In terms of support for Brexit we end the year in pretty much the same place as we were on June 23rd. Among some there is a desire to jump on the slightest bit of evidence to suggest that people have changed their mind one way or the other. Overall however, the polling suggests that public opinion remains largely unchanged.

There have been numerous polls since the referendum that have asked how people would vote in another referendum tomorrow (below are all the polls I can find in the last three months):

ComRes/CNN (18th Dec) – Remain 45, Leave 47 (Remain 49, Leave 51)
Gallup International (7th Dec) – Remain 54, Leave 46 (Remain 54, Leave 46)
ComRes/Mirror (27th Nov) – Remain 46, Leave 47 (Remain 49, Leave 51)
YouGov (25th Oct) – Remain 44, Leave 43 (Remain 51, Leave 49)
BMG (24th Oct) – Remain 45, Leave 43 (Remain 51, Leave 49)
Survation/ITN (12th Oct) – Remain 44, Leave 44 (Remain 50, Leave 50)

All except the Gallup International poll are within the margin of error of the referendum result (I think the contrast is because the Gallup poll has a very large proportion of university educated respondents, which correlates with support for EU membership). On average they show only a small movement towards Remain and – looking closer – even that may be illusionary. Looking at the actual tables for the polls none of them show any real net movement between Remain and Leave voters, the small move to Remain is only because people who didn’t vote last time claim they are more likely to vote Remain this time. I would treat that with some degree of scepticism – of course, it could be those people took the result for granted and would be spurred into action in a second referendum… or it could be those who couldn’t be bothered last time probably wouldn’t be bothered in a second referendum either.

In addition, YouGov have asked a regular question for the Times on whether people think leaving was the right or wrong way for Britain to vote. That too shows no obvious evidence of Bregret:

YouGov (5th Dec) – Right 44%, Wrong 42%
YouGov (29th Nov) – Right 44%, Wrong 45%
YouGov (15th Nov) – Right 46%, Wrong 43%
YouGov (12th Oct) – Right 45%, Wrong 43%

Both sides of the debate have taken other figures to try and claim that the balance of opinion has shifted in their direction. In recent days I’ve seen several people who really should know better getting excited over voodoo polls in local newspapers that claim to show a big shift towards Remain – rather than let this post get overtaken by a rant, I’ve addressed that elsewhere. On the other side of the divide, some Brexit supporters have a tendency to misinterpret this YouGov poll to claim shows 68% now support leaving the EU. This is a little disingenuous – the poll doesn’t show that support for leaving has grown from 52% to 68%, it’s a different question asking about what the government should do. The 68% includes 23% of people who say they do NOT personally support Brexit, but that the government has a duty to do it.

Neither does there appear to be much current appetite for a second referendum. ComRes for CNN found 35% thought there should a referendum on the terms of exit, but 53% thought there should not. A similar recent question by Opinium for Keiran Pedley found very similar results – people opposed a second referendum on the terms of Brexit by 52% to 33% and also opposed one if the economy worsened, again by 52% to 33%. A poll by YouGov found that only 26% of people thought it was legitimate for those opposed to Brexit to campaign for a second referendum, 59% thought it was not.

As things stand public opinion does not appear to have moved since the referendum and people do not want a referendum, but as ever they are only a snapshot, not a prediction of how attitudes to Brexit may change in the future. Is there anything we can tell from current polls about how public attitudes towards Brexit might develop? There are two obvious “known knowns” ahead that could potentially change attitudes to Brexit: the negotiations and the economic impact.

The financial angle depends on what the economic impacts are and how long they take to show themselves. I am not an economist so won’t seek to speculate. I will urge caution though about polls showing that people would turn against Brexit if it cost them x amount of money, caused a recession, unemployment or so on. Should the economy collapse, I have no doubt that it would have a major impact on attitudes to both the government and to Brexit. I am less confident about what impact more modest economic bad news will have. Polls attempting to measure this assume that people will blame any economic ups and down on Brexit, and I don’t think they will – or at least, they will interpret it through the prism of their existing support or opposition. People who opposed Brexit will blame economic bad news on it, but people who supported it will blame it on other factors, or on obstructive Europeans, or Remoaners talking Britain down or whatnot. It is the nature of human beings that we are very good at defending our beliefs against data that might challenge them.

More interesting are the negotiations. We don’t yet know what sort of Brexit the government will be aiming for (well, not in any useful terms. We know what colour Brexit they want, but this is of limited use in judging potential public reactions) but given there are different possibilities and people have different preferences, once firm targets are announced some people will likely be disappointed.

Lots of polling evidence shows that the public would like to maintain free trade with the EU, but would also like to limit EU immigration – in Boris Johnson’s words, the public’s preference is clearly to have their cake and eat it. This is unlikely to be available.

