Saturday, June 4, 2016

Could Brexit trigger another type of second referendum?

Alastair Meeks (the artist formerly known as Antifrank) had a piece on SL the other day pondering how each side in the EU referendum would react if they lost.  His verdict on Remain was that they would just "give up".  That may be technically true, in the sense that there would be a recognition of the reality that there is no prospect of the UK rejoining the EU for at least a generation (to use the dread phrase).  But that would be the least important part of a much more complicated reaction.  Pro-Europeanism is now built into the DNA of the centre-left and centre of the British political elite, and that is bound to find some kind of continued expression in the event of Brexit, especially if the Leave victory is narrow.  For my money, the Liberal Democrats and Labour "moderates" would quickly start pushing for Britain to adopt either the Norwegian model (meaning continued membership of the European Economic Area, and a return to EFTA), or the Swiss model (meaning de facto membership of the European Economic Area via comprehensive bilateral agreements with the EU).

We haven't heard much about the Norwegian or Swiss options during the campaign, because both sides have good reason to avoid the topic.  The Leave campaign's anti-immigrant pitch would be neutered if voters thought there was a fair chance we were going to end up with the halfway house of EEA membership, which would entail continued freedom of movement.  And the Remain campaign don't want people to think they can safely vote Leave and still end up with an EU-lite option.  But if and when the battle is actually lost for Remain, it would be perfectly within the rights of pro-Europeans within Labour and the Lib Dems (and possibly the Tories) to point out that Britain had been voting purely on the issue of EU membership, and hadn't expressed any sort of view yet on the EEA.  The Leave side's counterargument would be that the campaign had been largely fought on the issue of immigration, and that in practice it was obvious Leave voters were expressing opposition to any relationship with Europe involving freedom of movement.  I'm wondering if the tension between those two positions could lead us inexorably towards an EEA referendum at some point - especially if there is a change of government.

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Meanwhile, Charlie Jeffrey of Edinburgh University has suggested that an overall Remain vote in which Scotland tipped the balance might destabilise the unity of the UK.  I must say I'm highly sceptical about that.  The vast majority of anti-European MPs are obsessive unionists, and even though it'll frustrate them hugely not to be able to make more political capital out of an English vote for Leave, they'll know they can't go too far down that road without effectively arguing for the dissolution of the UK.  The nutter tendency in the right-wing press won't have the same inhibitions, but I suspect the whingeing will be a seven-day wonder and then we'll all get back to normal.

The future of the UK certainly does hang in the balance on June 23rd - but the only outcome that would trigger any sort of meaningful crisis would be an overall Leave victory in which Scotland votes Remain.

47 comments:

  1. But if Brexit loses, won't they need someone to blame, a new narrative to sell to the Tory faithful? Us 'English-democracy denying' Jocks could prove useful in that regard.

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  2. I think you are wrong on the Charlie Jeffrey analysis James. In the scenario he contemplates the English would go apeshit. I can see leadership challenge in Tory party and new election on the basis that the Jocks have screwed England where all the nasty foreigners are going? Democratic it may not be but it will not be a one week wonder

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    1. I really can't see it at all. The Tories have had enough self-interested reasons to abandon their unionism for years, but they haven't done it. The imperialist instinct runs too deep.

      I think there's a lot of wishful thinking going on, I have to say.

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    2. Glasgow Working Class 2June 4, 2016 at 8:13 PM

      Sad comment James the British dismantled the Empire while the Frogs, Belgium, Spain and Portugal hung on. Now the Nat sis want to stay with the EU Imperialists. Not a surprise as you Nat sis seem to cling tae anything other than British. Sad lot I say.

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    3. The British did indeed dismantle their empire but only on instruction from the USA. No dismantling, no Marshall aid money in the late 1940s.

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    4. Glasgow Working Class 2June 4, 2016 at 10:59 PM

      Nat si making up history on the hoof. Joe Stalin would be proud of you.

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    5. Fool!!! Go away and pollute one of your Tory parties web sites we all know you are a wee Tory lassie with no back bone.

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    6. No made up history here, my knowledge goes beyond writing 'FTP' or '1690' on a bus shelter. Appropriate that you mention Stalin, however. Were it not for Soviet Russia taking the full brunt of Hitler's war machine, there would be nothing of your beloved UK today.

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  3. I am not sure that the reaction against 'England being forced to remain by the Jocks' might not be so strong that even rabidly unionist MPs might be forced to join in with breaking up the Union. Admittedly that's a lot of iffs, but it seems a strong possibility under certain circumstances.

