Archive for the 'Article 50' Category


What’s next over Brexit? The question that no one is asking

Friday, August 25th, 2017


In their seminal anthem, Busted reported back from the year 3000 that not much had changed (but we live underwater). I don’t propose to look that far into the future but let’s borrow a souped-up De Lorean and head for 2030. By then the current crop of politicians will have written their memoirs or be editing newspapers. Given geological timescales, we can expect the island of Britain still to be sitting off the mainland of Europe. With current rates of technological advances the movement to living underwater will probably not yet have taken off by that date.

So much can be relied upon. Mystic Meeks is less sure of the political developments but right now it seems like a reasonably good bet that Britain will be outside the EU while the EU is still rolling along in its usual fractious, bureaucratic but tolerably effective way.

That leads on to a very simple question which pretty much no one is asking: what kind of relationship do we want in place between post-Brexit Britain and the EU once all the current brouhaha has settled down? The answer to that question has a direct bearing on the type of Brexit deal that everyone should be seeking to negotiate. Let’s take each group in turn.


Large numbers of Remainers are very unhappy about the decision to Leave. Opinion polls consistently show that the nation is just as divided on the question as it was in June 2016, with no sign of Leave persuading Remainers of the rightness of their cause. Some Remainers feel very strongly about this indeed and want to relitigate the referendum.

As a Remainer myself, I can’t say I’m happy about the decision. I think it’s a national disaster. But those Remainers wishing to upend the decision need to think about the long term relationship that they want Britain to have with the EU. For if Britain were now to do a handbrake turn back into the EU, it would look fickle and unreliable. Almost certainly a large minority of the population would continue to be pressing to leave the EU, now with an added sense of grievance that democracy had in some way been thwarted.

Britain remaining in the EU now would be a recipe for at least another decade of constant strife between Britain and Brussels. If you think the political atmosphere is sulphurous now, just imagine what it would be like then.

The EU might very well conclude that it wasn’t worth the candle. Whether or not it did, it would almost certainly be wiser for Remainers to let Brexit run its course before seeking to take over the steering wheel again. A majority of Remainers have already reached this conclusion, if opinion polls are to be believed. For the rest, time to accept that it’s over: O.V.A.H.

What should Remainers therefore be doing? The vote was won on immigration, and so Remainers must concede that restrictions on freedom of movement must be introduced, with all the consquences that entails. But otherwise they are under no obligation to get behind the parochial vision that the government is pushing. They can continue to advocate the benefit of close constructive links with the EU, identify areas where Britain and the EU should continue to work together closely and press the government to strike a consistent tone of cooperation and integration with the EU. After all, Remainers will want a solid base to build on if they want Britain in future to be working closely together with the other countries of Europe.


Leavers actually have a strikingly similar problem to Remainers. Plenty of them want to see the Brussels bureaucracy destroyed like Carthage, with no two stones left standing one on top of the other. Some of them would then wish to imitate the Mannequin Pis on top of the rubble. But this is not an aspiration that is within their means to achieve and in truth it is unlikely to happen. So what kind of long term relationship do they actually want with the EU, the organisation which all their near neighbours look likely to belong to for the foreseeable future?

This is a question to which Leavers seem to give astonishingly little thought. Certainly they don’t talk about it. Even those Leavers who, like Tim Montgomerie, recognise that Britain will need a constructive relationship with the EU have been later unable to resist railing against what they see as its dysfunctional nature. Not exactly a good way to win friends and influence people.

So, Brexiters, do you want a friendly relationship with the EU? How close do you want to cooperate with the EU and on what subjects? If so, how do you propose to get it? Because right now, your charm school skills suck.

I expect that quite a few Leavers will claim that any bad blood has been caused by the EU. Quite apart from the fact that comes from the “he started it” strand of playground complaints, the negotiations would go much better if the UK worked backwards from its proposed longterm relationship to its policy positions. Right now the UK’s policy positions seem to be derived from what can be got through the newspapers.

The EU

This isn’t just a British failing. Some of the EU glitterati are behaving with all the decorum of a teenager who has recently been dumped. They need to get over themselves. Instead of seeking vengeance on an ungrateful ex-partner, they need to be thinking about how Britain will fit into their plans in the future. Seeking to screw every last penny out of Britain is frankly undignified (the sums are small in the context of the EU’s overall budget and it’s only a short term fix anyway). Trying to push extraterritorial CJEU jurisdiction on Britain is shortsighted: the EU will not prosper by having created a resentful satrapy on its doorstep even if it is successful in its aims. It should not be seeking to cru

Britain into the dust.