If they have to choose, the polling evidence suggests the public are very evenly divided. There have been various polls using various different wordings that amount to a forced choice between EU market access or cutting EU immigration – all show a tight divide. An ORB poll this month found people agreeing by 44% to 40% that more control over immigration was more important than keeping EU free trade; a YouGov poll in November asking a forced choice between market access for British exporters and reducing immigration broke down as 49% for market access, 51% for immigration; ComRes in November found 42% would prioritise the single market over immigration, 43% would prioritise cutting EU immigration; NatCen found 49% of people said we should accept freedom of movement as the price of staying in the single market, 51% that we should not.

Looking only at immigration vs market access is probably taking to tight a focus anyway. I suspect the public will judge it as a overall package – as a whole, does it seem like a good deal for Britain? Even there is evidence is contradictory though: Opinium asked people to pick between a “soft Brexit” scenario and a “hard Brexit” scenario and people preferred the former by 41% to 35% (though the question also made clear that soft Brexit was economically better, which the public won’t necessarily think). YouGov have asked people to rate a number of scenarios – a hard Brexit on WTO terms, a limited trade deal along the Canadian model and a Norway type deal remaining in the EEA. On those a Canadian type deal polls significantly better than a Norway type relationship – 50% think it would be good for Britain, 65% think it would respect the referendum and 51% would be happy. In comparison the figures for a Norway type outcome would be 34% good for Britain, 33% respect the referendum, 37% happy (WTO terms would also be bad – 34% good for Britain, 66% respect result, 37% happy).

That is the narrow path which Theresa May must navigate – a Brexit that doesn’t mess up Britain’s trading relationship with Europe so much it sinks the economy, yet is not perceived by Leave voters as a betrayal. If we end up with a Brexit that has tougher consequences that some Leave voters expected then there is potential for public opinion to move against it. On the other hand, if we end up with a Brexit that retains more links with the European Union than some Leave voters hoped for there is the potential for a betrayal narrative to take hold, presumably to the benefit of UKIP. Either situation may bring division within the Conservative party, which has only a wafer thin majority to begin with.

Ultimately, I suppose those are two questions that matter about public opinion on Brexit. One, will public opinion move sufficiently against Brexit to make it avoidable? Two, how will it impact on the popularity of the Conservative government and opposition parties?

To answer the first one, as yet there has been little or no net movement in opinion since the referendum, the majority of people think the government have a duty to implement the results of the referendum and and the majority of people are opposed to revisiting the question. However, given the vote was only 52-48 it wouldn’t take much to tip opinion in favour of staying once the consequences become a bit more visible. It remains to be seen if the negotiations or economic developments do change things. Getting majority support for a second referendum is a much bigger ask and would be a necessity if there is any chance of a second referendum (well, counting 1975 a third referendum) has any chance of delivering a different result to 2016. Anti-elitism was an important factor in the vote, and the perception that an uncaring and distant political elite didn’t like what the public said so wants them to vote again differently would be a very powerful narrative.

As for the political parties, Brexit is the mission that has been forced upon Theresa May’s government and the yardstick they will inevitably be judged by. Thus far the public think they have been carrying it out badly, yet this has not damaged their position in the polls (presumably because it is still early days). If Brexit doesn’t work out well for them, they will suffer – especially given the high expectations of some Brexit supporters. The government’s great challenge will be to sell the compromises that will be necessary, the difficulty will be persuading the public that such compromises are either unavoidable or in Britain’s interests… as opposed to being the result of government ineptitude, backsliding or lack of ambition. If people believe the latter – that a government led by someone who never really wanted Brexit anyway is failing to be ambitious enough in our Brexit negotiations, I imagine it will be UKIP who benefit. If they deliver Brexit that’s hardness is beyond doubt, but the economy collapses, who knows who will benefit…

475 Responses to “Where public opinion on Brexit stands”

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  1. Thanks for the explanation of Gallup being something of an outlier, based on its sampling skew.

  2. If there is a hard Brexit and the economy collapses then I would fully expect both Con and UKIP to take a big hit and for Lab and Lib Dem to benefit.

  3. The polling question regarding how well the government is doing in the negotiations to exit the EU is superfluous. Article 50 hasn’t been triggered so the negotiations haven’t started! A better question would have been how well do you think the government’s tactics are going in preparation for negotiating our exit from the EU? I suspect the results may be starkly different.

  4. Six months on and little has changed, regarding views on the UK’s vote to leave the EU. For the most part, people are entrenched in their positions. And, indeed, it seems difficult to imagine, in the short term, what might cause any major shift in opinion.
    The same can be said of the result following on from the internal constitutional question regarding Scotland. Two years on, and the SNP continues to dominate – the 45% sticking pretty closely together.
    Kezia Dugdale’s affirmation in her New Year Message that staying in the UK is more important than staying in the EU expresses the dividing line very well.

