Archive for the 'BREXIT' Category


The trend in the YouGov Brexit tracker edges towards those who think it is wrong

Friday, October 20th, 2017

Above is my annotated version of the latest YouGov summary chart showing the top line responses since the referendum when the the firm’s tracker question was asked.

The question is in exactly the same form every time and reads “In hindsight, do you think Britain was right or wrong to vote to leave the European Union?”

I’ve put a little green tick against those polls where more thought it was right than wrong and a red one alongside where more thought it was wrong.

Those polls where opinion was equally divided have been left unmarked.

What is very clear is that from referendum to Mrs. May calling the general election on April 14th only one poll had “wrong” ahead, three had it evenly split and the rest all had “right” ahead. In the eleven polls since the general election only two have green ticks the last one more than two months ago.

We now have a run of six polls with five showing “wrong” leads.

Overall this suggests that opinion might just be shifting though, of course, we need more polling.

Mike Smithson


Its 5/4 at Ladbrokes that there’ll be no deal on Brexit

Thursday, October 19th, 2017

Ladbrokes has some new markets up on the outcome of the Brexit negotiations which look interesting but I’m not sure if any of them offer any value.

The options are above with 5/4 being offered on no deal being agreed before the Article 50 deadline 18 months on from now. Note the way the bookie is defining what a deal actually is.

The 4/1 on Britain still being a member of the EU at the end of 2019 and whether there will be a third Brexit referendum (the first was in 1975) before the end of 2019 both could come good but the odds are not long enough for me to be tempted.

There is a huge amount likely to happen in the coming months both in Brussels and at Westminster. The Government is going to struggle with its “Great” reform bill in both the Commons and the Lords and things could move in any direction.

At the moment we cannot say with any certainty who the next prime minister is going to be and whether indeed the Tories will still be in power at the due date.

Mike Smithson


Newly published Survation poll sees LAB up 2 to a 6 point lead

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017

And Remain 3 points ahead to hypothetical 2nd EuRef question

Survation, the pollsters that was widely, and as it turned out unfairly, criticised in the run-up to GE2017 because it had the smallest CON leads has a new voting poll it. Its relatively old with its fieldwork being carried out in the week of the Tory conference when the blue team were making the headlines for all sorts of reason. The splits are CON 38%, LAB 44%, and LD 7%.

This is a somewhat better position for Corbyn’s party than the tie in the most recent ICM and 3 point lead from YouGov.

There’s a hypothetical 2nd EuRef question voting question which has Remain 3 points ahead – 52 to 49.

Whatever the sizeable Labour lead from the pollster that got it most right on June 8th won’t make comfortable reading for Mrs. May who remains in post for the time being.

I’ve no idea why we are getting this poll late but it is interesting that the pollsters producing regular surveys are in just about the same order as they were at the general election – ICM with the Tories in the best position Survation the worst.

Mike Smithson


Ex-YouGov president Peter Kellner says “Brexit Buyers’ remorse” might be starting particularly amongst C2DEs

Monday, October 16th, 2017

In an excellent article the former YouGov President, Peter Kellner, says there could be signs of buyer’s remorse amongst LEAVE voters particularly amongst the C2DEs. He based this in Prospect on an analysis of the trend to YouGov’s “in hindsight was referendum outcome right or wrong” tracker. Last Friday this showed “wrong” at its highest level with a 5% lead.

Kellner, who strips out the don’t knows from the findings, goes on:

“..On its own, this latest finding could be the result of a sampling wobble. The next survey might bounce back to 50-50 or thereabouts. But there are two features of YouGov’s research which suggest that something beyond a sampling wobble may be at work.

First, YouGov’s polls have detected a gradual shift in recent months. We can divide their 41 post-referendum surveys into three groups. YouGov conducted 24 surveys between last year’s referendum and the start of this year’s general election campaign. In 20 of these surveys, more people said the Brexit vote was right than wrong. In three surveys “right” and “wrong” were level-pegging. In only one was “wrong” narrowly ahead. Given sampling fluctuations, there was nothing to suggest any move from the 52-48 per cent referendum result.

From the start of the election campaign in April, up to mid-August, YouGov conducted 12 polls. Five showed “right” narrowly ahead, four showed “wrong” just ahead and three had the two views attracting equal support. Taken together, the public view in the spring and summer months was 50-50.

Since mid-August, YouGov has conducted five polls. None of them has shown a majority saying the UK was right to vote to leave the EU. Four of them have shown “wrong” ahead, while one has the two sides level-pegging.

