Archive for the 'BREXIT' Category


EXCLUSIVE Support for a second Brexit vote is growing and Leavers should be nervous

Monday, July 17th, 2017

Keiran Pedley looks at some exclusive polling from Opinium and asks whether Britain really could remain in the EU after all?

As Tony Blair gave one of his characteristically unwelcome interventions in British politics last week many were asking why he bothers. With parties supporting Brexit winning more than 8 in 10 votes at the recent General Election you could be forgiven for assuming that the former PM’s calls for Brexit to be stopped will fall on deaf ears and the issue is settled.

But is it settled? As I wrote immediately after the election the political circumstances have changed since Brits went to the polls. Public opinion is volatile and with a Labour government now a realistic possibility again there is a path – however small – for Remainers to end up in government. For that to happen, Jeremy Corbyn would either have to change his tune on Brexit or be replaced by someone else. One imagines that only a significant shift in public opinion could make either of those things take place. With the former more likely than the latter.

Increased support for another vote

However, there are some signs that public opinion is shifting, albeit gradually. The PB/Polling Matters podcast has been given access to some exclusive polling from Opinium that has tracked support for a second referendum on EU membership once the terms are known since December 2016.

Once we know what terms the government has negotiated, should there be a second referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU, where voters can choose between leaving under the terms negotiated or remaining in the EU after all?


There is something for everyone here. On the one hand public opinion is still against the concept of another vote on Brexit. However, the gap is now 7 points as opposed to 19 in December. The trend is clear – support for another vote is growing. The cause? Remain voters are increasingly likely to support another vote – as the chart below demonstrates.

However, none of this puts Brexit in immediate danger. The above chart shows that Leave voters are resolute in their opposition to another vote and there is no major political figure (presumably it would have to be a Labour one…) prepared to break ranks and demand one. To suggest that Britain remaining in the E.U. after all is anything more than a long shot would be dishonest.

Yet if I was a Leave supporter I would be nervous.

One aspect the above poll question does not capture is the strength of feeling on the issue. Another question asked by Opinium last weekend attempts to do just that. The public were asked how committed they were to Remain or Leave. The results are below.

Which of the following statements best describes your view on Brexit?

  1. I strongly feel that the UK should remain in the E.U. 34%
  2. I think the UK should remain in the E.U. but don’t feel that strongly about it 12%
  3. I am open minded on whether Britain remains in the E.U. or leaves 8%
  4. I think the UK should leave the E.U. but don’t feel that strongly about it 8%
  5. I strongly feel that the UK should leave the E.U. 33%
  6. Don’t know 6%

What we can see here is that the public appear to be split into thirds. 34% strongly feel that the UK should remain in the E.U., 33% strongly feel the UK should leave and the rest are either lukewarm in their commitment to either side, don’t know or are open minded. Far from there being a ‘52%’ and a ‘48%’, there is in fact a large chunk of people in the middle waiting to see what will happen.

It should be said that right now the strength of feeling is actually on the Leave side. 72% of Leave voters strongly feel that the UK should leave the E.U. whereas 65% of Remain voters strongly feel we should remain. This means that 30% of Remain voters are in this ‘middle third’ on the issue compared to just 22% of Leave voters. If exit negotiations go well then support for Brexit ought to consolidate rather than fall away.

So why did I say I would be nervous if I was a Leave supporter? Well, in the face of growing support for another vote among Remainers, Theresa May’s government is weak. It is not clear that the Conservatives will control the timing of the next General Election and that makes events unpredictable. Meanwhile, we haven’t truly entered the period of ‘Brexit negotiations proper’ yet, we don’t know how they will go and how public opinion will react. Jeremy Corbyn managed to turn Labour’s poll rating round in a matter of weeks during the General Election. Is it so implausible that a similar shift against Brexit could happen in the next two years?

Of course it isn’t. It isn’t difficult to foresee circumstances where Brexit goes badly and a ‘perfect storm’ of support for another referendum and opposition to Brexit itself creeps up on a weak Conservative government. Just as ‘the 48%’ doesn’t exist, neither does ‘the 52%’. A large body of UK public opinion sits in shades of grey on Brexit and events can shift them one way or the other on the issue.