    Those of us in Scotland who disagree with Kezia may remain a minority. Those of us in the UK who disagree with the EU vote may also remain a minority. But in both cases it seems to me likely that the minority will remain a large one for a long time to come. And speaking personally, it will take something fairly dramatic for me to change my mind on either subject. As for the calls to unite behind the new political reality, when you believe that something is right or wrong, it is surely your duty to continue to say this, even when the majority is against you – or, perhaps, especially when the majority is against you.

    The only thing that has changed markedly since the EU vote is that what was once the world’s fifth largest economy is now its seventh largest (having fallen behind France and India). I am no economist, and have no idea if this slide will continue. Only time will tell as regards the importance of this demotion in status.

  5. Perhaps few who voted Leave now rue Brexit, but could “Rue du Brexit” in Beaucaire be prophetic?

    Follow it, and you just do a U-turn and return to the main highway.


    Very appropriately, you don’t even need a U-turn. It’s a U-shaped road which connects to Rue Robert Schuman [the euro politician not the composer] at both ends!


  7. That excellent article would be very different should there be a major change in the EU. Such as; the collapse or severe problems to a major economy like Italy or France; an EU member getting a new government that arranges a referendum which results in an out vote.

    Britain may be only the start with other dominoes falling.

    Perhaps an article from that perspective is called for.

  8. Barbazenzero

    As my Dad used to say after following such a detour – “But wasn’t the scenery wonderful?”.

    Even Dad might have avoided saying that about the Rue du Brexit!

    Even Dad might have avoided saying that about the Rue du Brexit!

    Quite probably. In this particular case it’s very close to the local abbattoir!

  10. Re. People promoting Voodoo polls:

    I think many people who used to believe that political campaigning should be based on truth have now seen time and again that basing your campaigns on “facts” with very dubious foundations works much better!

    So expect any such polls to be jumped on endlessly by one side of the other, the same with outliers in more legitimate polling (such as the “no change since 2015” in response to that Opinion Poll…)

  11. Sorry, Opinium poll I meant!

  12. Perhaps May’s Red, White & Blue Brexit was a hint that she wants an EEA Brexit. Iceland and Norway both have Red, White & Blue Flags whilst Liechtenstein’s is Red & Blue.

    There wouldn’t even need to be an extra national anthem at meetings because Liechtenstein’s Oben am jungen Rhein has the same tune as the UK’s.

  13. BZ
    The Russian flag is also red white and blue, and given the way May has sucked up to Trump over Israel, perhaps his mate Putin is next?

  14. A very happy new year to all UKPR readers and posters, especially AW for providing what for me is still the best forum for intelligent political discussion.

    In line with the previous thread, some predictions for 2017, although I do think we live in remarkably unpredictable times:

    Left wing politics:

    1. A surprise result in the UNITE leadership election, with McClusky being branded as part of the political establishment and losing his position.

    2. This is shortly followed by a sudden byelection in South Shields, with the current incumbent being “engineered out”, maybe by promotion to the House of Lords, which sees David Milliband return to the Commons.

    3. No Leadership challenge in 2017, but, by the end of the year, speculation grows that another is imminent.

    4. Labour polling bumps along record lows all year.

    On Centrist politics

    5. A slow and steady recovery by the LibDems. Much excitement at significant gains in the May local elections, but actually only doing only a little more than regaining the seats they lost 4 years ago. Polling around 15% by year end.

    On Right wing politics.

    6. UKIP remodel themselves as a more left wing, nationalistic force (comparable to SNP), causing a split but ultimately proving more of a threat to Labour than the Tories.

    7. May’s honeymoon comes to an end, but much slower than other premierships in recent history. Boris is eventually ditched as foreign secretary after one gaffe too many. Tory drop in the polls is roughly equivalent to the LibDems gains, but that hides a more complex churn.

    8. No hint from government for an early GE and no attempt to revoke FTPA.

    On Brexit

    9. SC uphold the ruling that a50 requires an act of parliament. This is duly passed, with much froth and noise, but no material impact other than to ensure that a50 is invoked in the first week of April, rather than the end of March.

    10. By the end of the year, we remain none the wiser as to what Brexit will actually mean. Continued debate on UKPR.

    On the wider international position.

    11. Trumps presidency sees Russia being accommodated (some say appeased) by the West. Russia does not immediately attempt to regain it’s influence in former Soviet bloc states but many say that is a matter of time.

    12. The apparent convergence of Russian and American influences sees the Middle Eastern states become less powerful in global/oil economics.

    13. Daesh and their sympathisers show no sign of their ability to strike terror being abated.

  15. Daibach
    Sensible stuff. Most of that seems pretty likely. Happy New Year everyone!

  16. All the polls show is that public opinion is sharply divided -nothing new in this. Whether public opinion changes will depend on how the Brexit process shapes up during the course of 2017.

