Wednesday, July 11, 2018

If only the Brexit vote could be taken today

As UK Prime Minister Theresa May survives a tricky week in Parliament, and "hard leave" politicians like Boris Johnson and David Davies resign from her cabinet (which she will not be too sad about) in protest at her "soft leave" negotiations, it is worth bearing in mind that the mood of the nation has in fact changed substantially in the intervening couple of years since the fateful Brexit vote in June 2016. Then, a tiny majority voted to leave Europe (51.9% to 48.1%). If a new vote were taken today, a small majority would vote to stay.
A Guardian poll, for example, suggests that 51% would vote to remain, and 49% to leave. The leave vote is much stronger among retired and "not working" people, and among Conservatives, whites and males; students and working people, non-whites, women and non-conservatives would vote to remain. Of course, this is not dissimilar to polls before the 2016 referendum, and we all know how that turned out in practice. The difference is partly due to the fact that over a million older people have died in the intervening period, and well over a million new young voters have joined the electorate. But, it is also due to the belated realization on the parts of some voters that a mistake was made, and the reality of what leaving Europe might entail is already starting to sink in. For example, the same poll shows that a sizeable majority (49%, compared to 36%) of people think that Brexit will have a negative effect on Britain's economy.
An Independent poll at the end of last year put the opposition to Brexit much higher, with 51% saying they would vote to remain, compared to just 41% voting to leave. Also, The Independent reports that 13 of 14 YouGov polls on the subject indicate that more people think that the 2016 referendum decision was wrong than those who still think it was right..
Anyway, all this is just academic and wishful thinking. That horse has already bolted, and there will not be another vote (even if 58% believe that there should be). But maybe a "soft" exit, with some kind of a customs arrangement with the EU, as Ms. May is now proposing, is more in line with the views of the populace, despite the blustering of hard-liners like Johnson and Davies.

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