‘Britain would vote to stay within EU in a referendum’


1:45 pm - January 14th 2013

by Sunny Hundal    


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YouGov’s Peter Kellner has set the cat amongst the pigeons today by pointing out that in a straight In/Out referendum, Britain would vote to remain within the EU, “probably by a large margin”.

Just look at how attitudes have changed, for a start.

Last May, say YouGov, a majority of almost two-to-one wanted Britain out of the EU. 51% said they would vote to leave, while just 28% want to stay in.

Immediately after the new year, 46% wanted to leave while 31% wanted to stay.

But now? The gap has narrowed to just six points: 42% leave, 36% stay, they found.

Outside the EU, things would be…

Better

%

Worse

No

difference %

Don’t

know %

Britain’s economy 29 34 19 18
Jobs and employment 27 30 24 19
You personally 18 20 40 22
Britain’s relationship with the US 10 24 50 16
British influence in the world 9 40 38 14

UH OH!

These results bear an uncanny resemblance to what happened at the previous referendum on Europe, in 1975. Eight months beforehand, most voters said they wanted Britain to withdraw from the Common Market (as it then was). Then Harold Wilson, Labour’s Prime Minister, did a deal that he claimed (with not a little exaggeration) amounted to a substantial improvement in Britain’s relations with Brussels. On this basis, he recommended staying ‘in Europe’, and secured a two-to-one majority in the referendum.

Now, as then, the shift in opinion seems to flow in large measure from a change in the way the issue is framed. Until recently, discussion of Europe has been dominated by complaints that the EU strips Britain of its independence and generally messes things up. Far less attention has been paid to the consequences of withdrawal. But in recent days, business leaders and, now, President Obama’s administration, have warned that British jobs and influence would diminish were we outside the EU.

What our latest figures suggest is that the fear factor has begun to kick in.

But is a referendum still popular? YouGov are tepid on that issue too.

They say 59% support the idea of a referendum while just 21% oppose it. But last July, 67% backed a referendum. And generally speaking, Peter Kellner adds, when people are asked if they would like a referendum on almost any subject, most say they would. He adds: “59% is not a particularly high number.”

The anti-EU brigade should be crying into their cornflakes today.

More details on the poll here.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


1. Mr Eugenides

Your prediction record on the EU referendum issue is not exactly 100%, Sunny…!

Cool, let’s have Labour pledge to hold a referendum and get UKIPs votes then. Oh, what’s that? Pull the other one.

The big question that I suspect any in/out vote would hinge upon is the Euro. The cause of the crisis has not gone away and Europes fiscal arrangements remain fudged. That would suggest those who want us to leave would have a strong hand.

Cameron would be better off asking for a choice between the status quo and leaving the EU.

Why is Labour against a referendum?

I firmly predict that if there is another EU referendum that it will settle absolutely nothing. Any renegotiated terms will not be enough for some and a campaign for more renegotiations with another referendum will start up shortly after if there is a majority vote to stay in the EU.

In the 1975 referendum, which I remember well, the electorate voted 2-to-1 to stay in. Put simply, the opposition mainly came from an implausible alliance of loony Wedgie Benn lefties, like Tony Blair at that time, and loony Tories, like my local MP at the time, who believed Britain’s future should be eternally bound up with The Empire and Imperial Preference.

The 1975 referendum proved once and for all that referendums are a waste of time and money. We have a parliamentary democracy. Let those who want us out of the EU get a majority in parliament and then take us out. Except they can’t.

Cameron would be better off asking for a choice between the status quo and leaving the EU.

Cameron doesn’t want either option though – he quite genuinely wants to stay in the EU on renegotiated terms.

Since the Treaty of Rome, the European project has been evolving – following the route of ‘ever closer union’. This will continue. The Euro will survive, but countries in the eurozone will inevitably have to have closer monetary, fiscal and political union. Whether this next step is achieved by EU treaty, or by Eurozone treaty, is irrelevant to the choice that will face the UK: to be a member of this quasi state or not? How will that choice be resolved? In the end Government and Parliament will decide, but to give up 1000 years of independence without specifically consulting the people either by general election or referendum is unthinkable. Whether people vote to join this new entity or not depends to some extent upon the alternatives presented. There are thoughtful people in Europe who are thinking about this. Delors has suggested a ‘Prefered partnership arrangement. There are other possibilities which keep us linked into the project without going the whole way. And we might not be alone – Denmark and Sweden could also be prefered partners. To summarise: when the moment of decision comes, and it will come whatever party is in power, the people will demand to be consulted. And it is right they should be.