  17. The part of the population these polls seem to miss are the very old – people in their 80s and 90s who don’t use the internet and often do not have a mobile phone. Several such people are my neighbours and they all voted leave.

  18. I wonder what the public now thinks about referendums ?

    Are they an adequate way of asking public opinion about important changes ?

    Should referendums ask simple yes or no, remain leave type questions, when the issues behind options are complex ?

    How should referendum campaigns be organised ?

    Should official bodies representing either side in referendum campaigns be required to attend judicial and/or parliamentary questioning sessions, where the answers are under oath ?

    If a referendum result is say less than 60/40 in favour of major constitutional change, should there be other steps taken to understand what exact change people are seeking ? E.g. They might be offered a vote on continuned membership of EU single market/customs area.

    At some point, politicians are going to have to think about referendums and what future role they should have in deciding issues in the UK. The current court cases are partly related to referedum issues and not just those relating to Brexits constitutional laws/rules. Personally, i think if you hold non binding referendums, then it is up to Parliament to decide on the relevant issues and for Parliament to provide relevant mandate for Government to act on behalf of the whole of the UK. The next referendum may have nothing to do with the EU and be related to say major UK state pension changes or other issue which divides the country.

  19. The YouGov November poll shows that in response to the statement:
    I support leaving the EU and the Government should ensure that the UK does leave the EU,
    the responses by social class were ABC1 38 C2D 54.
    This raises the question of whether the quality of information about Brexit, and response to the information provided by politicians and the media or by Government – is a “known known” and whether it has been governed, during the referendum campaign and after, by inequalities or inefficiences and by intentional misinformation.

  20. Happy New Year all.

    The Indy are reporting a new BMG poll for them in British people fear fascism is spreading across the world in wake of Donald Trump victory, poll finds.

    No sign of the tables on the BMG site yet.

  21. R HUCKLE
    At some point, politicians are going to have to think about referendums and what future role they should have in deciding issues in the UK.

    The idea of politicians thinking is a bit revolutionary, but as Ghandhi is supposed to have said on Western civilisation, it would be a good idea.

    A written constitution would be a start, but both politicians and lawyers would be against it whilst getting agreement across all four nations would be near impossible unless England is prepared to accept some sort of confederal solution in which it does not always get its way.

  22. R HUCKLE

    I do like your idea of official bodies representing either side in referendum campaigns be[ing] required to attend judicial and/or parliamentary questioning sessions, where the answers are under oath, though.

  23. Peter Cairns

    Is it too late for new year predictions? Here are mine anyway:
    1. Jeremy Corbyn resigns voluntarily.
    2. Liam Fox does something.
    3. Labour gain hundreds of seats at the May elections
    4. Donald Trump leads the Western world with dignity and restraint.
    5. Theresa May announces that Brexit doesn’t mean Brexit after all.
    6. Juncker leaves the EC to become a Buddhist monk.
    7. All Treasury economic targets are met. The OBR predictions prove to be spot on.
    8. This is the real prediction: these being the most unlikely political events I can think of, at least one of them actually happens.

    Happy new year!

  24. Many thanks AW, and a Happy New year to you and all who post here.

    Personally looking forward to Art. 50 being enacted.

  25. R Huckle

    Referendums “Are they an adequate way of asking public opinion about important changes ?”

    Your post set me thinking about the nature of the referendums that have been held since these were introduced to the UK. The questions themselves are worth looking at.

    1973 (NI only)
    “Do you want Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom or to be joined with the Republic of Ireland outside the United Kingdom?”

    “The Government has announced the results of the renegotiation of the United Kingdom’s terms of membership of the European Community.

    Do you think the United Kingdom should stay in the European Community (the Common Market)?”

    1979 (Scotland & Wales only)
    “Do you want the Provisions of the Scotland/Wales Act 1978 to be put into effect?”

    1997 (Scotland & Wales only)
    “Do you agree that there should be a Scottish Parliament/Welsh Assembly as proposed by the Government?” and, for Scotland only, “Do you agree that a Scottish Parliament should have tax-varying powers?”

    1998 (NI only)
    “Do you support the agreement reached at the multi-party talks on Northern Ireland and set out in Command Paper 3883?”

    1998 (London only)
    Are you in favour of the Government’s proposals for a Greater London Authority, made up of an elected mayor and a separately elected assembly?”

    2004 (NE Eng only)
    “You can help to decide whether there should be an elected assembly in the North East region.

    If an elected assembly is to be established, it is intended that:
    the elected assembly would be responsible for a range of activities currently carried out mainly by central government bodies, including regional economic development; and
    local government would be reorganised into a single-tier in those parts of the region that currently have both county and district councils.
    Should there be an elected assembly for the North East region?”

    2011 (Wales only)
    “Do you want the Assembly now to be able to make laws on all matters in the 20 subject areas it has powers for?”

