Friday, 15 July 2011

Could we win an EU referendum?

From EUReferendum:
A poll released by the Daily Mail shows the public would vote by 50 to 33 percent to leave the EU if a referendum were held tomorrow, "a huge lead of 17 points" says the paper.
This follows an Angus Reid poll that found that 57% of Britons "believe that EU membership has been negative for the United Kingdom".

EUReferendum urge caution:
And so what? In August 1974, a private poll conducted for the Labour Party showed that, should there be a referendum on membership of the Common Market, 50 percent would vote to leave, against 32 percent who would vote to stay in, a "huge" lead of 18 points.

At around the same time, Gallup confirmed these proportions, with a poll coming out at 47-30 percent in favour of leaving, exactly the "huge lead" about which the Mail is crowing. Then, as history will recall, when there was a referendum nearly a year later, 67.2 percent voted to stay in, while those voting to leave had fallen to 32.8 percent – a "huge lead" of over 34 percent.

And therein lies the most important issue in relation to those who call for, or argue for an in/out referendum on the EU. Those who advocate such a course of action must be able to show that a slender majority in favour of withdrawal prior to the event would be able to survive a prolonged sustained attack from the Europhiles, once a campaign had started.
They conclude:
To believe that a referendum is winnable on the basis of a helpful poll showing is self-delusion of the worst kind. And without the evidence and arguments to demonstrate how the UK could benefit from withdrawal from the EU, we would stand to lose any referendum.

Assuming the EU lasts as long, that could set the cause of euroscepticism back a generation. And, with that much at risk, with very little assurance that we could win, one really does wonder about the motivations of some of those who support the idea of a referendum.
As DK puts it *
Back in 2009, I said that we needed at least another five years in the EU—ensuring that the pain is hammered home to the British people—before we might have a chance of winning such a vote.
I have wondered the same, and in my more fanciful moments I have even allowed myself to believe that senior members of the Conservative Party have made this calculation.

But when you see the Coalition running down our armed forces, so that we have to rely on France for aircraft carriers, you have to wonder. It is crucial that we get our referendum at a time that we can win it, but also while we're strong enough to defend ourselves. It is not inconceivable that the European Union will one day show as little respect for our secession as the American Union showed for the self-determination of the Confederate states.

Also, recall that the Angus Reid poll found
Respondents aged 18-to-34 are more likely to express positive feelings about the EU (45%) than those aged 35-to-54 (31%) and those over the age of 55 (22%).
Much may rest on whether people continue to grow Eurosceptic as they grow up. If the indoctrination of our youth has been too successful, time for an exit referendum may be running out.

Our best hope is probably that the EU will collapse under the weight of its own contradictions. If it's still going in 2014, it will be very interesting to see what happens in the elections to the European Parliament. If UKIP win a decisive victory, the time may then be right for a referendum (and with just enough time for the Coalition to grant it).

* gratuitous swearing this time confined to a footnote

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