My most immediate question about this is can anyone see any error bars quoted for this result? I’ve not been able to find any such statement, and based on the error bars that are typically associated with polls such as this, the first thing that occurs to me is that the pre and post new year polls could easily be statistically equivalent.

Why should we we have a referendum just because some newspaper proprietors (most of whom don’t even pay tax in the UK) want one? Oh, and a few obsessed right wing Tories.

Perhaps we should demand a referendum on the NHS bill – or other privatisatiions.

“Immediately after the new year, 46% wanted to leave while 31% wanted to stay.

But now? The gap has narrowed to just six points: 42% leave, 36% stay, they found.”

“These results bear an uncanny resemblance to what happened at the previous referendum on Europe, in 1975. Eight months beforehand, most voters said they wanted Britain to withdraw …”

And? Put me right me if I have missed something, but isn’t this article drawing a conclusion from equating changing opinions in a short period long before a referendum date is is even agreed with those, also in a short timespan, BUT actually in the period (reasonably) just before a referendum.

12. Richard Carey

From the oh so unbiased YouGov:

“What our latest figures suggest is that the fear factor has begun to kick in.”

Fear is the central tenet of the case for remaining inside the EU. Have the pro-Brussels mob got anything positive to say, or is inspiring the nation to yellow-bellied cowardice all they’ve got?

12

Is it caution or cowardice, I suppose it depends on your politics.

@ Sunny

We know you are pro-Europe.

Do you support a referendum or are against it happneing at all?

15. Richard Carey

@ jojo,

I don’t think it’s just my opinion. An objective person can see that the main message is based on fear, plus a few tiresome slogans about ‘being at the heart of Europe’ and ‘getting a seat at the table’.

Bit of a poser for our leader. He said he had consulted ‘the belly of the beast’ or something similar, and it had told him we should withdraw.

Why should we we have a referendum just because some newspaper proprietors (most of whom don’t even pay tax in the UK) want one? Oh, and a few obsessed right wing Tories.

Not sure that this squares with “59% support the idea of a referendum while just 21% oppose it.”

It’s getting like old times with the Europhobe loonies generating lots of froth while avoiding the basic fact that if Britain leaves the EU, it won’t go away. The EU will still be there making decisions about the Single Market, but without Britain at the negotiating table, and it’s predictable that there will be more pressure behind the proposals to restrict trades in Euros to Eurozone financial centres.

19. Richard Carey

@ 18 bob b,

yet again a pro-Brussel argument with not even a hint of a positive message. Firstly the ad hominem (“Europhobe loonies”). Secondly the tiresome cliche (“Britain at the negotiating table”). Thirdly the FEAR (EU will engage in a trade war).

With EU’s continuing drift towards bureaucracy and the increasing submission to financiers not giving a damn about democracy, I’m still baffled to see europhiles equated with progressives. Is it just because eurosceptics mainly (but not only) come from the right.

@ 18 Bob B

As I said on the other thread:

The EU has more to lose at the moment in a trade war, as they export more to us than we do to them.

The EU are *already* trying to force trading in the Euro into EU based institutions. This has nothing to do with a referendum, but more to do with jealousy about London, Geneva, Zurich and to a certain extent New York, and about the power (especially over taxation) it will give EU technocrats, who seek to take taxation of financial services out of national governments hands (FTT for example). There is also a misguided idea that moving financial services onshore will somehow make bond markets less susceptible to sell-offs….when indeed the opposite would be true.

As for fear – the real fear (of pro-EU types and EU politicians) is that if the UK leaves the EU, and is better off for it, there will quickly be several other countries who do the same leaving a weak periphary propped up only by Germany and France.

@ 20 Mike

Yes, yes it is….to support a euroscpetic position based in fact would have many of the left-wing posters on here tying themselves in knots – because they’d have to agree with much of the Tory party, UKIP and Daniel Hannan. Truly a fate worse than death. It’s far easier for most of them to ignore the reality of the situation and defend the EU regardless – politics is a team game after all.

I must also say that some lefty pro-EU types I have come into contact with support the EU on it’s own merits though. I tend to get given answers basically saying they want a federal europe because they feel it will be more socialist, controlled by a social-democratic (that last word truly laughable) elite.

