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The EU referendum – nine days to go

EU_ballotIs there anything new that can be said about the EU referendum? Probably not, but it is perhaps worth reflecting on a number of aspects of the campaign and its possible different outcomes, given that it is now apparent that there is a serious likelihood that either Brexit or Bremain win, but by a small margin in either case. It looks unlikely that either side will win with a margin large enough ( I would say at least 42/58% ) to be accepted as definitive, as was the case in 1975 ( 33/67% ). This means that it is likely that the losing side would continue campaigning for a future referendum to reverse the result, just as the SNP have done over Scottish independence.

Brexit has been made more likely by Labour’s failure to promote a strong campaign. The Labour In campaign has been weak and barely distinguishable from the main Remain campaign except for the tacking on of workers rights. When Corbyn finally decided to come off the fence it was too late, and although he struck the right note his approach is at variance with the Labour In campaign and senior Labour figures campaigning alongside the Tories. Corbyn could and should have promoted a stronger campaign with a unified message, but his heart was clearly not in it, and the net result is likely to be a smaller Labour vote than might otherwise have been the case, and some confusion over where Labour stands on the issue. Bremain cannot win without a strong Labour vote which is now in doubt, particularly because of the focus on Tory infighting. This has been very entertaining, but it lessens Labour’s visibility, which a stronger campaign might have overcome.

Part of the problem is that enthusiasm and strong feeling is much greater for Brexit than for Bremain, and this is compounded by the higher propensity to vote by older people which is where Brexit support is concentrated. Turnout could favour Brexit.

Some people had hoped that the build up to the referendum would see an intelligent debate taking place, as apparently happened in Scotland prior to their independence referendum, but the claims of the Brexit side have been so outrageous that this has not happened, while Bremain have to some extent compounded the crime by making equally wild claims themselves. This has increased cynicism, and could affect turnout. It is also indicative of a lack of understanding of the issues involved, and is deeply worrying in a democracy where political understanding and education is the only real defence against the sort of crude populist nationalism that led to fascism in an earlier era. It is because we have plumbed such political depths that dreadful people like Ian Duncan Smith, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage have been able to attain such prominence.

If Brexit wins what will be the consequences? Firstly, it will mean a move to the right, because they, UKIP and the Tory right, will have won, and will want their reward. How this would work out is far from clear, but Cameron would probably not survive, perhaps replaced by Gove, as Boris and IDS have not come out of this too well! Yes, we already have a right wing government, but it could get a lot worse. Lord Farage as Home Secretary? Secondly, the more authoritative predictions of the economic future would turn out to be broadly correct. There would be huge job losses as the almost completely foreign owned car industry decamped to the EU to preserve its market, and Frankfurt replaced London as Europe’s financial centre. This would not happen overnight, but could be well under way within five years. The UK would become poorer, at the expense of wages, conditions of work, benefits and public services, and nastier, as racism and xenophobia will be seen by many as having been vindicated. Thirdly, the UK could well begin the process of break up. Brexit would trigger at some point a new referendum on Scottish independence which would almost certainly be won, so that they could rejoin the EU. The ’Troubles’ could return with a vengeance to Northern Ireland, and nationalist and regionalist separatism be boosted in Wales, Cornwall and Northern England.

Brexit could also assist the forces of the EU populist right who want to see the end of the EU. The view of some of the left that Brexit or EU break up would provide opportunities for the left is a complete fantasy. The only way forward is to make common cause with the forces of the left in the EU, and Brexit would pose a mammoth impediment to that. Let us hope it doesn’t happen.


  1. Timmy says:

    Corbyn could and should be leading a triumphant Labour campaign for Brexit and the common man. This was a massive opportunity to stand up against power and privilege, and has been totally blown

    1. Robert Green says:

      Got it in one. Fallen at the first hurdle.