    “At present, the UK uses the “first past the post” system to elect MPs to the House of Commons. Should the “alternative vote” system be used instead?”

    2014 (Scotland only)
    “Should Scotland be an independent country?”

    “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”

    as well as various municipal referendums.

    These can be categorised in different ways, but obvious groupings would be –
    Seeking approval of Government proposals
    “What do you think we should do?” questions

    Referendums may be highly appropriate for some questions – but not others.

  26. Happy New Year to all.

    If we’re doing predictions here’s my effort:

    1) We are going to be stuck in a European political maze all year trying to find a way out.

    2) Lots of famous people will die.

    3) GB won’t loads of Olympic medals.

    4) Bradford City will lose in the playoffs……… again!

    5) Chelski will win the Premiership and Leicester will escape relegation on the last day of the season but will win the Champions League in style beating Barce 4-1 in the final.

    6) Labour go into receivership, LD’s make a little progress, Tories stay at 40% plus all year in the polls. UKIP have 3 more leadership elections. SNP have another referendum and lose…….. again!

    7) Juncker becomes European ambassador to Timbuktu.

  27. “If they deliver Brexit that’s hardness is beyond doubt, but the economy collapses, who knows who will benefit…”

    I think many in Remain are pinning their hopes on such a scenario, which is probably predicated on the EU deciding that there should be no compromise whatsoever, and go all out to make an example of the UK.

    There ought to be some sober thought that this is not something to desire “for the greater good”:

    1. It assumes a big job loss – it is foolish to imagine that relevant businesses will simply come back to the UK if we change our mind.

    2. If, as many Remainers merrily anticipate, the EU will run the negotiations as a means to suck business from the UK, the EU is unlikely to respond to our surrender by helping us get back those jobs from themselves.

    3. Indeed, the rest of the EU will be in no rush to staunch the flow.

    4. The assumption seems to be that the UK will learn to love the EU, and blame only the Leavers for leading them to believe that negotiations with the EU will be successful. No blame for the EU for being intransigent, no sense of a stab in the back.

    5. We shall have so learnt from our errors that we will be good Europeans from now on – the EU are hardly going to welcome us back otherwise, and they’ll quite possible extract a price in terms of opt-outs.

    This is perhaps why AW correctly says that the consequences of a failed negotiation are unpredictable. A Remain victory in 2019 will be a very different thing to a Remain victory in 2016. It is not going to be like a film where the couple stare into each other’s eyes and realise why they loved each other in the first place, but one where a spouse comes crawling back having demonstrated to the world that they are truly powerless.

    The polls show a very big difference between those who want to Remain (still close to 50%), and those who want a second referendum (much, much lower). So many who would prefer to Remain do not think we should do anything else but act on the referendum and Leave. This is not so contradictory, given that the simple “Remain/Leave” question suggests a magic wand that can put things back to 22 June, but the “new referendum” question exists in the real world created by the result of 23 June.

  28. OLDNAT

    Thanks for your referendum post – very useful to see the different questions all in one post.

    Re the 1998 (NI only) referendum, which got an 81% turnout in which Yes had 71.1% of the vote against No’s 28.9 to the question:
    “Do you support the agreement reached at the multi-party talks on Northern Ireland and set out in Command Paper 3883?”

    Sadly, Command Paper 3883 seems no longer to exist in its original form, but fortunately the Lords Hansard records here that:
    Schedule 1 shows the form of the ballot paper and the question that will be asked in the referendum itself. Command paper 3883 refers to the agreement as published.

    The current version of the Belfast Agreement is available here.

    Interestingly, the next paragraph quotes Lord Dubs [then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, NI Office]:
    In the past the Government have benefited from cross-party support on Northern Ireland issues. I hope that noble Lords will also feel able to support the order. It is the people of Northern Ireland who must decide their future and this order will enable them to do so. I beg to move.

    It will be interesting to find out what the SC have to say about the validity of it in due course. 2017 may become the first occasion when a UK referendum result is overturned. The $64,000 question will be which one.

  29. Interesting mention of a ‘third’ referendum. I wonder if the public’s view about the desirability of another EU referendum would be different if they were reminded that we’ve already had two, with differing results, so a third would be a decider?

  30. JOSEPH1832
    There ought to be some sober thought that this is not something to desire “for the greater good”:
    1. It assumes a big job loss – it is foolish to imagine that relevant businesses will simply come back to the UK if we change our mind.

    2. If, as many Remainers merrily anticipate, the EU will run the negotiations as a means to suck business from the UK, the EU is unlikely to respond to our surrender by helping us get back those jobs from themselves.

    3. Indeed, the rest of the EU will be in no rush to staunch the flow.

    I would be astonished if May doesn’t, every day, consider those first three points, just as I would be surprised if the next generation of voters doesn’t blame the idiocies of the current generation and government should they come to pass.

