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. OLLYT

    You may be correct I can only give my own viewbased on the views of my friends and aquaintances who are pro Brexit.

  2. @BIGFATRON “It is also starting to fade into polling history – since the Coalition you could make an argument that the Tories have precipitated the biggest crisis in UK history for forty years by putting party before country, that Labour have chosen the most unelectable leader in British politics for 50 years, and UKIP have demonstrated a staggering ability among their leaders to in-fight like pre-school children.”

    I agree with all of that apart from the “put party before country” bit. Yes there was a crisis brewing in the Tory Party however this crisis was in response to the political climate in the country!

    We had been promised referendums by Labour, the Lib Dems and the Tories all of whom reneged on their promises.

    The fact was the country was not happy with being a member or the EU in its present guise.

  3. Alec

    “The usual fluff about how remainers were wrong, and Brexit is great, but there is some significance in these figures.”

    “Growth is modest, but defying expectations, which is leading some to become overconfident ”

    None of that from me, only a forecast that 2017 will not be as good as 2016.

  4. @JonesinBangor


    It would really make 2017 for me, if everyone agreed that the problem is/was ‘excessive or uncontrolled net immigration’ rather than ‘immigration’.

    The use of the term ‘immigration’ as shorthand for ‘net immigration’ is one of the main reasons why many are improperly accused of racism. And the debate is distorted.

    ‘Immigration’ is only three letters shorter than ‘Net immigration’! Let’s use the latter.

    I repeat an earlier post: I rather like immigration – it has been good for this country and long may it continue – but I don’t like up to half a million more people in England every year.

  5. I see that Andy Haldane, Chief Economist to the Bank of England, has admitted that the BoE economists got it completely wrong post-Brexit.

    Leaving aside everything else, isn’t it refreshing to see someone in a senior role admit an error so candidly?


    Indeed it is.

    There are no easy answers as to what might happen if the EU demands something akin to WTO rules.

    The EU27 aren’t demanding anything except that the UK deliver a constitutional A50 notification. It’s hardly their fault that no or very little planning by HMG seems to have taken place before the referendum or, indeed, subsequently.

    The Belfast Agreement is one of the reasons that I’m pretty confident that the EU27 won’t attempt to push the UK out of the EEA which allows at least some control of movement, but if HMG really want a hard Brexit then the costs and pain will be down to them.

    It’s one of the reasons why the A127 challenge may prove invaluable. Getting A50 through the Westminster parliament will be easy for May, as only the SNP, LDs, Green, SDLP & Ken Clarke are likely to vote against.

    A127 approval would be a very different matter, given that the EU Referendum Act 2015 and the subsequent ballot paper makes no mention of the EEA or indeed anything else apart from leaving or remaining in the EU. In such circumstances “remainer” Con MPs are likely to vote it down even if whipped.

    In the EEA, the Customs Union is also optional but perhaps crucial to the UK unless it plans major expansion of customs facilities in freight ports – particularly Dover, where space is at a premium to put it mildly.

    To be fair, May did mention her concerns about “the precious union” early on, so perhaps EEA has been her plan all along.

  8. @Tancred
    ” I see nationalism as very 20th century and the bast*rd child of WW1. ”
    I think you should clean your specs and look back a bit further.

    “England expects that every man will do his duty” Nelson 1805

    This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle,
    This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
    This other Eden, demi-paradise,
    This fortress built by Nature for herself
    Against infection and the hand of war,
    This happy breed of men, this little world,
    This precious stone set in the silver sea,
    Which serves it in the office of a wall
    Or as a moat defensive to a house,
    Against the envy of less happier lands,–
    This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.
    William Shakespeare, “King Richard II”, Act 2 scene 1
    Greatest English dramatist & poet (1564 – 1616)

  9. Norway Position

    The state of knowledge about the EEA is really quite lamentable. I suspect that posters on this site know more than BBC political correspondents who continue to trot out the fact that Norway is subject to the ECJ and has to allow free movement of people.
    My worry is that the british EU official who headed the cameron negotiations and was being interviewed thought that as well. If he did and that represents the level of competence then time for the 4 horses to return and clean out their Augean stables or as the Donald might have said- time to drain the swamp.

