Over on the YouGov website I’ve written a long piece looking at how the ground lies ahead of the European referendum campaign – what the breakdown of support and opposition currently is, how people perceive those who support and oppose Europe, how effective the arguments might be and how risky each option is currently seen. Read it here.

Meanwhile ICM put out their weekly tracking data on EU referendum voting intention today, their latest figures are REMAIN 44%, LEAVE 37%.


188 Responses to “Previewing the EU referendum battle”

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  1. @Hawthorn
    “As for Blairites winning, they have not done so for ten years and 2005 was practically a win by default.”

    I agree. For many on the left, those those wins were down to electoral choices something like this:
    – 1997 “You can get rid of the Tories? That’s enough for me, and besides you’re surely going to do more than you say.”
    – 2001 “Well that was a bit disappointing, but it was better than Major and surely you’ll add a bit of red meat in your second term.”
    – 2005 (for the remaining 36%) “Fat chance, as it turned out. But at least I can still vote Labour in the knowledge that Brown’s about to change things after giving you the boot.”

  2. @Candy

    Hmm… I’m not convinced. Raiding British resident non-doms in what you know will be a useful and popular policy (because Labour already trialled it) is one thing. This would be something else, and not just because Osborne like his predecessor prefers to tax by stealth.

    Two things come to mind: 1) the government is still heavily trailing the line that diesel is better for the environment and, socco voce, less harmful to people’s health. Suing someone on these grounds would rather pump a shotgun round into that argument.

    (1.5, Osborne is also one of the pushers for the TTP which gives companies the right to sue if government policy would hit their expected profits – this,raising a tax, would count as one such instance)

    2) Once it’s admitted that private companies can do criminal/criminally irresponsible things in search of a profit, and that these can be very harmful to the public, and that there is therefore a strong case for tighter regulation it dumps the anti-financial regulation argument off of shaky ground and headfirst into quick sand.

    For all these reasons I suspect Osborne will not be dipping his toes into this water, and be surprised if there’s any large response at all (other than the usual ‘well what can you say, boys will be boys’ line that always seems to accompany such things). In any case, even if he did he’d only waste on either subsidising rail, fracking or the debt, not put it to a good use like investing in renewable energy, or improving and making electric cars (which in the middle and long run would be both economically and environmentally better, but I suspect this is yet another comparative advantage opportunity that’s going to whizz by us.)

  3. @Millie

    I’m sure DC will not mind the pig story being in the headlines.

    The story is harmless nonsense, and it keeps the much more significant issue around Lord Ashcroft’s tax status. Doing daft but legal things is harmless. If Parliament has been misled, that’s quite another.

    I think VW will survive, but there is so much scope for claims against them, such as being unable to sell a car, or breaches of the Sales of Goods act.
    To knowingly mislead, like they have admitted has happened, is indeed serious.

  4. CMJ
    It’s not exactly difficult to upset the Welsh.

    Phil Haines
    Nice summary. I see exactly what you mean. Of course Blair was also helped by a series of Tory leaders who failed to enthuse the public (not that the present bunch are much better).

  5. CMJ

    It is indeed a big deal. The big thing is whether there is quite a lot more to follow.

    Merkel really is going through it at the moment.

  6. AU
    I’m looking forward to cheap driverless cars so I can get properly pissed at the pub instead of having to be responsible.

  7. The VW scandal can also lead to a major overhaul of the supply chain management in automotive industry (delegating decision making to first and second tier suppliers).

  8. @Pete B

    “I’m looking forward to cheap driverless cars so I can get properly pissed at the pub instead of having to be responsible.”

    You know I’m pretty sure that that’s what was behind the incentive to make driverless cars in the first place ;)

  9. :-)

  10. Meanwhile, YG have released the results of their poll on piggery-pokery at Oxford.

    https://yougov.co.uk/news/2015/09/21/david-cameron-result/

    In summary, elderly, upper class Tory voters in the South of the UK are more likely to think that “it was years ago and couldn’t matter less” while some more of Labour voters in the North of England ought “it was a sign of the man”.

