Brave New World – first reflections on Brexit

farageThe UK has stepped back from Europe and stepped back from the world. Kirsty Hughes explains how in the process, the UK has done deep damage to itself, the EU and the wider world.

The shockwaves from England and Wales’ Brexit vote will reverberate and grow for months and years to come.

In the first few hours since the vote, there have been calls for a second Scottish independence referendum, for a vote on Irish reunification, for joint control of Gibraltar, Cameron’s resignation, the Labour right mounting a pre-planned attack on Corbyn, falling stock markets, falling pound and other currencies and more. Continue reading

Can we improve the quality of the referendum debate?

calculator-scientificThe Treasury Select Committee has said that the EU referendum debate ‘is being poorly served by inconsistent, unqualified and, in some cases, misleading claims and counter-claims’. Alan Renwick, Deputy Director of the UCL Constitution Unit, asks whether there is anything that can be done about this. He identifies a number of possible mechanisms for identifying falsehoods and enforcing truthfulness, but warns that there is a danger that injunctions against certain claims could be presented as evidence of an ‘establishment plot’. A deeper shift in political culture may be required.

Alan Renwick has co-ordinated an open letter to the Daily Telegraph from a group of over 200 senior academics to criticise the deliberate misinformation circulated by both sides of the Brexit debate.

How can we encourage accuracy in the claims made by referendum campaigners? This has become a vital concern. In its report published last month, the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee said, ‘The public debate is being poorly served by inconsistent, unqualified and, in some cases, misleading claims and counter-claims. Members of both the ‘leave’ and ‘remain’ camps are making such claims.’  Speaking at the weekend, Sir John Major said, ‘I am angry about the way the British people are being misled’, and argued that Vote Leave were running ‘a deceitful campaign’. Continue reading

In the event of a Leave vote Brexit would dominate Westminster for years

big-benLord Lisvane, former Clerk of the House of Commons, discusses the impact that a vote to leave the EU would have on Westminster in the immediate aftermath of the referendum, during Brexit negotiations and once Brexit has actually taken place. The UCL European Institute, together with the UCL Constitution Unit, is holding a special series of seminars on the implications and consequences of Brexit. The first, on 21 April, focused on the consequences for Westminster and Whitehall. In this post, adapted from his comments on the night.

The immediate aftermath

After a vote to leave there will be immediate pressure for debates in the House of Commons and the House of Lords, probably over two days, to be held as soon as possible. There may even be calls for a rare weekend recall, though this is in the Prime Minister’s hands and I think it very unlikely that he would grant one.

David Cameron’s future will, of course, be high on the agenda. He has said that he would stay on as Prime Minister to oversee the consequences of a vote to leave, but there are Conservative MPs who have suggested that he won’t have the opportunity to do that. Might he throw the dice and have a vote of confidence among members of his own party, or would that be too high risk? Continue reading

Turn out or else: do referendum campaigns actually change voters’ minds?

Ros TaylorOver £9m has been spent on leaflets for all British household outlining the arguments in favour of remaining in the EU. But do campaign activities actually sway voters in referendums? Would campaigners do best to try to change minds, or simply motivate their supporters to turn out at the polls? Which arguments will prove decisive? Sara Hobolt, Professor at the LSE European Institute, and Sara Hagemann, Assistant Professor at the LSE European Institute, report on the expert evidence gathered at the eighth LSE Commission on the Future of Britain in Europe.

Looking at the development in vote intentions ahead of the upcoming referendum on UK membership of the EU, it is tempting to conclude that the campaign makes no real difference. The authoritative EU Referendum Poll of Polls, compiled by Professor John Curtice, shows remarkably little movement in aggregate public opinion. The race is too close to call, with the Remain side slightly in the lead in telephone polls and the Leave side ahead in most online polls. So does this static picture mean that campaigners’ efforts are in vain? Continue reading

Who will offer a winning vision of immigration after the referendum?

immigrationSteven Ballinger, Director of Communications for British Future, says Brexit campaigners have yet to offer credible visions on immigration that address voters concerns while also acknowledging certain realities. Whichever side does so will greatly improve their chances in June. This piece is part of the UCL European Institute’s commissioning partnership with openDemocracy.

Immigration is not the only issue in the EU referendum – it is not even the top issue for most voters, according to ICM research for British Future’s recent publication How (not) to talk about Europe. But it is still probably fair to say that the main reason we are having a referendum on Britain’s EU membership is, in a word, immigration. The issue remains more salient and more important to the public than the EU itself. Ask most people to describe how the EU affects them and the issues of free movement and immigration are those most likely to come up. Continue reading