Again, the EU should be forming a 2030 strategy. Admittedly this is psychologically difficult when your negotiating partners are routinely trumpeting their loathing for you, but the Eurocrats are supposed to be grown-ups. They will want close cooperation on defence with Britain, on foreign affairs wherever possible and, when the more delusional demands from London have subsided, a pragmatic trading relationship.

In any negotiation, particularly one that is designed to produce a longterm relationship, it’s always a good idea to leave something on the table. A measure of generosity is likely to pay for itself in the goodwill generated. Goodwill is in short supply at present in the Article 50 negotiations. Imaginative negotiators on both sides of the table would do well to consider how they can improve stocks of that for what is going to be an indispensable relationship for both of them for the foreseeable future.

Alastair Meeks


The UKIP leadership race – Alastair Meeks marks your card

Tuesday, August 8th, 2017

As Mike Smithson pointed out last week, these are fallow days for political betting. We have been spoiled in recent years with a nonstop cavalcade of elections, referendums and leadership contests. We are suffering withdrawal pangs.

So far this summer, only UKIP have given us a full-blown leadership election. (The Lib Dems let us down by having a walkover.) Interest in this election, as in the party itself this year, has been minimal. With UKIP leadership elections being so frequent, they may be suffering from the decline in quality and audience that is commonly observed in the later instalments of long-running film franchises.

UKIP elects its leader by first past the post. With eleven candidates having submitted nomination papers by 4 August, the closing date, it is time to inspect the field. All prices are Ladbrokes as at the date of writing.

Peter Whittle (4/9)

London Assembly member. Current deputy leader, culture and communities spokesman. Gay (he claims never to have come across homophobia in UKIP), atheist. “The biggest issues of our time are cultural ones… Nobody voted for multiculturalism.” In the past he has proposed a registry for London’s brownfield sites, taxing buy-to-let landlords at a higher rate if their properties are empty and prioritising longterm London residents for social housing. In favour of gay marriage. In favour of a burka ban and seen as one of the “Islam-focussed” candidates.

He has labelled Hillary Clinton as being “as deeply unsavoury” as Vladimir Putin and compared the “expansionist impulse” of Russia with that of the EU “and so this makes for a very, very difficult and very touchy situation.”

Anne-Marie Waters (4/1)

Previously a Labour party member, director of Sharia Watch UK and co-founder (with Tommy Robinson and Paul Weston) of Pegida UK. Admirer of Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders.

Lesbian, in a civil partnership. Has called Islam “evil” and “a killing machine”. “It’ll be another 20 years of rape, terror, erosion of liberty before professional politicians are forced to give the principled a chance.” Like her compatriot Father Ted, she is anxious to insist that she is not a racist.

Opposed by the UKIP hierarchy including Nigel Farage (who said the party would be finished if she became leader) and Arron Banks. Some have expressed fears of far right entryism to secure victory for her. May be excluded from the race by party hierarchy in the vetting process.

John Rees-Evans (7/1)

Sees himself as a Faragist, wants to shrink the size of government and massively expand the use of direct democracy. Favours much greater use of vocational education.

Supporter of right to bear arms, owner of fortified compound in Bulgaria, claimed that a homosexual donkey had tried to rape his horse. Took 18% of the vote in the last leadership election.

David Kurten (10/1)

London Assembly member, UKIP education and apprenticeships spokesman. Has three degrees. “I will make the implementation of a tripartite education system a top priority with grammar schools for the academically talented, technical schools to train young people with an aptitude for practical and vocational skills, and general schools to ensure that all children have the personal and entrepreneurial skills and employability to succeed in the world of work if they leave formal education at 16.” Opposed to compulsory relationships education on the basis that “this will allow sexual propaganda which is grossly age-inappropriate to confuse and damage young children”. Seeks “a special and esteemed place for our Judaeo-Christian traditions and heritage”. Supported by Leave.EU.

Henry Bolton (16/1)

Former infantry officer, police officer, international trouble-shooter, commended for outstanding bravery by the police in 1997. Stood as UKIP’s candidate for Kent police commissioner in 2016. Positioning himself to lead a non-ideological party offering effective leadership to “Deliver for Britain”. Focussing on party reform and processes for policy development.

