Friday, December 18, 2015

The EU negotiations are finally starting to get serious ...

There is a veritable forest of different ideas floating around about how things are going in the negotiations on what terms are available if Britain stays in the EU.
It does appear that there has been some serious talking this week at a European Council meeting.
David Cameron has said there is a "a pathway to a deal" on new terms for Britain's membership of the EU after talks with other leaders.
The prime minister set out his reform demands, which include controversial plans to curb access to benefits for migrants, at a dinner in Brussels.

He said "good progress" has been made but it would be "hard work" to get a deal by his February deadline.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the leaders "all want a compromise".

BBC report here.

The President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, recognised publicly before this week's meeting that the EU must confront difficult issues on freedom of movement and that there is a real possibility of Britain voting to leave if no effort is made to meet British concerns. Report on his speech here.

The Economist thinks that the Prime Minister is playing a bad hand well:

Clearly there is masses of spin from every side. One group of BREXIT supporters are trying to rubbish any possible deal in advance and constantly suggesting that Cameron is hardly asking for anything.

Another group of BREXIT supporters are suggesting that David Cameron is deliberately making progress in the negotiations look difficult so that it will look like a triumph if he does deliver anything significant.

Meanwhile all sorts of polling evidence and other indications of how the campaign might go are coming out.

Lord Ashcroft has released a major poll which asks people not whether they intend to vote "Leave" or "Remain" but to pick a percentage from 0% (certain to vote Remain) to 100% (certain to vote Leave) with 50% meaning you are equally likely to vote either way.

A superficial reading appears to show "Leave" with the advantage because their support is more solid. (Big surprise!)

However, although the "mean" level of support is a little over 51% (reflecting this, and suggesting a slight advantage for "Leave" the really key point is that the MEDIAN voter - the person who has half the country more pro Brexit and half more pro staying than him or her - is one of the 14% who answered "50%".

In other words, it is clear from the number of undecided voters that there is everything to play for.

The full results of the poll can be read on Lord Ashcoft's site at

The fact that so many people are undecided means that this sort of infighting by UKIP and between the two rival "leave" campaigns could be disastrous to the cause of those who want to quit the EU:

1) UK's only MP calls on Nigel Farage to step down as leader

2) "Obvious from @Nigel_Farage just now when I was on @daily_politics that @ukip is toying with withdrawing the whip from @DouglasCarswell"

James Forsythe in the Spectator writes that "Vote Leave could be formidable" but prominent supporters of Brexit told him privately that despite the polls, they think that in reality "Leave" is well behind. You can read his article at

My key take out, as explained above is that there is absolutely everything to play for. This really could go either way.


Jim said...

"The fact that so many people are undecided means that this sort of infighting by UKIP and between the two rival "leave" campaigns could be disastrous to the cause of those who want to quit the EU"

Absolutely spot on, All 3 (UKIP, Vote Leave Ltd and Leave.EU) seem to be preaching to the converted.

None seem to have caught on to the simple concept that if we want to be part of the single market in the short to medium term then the compromise we have to make is "freedom of Movement". You can not have one without the other.

Single market access is very important to trade in the UK, and leaving the single market will cause far larger problems than abolishing freedom of movement will solve.

Leaving the EU (after 40+ years of integration) can not be an event, its more a process, and its one that wont be fully completed in the short term.

I think that current opinion is around 40% remain, 40% Leave and 20% don't know.

Neither side can win by cosying up to the 40% of votes they already have in the bag, its that 20% of don't know votes both sides so desperately need to win over. Thus the leave side banging on the immigration drum wont help.

The remain side should be tring to convince those 20% of why we are better off in the EU, what are its advantages?, What do we politically gain from and is that gain worth the loss of democratic control and accountability? - if they can do that then they are home and dry

The Leave side need to show those 20% that leaving the EU is an attractive option and above all else can be done smoothly and with minimum disruption in the short term. If they can do that then they win.

So far though I think the best asset either side have is the campaign on the other side. Pretty shambolic really.

Jim said...

A classic example of how each camgaign is the best asset the other side have, comes from British Influence and their ten questions every brexit supporter needs to answer

none of them are particularly challenging, though my favorite has to be question 9, asking

During the two-year negotiation period that starts with the triggering of Article 50 post-referendum, wouldn’t there be a large incentive for an unprecedented amount of EU citizens to emigrate to the UK while it was still legally possible?

I have to wonder why would an "unprecedented amount" of people flee to the UK whilst they still could, do they see the UK, leaving the EU as the last lifeboat from the Titanic?

I just find it mad that British Influence did not think their questions though very well.

Jim said...

If you are having trouble answering any of the questions, then its already been done Here it was just a case of flicking to the relevent page of the Flexcit exit plan, available here

Chris Whiteside said...

Jim, I am very much in agreement with you: both campaigns have been disappointing.

I am still thinking hard about how to vote: the biggest thing deterring me from voting Leave is not the silly scaremongering which much of the output of many "remain" supporters has been, with some honourable exceptions. It is the fear that Britain might become the sort of backward-looking place which a large chunk of the most vocal Brexit supporters - again, with honourable exceptions such as yourself, Tim Montgomerie, Dan Hannan and Douglas Carswell - appear to want.

I'd be quite happy to live in the sort of non-EU Britain that Tim, Dan and Douglas are arguing for. But the sort of country that Nigel Farage and much of UKIP seem to want is the kind of place I really do not want Britain to become.

And equally, you are entirely right that the greatest advantage of the Brexit campaigners is the weakness of the arguments being put by the other side. I read the "ten questions" piece that you refer to, which turns out to have been written by a very old friend of mine, Nick Kent. There are answers to most of those questions, though most of them are reasonable things on which to ask whoever becomes the "Leave" campaign to set out a position of what they actually want.

But the key thing both sides have so far signally failed to do is set out a clear and coherent positive case for the option they want the UK to adopt.

Jim said...

Exactly, the best thing going for the leave campaign is the weakness of arugument being put forward by the remain campaign.


The greatest asset of the remain campaign are UKIP, Leave.EU and Vote Leave Ltd.

Chris Whiteside said...

All too true