What sort of Brexit?

I’ll be taking a break from the blog over the next week while I have a summer rest (I may pop in if something interesting happens, but I’m going to try not to), but before I go a quick pointer to something I wrote over on the YouGov website on what the public think about Brexit.

The type of Brexit the public want is a tricky subject to poll. It will obviously be one of the dominant issues in British politics over the next few years, yet we also know so little of it. We don’t yet know with any confidence what the government’s aims or negotiating position will be, nor what other European countries will be willing to offer (or what they will want in return). Public opinion will be one of the limitations upon the government’s negotiations so it’s certainly important, but it’s hard to measure it at this stage when people have so little information about what’s on offer.

We tried to explore the issue in two ways. The first was to ask whether people thought various things would be acceptable trade-offs in exchange for continued British free trade with the EU. That suggests that the public would accept having to follow some EU trade rules, could be persuaded on immigration (33% think freedom of movement is desirable anyway, 19% a price worth paying, 33% a deal-breaker), but would object to Britain making a financial contribution to the EU (41% think it would be fine or a price worth paying, 44% think it would be a deal-breaker).

However, taking things individually risks being a little misleading. When it comes to it a deal will be a package of measures and will be judged as a whole. On that basis, I think the questions that present people with various scenarios and ask them to judge them as a whole are more enlightening.

By 44% to 32% people thought it would be bad for Britain if we simply left and had no trade deal with the remainder of the EU. A Norway-type deal, with Britain joining EFTA and maintaining free trade with EU in exchange for free-movement, a financial contribution and following trade rules is seen a little less negatively (35% good, 38% bad)… but perhaps more importantly, by 42% to 32% people would see it as not seen as honouring the result of the referendum. Finally, we asked about a Canada-type deal, where there is no freedom of movement or financial contribution, but only a limited free trade deal that excludes services. That was seen as both honouring the result of the referendum, and as positive for Britain.

Of course negotiations haven’t yet started and the actual deals that end upon on the table may very well differ from these examples. I suspect views are not very deeply held yet, and people may very well change their minds when deals start to take shape and politicians and the media start to debate them. The public’s starting point, however, seems to be that a limited trade deal is both the best solution and a solution that respects the referendum result. We shall see how that changes once the negotiations actually begin.

The full tabs are on the website here.


920 Responses to “What sort of Brexit?”

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  1. @JONESINBANGOR

    “Come on! A vote in Parliament would support the PM anyway, the only question now is when Article 50 is invoked.”

    Probably but not necessarily. The issue with article 50 is that once invoked, there is no going back or renegotiating any form of membership; article 50 means you leave and that’s it. The ramifications of this are huge. Once article 50 is invoked, there will be no possibility of requesting further concessions etc – we leave at the end of two years irrespective of whether any negotiations have borne fruit. The Treaty of Lisbon was framed to deter members from leaving and making the cost of leaving as high as possible. This is why the negotiation process will be a very painful one for all concerned.

  2. @THE OTHER HOWARD

    “I’m afraid that is not supported by the polling as Brexit is seen as the most important issue facing the UK. in the most recent polls.”

    Which polls? Are these electoral or referendum polls? Maybe in parts of eastern England where UKIP is strongest this could be the case, but not nationally.

  3. TANCRED

    Try this poll:YouGov / The Times Survey Results
    Sample Size: 1660 GB Adults
    Fieldwork: 22nd – 23rd August 2016

  4. @THE OTHER HOWARD

    As we are still in the aftermath of the vote that is not surprising, but in 2020 things may well be different.

  5. Welsh Borderer

    Carwyn Jones has a certain “bigness” about him in demeanour and character, and a respectful and considered approach. I would agree he seems to be a good potential leader for the Labour party. Has he an interest in Westminster?

  6. THE OTHER HOWARD

    Glad you found it interesting and your numbered points are [or should be] pretty uncontroversial.

    If I had been born and lived in Scotland I suspect I would probably want to stay in the UK but with Devo-max

    As I said in a previous post, that’s been the clear preference of around two thirds of Scots according to the annual SSA surveys for about a decade.

    So long as Westminster refuse to accept that, the actual choice is a binary one of resiling the union or putting up with financial control by Westminster. Whether Brexit turns out to be the key factor which ends the union may well depend on what it turns out to be.