..The second reason for concluding that the recent shift in the numbers is real can be found in the demographic pattern. We can see this if we compare the latest YouGov survey with the one it conducted at the very start of August—one of the typical 50-50 polls from that period. Back then, middle-class (ABC1) voters divided 60-40 per cent in saying Britain was wrong to vote for Brexit, while working class (C2DE) voters divided 63-37 per cent saying we took the right decision..

Last week’s poll has virtually identical figures for ABC1 voters (41 per cent right, 59 per cent wrong), but a seven-point shift among C2DE voters, to 56 per cent right, 44 per cent wrong. We cannot be absolutely certain that a seven-point shift is real: the margin of error in sub-samples is greater than for the sample as a whole. But when we look at the series of polls since the start of August, we see a steady decline in the proportion of C2DE voters saying Brexit was the right decision. (The detailed poll-by-poll figures can be viewed on YouGov’s website here) This feels more like a change in working-class attitudes than a sampling fluke; though whether it is lasting or temporary remains to be seen...”

I think there might be something in this. There’s no doubt that the figures have been better for “leaving EU wrong” in recent polling and his socio-economic group point is one that could be right.

In all though we need more polling.

Mike Smithson


Quantum physics could have the answer to Brexit’s Ireland problem

Saturday, October 14th, 2017

Perhaps Schroedinger’s Border Guards should patrol the Customs Union

Brexit will happen. As Alastair Meeks sensibly pointed out here yesterday, there’s a good, clear case that Article 50 is not revocable. Britain could ask for an extension to the talks but the PM has been clear that she doesn’t intend to do so and in any case, a delay is not a reversal of course. In practice, the transitional arrangement might look very much like continued membership but even that will have an expiry date, presumably one that’ll be written into the Exit Agreement.

All of which assumes we get an Exit Agreement. That’s far from certain as the two sides continue to talk at cross purposes, becoming irritated with each other in the process as neither understands why the other won’t be reasonable. It’s a microcosm of why the difference in philosophical understanding of what the EU is propelled Britain to leave in the first place.

Diplomacy should, however, prevail in the end on two of the three outstanding points. The financial settlement may prove a lot easier than many expect. Now that Britain is looking for membership-in-all-but-name during the transitional period, the likelihood is that the UK will pay very close to what it’s already doing in order to get that – which also has the happy benefit of seeing the EU through to the end of (and slightly beyond) the current Budget Framework. The debate about bar bills won’t apply. There will still be some legacy costs to sort out – pensions, for example – and opt-in costs for individual programmes but they shouldn’t be insurmountable.

Similarly, the question of citizens’ rights should really have been resolved already. Both sides recognise the need to do so and (in theory) accept the principle of reciprocity – though the EU wants the ECJ to guarantee the rights on both sides, which is hardly reciprocal. Sorting out the precise terms shouldn’t be beyond the wit of the two teams.

The tricky one – indeed, potentially the fatal one for the talks – is Ireland. Here, the contradiction in objectives seems on the face of it insurmountable. The British government wants to leave the Customs Union, which implies those entering it must cross a regulated border, but both sides want frictionless trade between North and South of the island.

The simple solution would be to not leave the Customs Union. After all, it’s the Single Market which holds most of the objections for Brexiteers. The Customs Union imposes some restrictions but if the 16 months since the referendum are anything to go by, that slew of new and improved trade deals looks a forlorn hope. However, to say that would be to admit defeat which the government won’t want to do, for reasons that aren’t all bad. To make a major concession there while the EU gave nothing would be to invite continued intransigence from Brussels on the false expectation that Britain will fold on issues that really are red lines.

So if that option’s off the table, how to square the circle? The simple answer is: don’t. Let the circle and the square coexist.

The assumption is that if Britain leaves the Customs Union then there must be a hard border. In fact, that’s not entirely true anyway: there isn’t a solid border between Norway and Sweden, and Norway is outside the CU. But putting technology aside, why need there be a border at all?

At this point, lawyerly types and bureaucratic logicians will talk about the integrity of the CU, about ‘back doors’ and so on, and yes, in terms of a consistent regime across the Union, they have a point. But only a bit of a point. For one thing, if you were going to import Chinese toasters into Germany, would you really sail to Belfast, transport them by road through to, say, Rosslare or Cork, sail (on a ferry) to Cherbourg or Roscoff, then have them driven hundreds of miles more across the continent? The logistical costs would outweigh any customs saving.