  2. this is a very accurate analysis of the situation. If the Labour Party cannot raise its game on the referendum its position will weaken – not least because many Labour voters are going to go with UKIP. But the principled reasons are as Peter says, the dreadful future of a nation run by extremists of the right – the left who want this are playing with fire.

    The Times yesterday said Labour was now reacting by raising its game and making a big intervention. Let us hope this happens. It the Labour position of remain to reform can win the undecided over – 30% undecided on yesterday’s poll – then it would replace Cameron as the key element in Remain and set the tone for a future which will need an intervention to change Europe – and remove Cameron’s stranglehold on politics, which still remains despite his loss of political credibility as his party has split.

    Trevor FIsher

  3. Mike Phipps says:

    I think the criticisms of Jeremy Corbyn in the second paragraph are misplaced. If by promoting a “unified message”, the article means sharing platforms with the Tories, this would not just be unprincipled but totally counter-productive. While Brexit is falsely railing against the elites, it would be foolish to appear to be propping up these elites: the case for the EU has to be made on a completely different basis. Jeremy and john McDonnell have been making that case, but the mainstream media prefers to under-report it because it does not fit their narrative that the Party leadership are unfeasibly extreme. Instead of looking for supposed failings in the Party leadership, we might have expected a bit more about a workers’ case for the EU from key trade unions who, because perhaps of Lexit supporters in their executives, have been excessively quiet. A strong trade union case for workers’ rights would have freed up Jeremy to reach those people that the unions cannot reach. I think now there is so much factual confusion, primarily due to the lies of Brexit, that we have to alter the terms of the debate and make the case for a forward-looking enlightened country, with education, science, inclusivity and HOPE on our side versus the backward-looking, emotional, fear-based vision of the Brexiteers.

    1. rod says:

      “looking for supposed failings in the Party leadership”

      This appears to be the approach of the Blairites – for them the EU vote has become another opportunity to undermine Corbyn.

      And of course, the Blairites muffle Labour’s ‘remain’ message by campaigning alongside the inept Cameron.

      1. David Pavett says:

        The Blairites love to criticise Corbyn but if our logic is so defective that we think that therefore any criticisms of Corbyn must be Blairite then we are definitely stuffed.

  4. Corbyn does not have to share platforms, the Labour position is to campaign for Europe but to reform it, and this is distinct from Cameron’s position. As for the press, when was it ever on the side of progress? The fact is that social media are not being used, despite Tom Watson’s claim it would be a digital future. Last week 500 people turned up to a Corbyn Rally in Bimringham and there was no media. So why was there no attempt to put this out on social media? Why no You Tube video?

    Today Corbyn makes his big speech, and it is said he will be flanked by the union leaders but that the message will be about Boris Johnson. Let us hope the message is about Europe, and reforming the EU, as this is what the vote is about. The fact that the unions contain Lexit members is true, but the unions policies are clear. But their leaders have not been big players in the media for years.

    The campaign is simply not able to turn the term terms of debate. Its been poisonous, on both sides, from the start. But that is due to Cameron and Johnson. Labour’s message that EU is vital to our future but needs reform has never got through, and on the literature I have been giving out is not at all clear.

    The debate is now about controlling the borders and immigration. If reports are true, Brown yesterday fluffed his big speech by talking about illegal immigrants. Corbyn has the chance today to make a positive message. And involve women, the Women MPS having a case that they have been marginalised. Meanwhile in Scotland, where Labour has no clout, it is said the SNP has stood down its formidable ground machine because Sturgeon and Salmonds assumed they had the nation in the bag. Let us hope the last few days of the campaign are dominated by the realisation that this is a fight to come from behind against scare tactics, and this must be a unified message for all those in favour of EU survival. There is no room for sectarianism, even though joint platforms are not on the agenda. The Labour message of stay in and reform has to be the unifying factor and it is for the other parties to come in behind it.

    Trevr Fisher

  5. Graham Burnby-Crouch says:

    I guess the Zika virus is Jeremy Corbyn’s fault or maybe the bad weather in Britain, let us see what else we can blame on him.

