Archive for the 'BREXIT' Category


Theresa May was right, this election should be about Brexit

Thursday, May 25th, 2017

The appalling events of Monday evening are dominating the election campaign. Young children and teenagers should be able to attend a pop concert without fear of being killed.  I struggle to understand the mind of a man that can choose to inflict so much pain and suffering on so many young people and their families.  Feelings are understandably running high: grief, anger, outrage and despair are mingled.

Security is a primal concern.  The knowledge that there are people who walk among us with malevolent intentions is chilling.  We know something of their aims, though not as much as we like to think.  Given the troubled history of many of those who have launched or planned such attacks, it sometimes seems that the malevolence is as important as the intentions, the cause legitimising the extreme violence.

How do we defeat an ideology?  Just why is it so attractive to some young people who have grown up in our country?  How do we dissuade those for whom that ideology is potentially attractive from taking it up?  What do we do with those who have already immersed themselves in its foul waters?  These are important questions and not ones that should be left to the security forces.

And so the rest of the campaign is likely to be dominated by security concerns.  This is an unmitigated disaster for Jeremy Corbyn, who the public strongly distrust on the subject.  It is far too late for him to regain their confidence on this subject now.

Politicians will – rightly – prioritise those risks that the public are most concerned about.  Yet we overestimate the chance of risks which are very obvious and underestimate more insidious risks. 

Thanks to the vigilance of our security services, terrorist attacks are mercifully rare.  You are much more likely to die from falling down the stairs than in a terrorist attack (and the measures to reduce that risk that you or I can take are far easier to put into operation). 

I note this not to minimise the unspeakable suffering that the families of those poor children are feeling but to note that there at any given moment there are many other families undergoing unspeakable suffering, unnoticed by the media or by public opinion.

In the absence of a truly catastrophic terrorist attack – which, worryingly cannot be completely ruled out – the everyday life of most British citizens is likely to be affected more by government decisions taken in other areas.  The government’s handling of the economy is much more likely to make a real difference to most of them.  The competing proposals for long term care of the two main parties would affect a much greater number of citizens than anti-terrorist policies.  The funding arrangements of the NHS have far more potential to save more lives.

And hanging over the next few years is Brexit.  The negotiations with the EU are shaping up to be difficult and demanding.  The outcome of those negotiations have the potential to set the country’s future for decades to come.

Theresa May called the election on the pretext of getting a mandate to conduct those negotiations in the manner that she thinks fit.  She looks set to get a mandate for something quite different.  It is doubtful, for example, whether she can continue to argue that sharing security information is a bargaining chip that Britain can play, now that the public have had a reminder of the potential consequences of doing so. 

The course of the rest of the election looks set now.  Theresa May will no doubt use whatever mandate she gets for whatever purpose she thinks fit.  Yet if Brexit does turn out as badly as many of the signs are suggesting, she may in time wish that there had been a more searching discussion during the election campaign of the options available to Britain.  The implementation of the biggest decision for decades is going by default.

Alastair Meeks


The first post-referendum Premiership season ends with teams from REMAIN areas dominating

Sunday, May 21st, 2017

Mike Smithson


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.


New polling suggests that CON London strongholds could be vulnerable to Stop Brexit candidates

Sunday, April 30th, 2017

The Survation Kensington poll in the chart above has been commissioned by a body called the Stop Brexit Alliance (SBA) to rest the feasibility of putting forward candidates in London CON strongholds where neither Labour not the Lib Dens have any chance, My understanding is that other similar seats are being looked at and hopefully we will have the data within the next few days.

The standard voting question in this poll found CON 46%; LAB 29%: LD 16.6%: UKIP 1.3%: GRN 6.9%. The figures in the chart are when the addition of a Stop Brexit candidate was added.

Opinion on Brexit in the constituency remains strong. When asked how people would vote if there was another referendum the sample split REMAIN 69.2% to LEAVE 24.3%.

One of the driving forces behind the Stop Brexit Alliance is a former CON MEP, John Stevens, who stood in the 1999 Kensington and Chelsea by-election and beat Nigel Farage to second place at GE2010 in Buckingham . He would be the candidate in Kensington if it is decided to go ahead.

What would make a huge difference to the initiative is if the LDs stood aside.

Single seat polling is very challenging for pollsters and did not come out of GE2015 well. Add onto that the hypothetical nature of the question here and we have to treat this with some caution. But we do know that London was overwhelmingly for Remain and pro-Leave incumbents, like Victoria Borthwick in Kensington, could possibly be at risk.

I am told that the poll dataset will be made available on the Survation website. Fieldwork was from April 25th to April 27th.

Mike Smithson


We have cross-over in YouGov’s BREXIT tracker: More now think it was wrong than right

Thursday, April 27th, 2017

How important will Brexit be on June 8th?

The latest YouGov BREXIT tracker was published in the Times over-night and shows a move to people now saying that the referendum decision was wrong rather than right.

This is a regular polling question that has been asked by YouGov in exactly the same manner since Theresa May became prime minister.

Then, as the chart above shows, 4% more people thought Brexit was right than wrong. Now the “wrong” segment in leading by 2%. This is from the Times report:

“.. This is the first time that more people have said the referendum came out with the wrong result, and suggests that the issue still divides the country.

Some 85 per cent of people who voted to leave still thought it was the right decision, while 89 per cent of people who voted to remain thought the result was the wrong decision… “

Each change is within the statistical margin of error although there is a trend when you look at the longer term.

My view is that views of BREXIT is more important in constituencies that voted remain than those that went for leave. Thus LAB was able to hang on in the Stoke central by-election but in Richmond Park the Liberal Democrats were able to overturn Zac’s 23,000 General Election majority even though UKIP stood aside and gave him a free run.

Extraordinarily, relating to the latter, in another development overnight Mr Goldsmith has been selected as the Conservative candidate for Richmond Park. This raises all sorts of questions about his original decision to “quit” the Conservatives at the end of last year to fight the by-election because of Heathrow expansion.

But the general election on June 8th is more than just about BREXIT but choosing what people perceive to be a competent government and here I think that Theresa May and the Tories continue to have a very strong edge.

A lot of things can still happen in this election. Six weeks is an awful long time in politics.

Mike Smithson


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




Less than a week after Mrs. May’s GE2017 announcement YouGov’s Brexit “right/wrong” tracker moves to level-pegging

Monday, April 24th, 2017

It did have Brexit “right” 4% ahead

Given the overwhelming importance of the Brexit negotiations in Mrs May’s stated reason for the early General Election then it is important to continue to follow how voters now view that decision last June.

The one regular tracking poll on this is the YouGov question featured above and as can be seen the split has been fairly stable since the first poll to take place shortly after Theresa May entered number 10 Downing Street.

Now this might all be down to margin of error come up and we need to see other surveys, but less than a week after the prime minister’s big announcement we find a move to remain so that the tracker is totally split 44% thinking Brexit was wrong 44% thinking Brexit was right.

Some of the cross tabs are interesting. Just on a third, 32%, of Conservative voters at the last general election are in the Brexit was wrong camp. That seems a very high proportion given the huge emphasis being put on this by Mrs May and other polling that has the voting intention figures moving sharply to the Tories.

Mike Smithson