Friday, January 04, 2013

Are Eurosceptics prepared to lose?

Another question to which there isn't a clear answer. Because far too many are assuming that if they can secure a referendum on EU membership, the vote itself will be a formality.

It's rather similar to the optimism of the pro AV camp about two and a half years ago. And we know how that turned out.

I suspect that whilst a "Stay" vote would be a severe shock, it would not lead to the disappearance of UKIP and the like. Some would refuse to accept the result as valid, arguing it had been tainted by unwelcome interests financing the stay campaign, or declare their own leadership traitors to the cause. Others would find it difficult to accept that the country could have made such a choice.

But it's a very real possibility. Polls that drill down into the detail show that voters do not prioritise the EU as a top issue. When the third option of reclaiming powers and a free trade agreement is offered in polls, the majority to leave evaporates. That suggests a potentially strong swing vote that could go either way depending on the effectiveness of the actual campaign. And anyone can stick up a post saying "Vote My Way or the baby gets it".

The result would be that whilst the referendum itself had been won by one side - and I strongly suspect that would be the Stay side - the other would be back at the first opportunity. There would be few wider political benefits beyond a Stay vote giving the EU more drive for federalism.

The idea that a referendum will make UKIP go away is fanciful, even before we get onto the less EU focused side of their support.

1 comment:

Graham Pointer said...

I remember back in the run-up to the 1997 election discussing the referendum issue with a Referendum Party supporter. His stance was a vote to stay in would not be final.

The logic was that a Parliament's mandate expires after 5 years, so if we voted to stay in the EU, then that mandate expires as well after 5 years.

So, I guess that if we voted to stay in, there will be Eurosceptic voices proclaiming "UK votes to renew its EU membership for the next 5 years" and 5 years later arguing that there needs to be a new referendum.


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