrained on the Syrian issue.”

    In fairness to Corbyn, his position has consistently been that immigration is a good thing and we should accept more refugees. Perhaps the reason he’s being restrained is because he doesn’t feel the need to do a big song and dance about not changing his mind.

  2. https://next.ft.com/971b1066-5220-11e5-8642-453585f2cfcd?desktop=true

    The best and funniest yet: you can play bingo with it over the coming 2-5 years! From the FT


    Handy excuses for why Corbyn ultimately loses, in case he wins

    Robert Shrimsley

    The widely anticipated victory of hardline left-winger Jeremy Corbyn in Labour’s leadership contest presents a new dilemma for his fans. While they will savour victory in seizing the control of the party they will no longer be able to blame future election defeat on Labour being insufficiently leftwing. If he is as unelectable as party elders say, Labour’s left is going to need to think carefully about how to explain away the ultimate electoral defeat.

    Here then, is a handy cut out and keep guide (usable with minor modifications in many nations) for leftwingers to explain the real reasons why Jeremy Corbyn failed to become prime minister.

    1. Jeremy was sold out by Blairites: From the moment he won, New Labour neoliberals sought to undermine him in the media and the party. This disloyalty was compounded by their opposition to his hugely credible economic policies.

    2. Jeremy was sold out by voters who refused to understand that they were wrong and failed to see the wisdom of his settled socialist agenda. These feckless “electors” were too seduced by the materialist society to understand that their desires for an iPhone 7, a nice car and a new kitchen were symptoms of their own corruption by consumerist capitalism.

    3. Jeremy was sold out by militaristic electors who were too closed-minded to see the other side of the argument when one of his “political friends” said that he viewed the death of British soldiers as a “victory”. These insular and jingoistic British voters refused to understand that a desire to kill British soldiers needs to be viewed through a wider geopolitical prism. They needed to “check their privilege”.

    4. Jeremy was betrayed by greedy voters who selfishly did not want to pay more tax to fund the pensions of public sector workers with a large union base in the party.

    5a. Jeremy was sold out by leading figures who served in his shadow cabinet but tried to water down all his bold initiatives

    5b. Jeremy was sold out by leading figures who refused to serve in his shadow cabinet.

    6. Jeremy was undermined by the international Zionist conspiracy. Jeremy’s moral opposition to Israel roused the dark forces who secretly control the country and who joined forces with the CIA and Mossad — the same people behind 9/11 — to undermine him.

    7. Jeremy was betrayed by railway trains which turned out to be no more reliable once renationalised.

    8. Jeremy sold us out. Having won the leadership, Jeremy put party unity ahead of true socialism, betraying his comrades by trying to win over Labour centrists instead of purging them and other subversive neoliberal red Tories like Gordon Brown and Neil Kinnock.

    9. Jeremy was too nice. His innate personal decency blinded him to the need to eliminate all opposition.

    10. Jeremy was smeared by the Rupert Murdoch and other rightwing publications like the Guardian. No one could have predicted this. The rightwing press buried our faithful leader with relentless and utterly irrelevant personal attacks which drew undue attention to his meetings with holocaust deniers. These outrageous smears distracted voters from his anti-austerity message and after all, who among us has not shared the odd platform with a holocaust denier once in a while?

    11. Jeremy was also denied a fair hearing by the London-centric mainstream media and the BBC whose leaders are so far removed from the gritty real world of Islington. These institutions persisted with the spurious claim that he was unelectable turning it into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    12. The military industrial complex worked hard to undermine him because it feared his message of peace.

    13. Jeremy was sold-out by nationalistic Scots who did not appreciate that his election meant they no longer needed independence.

    14. Jeremy was sabotaged by international finance and currency speculators who deliberately engineered market instability in order to prevent his assault on their business practices and lifestyle.

    15. It was all America’s fault.

  3. Rob Sheffield

    Here are some hats for your straw men!


  4. @Rob Sheffield

    This is why a Corbyn win is a good thing for me: whether he wins or loses, does well or poorly, i get to have the fun of seeing a plethora of excuses being made by both sides to explain it away :)

    I’m particularly looking forward to him winning the local elections and seeing what combination of “but oppositions always win local elections, it’s a meaningless protest vote!” and “but he failed to win every council in Britain – see I told you he’d be a disaster!” turns up!