    There is no evidence for the feelings of Dorset shepherds, angered that their harmless semi-veterinary penetrations are ignored by urban bankers. “They’re only interested in the bloody Welsh” said Bathsheba Everdene, “That Ken knows nothing of true English sexuality!”

  11. @Barbarzenzero

    Diesels emit NOx gasses which cause lung problems (and probably aggravate asthma). Petrol engines do not. So diesels are worse for health.

    As for Germany leading on European standards – LOL. They’ve been the chief block in tightening standards in the last decade. Because they both have a large car industry and are the biggest emitters of CO2 in Europe by a long way (see the link I posted – they arn’t just producing slightly more pollution than everyone else – they are producing WAY more). Their whole economy is based on polluting.

  12. @CMJ – “Given the taxation placed on UK cars based on emissions, if it is known the results for many VW cars are flawed (and likely some others brands too), will the taxation applied be modified, based on new tests?

    That is Pandora’s box.”

    Not really. So far, the issue is restricted to NOx emissions from diesels, while car tax is based on CO2 emissions.

    While I’m sure that CO2 tests will be somewhat ineffective at replicating actual road conditions, the point with these is that the emissions are directly linked to firstly the carbon content of the fuel, and secondly the volume of fuel used, ergo the fuel efficiency.

    NOx emissions are significantly more complex, as they depend on variables regarding the engine control and combustion (which is why the VW software was able to dodge the tests in the first place). Theoretically, you don’t even need to fit a car to a test rig to work out the CO2 emissions – you just need to know the proportion of carbon in the hydrocarbon fuel, the volume of fuel used, and then do a quick bit of chemistry calculations to work out the CO2 emissions. You couldn’t do this for NOx.

    Of course, the scandal may yet extend to other parts of the emissions regulations, so I wouldn’t right off your point just yet.

    For me, the greater Pandora’s Box is the one marked ‘Corporate Responsibility’. Once again, we have a massively well paid chief executive who is happy to claim the responsibility (and the money) for all the good things that happen, but when bad things happen – what do you know – he knows nothing about it.

    But then again, that particular box will remain firmly closed, I’m pretty sure.

  13. Alec = “For me, the greater Pandora’s Box is the one marked ‘Corporate Responsibility’.”

    But don’t forget that Lower Saxony own 20.2% of the voting rights of VW and a place on the board. Enough to make a difference if they wanted to.

    But they didn’t… Possibly because there were jobs involved and dividends involved.

    Having the corporation separate from the state means there are no conflicts of interest – which is probably why this scandal was first uncovered in the USA.

  14. Alec
    He’s resigned

  15. Candy

    “Having the corporation separate from the state means there are no conflicts of interest ”

    That would have to be a pious hope at the best of times – but quoting the USA in support of that fantasy suggests you have little knowledge of what happens in the USA – certainly at state level.

    That the USA has “broken” (“uncovered” may not be the most accurate term) the story may have more than a little to do with the fact that VW was cheating its way into the sales of US car manufacturers.

  16. @OldNat

    Diesels only have a 3% share of the American market. So VW was no threat to them. They cleared BMW by the way, so this wasn’t some sort of anti-German thing,

    What was different about the Americans was they had no reason to look the other way in the manner the German govt was clearly doing.

    Same reason why it took the Americans to bring down FIFA, They had no conflicts of interest because football isn’t big there.

    VW is partially state owned and the state had an interest in keeping it going despite problems. They were getting dividends and that weighed more than deaths of other people in other landers and countries.

  17. Candy

    You really should look at what folk say, and not what you would like them to have said!

    My criticism of your comment was based on your assumption that the lack of formal state partial ownership of a company in the US means that they aren’t protected by the state when they breach environmental rules.

    There are other industries than car production!