  7. Barbazenzero
    “Being born in a stable does not make one a horse, as allegedly Arthur Wellesley said when someone called him Irish.”

    Agreed. That’s why I get baffled when the media often describe Muslim terrorists as ‘French’, ‘Belgian’, ‘British’ etc.

  8. TANCRED

    “but in 2020 things may well be different.”

    I agree but we are likely to have left the EU by then, indeed by 2019 if Art 50 is triggered early in 2017 as I expect.

  9. @Tancred

    You are going by a Wikipedia article which alleges that the referendum is non-binding, without citing it’s sources, and ignoring the text of the Act itself which does not use the words “non-binding” anywhere?

    Seriously?

    If the referendum was non-binding, that would have been in the text, and it would have been publicized so voters were aware.

  10. @THE OTHER HOWARD

    “I agree but we are likely to have left the EU by then, indeed by 2019 if Art 50 is triggered early in 2017 as I expect.”

    True, but the issue of our relationship with the EU will still be on the agenda.

  11. @CANDY

    “Seriously?
    If the referendum was non-binding, that would have been in the text, and it would have been publicized so voters were aware.”

    I’m not sure why something needs to be stated when it is a constitutional fact. If it had been stated would people have voted differently? I doubt it. We live in a parliamentary democracy, not a direct democracy like Switzerland. Parliament is not obliged to follow the ‘will of the people’ and there are precedents for this.

  12. @CANDY

    “You are going by a Wikipedia article which alleges that the referendum is non-binding, without citing it’s sources, and ignoring the text of the Act itself which does not use the words “non-binding” anywhere?”

    Here is the relevant section from the briefing paper in the House of Commons library:

    https://www.facebook.com/Reasons2Remain/photos/a.219818275044216.1073741827.123798281312883/291386747887368/?type=3&theater

  13. No referendum is binding per se, because it is impossible for any Parliament to bind a successor (so even if Parliament were to pass legislation saying a referendum was binding, Parliament would be free to repeal or amend that legislation after the event saying it wasn’t binding after all).

    However, there is a difference between a referendum that has a legal consequence and one that doesn’t.

    So, for the AV referendum the legislation setting it up set out the direct legal consequence of the vote in section 8. If more people voted Yes than No then the minister was required to lay secondary legislation before Parliament implementing the Alternative Vote. In theory Parliament could have blocked that secondary legislation (it is, after all, sovereign), but the result was legally binding upon the government. If the government had tried to ignore a positive result and not put forward legislation bringing AV into force someone could have gone to court and got a writ of Mandamus *forcing* them to do so.

    There is no such consequence in the legislation setting up the EU referendum. It only says there is a referendum, there is no statutory consequence to it. It’s consultative because the vote doesn’t bring any law into force, and doesn’t legally require the government to do anything.

    Of course, morally and politically it may very well be binding (I rather think it is!). But legally it has no consequence.

  14. @Tancred

    If something is non-binding not only does it need to be stated in the text, but publicized during the referendum, so voters are aware.

    As for the whole “Parliamentary democracy” thing. Nobody forced the Commons to vote to have a referendum. They chose to do so freely, 544 to 53, and they chose to omit the words “non-binding” from the text of the legislation.

    If they truly believed referendums were wrong, they should not have passed the EU Referendum Act. They should have said to the public, decide this at a general election, elect a governing party whose manifesto is to take us out of the EU with a vote in Parliament. A Con-UKIP coalition would have emerged in 2015, with about 45% of the vote between them, and we would have left with a simple vote in the commons.

    Basically if Parliament overturns this referendum, that is the scenario at the 2020 general election. But of course, being a europhile, you’d hate the ruling coalition voting us out, regardless of their commons majority, because they’d have a mere 45% of the public vote. You’d be agitating to have general elections cancelled and eurocrats installed, just like in those tinpot EU countries.

  15. It is terrible – broadly agreeing with Candy :-)

    The referendum was advisory to the government. However, while by law the government could ignore the referendum, it cannot in practice in the here and now. It would be much better if the Remainers tried to think how their objectives (I.e. Why they wanted to remain) could be achieved within the framework of the new constraint (I.e. Leave).

  16. @ANTHONY WELLS

    Excellent post from you Anthony. Thank you.