  5. @Anarcists Unite

    If Labour poll above 30% the May local elections I will give up UKPR as I obviously have no political nous.

    The excuse will be:
    Low turnout

    But you said that increasing turnout was how you were going to beat theTories……oh dear

  6. @Rob Sheffield

    16. Jeremy was sold out by socialist Greens who while enthusiastically voting in the Labour leadership election still could not bring themselves to vote subsequently for a party led by the person they had voted for.

    Although that one might well turn out to be true.

  7. 17. Jeremy was sold out by treacherous Red Tory Blairite activists who stopped canvassing for the party once he became leader. His own supporters couldn’t possibly have done it as voters’ doorsteps are an unsafe space and site of oppression. They were too busy moving deselection ballots anyway.

  8. 18. Jeremy was sold out by the the LP administration who now (!) promises to many affiliate members that they will definitely get their ballot papers by Monday, and blames an agency they hired to do the job. It could pretty well seal where those people will put the cross (which will count providing that they pay for next day delivery, or do it online).

  9. Finding it very hard to get remotely excited about Corbynmania, and the Labour party leadership election in general.

    Now there appears to be polling evidence from Scotland suggesting Corbyn would lose more voters than he would gain, I really think the obvious outcome for Labour is to vote for Corbyn to enjoy a further holiday from real power. If that’s what the party wants, that’s fine, but I can’t personally get overly excited about that.

    There are clearly alternative, more left leaning analyses that are required, but Corbyn has far too much baggage to be a realistic prospect of delivering such things. History tells us that those politicians who delivery the radical changes tend to come from the very groups that need to be persuaded to change. It’s a reassurance thing. Corbyn doesn’t have that, and never will, and the middle ground will never back him.

  10. @Couper2802

    “The excuse will be:
    Low turnout”

    Ah, but you always get low turnout at a local election; at a general election it would be different ;)

    In seriousness, I doubt Labour will win (i.e. increase) their council seats at the coming local elections – but then I doubt they’d do it regardless of who is the leader. When the last elections were held they were running at about 40% support, the Lib Dems were still weighed down by the Clegg-Factor, the Greens had yet to make a bigger splash and the omnishambles budget had been trotted out. They were clearly on a high.

    It’d be a bit unrealistic to expect the new leader, whoever they are, to turn it around sufficiently in 6 months so that they’re increasing their support.

    It does have some interest though. Should Burnham or Cooper prevail (which I think is more likely than many credit), and should they ‘lose’ the local elections, I wonder how many of the anti-Corbynites who were screaming for a coup in such an eventuality will be consistent and demand that Cooper/Burnham goes? I rather suspect they’ll be a lot of backtracking and wheezing about needing more time :)

  11. Cameron appears to be completely on the wrong side of the emotional debate regarding refugees. Reports now that he is backtracking and will accept more won’t help the sense that he has been rudderless and drifting on this issue, if that’s an appropriate metaphor.

    It’s unclear though how much polling gain could be made from this. It’s a classic ‘something must be done’ issue, with the problems arising when we ask exactly what that is. And amongst it all, many people keeping their heads down, wondering what happens if we do open the doors.

    The bigger question comes if this turns out not to be so much a response to war, but the start of a new and long term economically inspired mass movement of people. Research is now being touted as showing that people respond to reduced poverty by migrating in increasing numbers, and that this trend last for several decades before stabilising. If true, then what Europe is seeing this summer will become the norm, and decisions on who is or isn’t a refugee will become very difficult indeed.

  12. @Alec

    “Now there appears to be polling evidence from Scotland suggesting Corbyn would lose more voters than he would gain”

    The trouble, of course, is that the polls conducted also shows that the other three would do no better, or worse.

    Until someone wins the thing we’re not really going to know how they’ll do. The irony, as I’ve mentioned before, is that Corbyn has succeeded in his nominal aim: he shifted the terms of the debate and improved them; both Cooper and Burnham have been much better in the later stages as they’ve taken on clearer and stronger voices as a result of Corbyn doing well. Had they started in that vein they would be fighting out for the leadership, not for the ABC vote.