  18. It’s being reported that the BMWs which were tested in the same way as the VWs did meet the emissions standards.

  19. @OldNat

    You implied that the only reason it was the Americans who uncovered the problem was because they were trying to protect US car manufacturers from VW! That’s not the case given how tiny diesels are as part of the US market.

    There are multiple conflicts of interest on the supervisory board of VW. The state of Lower Saxony had two members on the board (the president and the labour minister). These people are simultaneously supposed to keep the public safe from toxic emissions in their elected role, but at the same time, keep jobs and dividends flowing to the state. The supervisory board also had 10 union representatives. These people are interested keeping jobs at all costs – two hell with the general public breathing in the toxic gasses or the shareholders who would pay for doing illegal stuff (to the tune of about $18 bn).

    You can’t have the people doing the regulating also benefiting from the regulations not being enforced (the state of Saxony in this case). And if fines are meant to be a deterrent to bad behaviour you need people on the board who are sensitive to being fined (and union members arn’t because it’s not coming out of their pockets, only shareholders are sensitive to being fined).

    The American regulators by contrast were wearing just one hat and were focused solely on whether the emissions were breaking the law.

  20. Candy

    Nope. I suggested that it was possible that the US was more willing to deal with VW’s cheating, than it might have responded to a US company.

  21. @Candy @OldNat

    Actually the guy in charge of the original investigation who uncovered the shenanigans at VW is from Castellón (part of the Valencian Community) in Spain.
    http://www.lasprovincias.es/economia/201509/23/ingenieron-valenciano-destapo-fraude-20150923190227.html

  22. RAF

    Interesting BUT

    He must speak Spanish. lots of Americans also speak Spanish. Therefore, he is really an American (unless Trump becomes President). :-)

  23. @OldNat

    Except the American regulators (different branch) have also gone for GM over ignition switch safety:

    http://home.bt.com/lifestyle/motoring/motoring-news/general-motors-facing-huge-fine-11364006005319

    The penalty will be paid out of Q3 2015 earnings.

    (Note the US govt bailed out GM in 2009, but it’s shares were put in a blind trust – they did not sit on the board. And they then sold their shares as soon as they were able to (in 2013).

    Keeping the regulator separate from the regulated does produce better outcomes.

  24. @Candy & OldNat

    The US has been curiously silent about Exxon Mobil’s various oil spillages and misdeeds in Nigeria though (so what’s being exposed here is not much more than the principle of nationalism).

    “Keeping the regulator separate from the regulated does produce better outcomes.”

    This is substantively true but it of course exists for all situations, not just for state investment or part-ownership

  25. Candy

    It seems that you can only see discussions in adversarial terms (though given your approach to them, the ones you indulge in may degenerate into such. :-) )

    I’m not disagreeing that “keeping the regulator separate from the regulated does produce better outcomes.” – just with your naive assumption that such is only exercised through ownership.

    There are many other ways in which the regulated can control the regulator – and US politics is replete with such examples.

  26. @OldNat

    Actually he directed origin investigation for the investigation for the International Council on Clean Transportation, based in Berlin.

    He agrees with @Candy that US standards on NOx are much more stringent than in Europe, but that’s probably because 53% of all cards sold in Europe are diesel compared to less than 5% in the US.

    The article continues: “Franco ha lamentado la falta de una agencia a nivel europeo con atribuciones equiparables a la Agencia de Protección Medioambiental (EPA) de Estados Unidos “que fue en este caso la que asumió la investigación que ha destapado las malas prácticas de Volkswagen”.”

    Translation: [Victor] Franco lamented the lack of an agency at a European level with similar functions to that of the EPA in the US “which in this case took took on the investigation that has uncovered the bad practices of Volkswagen.””

  27. @Oldnat

    First para….”He directed the original investigation for…”

  28. RAF

    I’m not sure that “He agrees with @Candy that US standards on NOx are much more stringent than in Europe” is the best way of putting it.