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  4. Why would it be Scotland particularly that caused a Remain win?

    Whichever side wins will, by definition have been 'kept in' by at least one demographic or another, and realistically by several. If Remain wins, are we going to rail against Scots? Londoners? Commonwealth citizens? Or just the young?

    Instead of blaming some arbitrary subset of the British people, the losing side should ask itself why it wasn't capable of making the case and winning their votes.

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    1. If there was no devolution, including EVEL, no SNP, recent iref etc, this post would have some sense.

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  5. What's coming is a gigantic fucking mess, narrow remain or narrow leave; both of which are possible.

    With luck Scotland might be able to extract itself from that in reasonable shape.

    June 23rd is the last gasp of the British empire. It might hold on in a comatose state for a bit longer if it's a leave. All empires fall in the end. England is now seeking it's own independence, and that will finish the British project. When then English start to stir, it means the imperial retreat has reached the borders of the country where it all started. End game.

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    1. Glasgow Working Class 2June 4, 2016 at 9:17 PM

      Dinnae worry Skier yer Giro is still in the post courtesy of the English taxpayer.

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    2. Eat your cereal, 23.

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  6. I'm not sure that support for the EU among the left and centre of British politics is all that deep (Even among the SNP). I don't doubt that it's there and I don't doubt that there are those who are passionately in favour of the EU, but I think that there are plenty who support it through a combination of cold hard pragmatism and shallow virtue signalling. In the event of Brexit, I think that many of those people will just swallow the new reality, no matter how unpalatable they find it.

    My own party (Labour) is in danger of alienating much of its traditional support in the north of England if it starts to become seen as being too enthusiastic about the EU. We need to be very careful on this one.

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    1. I'd largely agree.

      I see the whole thing pretty abstractly. England is about to vote on its independence. For me, when that happens, the UK is really on its last legs.

      If there is one thing the British establishment fear, it's English nationalism. Scottish nationalism is small beer by comparison; a minor threat that can be handled as per 2014; English nationalism is UK ending stuff.

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    2. If it's a Remain I expect most people will just get back to work while a few frothers scream on the internet.
      If it's a Leave then there may be more of an impact because that would mean actual changes in the law.

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    3. Glasgow Working Class 2June 4, 2016 at 11:04 PM

      The left should oppose capitalism and corruption so Labour should campaign to get out. In reality that is. The EU is lining so many pockets that it is now ingrained.

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    4. How would you know you are a nasty wee Tory.now toddle of there's a good girl.

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  7. EFTA membership as an option for the UK (or even rUK were Scotland independent) is a non-starter. If it were an option, Turkey would already be a member. The EFTA states would not accept a state with a population which would dwarf their own combined.

    Norway's contribution to the EU is on a par with the GDP of EU member states. No direct say in decision making and no EU funding for Norwiegan infrastructure for example and so on. And although their contribution is counted in €millions, she has a similar population size to Scotland.

    But as James says, there is not any real scrutiny of what the alternative to EU membership actually is. Perhaps that's why the whole referendum is grounded on immigration.

    Shagpile.

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  8. You all were truly in the thick of indyref and have a different set of experiences. Project Fear is old hat to you. I am a closet SNP member south of the border and basically send money to SNP HQ, which is fine.

    Disclosure, I supported indyref morally the best I could in hostile territory and I support Leave right now because I think it will lead to indyref2 and frankly I would like to see TTIP go down in flames. I am working with LabourLeave.

    That said, do any of you think there are any new rabbits that can be pulled out of the hat of Project Fear? Whats left, Pfizer will stop exporting Viagra made in Ireland to the UK?

    What is the reaction to Project Fear 2.0 in Scotland? In England it went from being real to fading real fast. I think Project Fear 3.0 would be a dud.

    I just saw the following tweat where a broadcaster thinks Cameron/Merkel/Hollande will propose in the tradition of indyref....HomeRule UK/EU. Any thoughts?

    https://twitter.com/paulmasonnews

    George Stewart

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    1. I don't understand the thought process behind thinking that leaving the EU would prevent the UK government from signing a similar deal to TTIP with the US. I also don't understand how people have managed to miss the stories about the opposition to TTIP in its current form by France and Germany:

      http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/064dc2ee-2665-11e6-8ba3-cdd781d02d89.html
      http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/ttip-trade-deal-under-threat-due-after-germany-claims-us-not-making-any-serious-concessions-a7019291.html
      http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/be91f3ca-273c-11e6-8b18-91555f2f4fde.html

      I don't see the UK government showing any similar opposition or scepticism to the deal, though I'd be happy to stand corrected.