  10. S THOMAS
    Norway Position … I suspect that posters on this site know more than BBC political correspondents who continue to trot out the fact that Norway is subject to the ECJ and has to allow free movement of people …

    We’re in agreement for once.

    However, the fact is that unless the UK plans to cease trading with the E27 altogether most of the EU regulations will have to be retained, perhaps making the “great repeal act” somewhat superfluous.

  11. Barbazenzero
    @”unless the UK plans to cease trading with the E27 altogether most of the EU regulations will have to be retained, perhaps making the “great repeal act” somewhat superfluous.”

    I thought the “GRA” was in fact a Great Consolidation Act-incorporating EU regs at the date of leaving the EU-in order to provide continuity of compliance with them. This seems far from ” superfluous” -but absolutely vital for trading purposes.

    Of course UK governments will then decide over time which laws & regulation so adopted should be repealed/amended etc.

    There is very interesting work going on DEFRA to consider how UK might wish to deploy the £3bn pa of UK taxes which EU currently redistributes as Farming Subsidies.

  12. Economic propaganda

    There will be a number of Remain voters who feel betrayed this morning. A number who had no love of the EU will have, quite reasonably, considered the economic prospects and effects for the UK of leaving the EU.they would have looked to Treasury Forecasts and to the Bank of England predictions and cannot other than been concerned by them. it may have led them to vote remain when their instinct was to vote leave.

    This morning we have an independent review of the dramatic B of E prediction in which it is described as ” a flawed application of a fairly contraversial technique” by which, the Bank, when they found the answer the government was looking for stopped asking questions. This coupled with the admissions by mr Haldane may lead some to question whether the assertions written on the side of a bus pose a greater or lesser threat than political reports masquerading as economic certainties to voters.

    The fact that the economic prediction community made no challenge to this at the time and ,it seems, adopted this “flawed application” does no credit to it and if i had changed my business plans by perhaps sacking workers in anticipation of a dramatic downturn i might be toodling along to my lawyers to see what can be done.

  13. @ Dave

    “This royal throne of kings..”

    Good quote, but should be noted that the speech is by John of Gaunt, very much old-school deeply conservative and disapproving of modern ways and change in general. No reason to see this as Shakespeare’s view, or expressing approval for blinkered nationalism.

  14. MILLIE

    I agree.

    Interesting too , how there is usually “another” point of view.

    After Blair Chief of Staff Jonathan Powell leaped to the defence of Sir Ivan Rogers , comes an alternative view in today’s Times letters from former Foreign Affairs Private Sec to Thatcher & Major.

    He writes ” it is not the role of civil servants to flounce out of their job because they don’t like a specific policy, or can’t understand the policy, or even think there is no policy. That is a privilege for politicians”.

    The writer is Lord Powell of Bayswater-Charles Powell-brother of Jonathan Powell :-)

  15. Live and learn

    I now know what the sound of a sturgeon swimming backwards sounds like.

  16. New YG poll

    GB – Con 39% : Lab 24% : UKIP 14% : LD 12% : S/P 6% : Grn 4%

    Sco – SNP 51% : Con 20% : Lab 16% : LD 8% : SGP 4% : UKIP 2%

  17. The Belfast Telegraph is reporting that Arlene Foster’s leadership rating plummets from 49% [end Nov] to 29% [pre Xmas] in a new LucidTalk poll.

    The article is here. More details on the LucidTalk site are here including a 26 page PDF report.

    A pity that the RHI scandal seems to be seen as more important than NI’s constitution position, which is shown in the PDF as:
    30.1% – Remain in UK & EU
    25.3% – Remain in UK & Leave EU
    24.2% – If UK leaves EU join RoI
    20.2% – Join RoI irrespective of EU

    It also adds: However a key point to note is that when we look at Unionist voters 8.1% would ‘switch’ if NI eventually leaves the EU (as part of the UK) and would consider supporting NI joining the Irish Republic as one country within the EU. This latter result is key and shows that how Brexit eventually works out for NI could be a key factor in any possible NI Border poll debate.