David Coburn (25/1)

UKIP MEP in Scotland. Gay. Keen to “release the shackles” through hard Brexit. Describes himself as “a Libertarian and a proud Unionist”.

Compared Humza Yousaf, a Scottish government minister, to Abu Hamza. Called Ruth Davidson “a fat lesbian”. Described women as “men with a womb”. Indefinitely banned from wikipedia for directing edits to his own page.

Aidan Powlesland (50/1)

UKIP South Suffolk candidate at the 2017 general election. Campaigned for investment to encourage the design of an interstellar colony ship and profitably mining the asteroid belt for water and/or platinum, so long as they do so by 2026.

Ben Walker (50/1)

Local councillor and positioning himself as a grassroots candidate. Ex forces. Recognises that he is an unknown, but believes that the party is dying. Positioning himself as a candidate for libertarians and classic liberals. Not a single issue anti-Islam campaigner. Pledging direct democracy within UKIP.

David Allen (50/1)

Author, contributor to UKIP Daily. Acknowledges he’s unlikely to win, aiming to present an alternative vision that a leader can implement. “Ironically, the only ‘cliff edge’ associated with Brexit, is the one our members are falling off. We have no parliamentary presence and have lost our standing as a major party.”

Opposed to burka ban, would deport Islamist idealists at the end of prison sentences. “What should happen is that local authorities would tell central government their migration requirements and not the other way round.”

In favour of electoral reform to a system called F2PTP (First Two Past The Post).

Jane Collins (50/1)

UKIP MEP for Yorkshire & The Humber. Describes herself as a progressive libertarian. “I’m offering a real alternative to the other options of EDL-lite or diet Labour.”

Claimed Rotherham MPs Sir Kevin Barron, John Healey and Sarah Champion knew about child exploitation in the town but did not intervene, and as a result faces bankruptcy for non-payment of defamation damages.

Marion Mason (50/1)

Former Parliamentary and PCC candidate, NEC member. No manifesto or up to date twitter account. Not a gifted speller.


Keener eyes than mine are needed to distinguish reliably between the serious candidates and the joke candidates. Aidan Powlesland is surely the Foinavon of this race, only capable of winning if the rest are thrown from their mounts.

Both the favourite and the second favourite look set to remodel UKIP into a party familiar to the supporters of Geert Wilders and Marine Le Pen, with a strongly anti-Islam focus. Most of the other candidates seem agreed that UKIP urgently needs to change but don’t really seem clear how. Sadly, there is probably a ready market for strident anti-Islamic populism. It would at least grab attention.

However, one or two of the longshots look too longpriced. Unlike every other candidate, Henry Bolton has a distinguished cv with impressive achievements. If he could find something meaningful to say to go with it, he might be worth a flutter.

David Kurten has secured the backing of Leave.EU. That is almost certainly worth a fair bit with this particular electorate. I backed him at 16/1 and he is probably still value at 10/1. In a first past the post election with a wide field, the chances of someone coming through the middle are substantial. I’m on.

Alastair Meeks


Brace yourselves for the impending train wreck of the Brexit negotiations

Tuesday, July 25th, 2017

Alastair Meeks on the similarities with 1914

The biggest avoidable catastrophe of the twentieth century was the outbreak of the First World War.  A single act of terrorism emanating from a small pre-modern state was allowed by mishandling by several different nations to escalate into a war that devastated a continent.  Historians continue to argue to this day about the causes.  It is often observed that the Russian mobilisation plans entailed rigid planning.  The steps that the Russians took that were necessary to undertake war became steps that made war almost inevitable.  The process became the plan.

An avoidable catastrophe of the twenty-first century is looming.  From Britain’s unexpected vote to leave the EU last year, mishandling by both Britain and the EU is escalating a tricky but potentially soluble problem into a potentially devastating fiasco.  Once again, the rigid advance planning is the problem.

You could hardly accuse the British of rigid advance planning.  The Cabinet itself is riven over the approach that should be adopted.  As a result, its institutional planning is paralysed.

No, the problem lies with the EU.  It has defined its process as follows:

“The main purpose of the negotiations will be to ensure the United Kingdom’s orderly withdrawal so as to reduce uncertainty and, to the extent possible, minimise disruption caused by this abrupt change.

