Donald Trump has been citing Brexit as the model of how he could win the election despite expections, his surrogates of how there might be a shy Trump vote, like Brexit. So what, if any, lessons can we learn about the US election from recent polling experience in Britain?

In 2015 the British polls got the general election wrong. Every company had Labour and Conservative pretty much neck-and-neck, when in reality the Conservatives won by seven points. In contrast, the opinion polls as a whole were not wrong on Brexit, or at least, they were not all that wrong. Throughout the referendum campaign polls conducted by telephone generally showed Remain ahead, but polls conducted online generally showed a very tight race. Most of the online polls towards the end of the campaign showed Leave ahead, and polls by TNS and Opinium showed Leave ahead in their final eve-of-referendum polls.

That’s the first point that the parallel falls down – Brexit wasn’t a surprise because the polls were wrong. The polls were showing a race that was neck-and-neck. It was a surprise because people hadn’t believed or paid attention to that polling evidence. The media expected Remain would win, took polls showing Remain ahead more seriously and a false narrative built up that the telephone polls were more accurately reflecting the race when in the event, those online polls showing leave ahead were right. This is not the case in the US – the media don’t think Trump will lose because they are downplaying inconvenient polling evidence, they think Trump will lose because of the polling evidence consistently shows that.

In the 2015 general election however the British polls really were wrong, and while some of the polls got Brexit right, some did indeed show solid Leave victories. Do either of those have any relevance for Trump?

The first claim is the case of shy voters. Much as 1948 is the famous examples of polling failure in the US, in this country 1992 was the famous mistake, and was put down to “Shy Tories”. That is, people who intended to vote Conservative, but were unwilling to admit it to pollsters. Shy voters are extremely difficult to diagnose. If people lie to pollsters about how they’ll vote before the election but tell the truth afterwards, then it is impossible to distinguish “shy voters” from people changing their minds (in the case of recent British polls, this does not appear to be the case. In both the 2015 election and the 2016 EU referendum recontact surveys found no significant movement towards the Conservatives or towards Leave). Alternatively, if people are consistent in lying to pollsters about their intentions beforehand and lying about how they voted afterwards, it’s impossible to catch them out.

The one indirect way of diagnosing shy voters is to compare the answers given to surveys using live interviewers, and surveys conducted online (or in the US, using robocalls – something that isn’t regularly done in the UK). If people are reluctant to admit to voting a certain way, they should be less embarrassed when it isn’t an actual human being doing the interviewing. In the UK the inquiry used this approach to rule out “shy Tories” as a cause of the 2015 polling error (online polls did not have a higher level of Tory support than phone polls).

In the US election there does appear to be some prima facie evidence of “Shy Trumpers”* – online polls and robopolls have tended to produce better figures for Donald Trump than polls conducted by a human interviewer. However, when this same difference was evident during the primary season the polls without a live interviewer were not consistently more accurate (and besides, even polls conducted without a human interviewer still have Clinton reliably ahead).

The more interesting issue is sample error. It is wrong to read directly across from Brexit to Trump – while there are superficial similarities, these are different countries, very different sorts of elections, in different party systems and traditions. There will be many different drivers of support. To my mind the interesting similarity though is the demographics – the type of people who vote for Trump and voted for Brexit.

Going back to the British general election of 2015, the inquiry afterwards identified sampling error as the cause of the polling error: the sort of people who were able to be contacted by phone and agreed to take part, and the sort of people who joined online panels were unrepresentative in a way that weights and quotas were not then correcting. While the inquiry didn’t specify how the samples were wrong, my own view (and one that is shared by some other pollsters) is that the root cause was that polling samples were too engaged, too political, too educated. We disproportionately got politically-aware graduates, the sort of people who follow politics in the media and understand what is going on. We don’t get enough of the poorly educated who pay little attention to politics. Since then several British companies have adopted extra weights and quotas by education level and level of interest in politics.