    It is, after all, hardly Corbyn’s fault that the other three, at the start of the campaign, conspired to be about as inspiring as watching paint dry.

  13. Alec
    And who is or isn’t an IS activist.

  14. @Alec (again)

    “It’s unclear though how much polling gain could be made from this. It’s a classic ‘something must be done’ issue, with the problems arising when we ask exactly what that is”

    It’s tricky, but it’s a problem in two stages. Obviously there are refugees here and now who need help, so we should do what we can for them. But then the wider problem is solving the root of the problem, but that is complicated and not likely to be fixed any time soon.

    For what it’s worth I thought Peter Singer had a good article on it:


  15. Couper2802

    If Labour poll above 30% the May local elections I will give up UKPR as I obviously have no political nous.

    Please don’t give up, as I suspect that it will be fairly difficult for Labour not to get more than 30% as there are mainly urban seats up for grabs next May.

    As I keep on pointing out these are the least informative batch of the cycle and will be scanty even compared to 2012 because the Scottish and Welsh elections have been delayed. I would however expect Labour losses because 2012 was the best local government percentage for them in recent years at 38%:


    and May 2012 was also the highest they got in the polls in the last parliament after the omnishambles budget,but before the rise of UKIP. Labour averaged 44% in YouGov that month, so for them to do anywhere like as well in May as they did in 2012 will be a triumph.

    They will still be interesting elections to follow of course, in particular to see how the Lib Dems post-Clegg, UKIP pre-referendum and Greens post-Labour election all do. Not just in terms of votes, but what candidates and organisation they show as well. It will also be instructive to see the effect of the influx of new members to Labour’s ranks and and pre-referendum tensions in the Conservatives. But the actual results will be less predictive than some will no doubt claim.

  16. Yeah, I don’t really buy the whole “Corbyn will win back Scotland” argument. He agrees with the SNP on many key issues (nuclear disarmament, abolition of tuition fees), with one big exception – he wants Scotland to remain in the UK. And a recent poll showed that there is now a majority in Scotland in favour of independence.

  17. I suspect one critical issue for many voters will be what is the material difference between refugees and economic migrants.

    My assumption – and this may well be incorrect – is that there are obligations to accept refugees when displaced by war, famine etc. However, war and famine are temporary factors, although the timescales could well be measured in years.

    If there was a clearly understood notion that the UK would accept it’s fair share of refugees on the understanding that as and when their own countries are fit places to live in they are returned, I suspect there would be far less worry about the numbers.

    Where the political problems probably lie is in doubts about the distinctions between migrants and refugees. This won’t be helped by seeing that those in Hungary and Greece want to get to places like Germany and the UK, and get angry when they aren’t allowed further. If you are after a place of safety and a shelter from war, Greece isn’t so bad. If your motivation is earning money – sure – go to Germany.

    There are many issues being woven into a single confused story here, and my guess is that our inability to respond properly is a result of years of misinformation about refugees, and an unwillingness to separate these from normal migration.

  18. Alec
    “If there was a clearly understood notion that the UK would accept it’s fair share of refugees on the understanding that as and when their own countries are fit places to live in they are returned,”

    And that they as well as failed asylum seekers, illegal immigrants etc are actually deported by our government which certainly isn’t happening now in any great numbers.

  19. @ALEC

    I watched the lunchtime new and the scenes at the train in Hungary with mostly men, chanting and throwing the bottled water back at the police. They didn’t really get my sympathy.

    If it’s a lot of young men as in Calias, it is fairly clear they are economic migrants, most of them seem to have family back home and are planning to work and send money back home. So home is obviously safe.

    Wheras if it is families then they are probably refugees.

    The first group I think frighten people, gangs of young healthy men, but they would actually boost GDP without using many public services, whereas the refugees with families would put more strain on public services with probably less economic benefit.

  20. While slow and muddled, Cameron’s response is beginning to sound more reasoned. By accepting refugees from the UN camps, we are making a statement that those fleeing genuine distress can get to their nearest camp and find more permanent help. I tend towards sympathy with @Coupar’s view, that traveling through several countries and then demanding that your hosts do what you demand doesn’t make people feel as well disposed towards you.