  17. In the case of devo max, would Scottish Parlaiment ban ministerial aids and liaison officers populating committees that are supposed to scrutinise the ministers?

  18. TANCRED

    “True, but the issue of our relationship with the EU will still be on the agenda.”

    As you said yourself by 2020 things will be different, and I suspect it will not be high on most peoples agenda unlike now.

  19. @CANDY

    Basically, what you are implying is that there is presupposition that the referendum is valid and binding because the PM and government made out that it was. I’m afraid you are wrong in this. There is a major difference between political statements and legal correctness.

    “You’d be agitating to have general elections cancelled and eurocrats installed, just like in those tinpot EU countries.”

    This is a totally inappropriate and ridiculous statement. Elections have not been cancelled in any EU countries, none of which merit the epithet ‘tinpot’ any more than our own country does. The EU is composed of free constitutional democracies, indeed many of which have a far more solid democratic foundation than our own. We might have the ‘mother of parliaments’, but our constitution is one that has manifestly failed to adapt itself to the realities and expectations of the modern world. The concept of ‘Royal Prerogative’ is a perfect example of this democratic deficit.

  20. @Laszlo

    :-)

  21. @Tancred

    Elected govts in both Greece and Italy were toppled by the EU and eurocrats were installed in their place. In both instances the eurocrats made things worse.

    As for our situation – you need to ask yourself how desperate you are to have a Con-UKIP govt in 2020. Because that is what you are going to get if the referendum is overruled.

  22. CANDY

    The most interesting of the points AW made in his informative post was his own view which I share.

    “Of course, morally and politically it may very well be binding (I rather think it is!).”

  23. P.S. To give you an idea of how the eurocrats ruined Italy, take a look at the following graph of Italian debt as a % of GDP:

    http://www.tradingeconomics.com/italy/government-debt-to-gdp

    Select the “Max” tab.

    Berlusconi was PM from 2001 – 2006 and then from 2008 to 2011.

    In his first period of govt debt as a % of GDP was falling. His second period was post financial crisis, but he was managing things, and though the debt rose, it was still lower than the peak of the 1990s and was levelling off.

    Then he got toppled by the EU because he was being stubborn about not adhering to their insane austerity program. You can see when that idiot eurocrat Mario Monti was appointed. The debt shoots up steeply from 2011 onwards.

    The lesson? Even a bunga-bunga character like Berlusconi runs things better than the eurocrats.

  24. The Europeans have been subjected to real destructive austerity. All to sustain the madness of the European.

  25. Madness of the Euro rather….. European’s are usually pretty sane!

  26. THE OTHER HOWARD

    TANCRED
    “Rubbish. Most people don’t regard the EU as a key electoral issue”

    I’m afraid that is not supported by the polling as Brexit is seen as the most important issue facing the UK. in the most recent polls.

    It’s true that “Britain leaving the EU” comes top (57%) when YouGov panellists are asked which are the (up to three) most important issues:

    https://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/ocn4lf00me/TimesResults_160823_VI_Trackers_W.pdf#page=3

    But that is due to the result of the Referendum and the crisis caused by that. That is why Remain voters put it top (65%)[1]. Last year it was only scoring in the 20s:

    https://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/81ewaf2bx0/YG%20Trackers-Issues%202-Most-Important-Issues-070115_W.pdf

    So a lot of people clearly regard Brexit as important – I rather get the impression that Tancred does for example – but not necessarily because they want to leave. It may be the opposite.

    [1] Oddly enough Leave voters don’t, considering ‘Immigration and Asylum’ slightly more important at 65% to 59%.

  27. TOH at 4:21 pm

    A very sensible post, I think. No need for debate, I’m just delighted that you have taken the trouble to look at some Scottish data, and not just perform a knee jerk reaction.

    The world needs more TOHs!

  28. @CANDY

    “Elected govts in both Greece and Italy were toppled by the EU and eurocrats were installed in their place. In both instances the eurocrats made things worse.”

    The governments weren’t ‘toppled’. The governments collapsed because they did not follow the rules they were supposed to in order to reduce debt.

  29. @CANDY

    “Then he got toppled by the EU because he was being stubborn about not adhering to their insane austerity program. You can see when that idiot eurocrat Mario Monti was appointed. The debt shoots up steeply from 2011 onwards.