The relevance for Brexit polling is that there was a strong correlation between educational qualification and how people voted. Even within age cohorts, graduates were more likely to vote to Remain, people with few or no educational qualifications were more likely to vote to Leave. People with a low level of interest in politics were also more likely to vote to Leave. These continuing sampling issues may well have contributed to some of those pollsters who did it wrong in June.

One thing that Brexit does have in common with Trump is those demographics. Trump’s support is much greater among those without a college degree. I suspect if you asked you’d find it was greater among those people who don’t normally pay much attention to politics. In the UK those are groups who we’ve had difficulty in properly representing in polling samples – if US pollsters have similar issues, then there is a potential source for error. College degree seems to be a relatively standard demographic in US polling, so I assume that is correct already. How much interest people have in politics is more nebulous, less easy to measure or control.

In Britain the root cause of polling mishaps in 2015 (and for some, but not all, companies in 2016) seems to be that the declining pool of people still willing to take part in polls under-represented certain groups, and that those groups were less likely to vote for Labour, more likely to vote for Brexit. If (and it’s a huge if – I am only reporting the British experience, not passing judgement on American polls) the sort of people who American pollsters struggle to reach in these days of declining response rates are more likely to vote for Trump, then they may experience similar problems.

Those thinking that the sort of error that affected British polls could happen in the US are indeed correct… but could happen is not the same as is happening. Saying something is possible is a long way from there being any evidence that is actually is happening. Some of the British polls got Brexit wrong, and Trump is a little bit Brexity, therefore the polls are wrong really doesn’t carry water.


*This has no place in a sensible article about polling methodology, but I feel I should point out to US readers that in British schoolboy slang when I was a kid – and possibly still today – to Trump is to fart. “Shy Trump” sounds like it should refer to surreptitiously breaking wind and denying it.

451 Responses to “What can British polling mishaps tell us about the US election?”

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  1. I don’t think you will get a repeat of the UK polling fiasco in the US presidential election. Americans are a pretty straightforward lot, and the brazen lying to pollsters that seems to happen here is not common there. I also think that there are far fewer undecideds now, and Clinton will win by a landslide.

  2. First, apparently.

    Thanks for the analysis of the parallels and differences between the US and the UK.

    Are voter registration and turn-out going to be major factors? Can either Clinton or Trump count on getting the people out in force? Have the two candidates lost the support of large parts of their ‘constituency’? We will know in just over two weeks’ time.

    Still on the U.S. election, can anyone answer this question:

    What would happen were either Trump or Clinton to drop dead or become incapacitated due to illness at this point in the election campaign? Would their Vice Presidential running mates automatically become the candidate for the Presidency?

  3. I ought not to have spent so much time writing that. Second (and third?)

  4. @Anthony Wells

    Was looking at Missouri and how much it’s swung Republican since Jimmy Carter’s time, even though at a local level it’s still pretty Democrat. Most of what I know about Missouri comes from Clint Eastwood, but I suspect it’s fairly true for white poorer USA. They’re very much in favour of increases in he minimum wage but very opposed to gay marriage. Only 18% of U S citizens have a passport so I guess they don’t do much foreign travel.

  5. JOHN B
    Since the time of Andrew Jackson’s run for the presidency in 1828, individual political parties have had the job of filling any vacancy on their national ticket, either that of their presidential or vice-presidential candidate. If one of their candidates vacates the ticket after they are nominated, either because of death or withdrawal, the party selects a replacement.

    Both the Republican and the Democratic parties have rules in their bylaws governing how to fill the vacancy.

  6. The trouble with the United States is that turnout is low. All it takes is some people on one side to stay at home and some people on the other side to turn out, and you have an upset.

    Case in point the 2010 congressional elections. Obama had won in 2008 with a 58.2% turnout. And he had both the senate and the house of representatives.

    Come 2010, and turnout collapsed to 40.9% and the Republicans took the house and the senate was on a knife edge. Then Dem voters moaned that Obama wasn’t getting anything done.

    In the 2012 presidential election turnout was 54.87%

    Mrs Clinton’s problem is that lots of the people who liked Obama don’t like her, and if the polls show her consistently ahead, they may take the option of staying at home to keep their hands clean, assuming others will do the dirty work of voting for her.