  21. It would appear that the Hungarian Police are using similar tactics that police forces across Europe use against football fans.

    History shows that such tactics are very provocative, and leads to trouble.

    I do find the sight of a country not very keen on migrants using heavy-handed tactics to get them into camps rather disturbing to say the least. As many a football fan will tell you, the prevalent attitudes and treatment of ethnic minorities in Eastern Europe isn’t too clever. Fans and players that have travelled there have been subject to terrible abuse.

    Germany have led the way for a progressive approach, but it has also highlighted the cultural gulf in the EU, just as big as the economic gulf.

  22. COUPER 2802

    I agree . It is all too easy to give emotive, something must be done reactions. A blanket approach to this tide of humanity is far too lazy & misses the many different circumstances involved.

    Take the case of poor little Aylan Kurdi. My first reaction was -what ever possessed his father to leave a safe country ( Turkey) & try to row his young family across 12 miles of open sea in a rubber dinghy?.

    The detail-as ever-tells you more. This family are Kurds & fled from ISIS in Kobani. ( I thought Kobani had been retaken by the Peshmerga-but leave that aside). He applied for asylum in Canada where they have relatives. To formally register as a refugee with the UN is a process run from Ankara. There are long delays lasting years in this process in Turkey. Without registered refugee status , the Turkish Government won’t grant exit visas to Syrians.-so impasse for the Kurdi family. In addition the renewed fighting between Turkey & the PKK makes for a difficult life in Turkey for Kurds. Turkey is trying to establish a 60 mile safe zone & Syrians think they will be sent to it when established-so they risk all on the open Aegean Sea.

    This is the background to the pictures of one drowned child on a Turkish beach.

    Who is at fault?

    The parents
    The PKK
    The UN
    The EU


  23. Clearly it is an essential part of any wise policy to open a line to taking refugees from the UN camps – not least because this would prevent deaths in dangerous crossings and also undercut the illegal traders.

    That might be politically tricky, though, as it essentially concedes that there is going to be a sponsored ferry service for migrants, but the climate appears to be right for proposing it.

  24. @Colin

    The real issue is a systematic failure, with all the parts you listed being in the mix.

    We live in a globalised age, with information about everywhere available at the touch of a screen on a smart phone.

    We have relatively cheap travel to go most places in the world.

    We have many Governments being totally corrupt, and civil/religious/tribal wars creating misery.

    We have a great inequality of wealth and opportunity across the globe, made more obvious due the technology making this easily observable. Someone in sub-Saharan Africa can see easily how well the rich half of the world lives.

    The natural response to such inequality is to seek out somewhere better to live.

    We have created the technology, the inequality, and sometimes the instability that has led to wars, but not done anything to handle the migration that will follow.

    Putting fences up on borders won’t fix this. The inequality, the corruption, the wars all needs to be tackled. People in Africa and the Middle East need stable Governments that provide safety, security and chance of a decent life through economies that provide a living.

    All big stuff, but unless the dots are joined, we will only be finding bigger and bigger sticking plasters (that do not work in the long term).

  25. @CatManJeff

    “Putting fences up on borders won’t fix this”

    Or indeed putting numbers on people’s arms…


  26. @Anarchists Unite

    I agree with you.

    Shutting down legal methods of migration just fills the pockets human traffickers and creates misery and death.

    It is politically tough to sell, but the other option see what is going in Hungary and Calais day after day.

    There is simply no ‘block all migrants’ policy that can work,

  27. @Anarchists Unite

    That’s really creepy.

  28. CATMAN

    Yes-of course -the world is full of problems. The bigger the human population gets, the more there will be.

    So-how do you propose to “tackle” ISIL & the conflict in Syria.

    Around 6m Syrians are internally displaced.3 million have fled to Syria’s immediate neighbours Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq and tens if not hundreds of thousands of these are quitting UN camps and heading for Europe.

    So it would be a very good start to “tackle” Syria-what are your thoughts?