Some will also make the point that if Britain unilaterally gives Ireland a favourable deal then other countries could bring a case against it at the WTO, on the grounds that they’re being discriminated against. They could, but it’s not a slam-dunk. For a start, Britain already has a trade deal with Ireland, dating from 1965. Now, I’ll admit that I’ve not had time to go through the text of that treaty, nor have I found evidence either way as to its status after both countries joined the EEC. It could be that it was formally ended in 1973. On the other hand, if it was simply allowed to fall into abeyance because the two countries’ membership of the EEC superseded it, then on Britain’s withdrawal, it could be argued that Britain has the right to renew the terms, particularly where they are favourable to Ireland.

Even if that’s not an option because the treaty was annulled, there still remain the Agreements that form the Northern Ireland Peace Process, which provide for all sorts of frameworks within the British Isles and within Ireland. In particular, within the Introduction to the section containing the agreement between the two governments within the Good Friday Agreement, it states:

Wishing to develop still further the unique relationship between their peoples and the close co-operation between their countries as friendly neighbours and as partners in the European Union; Reaffirming their commitment to the principles of partnership, equality and mutual respect and to the protection of civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights in their respective jurisdictions;

A little imaginative interpretation there and it could be taken to mean that imposing a border would run counter to the commitment to ‘develop still further the unique relationship between their peoples’ and that a hard border would run counter to ‘the protection of economic rights’. With pre-existing treaties in place, there would be no illegal discrimination against third countries.

All of this is, of course, from the British side. Britain could decide to have no patrolled border but that still doesn’t necessarily get Ireland off the hook. It would still be supposed to enforce the Customs Union. However, to do so would be grossly detrimental to some of the poorer parts of the country. The best option would be to simply leave it as an anomaly. The EU is good at coming up with names to describe anomalies. I’m sure it could be granted some special and unique status.

Perhaps it could be called a superpositional border; one which is simultaneously both there and not there. A legal paradox but an acknowledged one. Quantum mechanics contains such a concept; it’s how Schroedinger’s Cat is both alive and dead at the same time. The trick, in that case, is not to inquire as to the health of the cat. With Ireland, the best option is to not ask about the border.

David Herdson


Those thinking the leave EU vote was wrong take biggest lead yet in YouGov’s Brexit Tracker

Friday, October 13th, 2017

If this is more than a blip it could be significant

After more than a year of producing results showing that voters were split almost down the middle over Brexit the latest YouGov tracker now has those saying it was wrong leading by 5 points

This is the biggest margin by either right or wrong has had since the pollster started tracking opinion in the aftermath of the referendum.

As in all newsworthy pieces of polling we’ll have to wait to see whether if this is a trend or whether it is just a quirk. The question has been asked been exactly the same way ever since the referendum.

The poll also had Corbyn and May level pegging at 33% each on the who would make the best prime minister question. These finding generally have a big bias to the incumbent and these are the second bet ever figures for the Labour leader.

Just 21% of the sample said they thought that the government was handling the Brexit negotiation well with 61% saying badly. This is by far the worst set of figures ever for Tories on this question.

Voting intention remains almost static with CON down a point and the LDs up one.

Mike Smithson


Coming back to EU – can A50 be revoked?

Friday, October 13th, 2017

Picture: The justices of the CJEU

Alastair Meeks, who correctly forecast the outcome of the Article 50 Supreme Court case, gives his view if Article 50 is revocable.

Britain is not going to be rescinding its Article 50 notice.  The Government doesn’t want to and nothing in the current progress of negotiations is bringing Britain back closer to the rest of the EU.  All of which makes a lot of the speculation about whether Britain could revoke that notice rather theoretical.  Yet like malaria the idea keeps coming back, resulting in lawyers breaking out in a delirious fever.

Why does it keep coming up?  Two unconnected groups are fond of the idea.  The first group are your actual straight-down-the-line irreconcilable Remainers who have always hated the idea of Brexit.  The other group are an assorted bunch of pragmatists who are horrified at what a balls-up the Government is making of the Brexit negotiations and who want to withdraw the notification so that Britain can take stock of how it will go from here.

Hadn’t all this been sorted out by the Supreme Court earlier in the year?  Actually, no.  The Supreme Court did not have this point argued before it.  Gina Miller argued that an Article 50 notice was irrevocable because it suited her to be able to say that if the Government had the power to issue an irrevocable notice, Parliament couldn’t undo its act.  The Government chose not to argue the contrary, presumably because the point might well then have been referred to the CJEU, which would have been incendiary for the stauncher Leave supporters.  So the point went by default.

