Archive for the 'BREXIT' Category


To add to TMay’s gloom the latest ORB Brexit trackers don’t look good for her or the government

Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

Bojo, Fox and Davis simply don’t inspire confidence

It’s been a pretty dreadful 24 hours for what we describe as the “Government”. On top of the stresses caused by the abuse scandal we now have what seems like a massive cock-up by the the Foreign Secretary and the Patel meetings in Israel.

Liam Fox, the Cameron’s Defence Sec until he got fired, is hardly inspiring in his international trade role a function that would appear vital in the post-Brexit world. His Today programme interview this morning was cringe-making.

Now we have the latest monthly Brexit trackers from ORB that suggest that voters are taking a very gloomy of the Brexit process and potential outcome.

Each of the firm’s measures as the trend charts show is bad for the government.

To my mind a lot of the Government’s problems here stem from the lack of confidence in the people TMay appointed when she got the job. Surely we’ve reached a point where the time is up for the ex-Mayor and Patel should have been sacked.

Mike Smithson


Latest ConHome party members’ survey finds no clear preference for who should succeed Mrs. May

Monday, November 6th, 2017

This, surely, is TMay’s greatest strength

At some stage in the next 20 month or so the largely male and elderly membership of the Conservative party will vote on who should be the next Prime Minister – so we need to keep an eye on the regular ConHome surveys of party members.

Although these are not what can be described as proper polls with representative samples they have in the past been showing a broadly similar picture to what YouGov has found.

Given how precarious Mrs. May’s position is we could see a challenge at any time and in in any case it is hard to see the party allowing her to remain in post to fight the next general election.

What will spark off a contest is hard to say but her appointment of Gavin Williamson as Defence Secretary created an enormous amount of anger amongst CON MPs last week. How could someone who has never spoken from the dispatch box in the Commons be given such a big position?

    That’s by the bye. The PM is in such jeopardy at the moment that she wants her friends, those she can trust, round her. The naming of her long-standing friend and colleague, Damian Green, in the harassment scandal, which he strongly denies, must be very hard for her.

The survey above reflects her greatest strength. There is no obvious alternative but that could change.

Williamson himself is said to be scheming for the job and I just wonder if at the end of the day he will become the assassin. He knows the parliamentary party better than anyone and is ambitious.

Mike Smithson


POLL ALERT: Ignore the hype. Brexit might be going badly, but that doesn’t mean people are changing their minds

Sunday, November 5th, 2017

New numbers from the Polling Matters / Opinium series show that public opinion on Brexit remains stubbornly fixed writes a returning Keiran Pedley

There is a whiff of decay around Westminster at the moment and it is not just because parliament is falling down. The sexual harassment scandal that engulfs the government looks unlikely to end with the resignation of Michael Fallon whilst Theresa May’s premiership limps on with 53% of the British public dissatisfied with her performance as PM according to Ipsos Mori.

Some will ask ‘what does this mean for Brexit?’ Could the increasing unpopularity of the Prime Minister and her government make Brexit less popular too? After all, more numbers from Ipsos Mori show that a clear majority of the public (55%) say that May has done a bad job handling Britain’s exit from the E.U. (up some 20 points from less than a year ago). Could this mean that people are losing faith with Brexit itself?

Source: Ipsos Mori October 2017

In a word, no. Despite some speculation in the press, there is little evidence of a sizeable shift in public opinion against Brexit. It would appear that many commentators are conflating the obvious problems in the current Conservative government right now with a weakening in public support for leaving the E.U. Although linked to a point they are different issues and though there is plenty of evidence for the former, there is very little for the latter.

The PB / Polling Matters podcast has been measuring public opinion on Brexit with Opinium since last December. One of the issues we have tracked is the question of whether there should be another referendum on Brexit once the terms of divorce are known. The idea being that when push comes to shove Brexit can only be reversed (politically at least) through another vote and that will only happen if public opinion demands it. We have several data points that we can look at now that give us a clear picture of what is going on. The latest figures can be found below.

Q, 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?

What these numbers show is that despite everything that has happened in 2017, public opinion on another referendum is reasonably stable. At present 38% support another vote, 51% oppose and one in ten (10%) are undecided. What is remarkable about these numbers is that aside from a notable narrowing of the gap in July, the pattern has been quite consistent throughout the year.  Support for another vote grew slightly in the spring as some Remainers moved from ‘don’t know’ to ‘yes’ but opposition has been solidly fixed around the 51%-52% mark.

Two principle factors explain these figures. We consistently see at least one in five Remain voters (often Tory Remainers) opposed to a second referendum whilst Leave voters, as you might expect, remain staunchly opposed too. Put simply, there are more Remain voters prepared to give Brexit the benefit of the doubt and ‘get on with it’ than there are Leave voters that think they made a mistake.