  29. Sure, Syria would be a useful place to start, but that conflict isn’t about just Syria is it? Other interests are providing money and arms.

    I’ve always thought that the Middle East needs to cooperate into something akin to perhaps NATO. Clearly the Arab League would a suitable body potentially. The members of the Arab League need to stop engaging in proxy wars via the backdoor.

    Intervention by the West is not good for creating long term political solution – see Iraq and Afghanistan as evidence. Therefore I would envisage the Arab league working on stopping the fighting, followed by constructing a peaceful political solution.

    While this goes on the West should provide the funds required for humanitarian work for essential care – medicine, food and water.

    It’s for the Middle East to provide the political solution. Once peace is sustained, a new Marshall plan is required to ensure people can live and prosper in their own birth country. Perhaps those who have sought refuge might return.

    None of that is easy, but it never was going to be.

  30. @CatManJeff

    “That’s really creepy.”

    It’s bloody disturbing (did nobody know enough to understand why that might not be appropriate?)


    “So it would be a very good start to “tackle” Syria-what are your thoughts?”

    As I see it there are four main options:

    1) UN backed intervention; would be, I think, the best option, with a long post-war period to reform the country and get its infrastructure going again.

    The problems with this are, though, that a) the Russians would block it; b) the public is war-weary after Iraq and Afghanistan; c) no government would presently be willing to commit the resources and money necessary for the effort and the post-war reconstruction and reform.

    2) Outside UN intervention; works, but is ignoring international law, with the quagmire that implies, and would still carry the same problems of restoration and cost. Would also require the intervening countries to handle the organization and the reconstruction, not the UN.

    3) Carry on/expand the bombing runs; there’s no real evidence that these are effective, and they frequently work to increase atrocities not diminish them. Not helped by the fact that we don’t have a clear mission goal behind them.

    4) Cut a deal with Assad; give him money to get the weapons necessary to repel ISIS and stabilize the country, whilst supporting him by carrying on the bombing. As part of it get assurances about Syria’s future, more democracy, no retaliations, referendum etc. As well as giving Assad assurances that he and his family, should things not go his way, will be given safe conduct to a nation of his choosing.

    Obviously this one isn’t pleasant because nobody likes propping up brutal dictators, but as two of the above are non-starters, and one of them won’t affect the situation much one way or the other (until we decide what we’re setting out to achieve), this is perhaps, regrettably, the most feasible solution to the situation.

    These are, for me anyway, in descending order of preference the options that I think are there and that I, personally, would consider palatable (though, apart from the first one, I have severe reservations about all of them).

    Less palatable than that though are:

    5) Cut a deal with ISIS; recognizing the borders they have and them as a state, in exchange for them not ranging any further.
    (Makes me physically ill writing the words, but may well end up happening)

    Or else:

    6) Hope Golden Dawn win the Greek elections then bung them a lot of money and wish them well on the quest to reconquer their ‘heritage from Alexander’

    7) Pope Francis calls for a new Crusade.

    (All right the last two aren’t totally serious).

  31. @ Cooper

    Just for the facts:

    1) Keleti station is downtown. There were 3,000 refugees.
    2) it was blocked by the police, and then suddenly opened.
    3) there was a train to Sopron (border town with Austria). The refugees got on it.
    4) days he police did not intervene
    5) The train was stopped in Bicske, just outside Budapest, surrounded by police to take off the refugees.

    Some further information
    1) The Hungarian government allowed three trains to cross to Austria
    2) The Hungarian prime minister said that it’s the islamisation in Europe
    3) He also said that refugees are disease ridden, so they have to be isolated
    4) his main minister said that he doesn’t want his grandson live in the European United Caliphate (good, because there the thiefs arms would be chopped off).
    5) German courts have refused to send back asylum seekers to Hungary, even if it’s legal, because their human rights wouldn’t be guaranteed (well, not even Hungarian citizens human rights are guaranteed).