    I rather think that he came to that conclusion independently – through the comparatively simple method of looking at the two sets of regulations.

    Isn’t it the case that you have the relationship between the NOx standards and the percentage of diesel cars in the EU the wrong way round?

    Surely the reason that there are more diesel cars here is because the NOx and particulate standards allow that to happen?

    I doubt that the government of Lower Saxony has much influence over the conclusions of the EU Commissioners. It seems more probable that the motor industry in the EU has been granted too much influence over the regulators – without any need for ownership to play any part.

    That, of course, is true in any jurisdiction – whether the silence on pollution by US oil companies outwith (or sometimes within) the USA [as Anarchists Unite pointed out], or the rather too close relationship between SNP Minister Fergus Ewing and the lairds, in my country.

  29. @OldNat
    “Surely the reason that there are more diesel cars here is because the NOx and particulate standards allow that to happen?”

    Or that was always the case. For as long as I can remember diesel cars in mainland Europe have always been just as much or more popular than petrol cars. Maybe the standards were simply built around the existing commercial reality.

    ” It seems more probable that the motor industry in the EU has been granted too much influence over the regulators – without any need for ownership to play any part.”

    Yes, but why? There are a plethora of different possible reasons – from the free movement of goods to the fact most EU citizens drive a car – that do not involve any hard handed lobbying, or any cosy relationship between the industry and regulators (which isn’t to say such relationships don’t exist, just that some of larger industries operate within a much wider and more complex social, economic and political context that also needs to be taken into account).

  30. “I’m not sure that “He agrees with @Candy that US standards on NOx are much more stringent than in Europe” is the best way of putting it.

    I rather think that he came to that conclusion independently – through the comparatively simple method of looking at the two sets of regulations.”

    ———-

    Well you never know, he might have chatted with Candy about it first…
    ,

  31. “Yes, but why?”

    ———-

    Well, it depends on the orgies…

  32. CANDY

    @”But don’t forget that Lower Saxony own 20.2% of the voting rights of VW ”

    Exactly so-ie there are German lawmakers involved.

    Alec is right though-you cannot earn the mega bucks that the VW CEO earned & get away without harm after this. In US he would be headed for gaol-maybe he will be extradited.

    So-in the EU we have less onerous diesel emission targets, & useless testing regimes applied to specially doctored cars, whilst selling specially doctored cars to US customers, from a partly state owned motor company.

  33. ALEC

    @”So far, the issue is restricted to NOx emissions from diesels, while car tax is based on CO2 emissions.”

    But there is a connection between the two -the mad world of kneejerk Global Warming “solutions”. see the Guardian analysis below .

    I like this -albeit retrospective-pithy summation :-

    ““We did not sleepwalk into this. To be totally reductionist, you are talking about killing people today rather than saving lives tomorrow. Occasionally, we had to say we were living in a different political world and everyone had to swallow hard,”

    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/sep/22/the-rise-diesel-in-europe-impact-on-health-pollution

  34. CANDY

    Diesels emit NOx gasses which cause lung problems (and probably aggravate asthma). Petrol engines do not. So diesels are worse for health.

    The trouble is that because diesel engines are more efficient and use fuel which is cheaper and safer to produce and store, they are used by virtually all commercial vehicles from tractors and trucks to ships and most non-electrified railways. I agree that emissions need to be reduced to an absolute minimum but to ban diesels would be catastrophic for the world economy until a real alternative is available.

    As for Germany leading on European standards – LOL. They’ve been the chief block in tightening standards in the last decade.

    Yes, I agree, but it is in their own interests that they will have to change PDQ.

  35. @Colin

    “So-in the EU we have less onerous diesel emission targets, & useless testing regimes applied to specially doctored cars, whilst selling specially doctored cars to US customers, from a partly state owned motor company.”