Tyler: “The EU has more to lose at the moment in a trade war, as they export more to us than we do to them. ”

As I’ve already pointed out that is silly and even more silly for its mindless repetition. EU exporters to Britain will have an easier time finding additional alternative markets in the remaining 26 countries in the EU, if Britain leaves, than British exporters will have in finding new markets in more distant countries.

The very real threat comes from presently unclear proposals which have surfaced to restrict trades in Euros to financial centres in the Eurozone. It is unwise to assume that civil servants in other EU countries are dimmer and less diligent in pursuit of their national interests than British civil servants are of ours.

France has a long historic tradition of dirigisme and many envious eyes are cast on London’s foreign exchange market when successive British governments have relied on the buoyancy of tax revenues generated by the financial services industry to fund public spending. As The Economist said a couple of weeks back in a leader, the pressure to renegotiate EU treaties – which will require consensus among all EU member state governments – followed by a referendum on an unknown question at some time in the future is a “reckless gamble.”

All this proves is that the Great British Public have absolutely no idea whether being in the EU is s “good thing” or not.

There’s a jolly good FT piece by Wolfgang Munchau about why it really doesn’t matter whether the UK (as a large, non-Euro economy) is in the EU or not. The real decision was taken at Maastricht, not to join the Euro.

In macroeconomic terms, EU membership is virtually irrelevant for a member state that is simultaneously large and not in the eurozone. The EU budget is tiny, and free trade and free capital movement would continue under any conceivable scenario.

As a net contributor to funds, there’s no risk of ‘losing’ funding for universities or infrastructure. As a non-Euro member, we’re already not at the table for the talks on the future direction of the EU.

I doubt that EU membership could ultimately protect the UK from an inevitable eurozone power grab. A single market in a single-currency regime is a very different beast than a single market in a customs union. In the first category the purpose is adjustment of wages and prices; in the second it is free trade. Italy needs a single European labour market. The UK does not.

We’re already semi-detached, and the sort of organisation that we joined, and that we have tried to maintain – a customs union of sovereign states – is yesterday’s model. Closer harmonisation is happening, with or without us. It’s an interesting piece, much better for not having the traditional fulminations against either Europhobe loonies or the “bureaucrats in Brussels”.
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/659572a6-5b57-11e2-9d4c-00144feab49a.html

I think an EU referendum result will be as big a shock for the “outers” as the AV referendum was fro the Lib Dems.

The right wing newspapers and websites will re-inforce the little Englanders views that everyone hates the EU.
Bit when the vote comes most voters – who polls have shown most of the time have Europe way down their list of concerns – will vote for what they think is the safe economic solution. Staying in the EU.

Meanwhile the Tory party will resemble a train crash…

27. Richard Carey

@ 26 Redfish,

“I think an EU referendum result will be as big a shock for the “outers” as the AV referendum was fro the Lib Dems.”

Not at all. If you pay attention to the intelligent pro-independence voices, you will know that victory in a referendum isn’t taken at all for granted, especially as any referendum would be implemented by a government which was in favour of the EU, and would choose the time and the question. You will also find they are addressing themselves to the question of what leaving would entail. I grant you that you will not get this impression from 95% of the nominally eurosceptic right-wing press.

Tim J

I agree about the analysis in Wolfgang Munchau’s piece in Monday’s FT. He specifically mentions the risk to the London financial markets if trades in Euros are restricted to financial centres in the Eurozone.

Btw the Maastricht Treaty of 1993 allowed Britain – and some other countries such as Denmark and Sweden – to opt out. The decision to do so was left open – and thank heavens we exercised it.

Btw note Delors on this in an interview in December 2011: Euro doomed from start, says Jacques Delors

The euro project was flawed from the start and the current generation of European leaders has failed to address its fundamental problems, Jacques Delors, the architect of the single currency, declares today.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financialcrisis/8932647/Euro-doomed-from-start-says-Jacques-Delors.html

It’s important to note the subtext here. It was elected politicians who pushed ahead with adopting the Euro regardless of advice from the Eurocrats. At the launch of the Euro in December 1999, only Luxembourg was eligible to join according to the criteria in the Maastricht Treaty.

28. Bob B

” Btw the Maastricht Treaty of 1993 allowed Britain – and some other countries such as Denmark and Sweden – to opt out. ”

Sweden do not have have an opt-out of the euro, only Denmark and the UK. Sweden only joined the EU in 1995 and the Maastricht Treaty was signed in 1992. They have not been pressed on joining because their population in a referendum voted against joining the euro. Every new member joining the EU after Maastricht is legally obliged to join the EMU at some unspecified point.