    What she really needs is a polling upset showing Trump ahead to galvanise her side into turning out.

  7. @Wolf

    Missouri has some interesting demographic splits – north German / South Scots Irish, traditional big city/country split. Also its on the edges of the bible belt as well – years ago spent some time researching at the Truman library in Independence and one of the staff (democrat obviously) was kind enough to explain the states political make up.

    As AW points out the big similarity between Brexit and the US election appears to be the demographic basis of Trumps support. I personally find it difficult to understand how someone can switch from supporting Bernie Sanders one month to Trump the next – but a surprising number are. What is very worrying is the extent to which Trump is imitating the techniques used by Putin, which could if they take hold within the American political environment could do long term damage to one of the oldest democracies on the planet.

  8. Isn’t one of the explanations of the Brexit vote that groups which usually have low turnout rates in GEs, turned out in greater numbers for the referendum?

    In other words, people with low educational attainment but high propensity to vote Brexit, turned out in greater numbers than expected and modelled by pollsters.

    Whether Trump can motivate habitual non-voters in the way that Brexit appears to have done, remains to be seen.

  9. @John B:

    This is a really long and complicated question!

    What happens if candidate dies depends when exactly they die during the process. If they die before the legal deadline for ballot changes, then, as ineligible candidates, their ticket is removed from the ballot, and the RNC and the DNC can then simply nominate a new candidate through a vote in the RNC and DNC special committees. So far, so good – although note different states have different deadlines, so it may only be possible to change some ballots but not others. If this happens, some states would be voting for (e.g.) Trump/Pence, others might be voting for Cruz/Pence in the event of a Trump death. If so, read on, because…

    …we’re past that stage as it is. It’s too late to legally change any ballots in any states at this point. So: there are two possible options: first is that Congress can pass an extraordinary bill that allows them to push back Election Day. Then we go back to the above. The next option: if the election isn’t pushed back and a candidate died after the ballot deadlines, voters would still be given a choice between Clinton/Kaine and Trump/Pence.

    So, the next stage is: what if they die in between the legal ballot deadlines and polling day OR what if they die in between the popular vote being cast and the electoral college being convened. Well, remember that the president is elected by the electoral college, and not voters. The pledged electoral college members of the dead candidate can’t vote for the elected ticket (e.g., Clinton/Kaine if Clinton is dead), because they would be ineligible. So, they have to vote for someone else.

    As above, this would be the candidate nominated by the RNC or DNC convention – neither would have time to organize a primary. Now, there are a number of possibilities here. Firstly, they could simply nominate the current nominee VP as president and nominate a new VP nominee. However, many states have laws against faithless electors, and in most of these states, have an elector voting for someone to be president who the popular ballot voted for to be vice president is considered faithless. So, if for example Trump died, it’s legally unclear as to whether the nomination HAS to be (someone)/Pence, or whether it could be Pence/(someone) or even (someone)/(someone). So it may be they’d have to keep the existing VP nomination, meaning they’d have to pick an entirely new candidate – presumably a party favourite or close primary contender, although not necessarily.

    Finally and most unlikely, if the legal interpretation chosen did mandate (someone)/Pence as necessary, the electoral college could decide to deliberately ‘throw’ the election by not giving any candidate more than 270 votes. If this happens, the president is selected by the House of Representatives from the top three candidates by electoral votes. Republicans in states with no faithful elector laws could nominate Pence/(someone), ones in states which do (someone)/Pence, and then the House of Representatives could select Pence/(someone), allowing them to get around the potential above restriction (or indeed, they could select (someone)/(someone), or whoever they wanted). This would be open to tactical disruption if the other party split their electors to try and fill up the top three spots. In addition, the vice-president is selected by the Senate, not the House, and from the top two results, not the top three, opening up the prospect of split-party president and vice-president.

