Archive for the 'EU matters' Category


The Brexiteers, Juncker’s fifth columnists?

Tuesday, October 18th, 2016


How the Leavers may have ultimately signed the United Kingdom up for the single currency, the Schengen agreement, an EU Army, and a United States of Europe.

Despite all the hype and bluster, the court case, and Parliamentary scrutiny, the United Kingdom will be leaving the European Union within the next few few years, and both will rapidly change because of Brexit.

Without the United Kingdom inside the EU stopping and vetoing more federalist ideas nor without our influence advocating pro business policies such as one of Margaret Thatcher’s finest acts as Prime Minister, the single market, the EU will become a very different beast to what it is now, especially amongst the Eurozone countries.

Whilst I’m not a supporter of the single currency, it always seemed flawed to me to have economic and monetary union without a full political union, and with the problems with Greece, I fully expect to see more integration in the EU, especially within the Eurozone.

But the EU doing very well won’t convince people in the U.K. to rejoin the EU, the other condition will be for the reality of Brexit to be seen as a mistake by the voters, or to put it bluntly, such as the fears of Brexit that Boris wrote about before he came out for Brexit actually happen.

Laissez les bon temps rouler might as well be the Leavers’ motto for a post Brexit U.K. but if the good times don’t roll then what? If Brexit turns out to be an economic mistake for the U.K., which translates to things like mass jobs losses, high inflation, and an economic slump then there may well be pressure to rejoin the EU. As an aside, it is far too early to conclude, one way or the other if Brexit has been an economic disaster or success, for every Sterling slide or a spike inflation, there’s some good news such elsewhere such as ING moving jobs to London. We will only have an idea once the final Brexit deal has been agreed if Brexit is good or bad for the economy.

We have some polling which already shows more Leavers regretting their vote than Remainers and with it looking like the poorest will be hit the hardest most by Brexit then that figure may very well rise.

In an ever evolving world some ideas that the U.K. public oppose today, they may very support in the future, for example with the possibility of Donald Trump in The White House, given Trump’s pronouncement that as President he wouldn’t automatically defend NATO allies under attack, supporting or joining a EU Army makes sense in those circumstances.

In any future deal for the U.K. to join the European Union, the U.K. will be the supplicant, so we won’t be able to dictate any favourable terms, and new members of the EU will have to sign up to things like the Euro, The EU Army, and the Schengen agreement, possibly all of them, and with the U.K. having already left the EU once, there maybe no future Article 50 option a second time. There would be a great irony if the Leavers end up helping the U.K. become a full member of a federal Europe, Jacques Delors, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, Jean Claude Juncker, and Sir Edward Heath may end up thanking Leavers for their help in realising their dream.


P.S. – It won’t necessarily mean a future referendum on taking us back into the EU, all it needs a Pro/Rejoin the EU party to win a majority at a general election, 48% might not be enough to win a binary choice referendum but in the right circumstances, 48% can win a landslide under first past the post. Perhaps Leavers should start supporting electoral reform such as the alternative vote to stop this scenario unfolding.


Why I’m betting that it’ll be next July at the earliest before Article 50 is invoked

Friday, July 15th, 2016

Several bookies, including Betfair, have got markets up on when, if ever, Article 50 will be invoked. This is, of course, the formal process that would see the exit of the UK from the EU.

There’ve been two articles this afternoon that cause me to suggest that this will be later rather than sooner. Ian Dunt has an excellent explanation here while the ITV news piece in the Tweet above features the PM’s views.

She makes it very clear that there will be no invocation until there is UK-wide agreement and that, importantly, includes Scotland.

Even if that happens it is hard to see this being finalised before the end of June next year which is the mid time segment on the Betfair market. I’ve gone for from July 1st 2017 if at all.

The Dunt article, linked to above suggests that things could drag on until the next general election.

One of the smart features of the May’s cabinet choices is that it is prominent leavers who are handling this. My view is that this will make it easier to assuage the outers if things go on longer than expected. David Davis was talking about a much earlier exit before he got appointed but squaring the Nicola Sturgeon problem is going to be very tricky.