  32. Some further facts
    1) Hungarian governments have traditionally been incompetent.
    2) in 2001 the Hungarian PM said he wanted one million immigrants
    3) a few months ago the Hungarian government started a campaign with billboards against refugees with the main message that “you can’t take away Hungarian’s work”. It created quite a bit of stir, and now we know that the immigrants don’t want to take away the work of Hungarians
    4) the Hungarian police is institutionally racist
    5) today the Hungarian Parlaiment approved laws that enables the government to suspend any democratic rights
    6) there will be a Hungary versus Romania match tonight, so riots are expected.

  33. @Laszlo

    You are most definitely sacked as Head of the Hungarian Tourist Board.

  34. I always get worried when governments respond to ‘pressure’. Pressure from whom? There was undoubted overwhelming pressure for Scotland to be independent. But, as it turned out, that pressure wasn’t the majority view.

    From YouGov: 6963 GB adults on 03/09/2015, weighted to be nationally representative:
    Do you think the UK should be accepting more refugees from Syria?
    Many more 15%
    Some more 25% (wonder what that means?)
    No more 49%
    Don’t know 11%

    Food for thought.

  35. @CMJ – that TES terror link shows how concerned the security services are about an IS/Green Party link up.

    They might start detonating car bombs using electric vehicles!

  36. I wonder if Lenin would have included the Greens in his ‘useful idiots’ category? If so, perhaps that’s why the police are concerned.

  37. @ CMJ

    If for nothing else – for awful spelling.

    But it is serious in Europe – the refugee crisis (which is still smaller than the one in the Balkan wars of the 1990s) is just an administrative problem (the military one is also an administrative issue). The real one is the radicalisation of Europe to both wings, partially fuelled by this crisis.

  38. @Alec

    Pack an electric car with dried lentils…..boom.

    It would be a dhalsaster if you were caught in it…

    (after that pun, I’ll get my coat)…..


  39. @ Pete B

    Ilyich would have used anyone … It wasn’t his fault that the Left wing SR’s didn’t agree with Brest Litovsk and it resulted in a quite big upheaval in 1918, and then again in 1920-21).

    He was much less tolerant with anarchists though.

    Less palatable than that though are:
    5) Cut a deal with ISIS; recognizing the borders they have and them as a state, in exchange for them not ranging any further.
    (Makes me physically ill writing the words, but may well end up happening)

    Not just unpalatable but also unworkable. ISIS aren’t a political organisation in the way Al-Quaeda are and they don’t have demands – they’re a millenarian group. Their end goal isn’t the end of Western involvement in the Middle East or the establishment of a state, it’s fulfilling religious prophecy and bringing about the Day of Judgement. I don’t think they actually want their borders or their statehood recognised by external powers because they believe that they are establishing a worldwide caliphate.

    They are also, incidentally, not afraid of a war with the West – their eschatology explicitly requires one.

  41. @CMJ

    I am for arming Assad and letting him take back control. In fact if we hadn’t got rid of Hussian and Gadafi (In particular Gadafi) we wouldn’t have this mess. Instead we should have provided economic support so their countries could prosper and folk wouldn’t have to migrate to get a half way decent life.

    I know they were ‘brutal dictators’ but there is no regime as brutal as the Saudi’s and we are happy with them – probably because they are ‘Royalty’ and we all love to doff our caps to Royalty.

  42. The only thing that will stop the civil wars in the ME is if the money to all the various warlords dries up.

    I understand that ISIL were originally funded by Saudi and UAE in order to topple Assad. The aim being to allow them to place a friendlier leader who would allow them to build a gas pipeline through Syrian territory on it’s way to Europe (something Assad rejected in favour of a pipeline from Iran through Iraq and Syria on to Europe).

    Assad of course is funded by Russians. Which means all sides are being fueled by oil money.

    The oil price only started falling last Nov and has only been under $50 for two months. If it can stay under $50 for three more years, it should break the back of the Saudis and others and they’ll have to cut back on their overseas stuff.

    In the meanwhile it will be a rough few years.

  43. Anarchists Unite

    Reluctantly, I also take the view that the only feasible way of helping Syria is to cut a deal with Assad. Not least because this means cooperation with the Russians who support him.

    The objective has to be the elimination of IS in Syria. There is no hope at all whilst they are controlling large areas.

    All incredibly difficult, but I think the only realistic option.