Brexit seems secure – for now

However, I still agree with those that say Brexit being stopped altogether is very unlikely. Such a specific set of events need to take place that it is almost unimaginable. Yet the unimaginable has been so consistently delivered in the past few years I feel we can rule nothing out. The government would be wise to seek some sort of comprehensive transitional arrangement with the E.U. and agree it as soon as possible. Therein lies stability. Without that stability we are the fall of one weak and divided Conservative government away from all bets being off.

Keiran Pedley

Keiran Pedley presents the PB/Polling Matters podcast. You can listen to the latest episode below. He tweets about politics and public opinion at @keiranpedley

Note on the poll: Opinium surveyed a nationally representative sample of 2,005 UK UK adults between the 7th and 11th July. Full tables will appear on their website in due course.



This week’s Euratom row does not bode well for the year ahead

Saturday, July 15th, 2017

Brexit will obsess the political class and estrange the public

In a week’s time, our MPs will have packed up for the Summer recess and will be settling down to their traditional pass-times of making pleasantries at constituency events, exposing bad taste in casual dress, and long-distance plotting. By the time they return on a full-time basis (they pop back for a week in September before conference season), more than a quarter of the time set aside for Britain’s Brexit negotiations with the EU will have passed.

In the months that follow, Brexit will dominate like no issue since the Financial Crisis; possibly like no issue since World War II. It will be all-encompassing. It will piss off a lot of the public who would really rather politicians concentrated on the NHS, education, policing, the economy or any number of other domestic issues that directly affect their lives but that’s not going to happen: for 2017-18, politics is Brexit.

We’ve already seen the skirmishes. Buoyed by their perceived election success, Labour is on the offensive, with Keir Starmer listing their demands for amendments under the threat of voting down the bill if he can gain some Tory rebels or peel off the DUP. That assumes he can keep all the Labour MPs on board, which is not necessarily a safe assumption. If the Repeal Act fails then existing EU-derived rights may not be protected, which might lead some Labour MPs to believe that a bad bill is better than no bill.

That might be a tactical error. Where it pushes its own agenda, the Labour leadership is likely to expose the divisions in its own ranks as much as (if not more than) those in the government’s. There are many ways from which one can be opposed to something but few from which to support. That’s even more true of Brexit, which necessarily involves picking many least-worst options, than it is usually. Whether even Corbyn is fully aware of those implications has to be doubtful.

But if Labour might struggle where it is advocating a specific course, that’s as nothing compares with the difficulties the government will have. So far, the problems have just been those of principle; from hereon, the splits will not only be between those who think the objective should be one thing or another, but also between those who think that what’s agreed represents a good deal in a practical sense, and those who dissent one way or another.

That’s why tactically, it might be better for Labour to travel lighter and to counter-punch against the government’s position and/or handling: there will always be a left-of-centre criticism available.

In any case, the biggest criticism that could be made at the moment is that its whole Brexit strategy exists best at a conceptual level and isn’t translating into real-world positions, as this week’s row over Euratom suggests. There will be a great many more practical applications of Brexit to come, and a great many more special interest groups with cases to plead.

The year ahead will be hard for the government. There will be little public sympathy for engaging so heavily in a process that is remote to many yet which still adversely affects them; which will be the prompt for endless rows within the Tory Party, within parliament and between the UK and the rest of the EU; which will distract from more practical matters and which may of itself cause an economic slowdown. Theresa May will need to bring balance between the nationalist and business wings of the party, while Labour not unnaturally tries to both exploit those divisions and advocate a different strategy (one which will look better simply for not having been tried).

I don’t expect her to be toppled during it for two simple reasons: firstly, it would be incredibly disruptive and to force a change would be to invite the change taking all the blame for Brexit running into difficulties; and secondly, there’s no obvious alternative who could clearly do a better job and provide a more effective alternative policy. Those conditions may change, in which case she would become very vulnerable, but we’re not there now.

David Herdson

p.s. What will also have passed by the time parliament reconvenes will be the German federal election. That should remove one uncertainty but quite what it delivers remains perhaps the most significant ‘unknown’ on the EU side for now. Merkel should be returned as chancellor (but how often have such assumptions been overturned these last few years?!), but the nature and composition of her coalition is up in the air. The 2013 election produced a grand coalition as the only viable option. That may well be the case again – in which case arch-Europhile Martin Schulz can expect a plum job – but with the SPD polling under 25% at the moment and the FPD likely to make a return to the Bundestag, a ‘Jamaica coalition’ (black-yellow-green) is also possible, which would produce a different dynamic within Germany and, quite possibly, the EU.