To that effect, the first phase of negotiations will aim to:

provide as much clarity and legal certainty as possible to citizens, businesses, stakeholders and international partners on the immediate effects of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the Union;

settle the disentanglement of the United Kingdom from the Union and from all the rights and obligations the United Kingdom derives from commitments undertaken as Member State.

The European Council will monitor progress closely and determine when sufficient progress has been achieved to allow negotiations to proceed to the next phase…

… an overall understanding on the framework for the future relationship should be identified during a second phase of the negotiations under Article 50 TEU….

… To the extent necessary and legally possible, the negotiations may also seek to determine transitional arrangements which are in the interest of the Union and, as appropriate, to provide for bridges towards the foreseeable framework for the future relationship in the light of the progress made…

The two year timeframe set out in Article 50 TEU ends on 29 March 2019.”

This is very prescriptive.  But almost all of this process has nothing to do with Article 50’s requirements and instead it has been conjured up by bureaucrats.  In fact, it is doubtful whether this phased approach is aligned with Article 50, since Article 50 requires the EU to act “taking account of the framework for [the departing state’s] future relationship with the Union”, an obligation which is only referenced in the second phase and not at all in the main purpose of the negotiations.  If the second phase is not reached (which has to be a distinct possibility), the EU will have failed to meet its obligations.

Worse, the process is designed to eat up time.  The EU’s Article 50 train lines look rigid and cumbersome.  The items in phase 1 are hardly free from controversy and progress might be slow.  But the matters to be dealt with in phase 2 are also highly important to both sides, and the time to consider them may be very compressed indeed.  Perhaps the idea was that the EU can impose its take on a Britain that by then might be desperate to get a bad deal rather than no deal.  If so, that always looked like a risky gamble but with a hung Parliament it now looks reckless.  If the EU sticks to its agreed plan, the risk of a disorderly departure must be very substantial.  As with the Russian mobilisation arrangements, the process is becoming the plan.

Another similarity with July 1914 also presents itself.  No nation actively wanted a continent-wide war.  But no one wanted peace enough to take the steps necessary to avoid a full conflagration.  Both the EU and Britain want a deal.  But neither at present looks willing to compromise enough to make a deal achievable.  So right now it looks more likely than not that no deal will be achieved.  Brace yourselves.

Alastair Meeks


Terms of Endearment

Sunday, May 7th, 2017


“Tain’t What You Do (It’s The Way That You Do It) sang Ella.  “That’s what gets results.”  A lesson the EU and the British government might usefully tattoo on their respective foreheads as they embark on post-Article 50 negotiations.  Or try to.  Nine months on from the referendum and two months since Article 50 was formally triggered, both the EU and Britain are still shouting at each other in a way familiar to divorce lawyers wearily trying to inject realism into their clients’ heads.

However tough negotiations are, tone matters, surprisingly often as much as the substance.   Even if you have right or the law or a majority on your side, a touch of humility, an acceptance that the other side is entitled to feel whatever it is they are feeling, that they have a point – even if you do not agree with it – can help defuse a heated situation.  A generosity of spirit can help both parties feel that the results, even if tough, were fairly arrived at.  European history is full of examples of the disastrous consequences that can occur when the victors of a conflict or the strong are overcome by hubris.

So two examples of how both Britain and the EU are currently getting it wrong.

This is not just a negotiation.

Britain never wholeheartedly signed up to the European project, its approach being primarily transactional and commercial.  Fair enough then for it to feel that the commercial advantages of being in the EU were outweighed by the political disadvantages and vote accordingly.  But it should not then be surprised that the EU might also seek to take a transactional and commercial approach to Britain’s exit.  And in its understandable desire to seek a new trading relationship with the EU, Britain has failed to understand that its rejection of the EU hurt.  Brexit is not simply a staging post on the way to a new and different trading agreement but a blow to the EU’s pride and amour propre.  For the first time, a member state rejected the EU in toto, a rejection felt even more acutely, given that Britain had been a member, arguably owed at least some of its success in recent years to that membership and already benefited from a series of opt-outs.