  18. S THOMAS

    At the extremes on both sides there has been appalling mendacity:-

    Europhile diehards who cannot conceive of life outside the EU’s political Project-who almost seem to mistrust the UK electorate , and place all their world view faith in the Brussels Absolutism.

    Europhobe diehards who think that it is simple to just walk away without adverse effects and discount any downside possibilities.

    I doubt very much whether either of these factions are representative of the Stay & Leave voters-but they got & still get all the headlines.

  19. @Dave

    Quite. England had been a self-governing kingdom for almost 1100 years since Æthelstan in 927. One successful invasion in 1066 for the invaders to assimilate. One act of self-mutilation in 1973. To be reversed in 2019, hopefully.


    I’ve laid out already why I think the contract means the UK will have to give notice under Article 126 that it no longer complies with being a member of the EEA as it has left the EU. Article 127 concerns the EU itself or the other states in the EFTA leaving.

    Also there is no chance of us staying in the EEA with Freedom of Movement while May is PM she has staked out her position on this.

  21. Sea Change

    Except that England ceased to be a self-governing kingdom in 1707.

  22. COLIN
    I thought the “GRA” was in fact a Great Consolidation Act-incorporating EU regs at the date of leaving the EU-in order to provide continuity of compliance with them. This seems far from ” superfluous” -but absolutely vital for trading purposes.

    So far that is indeed how it has been “sold”. However, if we intend to do any significant trade then the GRA would have to be modified every time a regulation related to the physical specifications of trade goods is made by the EU.

    It would be much simpler and much less work all round to repeal such non-trade elements of the 1972 act as are negotiated away but to leave the rest as is.

  23. Old Nat,

    The YouGov headline gives the Labour vote as 26%.

  24. BZ

    Thanks for the links to the NI poll.

    That 8.1% willing to consider joining ROI “if NI eventually leaves the EU (as part of the UK)” is interesting.

    Unfortunate that, as for so many issues surrounding Brexit, there wasn’t a deeper probing as to how opinion would be affected by leaving the EU, but remaining within the EEA and/or the customs union.


    Let’s wait to hear what the courts say. Your interpretation of the EEA agreement may prove to be correct but equally it may not. It may well have to be decided by the EFTA court.

    there is no chance of us staying in the EEA with Freedom of Movement while May is PM she has staked out her position on this.

    Can you provide a link to wherever she has done so?


    You can watch her speech at the Tory Party conference.

    This report has clearly been leaked by No.10 as there has been no retraction or denial:

    The fact our pro-EU UKREP has resigned and was clearly at odds with No.10.

    The fact that Tory after Tory (both remain and leave) have been on TV stating we’ll be leaving the single market if there is freedom of movement.

    The obvious fact that the Tory party would implode if she attempted to continue freedom of movement and control under the ECJ.

  27. For some leavers its not about net immigration its about immigration, whether others care to admit it r not.

  28. BBZ

    Yes-of course UK Governments post Brexit will need to consider what Laws they wish to have-that’s what Brexit was intended to achieve.

    I am happy to leave it to those directly involved to decide what would be “most simple”. It seems eminently sensible to me to adopt all such laws & regs on leaving, providing “compliance” ( where that is required” at that point in time. Trying to identify all those which are, or maybe not required for whatever reason, within an already tight & busy timetable of two years seems the opposite of “much simpler” to me.

  29. @OLDNAT

    Technically true.

    I consider the Act of Union of 1707 the final unification of the larger Island that has happened steadily once England had been decided upon by 927. In my view England, Wales and Scotland and Ireland are to all intents and purposes one people, sharing a culture and history with some regional variations.

    The point that Dave was making to Tancred, is that the nation state and national identity happened way before 1914-1918.

