Archive for the 'EU matters' Category

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

Monday, June 27th, 2016

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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




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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



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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





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The EU can’t have its Turkey and eat it

Saturday, May 28th, 2016

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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



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

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

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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





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Not surprisingly YouGov finds that on EU people trust those they most agree with

Tuesday, May 10th, 2016



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Remain’s long term problems

Sunday, April 24th, 2016

Even if Remain wins in June, there may be future In/Out referendums and that should give Leave hope and worry Remain.

One of the most interesting aspects of this referendum campaign is David Cameron ignoring Harold Wilson’s precedent of sitting out an In/Out EC/EU referendum. The reason for the breaking this precedent might be that Remain doesn’t have anyone of the stature or relative popularity of David Cameron to front them. It is a less than a year since Cameron’s party received more votes than any other party in a general election this century, for which much of that is down to Cameron.

It maybe purely out of necessity that Cameron is having to lead the Remain campaign*, he knows if he loses, he ceases to be Prime Minister, despite his desire to continue it might not be up to him. If he tries to continue as Prime Minister after losing the referendum, I would hate to be Graham Brady’s postman, they would undoubtedly get a hernia delivering the post to Graham Brady in the days after the 23rd of June.

If Cameron had declared himself hors de combat for this campaign, you can imagine Remain struggling, there would have been no Obama/Cameron press conference on Friday that has so convinced the betting markets to swing behind Remain. Speaking from experience, it is a great advantage when you’re campaigning to have David Cameron as the figurehead for your campaign. I suspect some of the more passionate Tory Leavers’ frustration and anger is in part based on the regret David Cameron isn’t fronting the Leave side, deep down they know he would be using similar strategy and tactics for Leave.

Such strategy and tactics might well have been similarly effective for Leave, David Cameron is ruthless when it comes to winning elections and plebiscites. Leavers in the Tory Party are beginning to have some sympathy with Nick Clegg, Ed Miliband, and The Scottish Independence movement, as Cameron is using the same tactics in the EU referendum that were used in the AV and Scottish Independence referenda, as well as the 2015 general election.

Another issue for Remain is that Tory leaders during the last fifty years are generally more Eurosceptic than their predecessor. There’s an inarguable case to be made that Cameron is the most Eurosceptic Leader in office the Tories have ever had. He’s giving the country an IN/OUT referendum, in contrast one of his predecessors, Margaret Thatcher, signed The Single European Act. Even after her fiercely Eurosceptic speech in Bruges she took The UK into The Exchange Rate Mechanism, these two actions  have done more to integrate The UK into the European project than anything Cameron has ever done in office.

It is very likely  the next Tory leader is someone who is currently campaigning for Brexit. Within a few years of the 1975 referendum, Labour had elected as leader someone who made Labour fight the 1983 general election on a manifesto that would withdraw the UK from the European Community. Just like Scottish Independence, the will of the people might be superseded by a further election.

Even the most ardent Pro-EU supporter can see the European Union evolving in the short term not necessarily to the UK’s advantage, particularly the Eurozone and the countries therein. That may lead to another referendum in the near future, and it does appear that some Remainers are presenting Remain as the least worst option, which is not a tenable long term position. The closest comparison I can come up with is the 1992 general election, whilst dealing with a recession and its aftermath, the Tories effectively presented themselves as the least worst option, it worked in the short term, but helped contribute to their shellacking in 1997.

Just look at the picture in the tweet at the top of this piece,  whilst it might not be those two, it is plausible that a future UK In/Out referendum might take place with people similar to those two in power, lacking the relationship Cameron and Obama have, and that also might not be to Remain’s advantage. I can’t imagine Corbyn and Trump sharing a political strategist in the way Obama and Cameron used the talents of Jim Messina.

A future Tory leader might break the precedent of Thatcher and Cameron and campaign for Leave, after all it might be in their interests to campaign for Leave. Nor should Remainers assume a future Leave campaign will be as poor as this current one has been. 

Much like the IRA, Leave only have to be lucky once. Remain will have to be lucky always, Remain appear to have all the luck this time, but in a future referendum, they may not.

TSE

*Of course other plausible reasons are that Cameron genuinely believes his position and is campaigning as such or he wishes not to be labelled frit.



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Why those opposed to the Tories should hope that June 23rd fails to resolve the blue team’s #EURef schism

Monday, April 18th, 2016

It’s in non-CON interests for the Tory battles to go on and on

A party at war is pretty sight if you are not a supporter. The way this first Monday of the official referendum campaign has gone isn’t doing the Tories any favours and it is going to go on and on.

It is an extraordinary spectacle. A Conservative Chancellor sets out projections of what BREXIT could cost and we see a huge effort from fellow Tories to both discredit the figures and the man itself.

Anyone who comes out with anything that’s vaguely supportive of REMAIN has to reckon on coming under a pile of aggressive abuse from LEAVE backers. Those wanting out are more than ready to play the ball as well as the man.

If the Scottish IndyRef on 2014 is anything to go by this will get louder and stronger the closer we get to the day.

I’m sure that Cameron and his team regard the next eight weeks of party in-fighting is a small price to pay to resolving an issue that has so divided the party since the summer of 1992. The worry must be that battles will l continue after the vote.

Cameron really needs a 10%+ victory.

Mike Smithson