Two thirds of Britons want other parties included in the Brexit negotiations

Friday, July 14th, 2017

YouGov has published some polling on whether other parties should be involved in the Brexit negotiations, they found

Following the results of last month’s general election the prospect of Labour negotiating Brexit has become much more realistic, and not just because the Conservatives may lose power before long. Having campaigned on the basis that a large majority would strengthen Britain’s negotiating position, the Tories’ failure to win a Commons majority prompted call from within the party to bring other parties into negotiations.

In research conducted late last month, YouGov discovered that more than two thirds (68%) of Britons want to see opposition parties included in Brexit negotiations. Opinion was split almost evenly between those who want them included on an equal basis to the Conservatives (35%), and those who think they should only be consulted (33%).

Labour voters were among the most likely to believe opposing parties should be included in the negotiations on an equal basis to the Conservatives (64%) but it was also the favoured position of almost half (48%) of Liberal Democrat voters.

The majority of Conservative voters (54%) want to see other parties included, but on a consultation basis only. Such a move would also be supported by over a third (37%) of Lib Dem voters and one in five (20%) Labour voters.

All told, only 14% of the population as a whole don’t think opposition parties should not be consulted at all (rising to 26% among Conservative voters).

I suspect some will argue this is a damning indictment on Mrs May and her team’s handling of the Brexit talks but I think it may more be due to voters wanting to appear to be bipartisan when it comes to the near Herculean task of Brexit.

I hope YouGov make this a regular tracker question so we can see any trends, if that 35% increases substantially it will be a sign negotiations aren’t going well and the converse if that 35% decreases substantially.

YouGov also asked which other parties should be included, and the results are below.



Something to consider about how amenable the EU27 might be to the UK in the Brexit talks

Monday, July 10th, 2017

Ipsos MORI have undertaken some research and they find

A new global survey across 25 countries finds that 57% of the global public think Britain’s influence on world affairs is positive. This is a higher score than the US (40%) and China (49%), but lower than Germany (67%), Australia (79%) and Canada (81%). The global view sees Britain’s influence to be similarly positive to that of the EU (57%) and France (59%).

However, EU countries are less positive (48%) about Britain than the Global community (57%). In some EU countries (Spain, Germany and Belgium) fewer than half of citizens see Britain’s influence as positive. Just 29% of Spanish citizens, and 35% of those in Germany and Belgium, say Britain’s current influence on world affairs is positive.

Bobby Duffy of Ipsos MORI observes

Britain comes mid-table in a new global study on how positive an influence different nations are on the world. But our rating ranges widely from 76% in India being positive about us to only 29% in Spain.  This reflects a general pattern of EU countries seeing us less positively than others – although we shouldn’t overplay our image problem with our continental neighbours: still over half the population in Italy, Sweden, Hungary, Poland and France are positive about our impact on the world. 

Germany and Belgium are less convinced, alongside Spain. We are also at least fairly realistic about our own impact – with British people pretty close to the global average on their view of Britain.  In contrast, some countries are more positive than they should be: people in India, the US and Russia all see their own countries much more positively than the rest of the world do.



It looks like David Davis will ensure the Brexit delivered is exactly as Vote Leave campaigned for (sans the £350m for the NHS)

Friday, July 7th, 2017

The FT are reporting this evening

Senior ministers have rejected calls by British business leaders for the UK to stay in the EU customs union and single market for a lengthy period after Brexit, raising fears of a bumpy transition to a new trading relationship with Europe.

The CBI employers body raised the stakes on Thursday by proposing that Britain stay inside the EU’s internal market and its trading bloc until a new trade deal between London and Brussels was put “in force” — a process which could take many years and even last beyond a 2022 election.

But Philip Hammond, the chancellor, said on Friday that any transitional deal would not involve Britain remaining a member of either the customs union or single market, even though the government would do all it could to minimise “the shock” to business.