However, these numbers do not mean that the British public are an enthusiastic band of Brexiteers. It should be said that 38% wanting another vote is still a lot of people and when we look at the question of E.U. membership itself the picture complicates further. In fact, rather than split the public into ‘the 52%’ and ‘the 48%’, a better way to look at things would be to split the public into thirds.

One third strongly support Brexit, one third strongly oppose and one third are somewhere in the middle (with some leaning one way and some the other). Interestingly, some 12% say that they ‘don’t know’ or are ‘open minded’ on the question of Britain’s membership of the E.U. It will be interesting to see if this moves over time. So far it has not.

So what have we learned?  The key takeaway from this polling in my opinion is to remember that noise in the media does not necessarily move public opinion. There may be a time where opinion shifts decisively against Brexit (there may not) but we are not there yet. Those that think we are have jumped the gun somewhat.

2017 has been another tumultuous year in British politics. However, on the big question of Brexit and Britain’s membership of the E.U. there is actually little evidence that things have moved at all. Dare I quote someone that has had a particularly bad year and say ‘nothing has changed’?

Keiran Pedley

Keiran Pedley presents the PB / Polling Matters podcast (back soon) and tweets about politics and public opinion at @keiranpedley


How the government is imperilling its Brexit Bill

Sunday, November 5th, 2017

Alastair Meeks on the government’s strategy on Parliamentary votes

Take back control, Vote Leave said.  Marching in part under a banner of restoring Parliamentary sovereignty, they stormed the barricades and secured their referendum victory.

Since then, however, the enthusiasm of Camp Leave for Parliamentary sovereignty has been flaky at best.  The Brexit-trumpeting tabloids went berserk when first the High Court then the Supreme Court found that the triggering of Article 50, the exit clause from the EU, needed to be sanctioned by Parliament.  For upholding the supremacy of Parliament, the High Court judges (one of whom, the Daily Mail darkly noted, was an openly gay ex-Olympic fencer) were lambasted as enemies of the people.

The government’s response to this judicial requirement for Parliamentary oversight was no more open-handed.  It rammed a two section enabling Act through Parliament, simply empowering the Prime Minister to pull the trigger, which she duly did on 29 March 2017.  Parliament was to be bypassed.

After the general election, Theresa May found that she had mislaid her majority.  Minority governments are always tough to run and this one was always going to prove exceptionally difficult to manage in Parliament, given the many different factions on Brexit in all the parties.  So how has Theresa May’s government dealt with this challenge?

To date, the government has chosen largely to ignore it.  It has directed a three line whip to abstain on motions to stop the government raising tuition fees, to increase pay for NHS staff and to pause universal credit.  Having lost those votes, the government has ignored them all.

This week, the government has pulled the same stunt.  It has directed an abstention on a motion requiring the government to produce its 58 impact assessments on the economic consequences of Brexit.  This time it cannot ignore the vote.  It is going to have to release at least redacted versions.  Still, as Anna Soubry’s tweet above shows, the disregard for Parliament is causing it to lose credibility with MPs.

It seems that the government is led by Augustinian Leavers: Lord give me Parliamentary sovereignty, but not yet.

It cannot be stressed strongly enough how dumb this is.  The government was so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.  By acting in this way, the government is confirming every suspicion that Remain supporters have that Parliamentary sovereignty was a figleaf for much darker nativist Leaver instincts.  It is also needlessly alienating those Leavers in Parliament for whom Parliamentary sovereignty is a very big deal indeed.

This would not matter particularly, but sooner or later the government is going to need votes for its European Union (Withdrawal) Bill.  It is creating a political climate in which it is not going to be given the benefit of the doubt.  Parliamentarians were always going to be tough to square when the government is seeking sweeping powers to alter laws under subsidiary legislation.  That cause is looking more forlorn by the day.  By showing contempt for MPs, the government is encouraging MPs to show it who is boss.

What should the government have done?  This is easy.  Instead of trying to pull a stunt, it should have fought each of these votes.  If it had lost those votes, it should have listened to the will of Parliament and made meaningful concessions.

This is not particularly groundbreaking: it was, for example, exactly what Labour did when they lost the vote on Gurkha’s pensions.  Phil Woolas, the Immigration minister who presided over the defeat at the time, said: “This government respects the will of the House of Commons.”  This government instead has been demonstrating repeatedly that it does not.

Alastair Meeks


From what Davis said, we need to think about a Limbo Brexit

Saturday, October 28th, 2017

If talks go down to the wire, ratification will go beyond them

Brexits are like fairies. There are good ones, bad ones and if you say it with enough feeling, they might not exist at all. What we haven’t heard much of so far – though given David Davis’ comments at the Select Committee this week, we should have done – is the Limbo Brexit.