What more did the ungrateful Brits want?  And added to this was what appeared to be an arrogant assumption that Britain was nonetheless sufficiently important (a £290 billion market as David Davis repeatedly says) that the EU would quickly have to reach an agreement on terms favourable to Britain.  Undoubtedly, it makes commercial and political sense to come to an agreement on Britain’s future relationship with the EU.  But if Britain can act on its feelings about the EU, so too can the EU react – and in its own way.  How it does so is not in our control.  Telling them that they should behave rationally when, to them, we have taken an unbelievably irrational step shows a tin ear for the dynamics of a break-up.

It’s not me, it’s you.

Much of the criticism levelled at the EU in recent days has been of what appear to be unreasonable demands for an enormous exit payment and a refusal to enter into trade talks, at least until payment has been agreed.  The EU seems to be doing what it accuses Britain of wanting to do – cherry-picking – though in truth this is something which the EU has always done with its own rules.  But the more fundamental criticism is that the EU refuses to accept (in public at least) that it could possibly be in any way at fault when its second largest contributor, a major European country, chooses to leave after decades of experience as a member.  Its reaction seems predicated on an assumption that it is simply impermissible, illegitimate even, for a country to take a different view of its own best interests, that it is behaving like a errant child which must be punished and that, therefore, in Juncker’s reported words: “Brexit cannot be a success.” 

It would have been perfectly possible for Mr Juncker to have said that he thought that Britain had made the wrong discussion in deciding to leave but that, nonetheless, he understood that this was Britain’s democratic right, that he felt sure that Britain understood that a future relationship would be different to membership (and in the EU’s view) worse (though Britain might take a different view from its perspective), that Britain was an important country in Europe with which the EU wanted to have a friendly and constructive relationship and that he wished it well.  But no.  This has not been said.  Why?

Political integration and freedom of movement are integral to the EU.   So, logically, from the EU’s perspective, their loss would put Britain in a worse position (even if Britain might think otherwise).  The EU’s apparent insistence that Britain must lose more than these risks giving the impression that the EU itself seems to think that these are not so much advantages but burdens to be endured, that it does not have much confidence that the central tenets of the projet are something really shared by EU populations (or, in some cases, leaders, Viktor Orban being a case in point).

A more self-critical EU would be more willing to ask itself whether it might have done something over the last 43 years of Britain’s membership which led to last June’s result, whether it was in any way at fault and whether it might be possible that it has anything to learn.  A more self-confident EU would be less fearful of what departure by a recalcitrant member might mean, would be more willing to agree fair exit terms, confident in its mission and of public support for it.  An EU that genuinely understood European culture and history would instinctively understand that the perspectives of London and Lublin are likely to be very different, that what may be right for one is not right for the other and would seek to accommodate such views rather than to quash them.

It is fine for a German politician to tweet that “The British government must abandon myth that all British will be better off post-Brexit.”  More fruitful might be to abandon the myth that all British were better off before Brexit and, indeed, that all Europeans are better off as a result of the EU’s decisions in recent years.

And that is the real danger of the EU’s current position: not its effect on negotiations with Britain but that it ignores the very real problems within the EU, the dissatisfaction which has been building up, how this might manifest itself and what this could lead to.  Rather than congratulate itself (or sigh with relief) that Macron will (likely) win the French Presidency it should be asking itself how it is that someone like Marine Le Pen seems set to get a vote as high as 40% in a founding member.  Or it could look at humiliated Greece or no-growth Italy or Hungary, putting up borders and containers to house unwanted migrants.  Intelligent self-reflection has never been the EU’s strong point.  Nor Britain’s, despite its interminable EU-related navel-gazing over recent years.  Time for both to say less in public and think more.



Voters want May to negotiate Brexit and not Corbyn and that’s all you need to know

Monday, May 1st, 2017

A new poll shows that UK adults overwhelmingly trust Theresa May rather than Jeremy Corbyn to negotiate Brexit by a margin of 51% to 13%. All else is secondary writes Keiran Pedley.

On this week’s PB/Polling Matters podcast (see below) I spoke to Chris Hanretty from the University of East Anglia about events in France and the prospect of a Tory landslide in June. As part of the show, I also unveiled some new polling from our Polling Matters / Opinium series that, in my view, tells you all you need to know about this General Election. It’s worth going over some of it again given the furore over YouGov ‘only’ showing a 13 point lead this weekend.