29 Richard W

“the Maastricht Treaty was signed in 1992.”

The treaty may have been signed in 1992 but by numerous web references the treaty came into force on 1 November 1993. That is the date I was referring to.

“Every new member joining the EU after Maastricht is legally obliged to join the EMU at some unspecified point.”

The implication of that is that if Scotland declares independence in 2014 following its referendum and has to apply to become an EU member state then Scotland will have to adopt the Euro as its national currency, join the Eurozone and accept Eurozone rules for fiscal discipline, all of which should prove interesting.

The facts remain that elected politicians pushed the launch of the Euro thereby over-riding the Maastricht criteria by which only Luxembourg was eligible to join as well as ignoring the advice of the EU Commission, according to Delors.

This leader in The Economist of 8 December relates:

A British exit from the European Union looks increasingly possible. It would be a reckless gamble
http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21567940-british-exit-european-union-looks-increasingly-possible-it-would-be-reckless

32. Richard Carey

@ 31 more fear-mongering from Bob B

@ 30. Bob B

Yeah, but what has that got to do with saying that Sweden had an opt-out of EMU when they do not. The interesting thing about Sweden is the dilemma it creates when governments sign up to things and their populations say no in a referendum.

Richard W

“@ 31 more fear-mongering from Bob B”

I thought a link @31 to a recent leader and brief in The Economist on the subject of Britain’s membership of the EU would help to inform debate here but it was to be expected that Europhobes would object. Ignorance may be Strength but surely it is relevant for the rest of us to know about the analysis in leading business media on this issue. I’m a subscriber to The Economist but many here aren’t so I thought they would appreciate the link for ease of access.

34. Bob B

” Ignorance may be Strength ”

No apology for incorrectly stating that Sweden had an opt-out of EMU?

Richard W

“No apology for incorrectly stating that Sweden had an opt-out of EMU?”

Try Trivial Pursuits instead if that is the only substantive point you are able to make. The important fact is that Sweden is not in the Eurozone and therefore not blighted by it or constrained by the Eurozone financial discipline code.

This probably matters much in Sweden’s political culture where General government expenditure as a percentage of national GDP is one of the highest in the EU and because Swedish counter-cyclical fiscal measures to reduce unemployment in the 1930s preceded the keynesian revolution.

Try Andre Sapir on: Globalization and the Reform of European Social Models (2006):
http://www.ulb.ac.be/cours/delaet/econ076/docs/sapir.pdf

He argues that the Nordic social model has better prospects for surviving than the Continental or Mediterranean social models. That debate is of much greater significance to most in Britain than making “a reckless gamble” on leaving the EU.

Richard
i wish you well, you are in good company.
bill cash
nigel farage
nick griffin
i hope you all end up in the same retirement home with nurse ratched :)

@ 23 Bob B

“EU exporters to Britain will have an easier time finding additional alternative markets in the remaining 26 countries in the EU”

This is simply nonsense, as the UK is one of the larger export markets, and it would be difficult if not impossible for most exporters to compensate for the loss of UK exports by finding new destinations within the EU – who they are already exporting to.

“France has a long historic tradition of dirigisme and many envious eyes are cast on London’s foreign exchange market”

This is much closer to the truth – European envy of UK financial markets and the tax they generate.

@ 36 Bob B

You do know the Nordic model is also one of a fluid, liberalised labour market, privatised services and heavily market based economy, right?

He specifically mentions the risk to the London financial markets if trades in Euros are restricted to financial centres in the Eurozone.

But goes on to say that even if Britain is an EU member, it will probably be powerless to prevent such a move.

I’m not convinced by the practicalities of such a move anyway – it’s more or less what the US tried to do after the war which led to the creation of the Eurobond market, and the concomitant decline of the US bond market. I can’t see how the EZ could prevent a bank issuing Euro denominated bonds in London (or Singapore, HK, NY etc). Not, at least, without a massively counter-productive degree of protectionism that would effectively remove the Euro’s status as a reserve currency.

40. Chaise Guevara

@ 32 Richard Carey

“more fear-mongering from Bob B”

Is there some new rule where negative consequences don’t have to be factored in? You’re a broken record on this thread, and the point you keep repeating is, in effect “Oh no you’re saying bad things about my policy la la la I’m not listening”.


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