What is that, you might ask. In a somewhat numerically-challenged observation, Davis claimed that a deal might not be done until “the 59th minute of the 11th hour” (which would actually be 10:58 – you start counting minutes and hours at zero, unlike days and months). Leaving that pedantry aside, the more pertinent point, as he acknowledged in the committee, is that the deal in the Council would not be the end of the story, even though time would have run out.

Once a deal is reached, the European Parliament has to ratify it, as then does the European Council – the prime ministers and presidents of the member states. Davis noted that the Westminster parliament would get a say before the EP but in these circumstances it would be after 29 March 2019. That presents a problem.

Article 50 clearly lays out the timescale for leaving. It is in fact only the deal that need be agreed within the two years. As long as that’s done, it doesn’t matter procedurally if ratification of it goes over the deadline, as Davis suggested was possible – the deal still stands and can be implemented.

Which is all very well but by that point, Britain might well have crashed out of the EU under the Article 50 terms – an unratified agreement cannot be implemented and even if the votes are taken within, say, a week, that still means there’d be a nasty Limbo Brexit period when Britain was neither a member of the EU nor party to the exit agreement. Anything that happened during that time and was usually subject to EU rules would find itself in a strange legal world.

There is something of a get-out. The negotiations are currently being handled for the EU by Michel Barnier and his team, as no doubt they will through to near the end. However, as with the decision on whether to begin trade talks, the final details will almost certainly be agreed by the European Council. That body – and only that body – can agree to extend the exit period long enough to cover the ratifications. If the talks went down to the wire, one clause to the agreement could be to grant an extra month to allow the parliaments to ratify it before the deal came back to the Council for a final rubber stamp.

As an aside, one factor not being sufficiently closely monitored is the opinion of the European Parliament. Guy Verhofstadt has been vocal and quite critical of the UK’s approach to the talks. While he can’t single-handedly determine the Parliament’s opinion, nor should we take it as given that the MEPs will simply sign off whatever’s put in front of them. They probably will do and they certainly should do if the member states have agreed it in principle but the EP has its own sense of self and if it’s not treated with respect, we can’t assume it wouldn’t make a very grave error.

However, even if it does play ball, the kind of brinkmanship Davis was contemplating would have real world consequences. While it might end up being the case that a deal goes through providing for a smooth transition in legal terms, that won’t be how it’ll look to business, who’ll need to prepare well in advance for all possible outcomes. If there’s nothing sorted by March 2019 – or probably by December 2018 – the assumption ought to be that there’s a high chance of a Crash Brexit.

My guess is that the exit deal will probably be agreed at the December 2018 summit. This won’t be the final deal but will provide for both a smooth transition and a framework for continuing talks to secure the final settlement, with time for both Westminster and Strasbourg to vote on what’s been agreed. If talks go on after that, the chances of either no deal or a Limbo Brexit increase rapidly.

David Herdson


Month by month during 2017 how the “Leaving EU right” lead has moved in YouGov’s Brexit tracker

Friday, October 27th, 2017

There’s a new YouGov poll out which has LAB retaining its 2 points lead over CON. The survey also included the firm’s regular trackers on opinion in relation to Brexit.

In broad terms this has Brexit right at 43% (up 1) with Brexit wrong at 45% (same) so really not much change. The big picture is seen in the chart above – the nation remains broadly divided with the monthly average “right to leave” lead for only the second month moving into negative territory.

This polling, because it has been asked in the same form so often, is establishing itself as the leading polling indicator. There are simply many more data points.

The monthly changes are not huge but taking a month of polls rather than single ones gives us a better sense of the trend.

Mike Smithson


Why people voted the way they did on Brexit and the huge gulf between Leave & Remain

Wednesday, October 25th, 2017

Ipsos MORI has Tweeted the above chart this afternoon which is based on polling carried out a year ago.

Given that we know that little has changed in the overall view of Brexit then the assumption surely is that these figures stand the test of time.

The priority of leavers was the capacity of Britain to make its own laws while Remainers were most concerned about the imapct on the economy which we’ve seen with Brexit devaluation of the pound.

Immigration is clearly high on the list for Leavers and nothing like as important to Remainers.

The polling tells us little more than we could have assumed but it is good to have things quantified as the Brexit deadline gets closer.

Mike Smithson


A reminder of the great political betting night June 23/24 2016 as punters were slow to realise that Leave was winning

Wednesday, October 25th, 2017

Chart of Betfair Exchange trades from

There was a discussion on the previous thread on the betting prices overnight in June last year when the Brexit referendum results began to come in.

Thanks to which monitors these things on Betfair the above is the final 12 hours of betting. What is striking is just how slow punters were to realise that Remain wasn’t winning.

At 2310 the Remain price reached a 93.5% chance and a lot of money was being punted.

My view of that night is that the on the day YouGov poll published after voting closed was having a big effect and people were treating it like a general election exit poll which, of course, have a very good record.

My first bet on the referendum was on Leave at 0054 on the Friday morning just after the Newcastle result came out.

Mike Smithson