Mike Smithson


The betting on when will Article 50 be triggered, if ever?

Sunday, July 3rd, 2016



Pictures: First picture odds from Stan James, second picture, odds from SkyBet

There’s a couple of markets up on when Article 50 will be triggered, if you’re lucky to have a Stan James account, I wonder backing the any other outcome other option. It is effectively a bet on Article 50 being triggered in 2018 or later, not at all.

Now 2018 might sound far away, but we’re less than 18 months away from 2018, and given the gravity of the issues involved, I can understand why David Cameron’s replacement will want to take their time before triggering Article 50, so they can work out how to implement Brexit.

Many prominent Leavers are advocating the EEA/EFTA option which may include Freedom of Movement, which might be hard to reconcile with the heavy focus on immigration during the referendum campaign, time might be needed to soften up the voters who were expecting an end to mass immigration and free movement of people.

Of course this bet is assuming Theresa May becomes our next Prime Minister, Andrea Leadsom said this morning were she to become Prime  Minister she would trigger Article 50 as soon as she becomes Prime Minister, but were I to have a Stan James account, I’d be backing the any other option.


Update – Alastair Meeks has alerted me to the fact that there’s a couple of Betfair markets up on this as well. See here and here


Those who say that the bookies got EURef wrong don’t understand betting

Monday, June 27th, 2016

Ladbrokes betting barometer 2239BST June 23rd

Punters aim to make money not to provide an alternative opinion indicator

As well as the cries that the polls got EURef wrong there’s been something of a backlash against the betting industry which more than at any previous election had sought to promote itself in the manner that Ladbrokes did in the graphic above.

    They are being attacked for “getting it wrong” – something you’d never hear after, say, the Grand National when, as this year, a 33/1 outsider took the crown. By the same argument you could say that the “bookies get it wrong” whenever the favourite doesn’t win which is very often.

A problem is that some bookmakers have not helped themselves here. The Ladbrokes “barometer” and similar concepts from other firms did give the impression that they tried to present themselves as an alternative way of looking at opinion.

People bet to try to make money and have the satisfaction of being proved right. They are not doing it to provide an opinion poll alternative.

For me political betting is all about finding what I regard as “value” propositions where the bets available on the spreads, exchanges or with traditional bookies are understating my assessment of what could happen. Thus throughout the referendum campaign I never rated REMAIN at higher than a 55% chance.

Whenever I quote betting odds all I am doing is reporting what’s happening on the markets. Stating what the latest prices on an electoral outcome is not me saying that these are a correct indicator. In fact my whole betting approach over the decades has been to find bets where I think the prices are wrong and to suggest that there is value.

It should be said that I didn’t put a penny on REMAIN throughout the campaign even when it had big leads in the polls. The very tight prices that were offered simply did not provide any value. The risk of LEAVE doing it was always greater and I was never tempted.

What I think we are seeing is a reaction against the PR exercises run by some of the bookies to highlight their prices by such devices as the Ladbrokes barometer above.

Mike Smithson


Richard Tyndall on the exit strategy

Sunday, June 26th, 2016


Recent interventions into the Muslim world by Western powers post 9/11 have been characterised by one great failing. Whilst they have carefully planned and executed the military phase of the campaign, they have utterly failed to deal with the post conflict stage leaving behind failed states in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya as a result.

The Brexit campaign is in danger of doing the same thing if they do not sort out, very quickly, what their next moves are to be in the removal of the UK from the EU. Some might reasonably argue that they have already left it too late and these plans should have been clear before they ever went to war. Part of this failing – if indeed it does exist – might be because the politicians running the campaign didn’t actually think they ever stood a chance of winning. As a result they were making hostages to fortune throughout the debate and now have to find some way to reconcile the many different promises they made.

As an aside I should point out that exactly the same problem would have existed post a Remain victory although the consequences would probably have taken slightly longer to reveal themselves.