    If May goes for the EEA option, the UK will probably contribute [nett] as much as now to the EU without damaging the economy but with no control over EU policy. Why would the EU27 reject that? That would “honour” the referendum to the letter and get rid of UKIP from the EP, but wouldn’t endear her to the “hard” Brexiters yet it would probably satisfy [or at least relieve] more than half of the electorate.

    OTOH, if she goes with a full-fat Brexit it will be her who gets the “credit” for every single thing which goes wrong. She has every reason to delay doing anything positive for as long as possible, in a Micawberish hope that “something will turn up”, perhaps from the Supreme Court.

  31. @ Oldnat

    Thanks for the referendum info, which seems to confirm that they are mostly about an existing government position on an issue.

    The AV referendum was not a government position, but the result was binding on the coalition, because i think the Lib Dems required this. Of course had the country voted for AV by 52/48, it would have been interesting if Tory MP’s/Lords had supported the change or tried to block it. Not sure the binding clauses in the referendum bill would have bound Parliament to make the change.

    On a very specific single issue, i could see the merit in having a referendum, but on something as complex as current EU membership, i can see why it was never made binding on Government to act in any given way. Before the vote was given, they really should have made it very clear what a leave vote meant. Not everyone who voted leave wants to leave the single market/customs area.

  32. “2. Liam Fox does something.”

    @Patrickbrian January 1st, 2017 at 10:35 am

    The best prediction yet!

    Happy New Year everyone. Looking forward to lots more laughs from this site. (And being educated, too.)

  33. R Huckle

    Perhaps there should be constitutional rules about the circumstances under which referendums may be held – getting politicians out of a mess that they have created for themselves should not be one of them!

    On the other hand, it seems perfectly reasonable (under either English or Scottish concepts of where ultimate sovereignty lies) that legislation by Parliament, which has major constitutional implications for those affected should be confirmed by a referendum.

    That would include the 1979 Welsh and Scottish referendums, and the 1998 NI one.

    There’s a similar level of confirmation in the 1975 EC referendum, as to whether the outcome of detailed Government negotiations should be implemented.

    Pre-legislative referendums are a bit more problematic. Essentially, there are two types –

    1. “The Government wants to do this, but needs an extra-Parliamentary mandate to get it through Parliament (and we’ll work out the details later)”

    The 1997 Welsh and Scottish referendums would fall into that category, along with the London 1998 one

    2. “The Government is seriously split on this issue, and wants to avoid asking Parliament at all!”

    The 2011 and 2016 referendums would match that description.

    In terms of their uselessness, except as a mechanism to assure the Government that they needn’t even bother thinking about the issues at all, would come the 1973 NI and 2001 NE England referendums.

    I’ve omitted the 2011 Welsh and 2014 Scottish referendums, as they were held as a result of Welsh and Scottish legislatures respectively, pushing the UK Parliament to allow them.

  34. Well as I started it so I might as well give my Predictions.

    The SC will find A50 needs Parliamentary approval and the Government will bring forward a Bill by Febuary to meet May’s March Deadline.

    A50 will be invoked for the End of Match with Parliamentary approval but the nature of the Bill and the timescale will make it a controversial, divisive and unsatisfactory process.

    There will be no real progress with Brexit for most of the year due to Elections in Europe and we will be little further forward in knowing what the final deal will look like.

    The May local and Scottish Local elections will show only limited changes with the LibDems the biggest beneficiaries.

    There will not be a General Election and the reduction in Westminster seats will go through.

    Labour will continue to be a weak and divided opposition and will do badly in the Scottish Council Elections. However both Corbyn and Dugdale will remain leaders.

    The SNP will continue to keep a second Indyref on the table but will not call one. The need to make spending cuts will put it under the greatest pressure it has faced since coming into Government.

    Fillon and Merkel will emerge as winners in France and Germany despite attempts by both ISIS with Terror and Russia with hacking too influence the results.

    The Civil War in Turkey will reignite with the Assad Regeme making more slow gains will ISIS continues to loose most of it’s ground in both Syria and Iraq diminishing as a conventional military force.

    Trumps Presidency will erratic and lack focus with major legislation struggling to make any progress. Positions over Russia, Israel and Iran will lead to a set of policy conflicts with the EU.

    Trump his Cabinet and the nature of Congress will mean the US will be unable to provide Global Leadership. China and Russia will avoid any direct challenge to the US but will still strengthen their positions.

    The US economy will superficially look to grow rapidly, but it will be fuelled by Tax cuts and borrowing but this will lead to bigger problems in future years including inflation, asset bubbles and a continuation of middle class wage stagnation and discontent!