    Suppose we get past this stage, and a candidate dies in between the electoral college casts their vote and before Congress counts it. The constitution never specifies the definition of the president-elect, and it could be interpreted either as: the candidate voted for by the electoral college, or the candidate received by Congress after the count of the electoral college. If the former, then things move very smoothly: the candidate is replaced by their vice-president, who then appoints a new vice-president after inauguration (although the new vice-president would need to face a vote from both houses of Congress, leading to the prospect of an unending filibuster and an empty vice-president position…)

    If the latter, we have a problem again: a candidate could win an electoral college majority, die before the Congressional count, not be considered eligible to be a president-elect, and therefore there would be no candidate with a majority of the electoral college vote.

    This means that, as before, the vote goes back to the House of Representatives to pick from the top three electoral college winners. The trouble is, if, as in the most likely case, only two candidates received any electoral votes, this means the losing candidate becomes president by default. There’s a very slim chance that a compromise candidate might be considered – e.g. McMullin if he wins Utah, which some polls show him within touching distance of doing – but probably not.

    Finally, if a candidate dies after Congress receives the count, we get the easiest and most clearly laid out case: they were president-elect and so are replaced by the vice-president-elect accordingly, who then nominates a new vice-president once in office, again subject to them being approved by both houses.

    This, incidentally, is what happens when you have a constitution that is so difficult to change: it’s very difficult to append minor missed details and you risk the prospect of chaos if things don’t go to plan. At any of the points I’ve detailed as subject to legal uncertainty, the party that comes out on the wrong side might take the case to the Supreme Court, which could then decide the presidency. Unfortunately, with only 8 members, the Supreme Court itself may be unable to decide.

    Makes you rather thankful for Britain’s constitutional approach of deciding things on the hoof.

  10. Top Hat
    Thanks for that, though I have to admit I lost track about halfway through! Many of us think that our system is strange, but the electoral college system seems very antiquated to me. It made sense when the country started, because of the large distances involved and poor transport links, but I don’t see why they stick to it now.

  11. Candy

    “Mrs Clinton’s problem is that lots of the people who liked Obama don’t like her, and if the polls show her consistently ahead, they may take the option of staying at home to keep their hands clean, assuming others will do the dirty work of voting for her.”

    I agree with Candy! (There’s a statement that is unusual. :-) )

    Due to the Electoral College system, each state runs its own election – and the “popular vote” across the whole Federation doesn’t really matter.

    My son is certainly concerned that the scenario you describe is possible in North Carolina.

    However, that does have the opposite effect of ensuring that he votes for Clinton (whom he dislikes) as opposed to Jill Stein.

  12. To add to @Tophat’s explanation, although 21 states do have “faithless elector” laws, it is arguable whether they are enforceable due to the wording of the US Constitution.

  13. Top Hat

    Many thanks, very interesting.

    I must say I have not studied the US election in enough depth to form an informed opinion. However as I posted the other day there does seem to be something of a worldwide revolt against the ruling elites and I for one would not be totally surprised if Trump didn’t snatch it by a whisker.

    I hope I’m wrong about that, but I have to say that Clinton appears almost as bad to me, for very different reasons.

    What a dreadful choice the Americans have.


    Isn’t one of the explanations of the Brexit vote that groups which usually have low turnout rates in GEs, turned out in greater numbers for the referendum?

    I think there is certainly something in that. I normally have a good track record of forecasting election results but I got the EU referendum totally wrong. I expected a 10% advantage to remain. I know part of my problem was that I was too personally involved and was downcast by much of the pre-vote serious press coverage, but I certainly didn’t allow for the mainly Northern non-voters turning out in droves to vote to leave.

  14. Breaking news:-

    Belgium has formally reported that it is unable to sign the CETA deal. It had been given a deadline of Monday to reach agreement but Wallonia, the Brussels city government and the French community said ‘no’,” Mr Michel, the Belgium PM said.