Since then, the draftsman of Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, has claimed that his view was that a notice under Article 50 was intended to be revocable.  Theresa May has fanned the flames by declining to comment on whether the Government has received legal advice to this effect.  So the point refuses to die.

Like any lawyer, ask me a question and I’ll give you an answer (for a price), even if the question is theoretical.  This is quite a pure question of law, turning on the interpretation of relatively few words.

Article 50 provides (so far as is relevant):

“1. Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.

  1. A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention. In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union…
  2. The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period…
  3. If a State which has withdrawn from the Union asks to rejoin, its request shall be subject to the procedure referred to in Article 49.”

There is a curious point to note here which has not been given much coverage in the press.  The Article 50 notice is not really the important step here.  The important step is the member state’s decision to withdraw.  Once that decision has been made, the member state is under an obligation to notify the European Council but the notice is a procedural formality (though consequences flow from it as we shall see).  The question, therefore, is not whether the notice can be unilaterally withdrawn but whether the member state can unilaterally undecide to withdraw before it has left.

This is important in relation to one regularly aired argument, which is that Article 68 of the Vienna Convention allows Britain to withdraw its notification.  If the vital step is not the notification but the decision, the provisions of the Vienna Convention that concern the withdrawal of such notification would not by itself be of relevance for bringing the process to a halt.

(In any case, Article 68 is limited to withdrawal notifications made under Article 65 and 67 of the Vienna Convention, which are precisely set out, and it is far from clear whether these include the current circumstances.  Finally, not all EU member states are signatories to the Vienna Convention, so unless this provision forms part of customary international law – debatable – it is of no relevance anyway.)

Regardless of the applicability of Article 68 of the Vienna Convention, a revocation could not be issued if the member state had not genuinely decided, in accordance with its constitutional requirements, to change its mind.  It would not be a genuine revocation and it would be inconsistent with the member state’s notification duty under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union.  So any attempt by pragmatists to reculer pour mieux sauter would in my view be clearly invalid and ineffective.

So much for correcting the balls-up.  What of the irreconcilable Remainers’ hopes?  What if Britain saw the light and changed its mind?

There is a short point which I think answers this question, which is simply to apply the straightforward meaning of the words of Article 50.  Article 50(3) of the Treaty on European Union provides that: “The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from… two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period”.  Nothing in Article 50(3) suggests that any purported revocation notice will affect this timetable: the notification has set the clock ticking and a revocation notice doesn’t stop it.  Once the self-destruct sequence is initiated, the ship’s computer will accept only a unanimous extension (or an amendment under the Treaty’s provisions to vary its effect).

Another provision of the Vienna Convention, Article 31, provides:

“A treaty shall be interpreted in good faith in accordance with the ordinary meaning to be given to the terms of the treaty in their context and in the light of its object and purpose.”

I’m confident that this does form part of customary international law.

My suggested interpretation would seem sensible and practical in the context of a complex multilateral treaty of great scope and depth.  The scope for disruption to other member states and the EU of allowing countries to issue withdrawal notices and rescind them on a whim would be unjustifiable.

It is worth noting that on this analysis it is irrelevant whether Article 68 of the Vienna Convention applies.  Whether or not Britain has the power to issue a revocation notice, it is ineffective to stop the Treaty on European Union timetable.

So while I have major qualms about contradicting the draftsman of Article 50, in my view it seems to me that the process cannot be unilaterally unravelled by Britain.  It has gone over the edge of Niagara in a barrel.  It cannot swim back upstream unless the rest of the EU decides to intervene to help.

Alastair Meeks


Blaming the hard-line CON Brexit fundamentalists who are taking Britain to the brink

Thursday, October 12th, 2017

The Stephen Bush analysis of the Brexit negotiations

In a well-argued New Statesman piece Stephen Bush makes a point that has not been heard much since the Brexit talks began. It is the hard-line CON Brexiteers who are calling the shots and taking us to the brink. He notes:-

…the loss of political sovereignty… is unsatisfying to the Brexit elite – perhaps 1 or 2 per cent of the population at best – who are in the main unworried about immigration, inoculated from economic harm, but obsessed with sovereignty and free trade.

There is the potential for a settlement in December. But we shouldn’t forget that the reason why the Brexit talks are unlikely to deliver what the bulk of voters, Remain or Leave, want is because they are being shaped not by the interests of the 52 per cent who wanted to leave or the fears of the 48 per cent who opted to stay, but by the minority interests of a small group of Brexiteers, largely concentrated within the Conservative Party.

It is having to square these factions which is making it so difficult for TMay and her team.

Mike Smithson