    You can watch her speech at the Tory Party conference.

    Do you have a link for that? None of the other things you quote seem to have been stated by her in person “on the record”.

  31. @Dave
    Fun fact: Nelson’s original and preferred signal was ‘Nelson confides that every man will do his duty’.

    The signal officer advised that ‘Nelson’ and ‘confides’ were not in the code book, and would have to be spelled out letter by letter, meaning many in the fleet would be unable to read the signal.

    He suggested the changes from ‘Nelson confides’ to ‘England expects’, as they were the closest words he could think of for which a single flag sufficed.

    The general consensus of historians is that the men were far more loyal to their leaders – particularly Nelson – than the country (this was only a few years after the Spithead mutiny), and that Nelson’s confidence was much more important to the men of the fleet than England’s expectations…

  32. S Thomas,

    Re. Norway:

    You are correct on the ECJ, but in practice the EFTA court will give similar rulings on anything related to trade with the EU.
    You are incorrect on Freedom of movement, which is the same as in the EU

    I think the Norwegians should know what they do and do not do, personally!

    The problem is that people have been reading things into the letter of the EEA agreement which may in theory apply, but which would break the central principle of homogeneity referred to on that website. Countries in the EU can in fact place restrictions on Freedom of movement (receiving benefits, for example), provided they place the same restrictions on their own citizens returning from a stay abroad

  33. COLIN
    Trying to identify all those which are, or maybe not required for whatever reason, within an already tight & busy timetable of two years seems the opposite of “much simpler” to me.

    Perhaps I have misunderstood what the GRA is supposed to be. If it’s not going to change anything at all until HMG deems it obsolete it seems rather pointless.

  34. Laszlo,

    A pet peeve: “Fed” is an abbreviation, not an acronym, and it is not normally capitalized.

  35. @BARBAZENZERO no problem:

    Here’s the key part of her speech:

    “But let’s state one thing loud and clear: we are not leaving the European Union only to give up control of immigration all over again. And we are not leaving only to return to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. That’s not going to happen.

    We are leaving to become, once more, a fully sovereign and independent country – and the deal is going to have to work for Britain.”

  36. BZ,
    I think Sea Change is correct that Freedom of Movement is a red line for Theresa May and therefore any deal involving membership of the single market is out of the question..

    Furthermore, the advice she did not like from Sir Ivan was that negotiating a new trade deal with the EU giving access to the single market will take many years (as all other trade deals between the EU and largish countries like Canada have)

    So basically we are going for a hard Brexit combined with unfavourable trading with our biggest trade partner, outside the tariff walls (and presumably the customs union), for a further 10 years.

    This is not by any means the deal significant numbers of Leave voters thought we were voting on in the referendum (where Leavers like Dan Hannan were constantly saying that Norway was the ideal relationship, and that in any case free trade with the EU would continue with no problem whatever we did…). People saying on here “well I always wanted hard Brexit, and so did my friends” is not relevant

    Which is why we should be having another referendum once these unfavourable relationships have become clear.. Just like you get a chance to withdraw from an insurance contract if you realise it is a pig in a poke…

  37. Bill Patrick

    Sorry! Looking at wrong damn column for GB!

    GB – Con 39% : Lab 26% : UKIP 14% : LD 10% : S/P 6% : Grn 4%

    But let’s state one thing loud and clear: we are not leaving the European Union only to give up control of immigration all over again.

    Thanks for the Torygraph link, which indeed includes that sentence. Whether she will resign if she doesn’t get her way is, of course, another matter and makes the A127 legal challenge all the more important. It could prove to be her political epitaph or the UK’s. Time will tell.

    Which is why we should be having another referendum once these unfavourable relationships have become clear.

    I can see that being possible, but more likely is May not being able to get a majority in the Westminster parliament to leave the EEA.

  39. BBZ

    @” If it’s not going to change anything at all until HMG deems it obsolete it seems rather pointless.”