At the same time, Brexit secretary David Davis, meeting chief executives and business groups at Chevening House in Kent, dismissed the idea of Britain enjoying a transition deal that would leave it temporarily like Norway, which is not an EU member but is inside its economic and trading blocs.

According to attendees, Mr Davis told business leaders there would be a political backlash if it looked like Britain had not really left the EU and was engaged in an open-ended transition that continued current economic arrangements.



It appears Brexiteers are finding out they can’t have their cake and eat it

Thursday, July 6th, 2017

When even the political editor of the Leave supporting Sun newspaper is coming out with info like that then we should take notice. What has changed is Mrs May’s disastrous election campaign that was designed to crush the saboteurs ended up emboldening Remainers when she frittered away David Cameron’s majority.

We’re leaving, democracy demands it, but what is now up for discussion is what kind of Leave will we get, but my view when it comes to the betting is to start laying any prominent Leaver in the race to be next Tory leader. My logic is twofold, if the Brexit deal is recoils from the way the referendum was won, then there will be cries of betrayal which will damage the credentials of those contenders.

And well if Brexit does turn out to be sub-optimal, then I don’t fancy their chances of becoming leader, they’ll be tainted with the result, for the first time in decades being a Eurosceptic candidate might be a hindrance with the Tory party.




The evening must read

Tuesday, July 4th, 2017

‘Due to a terrible miscalculation of scale the entire battle fleet was accidentally swallowed by a small dog.’ – Douglas Adams

That quote from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy probably best sums up the mess Theresa May and the Tory party finds themselves in due to Mrs May’s calamitous decision to call an early election and run the worst general election campaign in living memory, this article gives a very good account what that means going forward.

From the FT article there was a lot that stood and I recommend reading the entire piece but here’s two selected highlights.

Mrs May only survived the humiliation of last month’s snap election because Conservatives have decided that the alternatives to an enfeebled leader are even worse. On June 9 party grandees trooped into Downing Street to tell the emotional prime minister that she had a duty to party and country to stay.

Most Conservative MPs fear that if Mrs May is ousted, the party would face a leadership contest that would once again split it over Europe, this time between those favouring a soft or hard Brexit. There is no obvious frontrunner, the eventual winner would have no direct mandate from the British people and they might inherit a party in a state of nervous disintegration.

There would be a clamour for another election, which the leftwing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn could win. Although Mr Corbyn is no fan of the EU, the Brexit process would be thrown into chaos.

“There is a general mood of seriousness and a sense that if we screw this up, a Marxist government steps into the breach,” says one senior Conservative MP. Another says: “The person holding the party together is Jeremy Corbyn. The fear of Corbyn is greater than any nuance in the Brexit negotiation.”


In place of paranoia has come a remarkable reappraisal of what exactly Brexit should mean. “There wasn’t really any debate before,” admits one minister. The only problem is that it comes a bit late in the day: Britain voted to leave the EU more than a year ago and the clock is ticking down to an exit in March 2019. “It would be nice to know exactly what we want from Brexit,” confided one government insider.

No senior minister has yet directly challenged the central tenets of Mrs May’s “hard Brexit” strategy set out in her January Lancaster House speech, which called for Britain to leave the single market, customs union and the jurisdiction of the European Court. But the soft Brexiters are starting to chip away at the edifice.

Mr Hammond is pressing for a long transition during which Britain would retain close ties to the EU, including remaining in the customs union. The Treasury is challenging Liam Fox, international trade secretary, to prove that the deals he hopes to secure when Britain eventually leaves the customs union more than offset an expected loss of trade with the EU. Mr Hammond is vehemently opposed to Mrs May’s threat — or bluff — that Britain could walk away with no deal at all. 

Mr Davis, who is said by colleagues to be “more flexible than you think”, is exploring ways in which the ECJ might have a limited backstop role, allowing Britain to continue participating in European regulatory bodies, rather than recreating them at great expense at national level.



Well if this Brexit polling turns out to be a harbinger of future polling then the 4/1 might be value

Sunday, July 2nd, 2017

For the time being I’m not taking the 4/1, it is one poll, and we’re leaving unless a looming economic Armageddon because of Brexit might change the mind of voters, but then again I thought the economy would win it for Remain in June 2016.