  6. James Kemp says:

    More Blare-ism tripe oh they haven’t done enought give over! Sorry what more can he do when it’s only the Tory message that’s allowed on the Drivel box or gag awful Tory rags we used to call newspapers.

    No matter if he spent 24/7 out we would here he haven’t done enought oh we should be campaigning with the Tories! So maintain the same mistakes of the last referendum that lost us Scotland.

    Sorry i am reaching the end of my tether with this consent rubbish if the writer wants to be a plastic Tory go join them. Stop dressing in Labours colours and kidding yourself your real Labour, because you never shared the values of Labour only the name..

    1. David Pavett says:

      A good indicator that you are wrong is that Labour has done virtually nothing to convince its own members of the case for remain. You can’t blame the media for that.

      Disagreeing is fine, if reasons are given but do we need all negative rhetoric: “Blairism tripe”, “consent rubbish”, “plastic Tory”, “Stop kidding yourself you’re real Labour”?

  7. Verity says:

    Besides the even higher than I thought, (almost identical) overlap between many Labour figures and the Tories, what I think I have most learned during this campaign is that projecting forwards on what will happen in economics and politics is a futile exercise. When it comes to micro – predictions about who will lead what Party, and giving projections about political and economic outcomes it is even more diversionary. I think I will give up on such an approach, as I will continue as if all is still for us to fight for, except either way, Labour has lost a huge number of potential supporters for the immediate future.

  8. Peter Rowlands says:

    Mike Phipps, James Kemp and Rod criticise me for as they see it wanting a joint platform with the Tories and for being critical of Corbyn. My phrase a ‘unified message’ may have been ambiguous, for which I apologise, but what I meant was one message, along the lines of that which JC has belatedly promoted, and which could have made a difference if begun earlier. I think it is fair to point this out

    1. Verity says:

      But with most prominent Labour spokespeople agreeing with the Tories on the almost every economic argument about the value to the UK of ‘wealth creating’ Corporations and overseer Institutions, surely, it would be almost impossible to secure. Would Corbyn for instance be able to silence the likes of Rachael Reeves about acceptance of almost the whole of TTIP without even seeing it?

  9. cj says:

    It is not the role or responsibility of the party to campaign for membership of the EU but to protect, strengthen and advance the interests of the working class against capitalism ( and dare one dream, replace it!).

    Labour should be preparing how to advance that agenda whatever the outcome of the referendum. The one and only LRC conference I managed to attend, and an position I did not agree with at the time, came to the right position, that in or out was not of that much relevance in the scheme of things.

    Capitalism will pursue its agenda in or out, so must we. Yes we have the right wing lined up to press the advantage ‘at home’ but lets not delude ourselves that the EU is some sort of workers paradise. What did the EU do about the UK’s restrictive TU legislation or to prevent the UK opting out of working time directives?

    By accident or design Labour has played it well, a campaign fought by has-been,s, never-were’s and wanna-be’s.

  10. History in time says:

    Brexit = more opportunity, more risk.

    But that’s not why I’ll vote to leave. Just don’t like foreign nationals telling us what to do.

  11. heaven knows who history in time is, but it sounds like Nigel Farage. If the writer is to be consistent, lets see him arguing Britain should leave the United Nations.

    Now when did Britain actually have Splendid Isolation as a foreign policy? AH … under Lord Salisbury. His nephew Arthur Balfour abandoned it in 1904 for an entente with France and then RUssia. 100th anniversary of the Somme on July 1st. History in time tells us, jaw jaw is better than war war, so I am voting to stay in. No more wars in Europe.

    Trevor Fisher
    Trevor FIsher

  12. History in time says:

    I am an unapologetic patriot leftist. I don’t like German and French sensibilities and am prepared to accept risk in order to pursue the hope of a democratic socialist Britain, which is not possible in the EU.

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