      To your last point, I don't think the EU are going to make any deals with the UK until after it votes to leave. Then I think it will be years of negotiations, during which the UK economy will suffer, due to the uncertainty. If the EU negotiators are really savvy, they'll restrict freedom of movement for UK citizens in the rest of the EU right away (in exchange for the UK being allowed to restrict movement to the UK from the EU) and watch at how much it fucks up people's lives. After a few years of this, they'll suggest that the UK run another referendum, and the UK will vote to overturn the Leave vote and remain in the EU.

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    2. I definitely agree that no one opposed to TTIP should see Brexit as the way to stop it.

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    3. Apparently, France has already killed it. FREXIT is not on the menu. Mr Cameron failed the testosterone test months ago. Don't let his stupidity and false promises cloud the issue. Twatosterone ought not to be confused with balls. Don't confuse dead pig and manhood.

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  9. If Scotland's collective vote keeps the UK in the EU, then the Eurosceptics in England will go ballistic. There are many Conservatives backbenchers, along with UKIP/some Labour, who are essentially in politics to see Britain pull out of the EU. This is their vision. They have been waiting their entire political careers for this moment. To think they will go easy on Scotland if it is the difference between leaving and staying in the EU is a non starter imo.

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  10. If we vote to LEAVE, there will be an almighty scramble among the EU/UK elite to find a compromise/solution which will fudge the issue.
    If we (collectively) vote to STAY then some top Tories will come slinking back for "career" reasons, but many Tory backbenchers will have nothing to gain by accepting the result---ask John Major and everyone else in the Tory Party.
    If we (collectively) vote to STAY, but only with Scotland's large pro vote, then watch out for English Votes for English Leave---the NEW EVEL.
    You read it here first!

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    1. If we (collectively) vote to STAY, but only with Scotland's large pro vote

      Have you run the numbers on this?

      Scotland seems to be roughly 65-35, give or take. So for the Scottish vote to swing the election from Leave to Remain, we'd have to be looking at 49-51 in favour of leave without the Scots for us to make that kind of difference. Once you get to even as close as 48-52, we don't make enough of a difference given we're only around 12% of the population.

      Not saying it can't happen, but you're talking about an extremely narrow range of outcomes where it does. And even then you could just point to a different demographic as being the cause.

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    2. Glasgow Working Class 2June 5, 2016 at 8:00 PM

      The Nat sis dae not care about majorities or minorities they are Nat sis.

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    3. Eat your cereal, 23.

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  12. I think there are long term consequences to a narrow leave vote in England being trumped by a narrow remain vote in the UK as a whole. The Tories might not want to destabilise the union but Cameron decided to have a referendum in order to deal with UKIP and such an outcome would strengthen rather than weaken UKIP so the Tory Government would be forced to do something to assuage English public opinion and revolt within Tory grassroots. Funnily enough it's he SNP's insistence on Scottish consent to any leave that makes this more difficult to handle. It’s impossible to know what the long term consequences of this would be but in the short term I could easily see it leading to Tory grassroots and certain MP’s refusing to accept defeat and making it impossible for the Cameron to get legislation through. What the Tory Eurosceptic’s objectives would be in that situation is more difficult to work out. One would be to topple Cameron and get Boris elected to be Tory leader which obviously would have implications in Scotland if the Eurosceptics were running the country. I suspect Boris would be more populist than Cameron and would use issues like the West Lothian Question and the Barnett Formula to win back voters who have deserted the Tories for UKIP. So a remain vote depending on Scotland would lead to Scotland continuing to be used as a bogeyman by politicians down south.

    For me the more interesting question is what happens if Scotland votes decisively to remain but leave wins, then after the vote we discover that project fear was right and it turns out that the consequences of leaving hits Scotland hard economically and also ushers in a more extreme form of neo-liberal politics in Westminster. How would this effects politics in Scotland and pressure for indyref2.

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    1. I agree with this. I don't believe a UK-wide leave vs a Scottish Remain itself would suddenly boost support for indy; it would swing things to Yes for sure, but more narrow Yes I feel.

      However, the grandiose clusterfuck that follows as Boris et al. take over, the UK economy tanks, trade negotiations drag on and on etc would make Scotland a veritable haven of peace stability, with independence in the EU the safe, status quo option.

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    2. Also interesting to hear Gove today talking about no completion of Brexit inside the life of this parliament.