The biggest hostage of course is the question of freedom of movement and the inextricably linked issue of access to the single market. Dan Hannan has come in for some criticism over the last 24 hours for advocating the European Free Trade Area (EFTA) solution that would see very little change in the principle of freedom of movement but would, if developed properly, probably see drops in EU migration because of the restrictions placed on benefits. It is a position he has maintained resolutely throughout the campaign and I suspect is one reason why he was not used by Leave in most of the main events, in spite of being one of their most effective speakers.

Clearly there are a number of barriers to be overcome to achieve such an outcome. Three are of particular importance.

1.      The electorate. Immigration formed the core of the Leave campaign and was almost certainly the reason they won. Opponents will rightly point out that there is no mandate for ignoring this issue and entering the UK into a post-EU settlement that does little or nothing to help control immigration. However, as I advocated before the vote, it is necessary for the new Government to legislate on behalf of all the electorate not just the 52% who voted for Brexit.

That means that already almost half of the population would probably be relieved with a  solution that maintained the single market and freedom of movement. But what of those who voted Leave?  We do have some indications of their views. A Yougov poll on 8th June showed that 42% of Leave supporters would prefer the EFTA/EEA route post-Brexit with 45% opposing. I would contend that this would indicate that overall there would be a clear majority of the country that would choose EFTA/EEA over complete separation from the Single Market.

2.      Parliament. Whatever deal is brought forward has to get through both houses of Parliament. We know that the members of both houses were strongly in favour of remaining in the EU and I find it hard to believe that they would block the alternative that would assuage many of the concerns that were held about Brexit.

Both of the above points make a series of assumptions that would need to be firmed up prior to actually attempting a deal. As a result I believe that it would be necessary for the new Conservative Leader to make the case for EFTA/EEA membership and then put it to the electorate in a General Election after first having invoked Article 50. Imposing such a deal without being clear what the view of the British public is would be unacceptable and I seriously doubt anyone has the stomach for any more UK wide referendums in the near future.

Finally I mentioned three potential barriers to such a deal. The third of course is EFTA itself which is why I hope someone from the Leave campaign is already in discussions with Kristinn Árnason, the current General Secretary to discuss the attitude of the four current EFTA members to the possible arrival of a fifth member in the near future.

Richard Tyndall


Britain’s EU hokey-cokey: what would ‘in again’ look like and why isn’t Remain talking about it?

Sunday, June 19th, 2016

LEAVE Bedford statue


There’d be no special status second time round

If there was one thing that won the Scottish Independence referendum for No (or Remain in current parlance), it was the currency question. The uncertainty surrounding what currency an independent Scotland would use, whether it would be forced into the Euro, which central bank – if any – would underpin the financial system and so on was not only a massive inhibitive in its own right but also encapsulated the wider uncertainties of leaving the Union.

As such, one dog that surprisingly hasn’t barked so far is that self-same currency question. Presumably, that’s because it’s not immediately on the table: leave or remain, Britain will continue to use the Pound Sterling. However, despite George Osborne’s comments today, that leaving would be a “one-way door”, echoing David Cameron’s assertion that there’d be “no turning back” on an exit, the truth is that neither Leave nor Remain is necessarily for ever.

Just as it’s absurd for proponents of Leave to characterise a vote for Remain as a mandate for Ever Closer (and rapid) Union, despite the deal reached back in February, despite the obvious disquiet at the current level of integration to the UK and despite the rising Euroscepticism across the continent, so it would be equally wrong to claim an eternal mandate for Leave, should that side win.

But therein lies the problem. Britain has been here before. Walking out on involvement in the 1950s meant that the EEC was built entirely to the design of others. It’s taken half a century of late arrivals, special pleading, sulks, rows, opt-outs and vetoes to arrive at a position where Britain has carved out its own position; one which is still very far from perfect and in all probability, some way short of where it would have been had Britain not given France and (West) Germany twenty years head start.