    Nicola Sturgeon says she is “not bluffing about a new independence referendum” following the end of the Prime Ministers meeting with the devolved Governments and after the PM made it clear that the UK government would negotiate a deal for the whole of the UK. It would appear that Teresa May isn’t bluffing either

  15. Its all over bar the shouting, Clinton will win big, the Republicans will go into meltdown. The Russians will do their best to wrap things up in Syria before the Inauguration, after that the world becomes a much more dangerous place with trigger happy clinton running the show

  16. Dave 1.29 p.m.

    Many thanks!

  17. Top Hat 1.56

    Well I never!!! What fun!

    Has any of that ever happened? And if not, isn’t it about time (on the basis of statistical likelihood) that at least one of those things happened soon?

  18. CR

    I doubt Hillary is anything like as ‘trigger happy’ as many people seem to think. She has had to do and say things as Secretary of State (for what, by the way?) which she will not do or say as President, should she become President.


    There will not be another Indyref yet. IMO that will only happen after the Barnet Formula has been abolished and Edinburgh becomes responsible for most of its spending.

    The problem facing the Scottish electorate in 2021 is working out how to say ‘Thank you and good bye for now’ to a government which will have been in power for fourteen years, because finding any coherent alternative seems, at present at least, to be nigh on impossible.

  19. @ Tophat

    It isn’t clear whether it is the NEW House of Representatives or the old one which makes the decision. I’m guessing that it’s the old one. In which case there is a strong incentive for the Republicans to assassinate Trump, if I reD things correctly.

  20. A nice simple headline for Peter Cairns:-

    And a nice quote for him on a point of detail which he found particularly difficult to understand:-

    ““Businesses exporting from Europe face costs of £13 billion in UK tariffs which will go to the UK government. In return, UK businesses will face a cost of £5 billion worth of tarrifs.”….”should Britain leave the EU without having agreed a trade deal.”

  21. @Colin

    “Businesses exporting from Europe face costs of £13 billion in UK tariffs which will go to the UK government. In return, UK businesses will face a cost of £5 billion worth of tarrifs.”….”should Britain leave the EU without having agreed a trade deal”

    Surely it will be the importers which pay the tariffs (which may or may not be the same as the businesses exporting)? Either way, as the consumer will pay for any cost which cannot or will not be absorbed by the importer, the net effect will be a transfer of money from consumers to government and inflation. The concern of the businesses exporting will primarily be the effect on demand which will.depend on the demand elasticity of the products and ease of substitution.

  22. I’m so glad that we are back to Brexit.

  23. CambridgeRachel – “after that the world becomes a much more dangerous place with trigger happy clinton running the show”

    Not sure where you are getting the idea that the Clintons are trigger happy. Their first presidency (and it was a dual presidency by all accounts, theirs is a marriage of true minds not hearts) was averse to war and all intervention. They pulled out of Somalia at the first hint of trouble, ignored the Rwanda stuff because of the belief that the locals could work it out without intervention, and Blair had to force Clinton to intervene in Kosovo, and he would only do it from the air, refused flatly to commit troops.

    Then add in that they want to get re-elected, and know that any war will scupper Mrs C, and it all points to them using economics and regulation to control the world rather than guns.The Americans have enormous economic muscle, especially as the rest of the world is near recession and in no position to resist them, they no longer need to go to war to get their way.

  24. well what do I know about US politics? I watched the west wing.

    It would appear pollsters did a bit better with the referendum than they had with the previous elections. They may have learnt from their recent mistakes. i would expect that calibration of weightings etc will shift with time, and it might take a real shock to get pollsters to recalibrate. Worse, i can quite see how the referendum galvanised people to vote who normally would not, which automatically means the weightings will be wrong, but also there is no directly applicable past history to give guidance.

    So does Trump appeal to sets of voters who normally would not vote? I would think so. will that upset the polling? Probably. Will it be significant? No idea.

    I can undertsand why there might she shy Trumps. He has been accused of the sort of behaviour which is politically incorrect, so even if people think this is not relevant, they would be shy to say so. Its a sensitive subject to say you approve of his behaviour. In fact, there could be some very shy Trumps.

