Are EU In or Out? The Contents Page: here
Part 1: What is The EU? can be read here
Part 2: A Brief History of Brexit can be read here
Part 3: The Issues – Immigration can be read here
Part 4: The Issues – Trade, Economy and Finance can be read here
Part 5: The Issues – Brexit Negotiations can be read here
A Side Note – A Review of Vote Leave’s “Leaving Framework” White Paper is here
Part 6: The Issues – Sovereignty can be read here
As said from the outset and throughout this series I’ve noted my severe disappointment in both “Official” campaigns. In a way, I’m not all that surprised. Not only has the entire debate been played from the outset as a debate on the future ideological direction of the Conservative party more than it has been about the future of the UK’s involvement with the rest of Europe it’s quite clear that I, like very many others, have simply not been within the target demographic for either campaign. When it comes to voting on Thursday, my vote shall be cast rather despite the “Official” campaigns rather than because of it. I can offer a few final thoughts and observations on both result predictions and the potential aftermaths of them.
The polls appear to be turning somewhat, as with the 2014 independence referendum a pull back to the status quo in the final week was probably inevitable and the financial markets appear to be buying Sterling in anticipation of a Remain vote but we’re still very much in “margin-of-error” territory, far more than we were in 2014 so the actual result is still very much a matter of guesswork.
Not least of all because voting intention and actual turnout are two very different things.
A fairly strong truism of UK politics is that turnout tends to correlated fairly strongly both with age and with income.
In 2014, this was a double-whammy acting against the Scottish independence campaign, with support for the Union correlating BOTH with age and with increasing social grade. The picture for the EU referendum is more mixed though. Older voters are more likely to support a Leave vote but richer voters seem more likely to vote Remain. The tendency for these two factors to nearly counter each other made well be the reason that the polls are and have remained finely balanced throughout. That, or the campaigns have been rather countering each other in the way that saturated advertising of cola drinks may make you drink more cola but you still don’t really have a strong preference for Coke or Pepsi (but if either STOPPED advertising…).
Differential turnout will therefore be key but trying to predict which direction an increased turnout will cause the results to swing is something that we’ll only likely understand in retrospect.
In terms of “points scored” on balance I believe that Leave have fought the stronger campaign. Not particularly in terms of actual arguments made, they’ve been dire at best and fundamentally ignorant or outright deceptive at worst, but simply because Remain has fought the single worst campaign I’ve seen since the AV referendum. Even when Remain have had facts on their side they’ve either failed to deploy them or simply ignored them and spun their own story. Either to suit their own ideological biases or to apologise for, rather than celebrate, our EU membership. I have absolutely full sympathy for the genuinely undecided voters out there. This isn’t to say it’s been an easy sell for those of us on Remain either. The EU has been tough to love and if the campaign to Leave had been anything OTHER than the rampantly Tory one it has been I think I would have found myself very easy to persuade. Certainly some of the arguments such as “Stay and Reform”, whilst very much tugging at my heartstrings, appears a very distant prospect for the moment and rather poisoned by the use of that phrase during the 2014 campaign.
In any case, the decision will soon be upon us and, come Friday, we’ll be dealing with the results whatever they may be.
The Result Prediction
There are three results which lie within the realms of probability of passing and which one we land on will determine the future of the UK and Scotland (especially the independence movement) over the next few years in fairly profound ways.
UK-wide Remain Vote:-
The status quo prevails. David Cameron “wins” another historic referendum and carries on as PM. George Osborne will be groomed as the future PM post 2020. Whether by “reshuffle”, purge or resignation, many of the front bench Brexiteers will find themselves reconsidering their future involvement with the Government. I expect a surge of Tory backbenchers making maneuvers towards UKIP and, quite probably, a surge in the lay membership also. Perhaps not of the proportional magnitude that was seen in Scotland in the wake of the independence referendum but in an era of generally declining political membership overall a doubling or tripling of UKIP’s membership would bring it into the realms of the top three UK parties by membership. The financial boost that brings, even if it doesn’t particularly lead to more “boots on the ground” come election time could very well mean that the EU question isn’t quite as “settled” as some would want it to be.
For Scotland and independence, this result would certainly take the option of a snap referendum or even a negotiated settlement to “protect” our EU membership off the table as irrelevant. Minds should then be focused on the perhaps rather more effective process of looking towards building support through a sustained campaign leading to a second referendum in 2021.
UK Leave Vote, Scotland votes to Remain, England Votes to Leave:-
The 2021 plan should be perused regardless but this result does open a significant problem for the UK constitutionally. Despite Cameron making it very clear that this decision would be a UK wide one the idea of one, or perhaps up to three, of the nations of the UK being herded along towards Brexit simply because of the decision of England is rather unpalatable for many. Nicola Sturgeon is quite correct and well within her rights to pursue options of maintaining our EU relationship and it would be extremely distasteful for Cameron, or his successor, to lock the other nations out of any Brexit negotiations. There has been some talk of a “Greenland” solution whereby the UK develops some kind of fudged solution in which EU membership is preserved except for England but, personally, I can’t see that option being particularly sustainable for reasons outlined here. Essentially, it would put the actual seat of the UK Government outside the EU even when the state technically remained in. If it is just Scotland which voted to Remain, I can’t see the UK Government handing over the keys to the EU offices to the Scottish Government.
If it was just Scotland voting to Leave, perhaps a Greenland solution could work (or, closer to home, an Isle of Man solution?) but in this case the only options I can see are either telling Scotland to suck it up and go back into our box or allowing Scotland to negotiate directly with the EU during the Brexit negotiations and develop an agreement whereby if Scotland holds another independence referendum before the UK’s leaving date and that referendum is in favour of independence then Scotland could “inherit” the UK’s EU membership seat. Time would tell if such events would come to pass but I think they are certainly worth examining.
UK Remain Vote, Scotland votes to Remain, England Votes to Leave:-
The “Constitutional Catastrophe” result. Mathematically unlikely but with several polls now actively predicting it this cannot be discounted. Here, Scotland’s results actively swing the UK wide result against that of England, effectively keeping England in the EU against ITS will.
(Sure, London will have voted Remain too and, being larger than Scotland, will have swung the results to a greater degree but the media won’t let this fact get in the way of a good headline and I’m sure that most independence activists in Scotland will let this slip passed unnoticed as well…maybe I could have too but, hey, anyone with a calculator can do the maths…)
In this case I can’t see any sustainable future for the United Kingdom. England couldn’t be told to “suck it up” to the degree that might be possible with Scotland. The Tories would be lucky to make it through their inevitable leadership changeover without a general election. Essentially all bets are off here and while I can make some prediction of the conclusion of this result (and independent Scotland, Possibly some kind of quasi-federal Northern Ireland arrangement closely linked to the Republic in some fashion and England & Wales effectively going it alone) I have absolutely no idea how we’d get there.
And so here I’ll conclude my “Are EU In or Out?” referendum guide. For something which started in my mind as a short two part summary, I’ve found that the campaign points have turned into something far deeper than I imagined. It’s no wonder that the thirst for information from so many has gone unquenched but I hope I’ve offered something to help. All that remains now is to go out and vote which I hope that everyone who possibly can do, shall. As said earlier, differential turnout between certain groups could actively swing this referendum result so it’s important that as many people have their say as possible. It’s the only way we’ll get the result we actually deserve. If nothing else, if you don’t vote, you’ll lose your right to moan about the results afterwards. If you can’t vote either way, at least turn out and spoil your ballot. If enough people did that, it itself would inform which way we go afterwards.
In any case, I’ll speak to you again on Friday once we see which way we’re heading. As always, thank you for reading, sharing and discussing.