    The lesson? Even a bunga-bunga character like Berlusconi runs things better than the eurocrats.”

    Berlusconi was a rich sleazebag who enjoyed having a lot of young women young enough to be his granddaughters fluttering around him. No big loss. In Britain this would be like having Philip Green as PM (God help us).

    You also keep forgetting that while Greece and Italy are in the Euro we are not! There has never been any intention by the government to get us into the Euro. Instead we have had our own austerity programme that was drawn up by Cameron and Osborne. You also keep forgetting that Italy and Greece are very inefficiently run countries where corruption and nepotism are rife and public spending is wasted on huge pensions for certain types of workers. I knew an Italian person in the mid ’90s who told me his uncle had just retired from school teaching on a full pension at the ripe old age of 45! I’m sure things have changed now, but with approach to public spending it’s hardly a surprise that public finances are in a mess.

  30. @JONESINBANGOR

    Yes – and most importantly we are not in the Euro!

  31. I believe the Amsterdam local authority recently had a referendum regarding certain fetish practices in the red light district. They opted to make it binding.

    Really, really tightly binding.

  32. @TANCRED (and other Remoaners)

    Look at it this way. Suppose the result of the referendum had been different, and we’d voted 52-48 to Remain.

    A few months later, PM Cameron announces in the Commons that he’s just seen some new measures to be announced by the EU, and now believes these are so bad for the UK that we should leave.

    Parliament has a debate, and enough MPs are convinced by Cameron’s arguments that a vote to leave is carried.

    What would be the fall out from that?

  33. @Alec

    Presumably the swing vote was crucial?

  34. @DAVID CARROD

    “A few months later, PM Cameron announces in the Commons that he’s just seen some new measures to be announced by the EU, and now believes these are so bad for the UK that we should leave.
    Parliament has a debate, and enough MPs are convinced by Cameron’s arguments that a vote to leave is carried.
    What would be the fall out from that?”

    That scenario is extremely unlikely for the simple reason that Cameron worked very hard to ensure that the UK had opt outs from any further political or economic integration. I just don’t see such a scenario ever happening. If it did, then the preferable thing to do would be to hold a fresh referendum as the terms of Britain’s EU membership would be subjected to drastic change (whatever that would be). Of course the government could decide to leave the EU, but even then only after parliamentary approval.

  35. @Muddy – presumably, but I don’t know what role there was for the Whips in this vote.

  36. Maybe they were responsible for gagging any rebels.

  37. ANTHONY
    Of course, morally and politically it may very well be binding (I rather think it is!). But legally it has no consequence.”

    Do not its potentially politically binding become actual if the Government invokes Article 50, and is the foundation for that not being laid by various provisional agreements being reached by the Government e.g. to have separate UK trading relationships with the EU and individual countries and to “limit” immigration?

  38. And does not the morally bindng commitment to carryng through the result of the referendum have to be weighed against the moral commitment of Government and of a Prime Minister to make a decision in the best interest of the country? Doesn’t statesemanship lie in having the wisdom for make such a decision and the courage to do so when it is clearly needed – and called for by all the main parties, including the party of government and that of opposition, of the principal other partes in Parliament and by regional parties in government, when the referendum campaign was based on a false prospectus? And weighted in the scales of statesmanship does’nt Cameron’s, and doesn’t May’s, standng shrink as the days and Britain’s shrinking status and control of its future and that of nations and people that depend on it and wth iit our economic stability decline?

  39. BARBAZENZERO & OLDNAT

    Thank you both for your kind words, I really found it an interesting exercise. I shall follow Scottish affairs & polling with greater interest in future.

  40. John Pilgrim

    “And weighted in the scales of statesmanship does’nt Cameron’s, and doesn’t May’s, standng shrink as the days and Britain’s shrinking status and control of its future and that of nations and people that depend on it and wth iit our economic stability decline?”

    The trouble with that sentence John is it depends on what you believe about our future as we leave the EU. For people like myself suspect that history will look more kindly on Cameron and May than you do. We expect Britain”s future will improve both economically and in our World standing in the medium to longer term, and that the EU will decline and eventually implode.

  41. It is funny that the referendum result is morally binding, but things like ‘cast iron promises’, ‘greenest government ever’, etc etc are just plain old manifesto commitments that can be tossed aside at will.