A Brexit election

Our poll surveyed a nationally representative sample of 2,006 UK adults and asked how closely they were following the election, what they thought the key issues were in deciding  how to vote and who they trusted most to negotiate Brexit. It is this latter question that I think is the most telling. UK adults trust May over Corbyn by a margin on 51% to 13%. The rest either don’t know or trust neither.

Who would you trust more to negotiate Britain’s withdrawal from the EU? All UK adults

Remain voters

Leave voters

Theresa May 51% 40% 69%
Jeremy Corbyn 13% 20% 7%
Don’t know 14% 13% 11%
Neither 22% 27% 13%

These numbers are striking. Not only does Theresa May lead Jeremy Corbyn on this measure by 62 points among Leave voters but she also leads among Remain voters by a 2:1 margin as well.  At a time when the EU is setting out its negotiating stance ahead of Brexit talks it is impossible to understate the importance of these numbers. The context of this election is that Brexit negotiations are about to begin and Theresa May is overwhelmingly the most trusted figure to represent Britain at those negotiations. In my view, all other issues are of secondary importance in this election and in our understanding of the eventual outcome.

If you need further evidence, we also asked respondents to choose the top three issues of most importance to them in deciding how they will vote. To be clear, we asked this question before the one above to avoid any question order bias. Here is what they said:

 Most important factors when considering how to vote in the upcoming General Election? All UK adults Remain voters Leave voters
Who will negotiate the best Brexit deal as Britain leaves the EU 38% 28% 53%
Which party I think will form the most effective government overall 37% 40% 36%
Which party has the best policies on the NHS 31% 36% 29%
Which party has the most policies I like 25% 30% 22%
Which party has the best economic policies 23% 31% 17%
Which party has the best policies on immigration 20% 8% 33%
Which party will promise to stop Brexit 14% 26% 2%
Whether Theresa May or Jeremy Corbyn will be the next Prime Minister 13% 11% 16%
Which party has the best education policies 9% 13% 6%
Don’t know 6% 4% 7%
I don’t plan to vote 4% 1% 3%
Something else (please specify) 4% 4% 4%
None of the above 3% 3% 3%

There are two clear winners here: ‘who will negotiate the best Brexit deal’ and ‘who will form the most competent government overall’.  We have established that May leads Corbyn on the former and although we didn’t specifically ask, I think we can safely assume she would win on the latter too (the two points are essentially related). In short, the issue of day, outside general perceptions of competence, is Brexit and May is the most trusted on this issue.

But hold on. Perhaps I am oversimplifying a little. There is some interesting nuance to mull over when we look at the results split by Remain and Leave voters. For Remain voters, stopping Brexit entirely is almost as important as negotiating the best Brexit deal, with the overarching question of competence and policies on the NHS the most important factors driving Remainers to the polls. However, for Leave voters, the Brexit deal is convincingly THE most important issue (by 17 points) alongside the competence question and policies on immigration (unsurprising given what we know about the Leave vote).

Why am I convinced the Brexit question matters most? Well, firstly because it comes out on top in the question above and secondly because we won’t be able to escape it in the coming weeks. As we approach polling day, I expect the Tories to increasingly focus on this idea of ‘who do you want to negotiate Brexit’? In my opinion, it is a far more effective message than this ‘coalition of chaos’ idea. It brings into sharp focus the prospect of Jeremy Corbyn being responsible for negotiating Britain’s withdrawal from the EU and I suspect that this will be enough to drive Conservatives to the polls. Meanwhile Remainers – unlike Leave voters – are not consolidating their support in one party.

Brits are of course concerned about other issues – not least the NHS – but given that Labour agrees that Brexit should happen, it is hard to see how the central question of this election is not therefore who leads that process. Voters clearly think that person should be May and not Corbyn, which suits the Tories just fine and is really all we need to know about what happens next aside from the scale of the Tory victory.

Keiran presents the PB/Polling Matters podcast and tweets about polling and public opinion at @keiranpedley

Listen to the latest Polling Matters podcast with Chris Hanretty here

About the poll: Opinium surveyed 2,006 UK adults online between 21st to 24th April, 2017. Tables will be on the website in the next 2 days.


PB/Polling Matters podcast: Is a Tory landslide inevitable? And Vive le pollsters!

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017


On this week’s podcast Keiran returns and is joined by Chris Hanretty from the University of East Anglia.