  25. If anyone is particularly interested in the US election and polling of it – Nate Silver’s fivethirtyeight is a great site. They do a lot of in depth analysis and tracking of polls, as well as their own aggregates and predictions for the election using the polling data.

    Generally speaking, I don’t think we’ll see a ‘surprise’ similar to the Brexit vote. One reason for this is as AW mentions; the polls are no-where near as close as the Brexit ones were. There are two polls which usually show Trump ahead, the LA Times and Rasmussen polls. The LA Times poll is a rolling one, like IPSOS, and new this year. Its methodology is unusual to say the least, and topic of much discussion. At the same time, they are very transparent so it’s pretty cool to look at.

    Ramussen has been around a while, and is a land-line only robocall poll. Historically it has a tendency to lean 3-4 points in favour of the republican candidate, and is the bogey-poll for many in the US.

    For Trump to win in a fashion similar to Brexit, I believe that we would have to see unusually high turnout among those who usually don’t bother to vote, as we saw on June 23. However, the evidence points to a lower turnout this year: voter regisration among white folks is slower than normal, as is early voting. On the other hand, we’re seeing higher than normal voter registration among minorities, particularly Hispanics. None of this bodes well for Trump.

    Further to this, polls are showing that Trump is only getting about 80% of the registered republican vote. In normal years, this would be around 90% or higher. To further compound this, recent polls show that enthusiasm of Trump voters is dropping fairly sharply at the moment.

    As an interesting side note, one of the questions YouGov asks its respondents is ‘Is your vote for Candidate X a vote for Candidate X or against Candidate Y?” I cannot remember the exact numbers, but the *against Candidate Y* column was quite high for both main candidates. Amsuingly, something like 70% of Gary Johnson’s votes were protest votes against both major candidates.

  26. One more note to my last comment (currently in automod): during the presidential primaries, polls actually over-estimated Trump, so there’s every chance they may be doing so now.

  27. JOHN B

    I don’t claim to be an expert on Scotland but I agree that a new independence referendum is unlikely for the time being. Hence my comment that May isn’t bluffing either.
    As we both suspected the Civitas report on UK and EU trading is certainly gaining traction. It and some of it’s content it’s were raised several times during the questions following May’s statement to the Commons this afternoon.


    Yes-the Importer pays the Duty. It may or may not be associated with the Exporter.

    The Civitas Analysis talks of Tariff “impact” on EU. & UK exporting companies & sectors.

    The net effect of a default to WTO rules , on State Revenues indicated by the Civitas numbers would be £12.9 billion to UK Treasury, and £5.2 bn to the EU governments listed in the analysis. UK Government recveipts may or may not be reduced by any rebating of the £5.2 bn effect they agreed to make to UK exporters . I think Nissan have already asked for, and received assurances about this effect on their products from TM.( I’m not sure of their monetary value)

    Civitas make it clear that their report makes no attempt to quantify the effect of demand elasticity. The relevant section is the fourth paragraph after the Summary :-

    “The analysis uses import data from 2015, combined with the EU’s MFN tariff schedule, to provide the most up-to-date estimate of tariffs that would be payable on UK-EU trade if our trade continued under the ‘WTO-only’ option. This study is ‘static’, i.e. it does not take into account the elasticity of sales in response to tariff-induced price increases. However, using the most recent annual data, it provides an indication of the relative magnitude of tariff costs and hence the pressure to ensure the UK and EU secure a trade deal.”

    This is the link to the full report again :-

  29. TOH

    I missed most of that Statement. I’m not surprised that the Civitas analysis came up.

    As you mentioned it looks like the Walloons have killed off CETA.

  30. CR,
    “after that the world becomes a much more dangerous place with trigger happy clinton running the show”

    …as opposed to Trump’s great ideas like physically stealing $1.5 trillion of Iraqi oil:

    ““You heard me, I would take (Iraq’s) oil,” he said. “I would not leave Iraq and let Iran take the oil.” And he insisted to ABC News that this did not amount to national theft.
    “You’re not stealing anything,” Trump said. “We’re reimbursing ourselves … at a minimum, and I say more. We’re taking back $1.5tn to reimburse ourselves.””