    The truth is that governments do what they think they can get away with, plain and simple.

    If, after activating A50, in a year or so’s time May thinks that the circumstances of our leaving are difficult and that she can get away with asking for a confirming vote to remain in a reformed EU, she will, especially if there is evidence that leave has lost support.

    Philosophically, the leavers can have no argument against this, as it is simply asking the people again what their view is, but this time without the l!es, so Brexit really would mean Brexit.

    Personally, I’m somewhat baffled why democracy in 2016 is so important that it trumps democracy in 2017 or 2018.

  42. @ALEC “It is funny that the referendum result is morally binding, but things like ‘cast iron promises’, ‘greenest government ever’, etc etc are just plain old manifesto commitments that can be tossed aside at will.”

    These are not one and the same. You are comparing apples to oranges.

    The Referendum was a simple binary choice. Remain in the EU or Leave the EU. That is what people voted on.

    Manifestos are a collection of promises and aspirations that are only part of what people vote on.

    People vote for a representative based on whether they like that prospective MP, whether they like the Party that MP is affiliated with and on a mixture of manifesto commitments that Party is proposing. Plus a bunch of other factors of course.

    I do think people are in serious denial if they believe there will be another vote on possibly staying in the EU in a year’s time. David Lammy is particularly delusional in this regard. This is the UK, a decision has been made and we’re exiting the EU so best collect any memorabilia if one is feeling nostalgic!

  43. Any attempt to row back on the referendum result will further damage the establishment parties.

    Such actions would essentially confirm the ‘Farage’ view on the relationship between the establishment and the EU. Any politician who thinks that the Leave vote wasn’t binding is dafter than they appear.

    I think a massive rise in the UKIP vote would occurs. This would damage Labour in their Northern and provisional Strongholds in particular.

    The referendum showed that many voters will kick the main parties pro EU position hard, and I think they would do so again at the next GE.

  44. @TOH

    Aren’t you a Middlesex man?

    I’m looking forward to the last game of the season – a likely title decider at Lords, Middlesex vs Yorkshire.

    Sad news today – Jason Gillespie is leaving as Yorkshire Coach at the end of the season :-(

  45. Good morning all from a bright and sunny Clarkston East Renfrewshire.

    THE OTHER HOWARD
    @
    BARBAZENZERO & OLDNAT
    “Thank you both for your kind words, I really found it an interesting exercise. I shall follow Scottish affairs & polling with greater interest in future”
    _______

    Great stuff Howard. You might be interested to know than an independent has won the Inbhir Aileachaidh agus Càrn Builg local by-election.

    The new councilor, Eairdsidh Fionnlagh said, “Fear sam bith a loisgeas a mhàs, ‘s e fhèin a dh’fheumas suidhe air”

  46. @JOHN PILGRIM
    … when the referendum campaign was based on a false prospectus?
    —–
    Whatever accusations of exaggerations or lies might be levelled against the Leave campaign, there were just as many on the Remain side.

    The whole Remain campaign was predicated on the supposed terrible consequences that would follow if we voted to leave. Hardly any politicians, of any party, set out a clear positive argument for remaining in the EU.

    That is the main reason why Remain lost, and now that the establishment know that the voters can’t be trusted to deliver the ‘right’ result, I very much doubt there’ll be any further referenda for at least a generation.

  47. DAVID CARROD

    Absolutely agree with your last post. I was living in Scotland at the time of the Scottish referendum and the same project fear surfaced then.

    I walked the killing fields of Castlemilk Easterhouse and Carnwadric, I heard gunshots on Highland estates and watched obese woman come out of KKC clutching their £9.99 mega chicken buckets with dear life.

    The messages were all the same..”Vote Yes and Ming the Merciless will invade” Vote Yes and Darth Vader will attack” and so project fear went on and on and on….The Scots eventually fell for it and voted No.

    I’m just surprised the Scots again fell for project fear again and voted remain……when will they ever learn?

  48. Allan Christie

    “Scots again fell for project fear again and voted remain”

    To be fair, only parts of Greater Glasgow, Edinburgh and th Forth Valley were in Scotland where the majority of the registered voters voted for remain.

  49. Just done a YouGov poll and been asked this rather odd question:

    https://imgur.com/H6QxGyc

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