      I wonder, if it was a narrow Leave, would we end up with a second referendum right at the end, maybe five years hence before we finally pulled the trigger?
      I guess it would depend on public opinion, but if the Leave brigade did indeed make a complete hash of the exit negotiations, there might be some buyers remorse. Not to mention a good slug of younger voters who would feel they were not given a voice.

      And I would expect that the EU would be more than happy to let the UK climb down at the last minute. Not only would they get what they want, it would weaken the British negotiating position considerably.
      In fact if I was in Brussels I'd be looking to make any post-Leave negotiations as slow and painful as I could to try and force an about-turn from the British populace.

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    3. That's why, on balance, I think the SNP have been right to state the possibility of indyref2 in the event of Brexit. What's never commented on is the fact that the UK government would never grant indyref2 after what happened in the last indyref, so the issue isn’t whether indyref2 would be won or not, because it will never happen, but what effect it has to talk up the possibility of indyref2 as if it could happen. For those who say we don’t need Westminster’s permission, I’d point you to Nicola Sturgeon’s statement that independence will only happen as a result of a referendum and any referendum not granted by the UK government would be meaningless because NO voters would be advised by the press to ignore it en mass. So the effect of talking up indyref2 must lie elsewhere. I suspect one reason the SNP does it is to stop Scots from just shrugging their shoulders and accepting that there's nothing we can do about it. After the slim majority for devolution was nullified in 1979 by the 40% rule, Scots did collectively shrug their shoulders, because that was how things were at that point and in fact the SNP did very badly in the election that followed. So the fact that UK commentators now regularly make reference to the possibility the UK might break up after Brexit shows how much the view of scots as just taking what’s doled out to them has changed.

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    4. Glasgow Working Class 2June 5, 2016 at 8:05 PM

      If we leave and we should it will give the Nat sis a major dilemma. Will they stay in the Union or sell Scotland to Herman and the Frogs. It is clear as that.

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    5. "because it will never happen"

      If the SNP decide to pull the trigger, of course it will happen. They may need the help of an ingenious lawyer to make a consultative referendum court-proof, but it'll happen.

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    6. But didn't they try this in Catalonia and find that it was successful sabotaged because those opposed to Catalan independence stayed away rendering the result meaningless. There's nothing the SNP could do to stop the press mounting an abstention campaign and the boycott of the referendum becoming g the main story rather than the vote itself given that the press can make it the main story and what the BBC covers is dictated to by what the press cover

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  13. Well, this current ref, with all its resulting stooshieness, is definitely showing the difference between Scotland an England. Two very different countries no matter what the imperialist BBC thinks.

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    1. Yes, because our referendum was so good tempered and full of pleasant, respectful debate...

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    2. Because Scotland will vote Remain and England will vote Leave. Indyref2 for Scotland coming soon.

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    3. 'will'? I think the word you're looking for is 'may', unless your other car is a Tardis.

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  14. Having seen this now develop, I hate to say this but if remain wins, indyref in our lifetimes is dead.

    A UK remain vote indicates sovereignty is less important than economics and project fear 3.0 will work. That is what will win indyref.

    And to be brutally honest, failure of indyref and UKref means there are large numbers of people who believe they are too wee, too poor and too thick. And that the wisemen of Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan need to be listened to.

    The vitality and strength 240 years ago in the newly formed USA was absent in Scotland and may be absent in the UK.

    George Stewart

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    1. Glasgow Working Class 2June 5, 2016 at 10:39 PM

      Most people probably want a good prosperous violent free life with their neighbour and not petty nationalism. And certainly not giving up Scottish sovereignty to the Gernan Franco Alliance.

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    2. This is a fair point, but presumes economic prosperity is maintained no matter what the political situation is. That's obviously not the case.

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    3. Anyone who believes we can have a prosperous life under the present bunch of robber barons in charge at Westminster is an obvious candidate for the room with the rubber wallpaper at the laughing academy.

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    4. Glasgow Working Class 2June 5, 2016 at 11:59 PM

      Probably more prosperous post 1707 but do bang yer heid against the rubber. The taxpayers money that should be helping the less well aff is feeding the beaurocrats in the EU, Holyrood etc. We do not need them.

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    5. "Anyone who believes we can have a prosperous life under the present bunch of robber barons in charge at Westminster is an obvious candidate for the room with the rubber wallpaper at the laughing academy."

      Indeed. It confuses me why anyone, and I mean UK wide, would allow themselves to be governed by these laughing stocks who come across as cartoonish characters out of a very poor anime, is beyond me.

      The king has no clothes appears to be merited for the whole damn lot of them.

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