On the referendum #15: Good news, Cameron changes the question – and a new poll

Today the Electoral Commission said the question should be framed as stay/leave rather than yes/no. (They have given similar advice before.) The government knew about the announcement beforehand and immediately announced they agreed. This is good news.

Cameron has been persuaded that his original desire to be the YES campaign was an error. It is unclear to me whether this nudges things in his direction or not. There are reasonable arguments either way. I suspect it will not help either side much. More importantly, I think clarity about stay/leave will avoid the confusion that I had already noticed with Yes/No, so regardless of which side it helps (if any) it is better for the public debate for this element of confusion to be eliminated.

One of the reasons why we decided in June to revive the old ‘no’ campaign logo and branding from the euro campaign 1999-2002 was so that we could get going fast without having to spend a penny on branding and without having to worry about the question being changed as it went through Parliament. When we discussed it we thought it unlikely this would happen but worth guarding against, particularly given branding processes can be expensive as well as nightmarish. The announcement today therefore is unexpected good news because of the clarity and hasn’t cost us anything.

The referendum will rest on whether the third of the public that dislikes the EU and would like to leave are persuaded that they have little to fear in terms of their jobs and living standards and that a vote to STAY is at least as risky as a vote to LEAVE given the long-term dynamics of the EU grabbing more money and power every year and planning a new Treaty after the referendum. If they are so persuaded, we will win by at least 65%. If they are not, we will lose roughly 65:35. If they split 50:50 it will be close.

Now, few MPs have heard of the Five Presidents Report and the Commission’s plan for a new Treaty (part of the reason is that it was published at the same time as the Tunisia terrorist attacks so it got almost zero coverage). When the vote happens, most of the country will know about it. Now, almost nobody in the country has heard of the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights which gives the ECJ more power over Britain than the Supreme Court has over US states, and which Blair promised would have ‘no more legal effect than the Sun or the Beano‘. (NB. this is NOT the ECHR which is justiciable in the Strasbourg court). When the vote happens, most of the country will know about it. STAY will not seem like the safe status quo because it is not a safe status quo. The EU is inexorably changing as it always planned to do, adapting to the long-term plan for the euro to drive ‘political union’ – a plan that the Foreign Office understands very well but which it has masked for decades with propaganda about ‘3 million jobs’ and so on.

The choice is not between ‘a safe status quo’ and ‘a risky leap’. The choice is between whether you think it is riskier a) to keep giving away control and money to an organisation that cannot cope with the economic and technological forces changing the world, and cannot use the power it already has wisely yet wants even more power to prop up the euro, or b) to take back control and money and negotiate a new deal based on free trade and closer international cooperation with our European friends and other countries around the world.

NB. The 5 Presidents Report and the Commission’s timetable also opens up  a wild card option for Cameron that I will blog on soon…


UPDATE

Half an hour after writing the above I got this poll back from ICM.

Coincidentally, given today’s news, I asked ICM to ask a question over the weekend to probe attitudes.

The standard tracker question on the (now) ‘old’ official question shows 46(+2):35(-2) for YES, bang in the region where it has been for weeks.

We asked another question:

‘Which of the following best reflects your view?

A) I am not worried about the UK leaving the EU because I believe it can negotiate a free trade deal with the EU, and carry on cooperating in a friendly way from outside the EU.

B) I am worried about the UK leaving the EU because I believe that outside the EU it will not be able to negotiate a free trade deal and cooperate in a friendly way.’

The headline figure is 43:40 for (a), i.e. neck and neck (within margin of error).

If you look at the crossbreaks, it shows that the 43% who say YES break 76:14 for B, while the 35% who say NO break 90:4 for A.

This is interesting. Lots of polling shows the public divide roughly into a third definite OUT, a quarter to a third definite IN, and about a third who dislike the EU and would like to be out but are worried about leaving because of fears over jobs and living standards.

Today’s poll suggests that if more people are persuaded that we can get a new deal based on free trade and friendly cooperation, then the headline voting number could swing our way quite significantly.

Of course this will be hard. There is substantial fear that, I think, is unjustified. Whether you are pro/anti the EU it ought to be clear that Britain can have a free trade deal and cooperate from outside as other countries in Europe and elsewhere do.

All those who think like me that the EU cannot cope with the profound economic and technological transitions reshaping the world should reflect on this. We need to present a picture of how the world could be organised much better, with 1950s bureaucracies like the EU replaced with dynamic institutions that can adapt fast and fix their errors rapidly. If we sit around discussing ‘gene drives’ in Brussels committees the way we’ve sat around discussing the ludicrous CAP for fifty years, we are in big trouble. We deserve better and we can do much better than the EU. We need to explain how.

 

2 thoughts on “On the referendum #15: Good news, Cameron changes the question – and a new poll

  1. It is going to be an uphill struggle trying to convince those that are worried about their jobs when they have been constantly lied to for many years.

    This claim frequently made by Nick Clegg is at considerable odds to an answer made by Vince Cable, the Business Secretary and a member of Clegg’s own Party to an EU Consultation Paper in April 2011: “The single market has also contributed to increased growth of at least 1.85% and the creation of 2.75 million new jobs across the EU since 1992” 1. Cable’s statement to the EU completely contradicts Clegg’s statement (that to this day, he continues to make) when Cable maintains that only 2.75 Million jobs have been generated by the EU across the whole Union. Who do you think is most likely to be lying? Clegg to us, or Cable to the EU Commission?

  2. You are quite correct. The key thing about this referendum is that the status quo is not on offer. The correct choice is how you have outlined it. I also think it was very well put by Jacques Delors as the choice between ‘increasing integration’ and ‘remaining friends on a different basis’.

    So it boils down to
    what does remain and leave actually mean?
    which of these properly defined is the riskier?

    That is why we must have an aim and a plan and the first step in that plan is to leave the structure of the EU but to reassure business by staying in the Single Market-it is not noptimal -it is simply the best available solution for now,pending further change.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s