    ——–

    So you thinking of moving to the U.S., Col? According to ToH you could catch site of that winged wotsit over there…

  36. Not sure if they have Lidl in the States tho’…

  37. And note this damning comment in that G article :-

    “Japanese and American car makers backed research into hybrid and electric cars, but the European commission was lobbied strongly by big German car makers BMW, Volkswagen and Daimler, to incentivise diesel. A switch to diesel was said by the industry to be a cheap and fast way to reduce the carbon emissions that drive climate change.”

    Well they would say that -wouldn’t they , because they were going to make sure that testing regimes never told the truth about NOX.

  38. Having a conversation yesterday where the Living Wage was mentioned; pretty clear that all employers – public and private – hate it. Just remember the old John Cleese -Ronnie Barker – Ronnie Corbett sketch. Managers just think paying your cleaner 9 pounds an hour is wrong. and I suspect they’ll show it when opportunity knocks.

  39. CARFREW

    We need much more of this sort of punishment for corporate crime.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeffrey_Skilling

    It is no good for the Corporate world to complain about the prospect of “anti-business” politicians taking power if it keeps on stoking the reasons for “anti-business” politics.

  40. By the way the solution for cars is to use a bike and public transport.

  41. @Colin

    Yep, it’s all about comparative advantage. Japanese were going for hybrid etc., so over here we back a different horse: “clean diesel”.

    And then cheat to try and make it work.

    But don’t worry, you never know, following dieselgate there could be a hybridgate along any minute…

  42. @Colin

    We could also use a few more politicians with something resembling a brain.

    Surely by now they should be aware that setting targets can be like whackamole if you get it wrong.

    So one thing that should be foremost in your mind is… If we bear down on CO2 emissions, what else might result?

    Secondly, by now it should be clear that setting targets and regulations is liable to result in gaming of the system because up to 2% of the population would fulfil the clinical requirements for a diagnosis of sociopathy, so you need to assume it likely and act accordingly.

  43. @Wolf

    “By the way the solution for cars is to use a bike and public transport.”

    ———-

    Well, now you need a solution for bikes and public transport, e.g. walking.

    But this kinda leaves you with the previous problems cars were intended to solve.

    An alternative is… Thorium. Use the resulting cheap energy abundance to extract CO2 from the atmosphere to make the fuel…

  44. Wolf

    The trouble with Public Transport is that in winter it more or less guarantees getting a cold as people have no sense of hygiene these days.

  45. WOLF

    Will they show their disapproval by having dirty toilets or by cleaning them themselves?

  46. What a surprise, looks like we’re about to get dragged into this as well:

    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/sep/24/uk-france-and-germany-lobbied-for-flawed-car-emissions-tests-documents-reveal

    Of course there are lessons that should be being taken on board here – namely about the power that lobby groups have on policy, that can disproportionately and adversely affect the public (of both nations and the world). Do I expect anything to be done about this? *Sardonic laughter*

    I wonder, though, if this might lead to a boost in the support of Green parties around Europe (not necessarily the UK)?

    @Colin

    “Well they would say that -wouldn’t they , because they were going to make sure that testing regimes never told the truth about NOX.”

    “It is no good for the Corporate world to complain about the prospect of “anti-business” politicians taking power if it keeps on stoking the reasons for “anti-business” politics.”

    Careful, Colin, keep on in this vein and before you know it you’ll be coming out to bat for Comrade Corbyn ;)

  47. ANARCHISTS.

    That isn’t my preferred solution though. The corporate world has to earn credibility & support by its own actions.

    Sticking with the car industry, to quote an excellent article in today’s Times :-” Capitalism has its faults, but anything is better than putting the mindset that gave us the Trabant , in charge of car production-or even regulation”

  48. CARFREW

    @”We could also use a few more politicians with something resembling a brain.”

    I’m sure that will always be true.

    But I think the accusation leveled in that Guardian article is more to do with the colliding priorities of the electoral cycle , and the “right thing to do”.

  49. You know when I said that a Corbyn-led Labour party might pose problems for the SNP? Well, at least in rural areas, I can already say that I was wrong.

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