One question that Leave has played up recently is ‘would you choose to join if we weren’t currently members?’, the implicit answer being ‘no’. The purpose of the question is to try to sidestep the uncertainty argument but leaving aside the fact that we are currently members so the question’s facile, several countries are currently trying to join – as Leave has not been slow to point out. True, they’d all be net beneficiaries of the budget but they’d still be giving up substantial levels of absolute sovereignty, including signing up to the Euro.

Is it possible that Britain, once out of the EU, might decide that the grass wasn’t greener after all? Not immediately, certainly, but it’d turn very much on events. One major reason that Britain wanted ‘in’ in the 1960s and 1970s was that the continent was doing rather better than the UK. Similarly, one of Leave’s strongest arguments is to ask why we’re shackled to one of the world’s worst-performing areas. That relationship would have to flip again for the EU to start looking attractive once more.

Of course, there’d have to still be an EU to apply to rejoin. A Brexit, particularly if combined with an intransigent stance by the Brussels elite towards member states and their electorates and/or more financial turbulence in the Eurozone may produce a domino effect that brings the whole thing down. But such predictions have been made before and fallen very far short of the mark. Some Eurocrats – Juncker, for one – still do not seem to understand that the EU is facing an existential crisis and that the Brexit debate is just one aspect of it, but others – Tusk, for example – do seem to. When electorates are forcing the choices on the EU of change or die, we shouldn’t automatically assume that it’ll pick ‘die’.

Ironically, Britain could be leaving at just the moment when reform is becoming not just a possibility but a necessity. If Leave is for ever then that’s not a problem. Although Britain’s only been able to win its opt-outs and so on by fighting from the inside whereas new members have to sign up to the whole package, Leave would argue that Brexit is itself the biggest opt-out there is and as such, one that renders the mini versions irrelevant – which is true unless Britain does indeed think about the hokey-cokey option. At that point, the EU would hold all the cards: re-joining would mean Eurozone, Schengen and the rest.

So why hasn’t Remain made more of the risk? One reason is that it doesn’t easily distil down to ten words or fewer and as such has been crowded out for simpler slogans and more obvious threats, such as today’s of leave being a ‘one-way door’. Similarly, the scenario involves perhaps decades while most voters’ concerns are immediate. It also implies an indecisiveness that is of itself unappealing and which suggests something of the ‘too poor and too wee’ mockery with which the SNP sought to characterise the No campaign in 2014.

But for all that, there’ve been enough opportunities in lengthy interviews and debates to raise what is a legitimate point. Bad legislation can usually be repealed. Bad governments can be replaced. But while a referendum decision can be reversed in due course, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the status quo ante will be on offer. It wouldn’t be here and the voters should know that.

David Herdson


The EU can’t have its Turkey and eat it

Saturday, May 28th, 2016


The EURef highlights Europe’s ambivalence to its buffer state

“Bridge Together”: Istanbul’s slogan for its unsuccessful 2020 Olympic bid captured well the country’s unifying potential, linking as it does not only Europe and Asia but also the secular west with the Islamic Middle East. A bridge, however, needs firm foundations and Turkey, rather than pulling two sides together, is more swayed by the forces pulling it in opposite directions.

Hence the force of the arguments this week about its potential future EU membership; arguments which had an unspoken but nasty undertone, essentially asking: “you don’t want a Turk for a neighbour, do you?”.

Leaving aside whether or not people do – and Leave and their supporters in the press are confident they don’t, probably rightly – the question is entirely moot. Turkey certainly won’t be joining the EU this decade, almost certainly won’t join during the next one and is pretty unlikely to join in the one after that.

The history of its membership ambition is telling. Turkey first applied for membership of the EC in 1987. It took twelve years to accept that application and a further six to begin talks. Another eleven years down the line to today and just one of the 33 chapters to settle membership entry has been successfully negotiated. In the meantime, sixteen other countries have joined the Union (seven of which didn’t even exist in 1987).

Turkey’s future barriers to joining the club are even more formidable. Greece and Cyprus both have vetoes making their assent unlikely unless the Cypriot question is resolved. But even if those relatively small and financially unstable countries are cowed into line, much bigger problems remain.

