EU Referendum

EU referendum: just suppose we got one: Part I


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Imagine that we woke up one morning to learn that the referendum fairy had left an EU referendum under Mr Cameron's pillow and he was now spreading the good tidings throughout the land. What do you think would happen next?

Well, according to a poll published in The Sun last Monday, 48 percent of the electorate would rush out to vote to leave the EU – against 31 percent who would want to stay in.

For that very reason, Mr Cameron will not be offering a straight "in/out" referendum. He will have been looking at the small print of the YouGov poll and will have seen that, if he could "crack a new deal", people would vote to stay in, by 42 to 34 percent.

Furthermore, 63 percent of those polled would be quite happy to have Mr Cameron set out a list of the powers "he hopes to bring back from the European Union", against a firm timetable for delivery. Only 24 percent would oppose that proposition, leaving 13 percent who don't know what they think (illustrated above).

Then, should Mr Cameron go to Brussels in the style of Harold Wilson all those many years ago, and then come back waving his piece of paper, telling us what a wonderful new relationship he had negotiated, a massive 67 percent would be content to have a vote. Only 19 percent would go against such an idea, leaving 14 percent who don't know.

What this says is the "renegotiators" are winning. The idea that Mr Cameron can go trotting off to Brussels and bring back a new deal, in the manner of Mr Chamberlain returning from Munich, is firmly lodged in the public mind. The vast majority is prepared to allow him a shot at it – suspending judgement until they see the colour of his deal.

Such an outcome is hardly surprising. Not only does this reward the propagandists who have been working to this end, it reflects the innate conservatism of the voting public. This is especially apparent in referendums, where the tendency is to vote with the status quo.

Taking account of that tendency, the "renegotiators" are offering a safe choice, allowing voters to indulge their "euroscepticism" without having to risk the scary option of kissing goodbye to Mother Europe and leave the EU.  This is euroscepticism-lite.

Now look at what UKIP and its "hard core" praetorian guard have got to offer. From the desk of the Nigel Farage, we learn that "naturally", UKIP would repeal the European Communities Act (ECA). Only then would negotiation be on the cards.

Mr Farage believes we should reject a negotiated settlement under Article 50. The only use he has for that article is to "demonstrate the hypocrisy of Cameron (if any further demonstration were needed) in pretending to wish to 're-negotiate'".

In other words, UKIP policy runs totally against the grain of what the public wants. Voters feel safe with the idea of "renegotiation". So UKIP offers the opposite. It wants the public to buy the most extreme of all possible scenarios – cutting loose without talks and without the safety net of a new agreement.

This not only ignores the status quo effect. It massacres it, trampling the carcass into the dust and spitting on the remains. 

This is a policy calculated to fail in the most spectacular way imaginable, and is an absolute gift to the europhiles. It will ensure that Mr Farage keeps his job as an MEP into his seventies and beyond, and us locked in the embrace of Europe for as long as it lasts.

Part II to follow. COMMENT THREAD