Keiran and Chris celebrate the excellent performance of French pollsters last weekend and discuss the implications of Macron and Le Pen making the second round. Is a Macron victory now inevitable? What happens next and would a British version of ‘En Marche’ be successful? Keiran and Chris also discuss the seeming inevitability of a Conservative landslide in June and what might happen to the Liberal Democrats and the SNP.

To finish the show, Keiran unveils some new Polling Matters / Opinium polling that asks how engaged the public are in the campaign, what issues matter most to them and who is best placed to deal with them.

Listen here

Follow this week’s guests




Theresa May breaks her word and calls an early general election for June 8th of this year

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017

Will Labour agree to an early election?

Given the polls I can understand why Mrs May is calling a general election, but there’s a few major issues to sort out

  1. Can she satisfy the fixed-term parliament act in the vote tomorrow?
  2. Will Mrs May receive any backlash, like Gordon Brown, for going back on her word on holding an early election
  3. If she loses the vote, what then?
  4. If the SNP put in their manifesto Scotland should have Indyref2 next year, and they win a majority of votes or seats in Scotland, how can Mrs May refuse, Mrs May might have put the Union at risk. (It also damages her argument against holding an Indyref2?)

If Corbyn gets creamed at the general election, will he continue as Labour leader? This might be the easiest way for Labour rebels to get rid of Corbyn.


Update Corbyn backs an early election


Update – Here’s what Mrs May used to say


Richard Nabavi on the Brexit Blame Game

Monday, April 3rd, 2017

Now that the trigger has been pulled, the EU27 and the United Kingdom have begun the public posturing over the Brexit negotiations. So far this is not looking encouraging. Theresa May’s warm words about wanting a ”deep and special partnership between the UK and the EU” to include ”both economic and security cooperation” seem to have been, bizarrely, interpreted as a threat. The EU continues to insist that we have to settle the outline of the ‘exit deal’ before we can discuss what we are exiting to. They have thrown a hand-grenade into the negotiating process by appearing to want to blackmail us over Gibraltar.

As with many divorces, the parties start out claiming they want an amicable settlement, but as the specifics emerge, matters get less and less amicable. Often money becomes the focus of the bitterness, and the Brexit negotiations look well set to be no exception. The EU27 have done nothing to dampen down speculation that they are looking for an exit payment in the region of €60bn, which they claim is legally due. To make it worse, they are holding out for this to be agreed before we can even begin to discuss anything like a ‘deep and special partnership’ with the EU. So far the UK government has not risen to the bait; however, the House of Lords Brexit committee argued convincingly, in a recent report, that the UK has no legal obligation to pay anything at all.

Whatever the exact legal position, there is no possibility of the UK paying anything even remotely like €60bn, or even half that. It would be politically impossible to agree a sum which is several times what we pay each year as full members, no matter how it is dressed up or phased. Equally, though, the EU27 seem to have manoeuvred themselves into a negotiating position where they cannot do a deal which doesn’t involve a chunky exit payment. Amongst the diverse positions of the 27 EU countries, that is one thing which both net contributors and net recipients agree on. By making such a public show of it, they have made it politically very hard to draw back and agree a reasonable sum which the UK might be able to agree to. Although, logically, this shouldn’t be a major stumbling block, politically it has been set up to be so.

All this means that an acrimonious breakdown of the Brexit negotiations is quite possible, even likely, as the war of words causes attitudes to harden on both sides.

However, opposition parties rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect of a Brexit disaster being blamed by voters on Theresa May are badly misjudging how a breakdown of relations with the EU27 would play out in the UK. The PM has been consistent in wanting a good deal for both sides, but demands for a ludicrously high payment by the EU27, explicit mention by some EU politicians of wanting to ‘punish’ the UK, and above all a deliberate refusal to agree a mutually beneficial trade deal in time for the end of the two-year Article 50 period, would cause a polarisation of views in the UK – with most voters siding with the PM against what would look like egregious bullying by the EU. If voters are forced to choose between backing her as she stands up for plucky Britain against unreasonable demands, or seeming to side with vindictive EU bullies against Britain, she and the Conservatives will be the net political beneficiaries. The other parties (apart from the SNP) would be forced to support her, or risk looking unpatriotic. The question would simplify down to: whose side are you on?

A Brexit Breakdown would be a disaster for the UK, as well as for the EU27 – but in purely party-political terms it wouldn’t be a disaster for the Conservative Party.

Richard Nabavi