    I think you may indeed have misunderstood.
    Perhaps this helps you :-

  40. @ Neil A (and others)
    Changing minds on Brexit.

    You posted yesterday about nobody changing their minds on Brexit (scrolled back but couldn’t find it) It made me smile because it’s very true of posters on this site at the moment, but clearly people do change their minds on political matters. That’s why we have polls. I don’t know if there’s research into why or how people change their opinions, so can only speak for myself, a poll of one. And my views are actually quite nuanced.
    Clearly I have a big personal interest in Remain, as in a worst case scenario my wife and I may be forced to leave the country in order to live together. I hope this won’t happen, but am preparing for it both psychologically and practically. If we are permitted to stay here on an equal basis to every other citizen, then perhaps my opinion would change. Apart from that, I’m not much bothered about immigration myself, but willing to accept that if others so passionately want to control it, then it’s unwise to force my views on them even if I could. On economic forecasts I really don’t know. They’re always wrong aren’t they? Might go either way. I dislike many of the institutions of the EU and the over-bureaucratisation of a number of other European countries, and I can certainly see the problem people have with it. I don’t want to see the EU break up, though , and find a weird schadenfreude among those posters who seem to hope for it. But my main anxiety is that many Leave supporters and the Government are hugely under-estimating the complexity of the task both of managing the negotiations and of taking over the many functions at present administered by the EU. Experience tells me that a lot of Civil Service departments are barely fit for purpose even now. I am expecting chaos, along with social upheaval in a very split nation. Please believe me that I really really hope I am wrong about this, that Brexit happens with only normal hiccups and we (or possibly you) reach the sunny uplands forecast by TOH and others. But I will need to experience it to believe it.

  41. ANDREW111

    @”So basically we are going for a hard Brexit combined with unfavourable trading with our biggest trade partner, outside the tariff walls (and presumably the customs union), for a further 10 years.”

    No we’re not.

    The section before SeaChange’s quote from TM’s speech is as follows:-

    :”But let me be clear about the agreement we seek.
    I want it to reflect the strong and mature relationships we enjoy with our European friends.
    I want it to include cooperation on law enforcement and counter-terrorism work.
    I want it to involve free trade, in goods and services.
    I want it to give British companies the maximum freedom to trade with and operate within the Single Market – and let European businesses do the same here.”

    You are free to argue a case for the difficulties of achieving this-or any other- outcome from the negotiations, if only because we cannot know what the EU side will agree to.

    But you cannot argue that the Government is “going for” anything other than their stated objective.

  42. Sea Change

    “In my view England, Wales and Scotland and Ireland are to all intents and purposes one people, sharing a culture and history with some regional variations.”

    I haven’t seen “Manifest Destiny” argued, since I studied 19th century American history!

    Since your view apparently happily ignores minor inconveniences like there being different states within these islands, it seems somewhat bizarre to argue that they are “to all intents and purposes”, one people, unless you introduce ethnicity into the argument.

    Of course, culturally we all have a lot in common – as we do with many other people. That is nothing to do with being “self-governing”.

    When England becomes independent again, those cultural ties will continue.


    @” a lot of Civil Service departments are barely fit for purpose”

    I think that is manifestly true.

    Arguably because Darwinian Theory dictates that redundant functionality is dispensed with.

    40 years of rubber stamping EU regulation became “the purpose” for which they became “fit”.

  44. Bill Patrick

    Sorry about the wrong capitalisation. You are perfectly right – I now also told Apple :-), so hopefully it will follow the advice.

  45. COLIN

    Thanks for the link. It does include:

    The government has also confirmed that “the Great Repeal Act will convert existing EU law into domestic law, wherever practical”.

    That’s why it would seem to me more logical to leave the 1972 Act as is for now and to add some wording such as “to the extent they apply to the UK” to the 1972 Act’s:
    “arising by or under the [EU’s] Treaties”

  46. BBZ

    I am not competent to say what is “more logical” in this . I’m not a lawyer, or an expert on EU regulation, or a Parliamentary Business Manager, or a member of The Government charged with leaving the EU.