  31. I’m puzzled by the Civitas report. If imports from EU27 attract UK import duties of £13bn, isn’t it UK consumers who will pay that (to the UK government) via the price of goods?

  32. @Colin

    Yes I have read the report.

    Unless I have completely misunderstood, the fact that the EU exports more goods to us than we do to them means that UK importers and hence consumers will take the biggest hit from higher tariffs. And the £5.2 bn cost to EU importers and consumers will be spread over 27 countries with a population of 500m while the £12.9 bn UK cost will be borne by one state with a population of 60m.

    Is that a stronger negotiating position for the UK?

  33. Somerjohn

    “If imports from EU27 attract UK import duties of £13bn, isn’t it UK consumers who will pay that (to the UK government) via the price of goods?”

    Isn’t the point that these comparative figures only “cost” UK importers (or rather their customers) more than “EU importers because the trade balance between the EU and the UK is so much in their favour?

  34. Edge of Seat

    “Trump’s great ideas like physically stealing $1.5 trillion of Iraqi oil:”

    The UK did provide a useful precedent for this, of course, with the 1953 Iranian coup, which was intended to secure Iran’s oil for the UK – till the USA instructed the UK that the new “British Petroleum” was going to have to share the goodies with the American oil companies.


    Civitas said :-
    “Though negotiations on the future EU-UK relationship will take place at an EU level, it is vital to remember that 28 different countries (including the UK) will have to approve any new EU-UK trade deal. Further still, the 27 national governments of the EU will be providing direction for the negotiations and each working to strike a deal which will protect the interests of their electorate. The same of course applies to the UK”

    So it seems fair to assume that the fate of the putative EU/UK Trade Agreement will be in the hands of the countries of EU who feel most strongly about its effects-or the effects of a default to WTO as outlined by Civitas.

    The Report indicates that in the event of WTO rules , Germany will see the biggest impact on its effective export prices.

    As we know, the National Interest effect was amply demonstrated in the last few days in respect of CETA. & ( a part of ) Belgium

  36. Colin

    “Germany will see the biggest impact on its effective export prices.”

    You sure you have that right?

    Because Germany exports so much to the UK, and imports much less, the total figure for the tariffs on all those exports is high, not their “effective export prices”.

    I’m finding the Leaver argument on all this a bit puzzling.

    I may have misunderstood, but it seems to go along these lines –

    “The EU exports lots of goods to the UK (and imports far fewer) so they’ll give us a great deal to carry on exporting to the UK”.

    The problem is, of course, that a country that constantly buys more abroad than it sells, ultimately goes broke, and can’t afford to buy anything.

  37. Someone has been working hard on a solution to the thorny problems that were ducked at today’s meeting between the FMs and May.

    When an idea seems to be circulating on a number of fronts simultaneously, that is often a sign that a high profile source is pushing it – or that it is simply a sensible idea that reduces problems.

    We have the Institute for Government’s warning that “The UK is not a federal country, in which legal sovereignty is shared between national and devolved governments, but neither is it a unitary state in which Westminster can remake the constitution at will.”

    Then there are a number of sources pushing the idea of Scotland remaining in the UK, and also in the EEA – via EFTA.

    The Tories in England might just be clever enough to see significant advantages all round. Above all other political principles, they are normally very pragmatic.

  38. “slang when I was a kid, to Trump is to fart.”

    There was a picture of Donald Trump and his five children. My wife loved the joke of ‘five little trumps and a golden turd.’ I can’t remember where that was. Have I got news for you?

  39. @Colin

    “So it seems fair to assume that the fate of the putative EU/UK Trade Agreement will be in the hands of the countries of EU who feel most strongly about its effects-or the effects of a default to WTO as outlined by Civitas.”

    In a simplistic world, possibly. But firstly the Civitas report deals only with trade in goods, not in services which is so vital to the UK. But perhaps you think the UK Government should just not worry about services?