France may no longer constitutionally require a referendum to approve Turkish membership (that provision was repealed in 2008), but public opinion will still make itself felt and public opinion is not supportive: in March this year, fully three-quarters were opposed. With Marine Le Pen receiving the backing of up to a third of the public in polls for the first round of next year’s presidential election and the run-off highly likely to be between the centre-right and the far-right, Elysée policy will reflect that hostility with a good chance that negotiations will rapidly be placed back in the freezer.

And if France doesn’t, others will, for the same reason. Angela Merkel is under pressure from the populist right-wing AfD, which hit 15% for the first time in three polls this month; in Holland, the stridently anti-Islamic PVV is regularly polling above 35%, at shares no party has received at any Dutch general election since before WWI; and in Austria, only 21,000 votes in 4.5m kept the far-right FPÖ candidate from the presidency. A quiet revolution is happening across Europe. Quiet so far, anyway.

In fact, virtually every member of the EU has good reason to oppose a country the size of Turkey with the income of Turkey joining, even without considering cultural factors. Those in the poorer south and east would lose billions in structural funds, while those in the richer north and west would likely face a new wave of immigration. Neither is an appealing prospect.

So what of Cameron’s apparent support? Out of line? Not necessarily. The Leave campaigners were keen to play up his comment from 2010 that “I want us to pave the road from Ankara to Brussels” but taken in isolation, the quote misses the context. Ankara was at the time reforming towards western values, scrapping anti-Kurdish legislation and abolishing the death penalty – and in his speech from which that quote is taken, he argued that Turkey needed to do more still.

The simple fact is that Cameron’s support was conditional. From the same speech that the above quote came from, he said “Europe will draw fresh vigour and purpose from a Turkey that embraces human rights and democracy”. However, under Erdogan, new restraints on press freedom and human rights in general have moved the country away from the Copenhagen criteria to a point where the entire process could easily be frozen again; something which would enable Downing Street to play it both ways. Turkey is of course on the front line next to Syria, which has certainly put huge pressures on the country but that too simply emphasises its differentness.

Why would it matter? In a word: Russia. The lodestone in Turkish foreign policy since at least the eighteenth century has been set by antagonism across the Black Sea. Whether supported by Britain in the nineteenth century or allied to Germany in WWI or joining NATO after WWII or the current spats in Syria, the one common thread is resisting the Bear. That’s why people like Lord Owen are wrong when they say that Turkey may leave NATO if its European ambitions are frustrated. Turkey needs NATO, or at least, it needs Great Power backing one way or another. The EU is a sideshow on that level. After all, it hasn’t taken more than a quarter of a century since Turkey’s original application because only one side’s been dragging their feet.

So given all that, why the fuss? Because in Cameron’s words, Leave thought they’d found a magic bullet. They hadn’t, not least because they not only failed to get their facts right but they provably got them wrong: suggesting, for example, that Britain didn’t have a veto on Turkey’s accession. And yet after several days where the topic was at the centre of the debate, Leave have let it drop. Have they been distracted or was that deliberate?

To return to the beginning, for all that the public don’t want high immigration, the tone of the argument was unpleasant. In a vote where facts are scarce and assertion and conjecture plentiful, credibility matters above all, and credibility can be damaged by sounding to be not a nice person (despite it not being inherently linked). As an aside, if Leave does win, Cameron trashing his own public credibility will have no small part in it.

Immigration remains one of the strongest cards Leave have to play but they played it poorly this week. Can they play it again and if they do, can they play it better next time? I think it will be difficult. As such, the net outcome this week was a narrow and ugly points win to Remain.

David Herdson


Survation phone survey continues the EURef polling divide: Remain 8% lead remains

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016


EU Ref polling   Google Sheets (1)

I’m off to London this after to record the first PB/Polling Matters TV Show in our new studios near Victoria. Keiran Pedley and I will, no doubt, spend a lot of time discussing the polling and trying to make sense of it.

There’s also been news of a London EURef poll.

Mike Smithson