    I -currently-make the assumption that the combined expertise of Westminster knows what is “most logical” in extricating us from 40 years of EU law making.

  47. @Pete

    You are right, of course. No argument about that. But only a minority of Leave voters are racist, I hope.

    The smear comes from the confusion between opposing ‘immigration’ and ‘net immigration’. The charge is that many, perhaps the majority, of Leave voters, did so to stop ‘immigration’. They didn’t in my view. They voted to curtail net immigration. And its very different.

    I suppose you could say that I, and many others, are as pro-emigration as anti-immigration.

    If only a few more English-born had gone off to play golf in Spain…

  48. “I -currently-make the assumption that the combined expertise of Westminster knows what is “most logical”…”


    That’s very trusting of our political class. Because sometimes they deliver good stuff, but sometimes it’s storage taxes and omnishambles and ERM or banking meltdowns…

  49. @Colin

    Thanks for the link on the ‘Great Repeal Bill’, which to my surprise confirmed my understanding of how it will work.

    This seemed at the time it was announced to be an eminently sensible solution. Let’s unpick the unwanted bits of EU law at leisure.

    Above all, it has the great merit of simplicity.

    With Brexit, it does seem to me that there is an insistence on the part of some to make it all much more complicated than it needs to be. In fact, I sometimes feel that the desire for complexity is the curse of modern life.

    In the case of trade tariffs, is not our initial negotiating position going to be: we won’t put tariffs on your goods, if you don’t on ours. If they start on us, we will retaliate.

    I also agree with you about standards during the referendum. Both sides were appalling. I felt ashamed to be part of a democracy that behaved in such a way, and where our elected representatives did not speak out against the conduct of both sides. The media were just as bad.

    Nick Clegg, in particular, has gone down in my estimation, as he is always banging on about the £350 million claim, without ever acknowledging the very dodgy equivalent behaviour from his own side. It was all round deplorable, full stop.

  50. Some slightly misguided comment on Haldane’s admission of economic forecasting, I feel. His main point was in relation to the 2008 crash, which was a spectacular failure, but the comments seem to be more focused on the post Brexit landscape.

    Here, Haldane perhaps should have slightly hedged his comments. Certainly, there were too many specific statements saying directly or by implication that on June 24th things would go badly wrong, and in economics, events and their timing can rarely be so tightly defined.

    Economists got some things spot on – the fall in the pound, for example, but on other things, the worst we can say at present is that they got the timing wrong – the forecasts may yet turn out to be more or less accurate, but with a 6 – 12 month time lag.

    Another consideration that is now never mentioned is that the forecasts were made on the basis of the Brexit vote alone – no one took account of the counter balance of decisions taken after that point, as economists pre June 23rd had no information on what these measures would be.

    If you look at the time line of post Brexit events, there was, as predicted, an immediate and sharp crash in consumer and business confidence in July. There was equally a rapid response from the BoE and the government. Another £75B of QE was an immediate measure, which had a visible impact on the markets. Without adding billions more to our debt pile, perhaps the economists would have been seen to be more accurate, with a deep run on the markets and a more general panic setting in.

    Later, we had Hammond responding by declining to have an emergency budget and impose more austerity, instead making reassuring noises about underwriting investments, making secretive promises to retain manufacturing companies in Sunderland, and adding yet more borrowing to the pile by loosening the fiscal timetable.

    All of this has worked, to an extent, but it has not been cheap. The burden is yet to be paid, and it remains far, far too early to proclaim Brexit an economic success.

    Equally, attacking economists over Brexit predictions is also missing the point. That immediate and severe impacts were not felt may be in part because economists at the BoE and No 11 got the response right, along with the fact that economics tends to involve long time lags. This time next year, many economists might well be saying that they were right after all.

    All of this is highly political, which is why so many people want to give economists a kicking. Haldane is spot on with his comments on the 2008 crash, but a little premature in linking the sense of failure to Brexit, in my view.

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