    And trade in goods brings with it other considerations. So a country which might not be much concerned with trades in goods could be concerned with freedom of movement ( I believe Romania threatened to veto CETA because it was not happy with Canadian visa restrictions on its citizens) .

    So the assumption you refer to seems simplistic.and risky.

  40. OLDNAT

    My term “effective export price” was my best attempt at :-price prior to Tariff imposition + New Tariff.. This-of course-assumes the exporter and/or importer of its products decide to pass all new import duty on the the customer in the importers country. They may decide , either jointly or severally, to adjust pre-duty prices to mitigate or compensate for the new tariff.; possibly with the help of the exporters government.

    re your ” a country that constantly buys more abroad than it sells, ultimately goes broke, and can’t afford to buy anything.”

    Absolutely agree. Perhaps a dose of import tariffs , strategically applied, is the sort of medicine required to cure some of that tendency ?

    Then again-is Protectionism the endgame there, and where does that get you?

    Who knows how any of this will play out in the end, and how National Interest ( and that will be the determining factor -even in EU-as we have just witnessed) will shape the final agreement-or failure to agree ?

  41. @Lazslo



    @” But perhaps you think the UK Government should just not worry about services?”

    No-what gave you that idea. I was referencing the CIVITAS analysis, which as you say relates to Goods.

    As I understand it, the Single Market in Services isn’t complete anyway-so we aren’t presumably comparing a Zero Barrier regime with a WTO regime ???

    I agree that there may well be National Interests at play in the EU negotiations which have nothing to do with Trade.

    Who can say where the balance lies if we cannot evaluate their significance.

    The service CIVITAS has rendered is in quantifying the significance of a WTO tariff regime for Goods. Thats all.

  43. Colin

    It’s all very hard, isn’t it? :-)

    I suspect that we both agree that the future isn’t as predictable as some on every side of every argument would have us think.

    There has been discussion on here before about both the UK and EU being rather good at fudging issues to create a solution to complex problems.

    Hence my post about the discussions on the UK’s internal constitutional problems – and potential solutions that could defer them until (or if ever) they reassert themselves as issues.

    Coincidentally, solutions, which are mutually of benefit to the party political interests of different governments, seem to be unusually popular – to those governments. :-)

  44. @oldnat

    Perhaps no coincidence.then that both Sturgeon and Salmond have recently met the Icelandic PM?

  45. Hireton
    “…Sturgeon and Salmond have recently met the Icelandic PM?”

    Different fish than we used to argue with Iceland about.

  46. AW – on sampling error, I guess you’ve seen this. Plausible? I love the idea that one multiply-weighted guy is dragging one poll one way – and that poll is dragging the average that way – but it’s appealing because it’s neat, not necessarily because it’s likely.

  47. OLDNAT

    @”It’s all very hard, isn’t it?”


    27 Countries seeking national interest , whilst pretending to act in unison via two ( or is it three?) negotiating teams.


    1 Sovereign State (*) trying to implement the stated will of a majority of its voters , in direct opposition to the will of voters in a devolved part of it.

    And I make no mention of the many & various Constitutional requirements for legislation & ratification of Agreements on both sides……….or the impending elections in EU member states which may , or may not impact cohesion & direction of the EU negotiating stance.

    * UK as defined by Wikipedia

  48. I thought Faisal Islam’s response

    “Offer Wallonia to the UK?”

    to Justin Trudeau’s tweet

    I spoke with @eucopresident Tusk today – we agree that the EU & its members should continue to work towards the Summit on Thursday. #CETA

    was inappropriately flippant.

    Doesn’t he know that the Walloons speak French, so are persona non grata to monolingual English patriots?

  49. @Colin

    “They may decide , either jointly or severally, to adjust pre-duty prices to mitigate or compensate for the new tariff.; possibly with the help of the exporters government.”

    It is questionable whether Governments could help and not fall foul of WTO rules on export subsidies ( unless taking back control for you means leaving the WTO).

    ‘re services, my point is that there are trade offs between a deal on goods and services which the Civitas report does not address.



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