  44. The biggest issue in giving Assad the tools to defeat IS is the egg (or even ego) on the face of Western politicians, once determined to cast him in a certain light and remove him from power.

    I’m no Middle East expert, but Assad seems to be like Gaddafi. Both Libya and Syria seemed to be relatively prosperous, free from religious extremism and with a modern looking, well educated population. It’s quite clear that the Syrians fleeing now could fit into the educated middle classes of any European nation very easily.

    I am also unaware of their desire to expand the territory of their countries.

    Of course Assad has done some very bad things, but he seems the least worst option.

  45. ALEC”

    May I suggest that you reexamine your assumption that a reason for economic migration can be reduced to the motivation of earning money? Beyond individual motivations the causes of seeking the means of livelihoods by illicit migration, and facing the dangers which may be involved, are also – in the understanding of these movements which underlies EU strategy – those of demography and lack access to resources and opportunity affecting very large numbers of people which blur the distinction between asylum seeker and economic migrant. This was the case in Vietnam, where a major proportion of the boat people were economic migrants but were so because their families sought a way out of the starvation and lack of opportunity (including that of any legitimate migration) arising from population increase and land shortage in the Red River Delta.
    In the present crisis, which will indeed last into the foreseeable future, this blurring of definition of economic migrant and asylum seeker has, under the scrutiny of international studies of the EU and the UN, made it evident – at least to the EU and to a number of European leaders – that migration from sub-Saharan and North Africa not only has unstoppable demographic force, but – with the quite different refugee movement from Syria and other Middle East and North African states – will provide a necessary replenishment of the labour force needs of EU states. Thus, to quote the two most salient statements which have emerged in recent months:

    : “The United Nations Population Division, which tracks demographic data from around the world, has dramatically revised its projections for what will happen in the next 90 years. The new statistics, based on in-depth survey data from sub-Saharan Africa, tell the story of a world poised to change drastically over the next several decades. Most rich countries will shrink and age (with a couple of important exceptions) with a strong dependency on immigration to meet their employment needs and dependency balance, poorer countries will expand rapidly and, maybe most significant of all, Africa will see a population explosion nearly unprecedented in human history.” (Washington Post)

    On the latter, Jean-Claude Juncker’s statement in Malta is a well researched assessment of the need in the EU for immigrant labour. Setting out his proposals for an EU response to cross-Mediterrean illicit migration, President to be Jean-Claude Juncker wrote in April 2014:

    “Organising legal migration is also in Europe’s own long-term interest. Demographic projections show that by 2060 the EU’s active population will decline by over 10%, or 50 million people, whereas the numbers of retired people will increase from 17.1% to 30%, and from 84.6 million to 151.5 million. This trend poses a real danger to the economic productivity of the EU, especially because soon there will be two members of the working population for every person over 65, instead of four as it is today. From 2015 onwards, demographic shrinking in the EU will mean two things: one: we will need to replace pensioners in the job market, and two: we will need to fill new jobs created to serve an ever-growing number of old people, particularly in the care sector. We therefore need to develop a common legal migration policy to meet the increasing demand for skills and talents.”

  46. There are alternatives to importing many thousands of low skilled workers. Develop technology and automation. There will be less incentive to do this if there is a large resource of cheap labour.

  47. @Pete B

    If that is the society we get, a Citizen’s Income becomes a really good policy.

  48. Fascinating (except for John Pilgrim, who has a proper reasoning, valid points, and hence boring :-)).

    What about the people? Do you really think that all those despots in North Africa would have succeeded for a very long time had they not had a significant social class to support them? That any regime can survive purely on oppressive forces (just to say, in 1984 Stasi told the Politbureau that unless they find ways of significantly increasing living standards, the regime would fall and no secret service tool could stop it). What has happened to those classes (much of them captured by religious organisation – now where is it familiar?

    Militarily, it is nothing – probably two fully equipped divisions and using the Chinese method in the liberated areas (searching for hidden weaponry). But Iraq and Afganistan are major lessons. How do you construct anything resembling a society if you haven’t made the slightest social research int these societies (just look at Foreign Affairs).

  49. Automod – I don’t see why, so I can’t even rephrase it.

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