  35. R HUCKLE
    ” i can see why it was never made binding on Government to act in any given way. Before the vote was given, they really should have made it very clear what a leave vote meant. Not everyone who voted leave wants to leave the single market/customs area.”
    My recollection of
    what was said by various prominent figures on both sides, and recalled (in video clips) by interviewers of others putting forward opposite views since,
    coupled with the widely distributed Government document (using phrases such as “your decision”
    and with what I thought to be a clear understanding that a ‘customs union’ means that international tariff issues are negotiated and decided in a united fashion by the EU , not separately by nations (UK in particular – a clear objective of the Leave campaign)
    coupled with many strongly applauded comments on broadcasts since, where Leave voters said ‘we did know what we were voting for’ and objecting to the view that they were not clever enough to understand
    I can’t see what grounds there are for thinking that the referendum result should not be implemented for any of the reasons you suggest.
    I can see that those who believe strongly that the result should have been otherwise might well differ about that, but polls seem to indicate that a good proportion of those voting Remain do in fact accept the idea that the choice has been made, and do not support a rerun.
    One important group that also seems to have accepted that UK will leave the EU comprises the EU leaders and the leaders of the various remaining member states.
    If as seems some of them are suggesting a ‘deal’ to placate them by paying about as much and accepting about as much control as before, without actual ‘membership’ that is hardly likely to prove popular in UK.

  36. John Pilgrim,
    “the responses by social class were ABC1 38 C2D 54.”

    it may be as you suggest, that different classes have experienced different levels of information about Leave/Remain. However, it is equally possible they have interpreted the same information in light of life experiences. Trump won on the votes of those feeling left out from growing national wealth, and I suspect the Leave vote is exacty the same. It is necessary to make a much more convincing argument to persuade someone who has a bad experience of the status quo to remain, than someone with a good experience.

    I’d agree that if the Uk continues along the road to brexit and leaves the EU in some sense, it is unlikely to be allowed to change its mind after seeing negative consequences and come back on the same terms. It will not be possible to unbreak the egg.

    The leave position would at that point be strengthened because the available terms for membership would be worse, and economic harm (asuming this takes place) to an indeterminate degree, irreversible. But this is an argument for those who believe such an outcome is likely to fight all the harder to prevent any form of Brexit taking place. At such a future point, it might still be in the interest of the Uk to return to the EU and the public might take that view.

    My conclusion is that some time ago the conservative party came to its own conclusion that UKIP was a steadily growing political force, which would eventually triumph under FPP voting and get sufficient influence to force Brexit. Therefore cameron’s gamble to try to head off this outcome, either to get a result to remain or to be in charge when Brexit took place. Events now are therefore going to plan, whether you believe in leave or Remain.

    The conservatives seem to have exactly the same view that I do, that events will determine the nation’s view on Brexit, and they stand ready to follow that view. For the Remain faction, this course recognises the inevitability of accepting a failure to convince the public, but still allows for a complete reversal if this is how opinions ends up.

    The negative opinon of how well the government is handling Brexit so far, reflects its fence-sitting position, which does not satisfy anyone. However the continued support for the government also recognises the lack of a credible opposition alternative for how to procede.

    “many who would prefer to Remain do not think we should do anything else but act on the referendum and Leave”

    Or as remainers who want to accomplish remain, they believe a second referendum would also be lost and therefore want parliament to unilaterally declare to remain?

  37. Danny

    “Or as remainers who want to accomplish remain, they believe a second referendum would also be lost and therefore want parliament to unilaterally declare to remain?”

    I believe there is very little chance of that happening with public opinion virtually unchanged since the referendum as AW points out.

  38. TOH It wiill be at at least 2 and a half years at least since the referendum that the UK will be leaving the EU.Once big business starts whispering in the annointed one Mays ear the people will become a distant second as always.

  39. R Huckle

    “Before the vote was given, they really should have made it very clear what a leave vote meant. Not everyone who voted leave wants to leave the single market/customs area.”

    Indeed, the increasingly strident voices from some Leavers that their motives for voting Leave (and the arguments that they selectively remember from the campaign) were universally shared, does suggest a level of anxiety among them that maybe just as “Brexit means Brexit”, so “the UK should leave the EU” just means “the UK should leave the EU”, and not the other things they thought it would mean.

    Hence my argument above that referendums should normally be to demonstrate the voters’ approval of the detailed proposals being put forward by Parliament (or at least Government).

    If the arguments of the most strident are followed, then we are left in even worse constitutional mess than exists presently.

    Who decides what the wording of the referendum actually meant? Parliament? Government? Courts (and if so, which ones!) Yet more referendums, because the first one was incompetently worded?

    Whichever side of the Leave/Remain vote, people are on, it would be constitutional vandalism to leave such matters to the chance vagaries of individual opinion on a single issue.

