EU Referendum 2016

WRITTEN BEFORE THE EU REFERENDUM ON June 23rd 2016

 

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My last attempt at predicting a vote was a dismal failure. But this time I’ve been out and about and speaking to people a bit more than in 2015. Having just spent 4 days in Edinburgh with the indefatigable World Service UK correspondent Rob Watson (@robwatsonbbc) I think I’m on reasonably firm ground saying Scotland will vote for remain but with a higher vote for Brexit than people are generally predicting. In other words, no matter what happens in rUK (rest of the UK), the vote for Brexit in Scotland will be too high for anyone in Scotland to claim a mandate for a second independence referendum. Why? Let me explain . . .

Last week in Edinburgh I encountered some strong feeling from the SNP that I hadn’t expected. Basically, many in the nationalist camp feel that in 2014 the EU hung them out to dry by plainly backing Westminister’s Better Together campaign.

Nobody holds a grudge like the nationalists: on a cold, dark night in Clarks Bar you’ll still find certain types of indy voter with grievances to air about the Duke of Cumberland (show offs), the malt tax (brainy) and the poll tax (bolshy). At just 21 months ago September 2014 is a fresh, bleeding wound for many. So despite Nicola Sturgeon’s order for SNPers to vote remain I feel that many, once they get into the ballot box, will defy the party line and vote Brexit just to stick one in the eye for the EU.

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Some of course have suggested that indy voters would do this anyway, as a means of causing a Brexit which would then trigger IndyRef#2 — on the whole I don’t think the nationalists are that cynical and not all buy the Alex Salmond line that if rUK goes Bexit then Scotland would automatically get IndyRef#2. A prime indicator being just how much more circumspect Nicola has been on this than Alex and the more vocal SNPers. Consider also the fact that the pro-indy percentage of the population hasn’t really changed since 2014 (around 44% which means winning IndyRef#2 is not a done deal); add in the desensitising effects of the ‘neverendums’ and it all points to IndyRef#2 being far, far off. Unless there are hundreds of thousands marching in the streets of Glasgow and Edina on June 24th demanding it, there will be no #Indyref#2. I would say any Scottish Brexit vote of over 40% means Indyref#2 is a dim possibility. 

Cards on the table: Scotland in the EU referendum

Brexit 43%

Remain 57%

 

And what of the UK as a whole — will Brexit nip it as the polls have shown in these final days? I think Brexit might, but it will be ultra tight and there will be no end of squabbling over the result. Lawsuits will fly.

Cards on the table: UK wide in the EU referendum

Brexit 50.8%

Remain: 49.2%

 

A final thought. . .

Many have commented that if the UK votes Brexit then Cameron and his pals are finished. Boris is waiting in the wings to pounce etc etc. That may be true but there is a certain class of politician whose bum will be squeaking way more than those in Westminster on the night of June 23rd. I’m referring of course to those EU powerbrokers: Merkel, Tusk, Juncker et al. Cameron came to them earlier in the year to negotiate his ‘better deal’. Only the most die-hard Conservative would concede he got anything significant. What he in fact got was piecemeal at best. If the EU had really wanted Britain to stay in the EU they should have said “Dave, old pal, what can we do for you?” and welcomed him with open arms. The niggardly shreds of soon-to-expire restrictions on this, and various opt-outs on that were a bit of an affront. Cameron of course could hardly have returned to the UK saying Hey, I’ve negotiated nothing — let’s vote to stay! He swallowed the gruel and soldiered on. Brave yes. Foolish? We will see but if Brexit happens Tusk and his pals will face incredible pressure to account for their role in nudging Britain to the exit and a resignation or two at the top of the EU could well presage a wider EU crumbling . . . interesting times!