  40. DEZ

    They have been “whispering in her ear” as you put it ever since the referendum and have had little effect so far. Governments are voted for by people, not business and the thing that the Tories always want most (IMO) is power. So she will listen to the voters or should I say, she has already done so, since it is quite clear that she wants to be able to control immigration from the EU and for the ECJ to no longer have any control over UK lawmaking.

  41. TOH I would not be so sure Nissan has been given secret assurances that the voters are not aware off.The tories are the most pragmatic party for power.However big business has more access and influence than the voters of Sunderland. That is why large donations to political parties get nominated for knighthoods.

    I can’t see what grounds there are for thinking that the referendum result should not be implemented for any of the reasons you suggest.

    The European Union Referendum Act 2015 asked the question: Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union? and nothing in the Act specifies any consequences beyond the conduct of the campaign and the counting of the results.

    Anything that was said or printed during the campaign beyond leaving or remaining in the EU has no backing in law, and Parliament will likely need to legislate for anything beyond that, such as leaving the EEA. Obviously, we’ll get to know more when the SC judgement is delivered sometime this year.

  43. OLDNAT
    Whichever side of the Leave/Remain vote, people are on, it would be constitutional vandalism to leave such matters to the chance vagaries of individual opinion on a single issue.

    Neatly put and very true, although you wouldn’t hear of it from most of the media.

  44. Oldnat,
    You have forgotten all the referenda in north England cities where the people decisively rejected elected mayors ( by much more than 52-48) but the Tories have said ” devolved powers ONLY if you accept an elected mayor.

    Selective interpretation of democracy I guess!

  45. The Government Leaflet urging a Remain Vote , sent to every household, included these statements :-

    ” Remaining inside the EU guarantees our full access to its Single Market.By contrast, leaving creates uncertainty and risk.”

    “Losing our full access to the EU’s Single Market would make exporting to Europe harder and increase costs. ”

    “Voting to leave the EU would create years of uncertainty and
    potential economic disruption. This would reduce investment
    and cost jobs.The Government judges it could result in 10 years or more of m uncertainty as the UK unpicks our relationship with the EU and renegotiates new arrangements with the EU and over 50 other countries around the world.Some argue that we could
    strike a good deal quickly with the EU because they want to keep access to our market. But the Government’s judgement is that it would be much harder than that………………..A more limited trade deal with the EU would give the UK less access to the Single
    Market than we have now –including for services, which make up almost 80% of the UK economy. For example, Canada’s deal with the EU will give limited access for services, it has so far been
    seven years in the making and is still not in force”

    Despite , and Regardless of which-a majority voted to Leave .

    Arguments from the Legal status of the Vote are no doubt as varied as the army of lawyers minded to raise them.

    But Arguments from Ignorance of the Voters about the Consequences of Leaving seem much less credible.

  46. Andrew111

    Nope. Didn’t forget them. Indeed I specifically referred to them in my first post on the topic.

    However, these are referendums held within local authorities, on their existing boundaries, as to their machinery of government.

    If concentrating on referendums as part of the UK constitutional process is “selective”, then I plead guilty as charged.

    After all, I wholly omitted any mention of the Temperance (Scotland) Act 1913, which allowed local referendums as to whether alcohol sales should be permitted within council areas.

  47. Peter Cairns

    I would not disagree with any of your predictions although i think there is greater uncertainty about the US as we view matters through an anti -trump media.

  48. Colin

    “Arguments from the Legal status of the Vote are no doubt as varied as the army of lawyers minded to raise them.”

    As far as I know, there are no legal arguments as to the “status of the vote”.

    Individuals who are passionate about leaving the EU may be advancing the theory that the referendum result legally binds the UK Government and Parliament to “leave the EU”.

    I haven’t seen them, but presumably you can provide the links to the legal arguments on that point? If you can provide links to arguments that the referendum result also binds the UK Parliament and Government to leaving all EU and EEA institutions, that would be fascinating – though I suspect you would have a lengthy (and fruitless) search.

    If the UK Government and Parliament feel themselves to be politically bound to interpret “Leave the EU” in a particular way, that is a totally different issue.

  49. Colin

    Euratom has a distinct legal status.

    Is it your contention that I was being told that a Leave vote meant we would exit that too?

  50. Should we have referenda?

    Simple answer is no; we have a representative democracy, so stick with it. But if a more nuanced suggestion is wanted, I would note that all three national referenda held have been for government party management reasons, ie:
    1975: Labour government seeking to deal with substantial internal opposition within cabinet.
    2010: Potential Con/Lib coalition seeking to do a tit-for-tat deal to enable coalition to be formed.
    2016: Conservativegovernment seeking to deal with substantial internal opposition within cabinet.

    So, in order to ensure any referendum is for genuine constitutional reasons, rather than for party management, there should be a rule that states that all parties exceeding a certain threshold of parliamentary representation (say 5% or 10% of seats) must support the proposal to call a referendum for it to take effect.

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