Saturday, 12 August 2017

Brexit: The Spectrum of Views and the Implications

Why is this important? Read down
The referendum last year gave the UK electorate two options, Leave or Remain in the EU.  But there's actually a number of options, variously called, 'Hard Brexit', 'Clean Brexit', 'Soft Brexit' and 'Half Brexit'.  There's also a spectrum of views about the EU.  It's interesting to consider what option might be most popular.

In talking to people they tend to be in one of three broad groups:
  • Anti-EU, very keen to Leave, often called Brexiters
  • Pro-EU, very keen to Remain.  They might be seen waving a blue EU flag, or be prepared to do so
  • A group in between, torn in their mind between the advantages of being in the EU and what they see as the disadvantages.  Their final Leave/Remain decision may only have been made by their heart, even only once in the polling booth itself.
There have been various attempts to try to understand why people voted Leave or Remain.  Here is mine, followed by the implications.  It is in three parts:
  1. The significance of the economy
  2. The significance of immigration control
  3. The spectrum of views on the EU and the implications


Usually an election is dominated by economic issues. It's "The economy, stupid".

VoteLeave's success in getting the result just over the 50% threshold was by promoting other issues such as "Let's Take Back Control" and the £350m on the bus for the NHS.  That figure was gross not net, so was an overstated lie.  It also carried the implication that there would be no economic hit from Brexit.  Any economic concerns and risks were countered with the expression "Project Fear".  The truer net figure on the bus, being over £100 million a week, would have had the same impact, perhaps.  Then the campaign would have been truly awesome.  Indeed a model for the future.

But what about the economy? We have to assume that economic issues are still of concern to people.  A recent poll has shown that some people are prepared for themselves and the country to take a financial hit to leave the EU.  But conversely most people are not.


One big issue of the Referendum campaign was controlling borders to reduce immigration.  That was stirred up by some of the print media, where the owners backed Brexit,

Immigration was certainly a major factor in the Leave vote in Labour heartlands in the north.  People there have seen a real practical impact of immigrants from Eastern Europe put extra strain on housing and jobs.

But in the south immigration has been more positive.  The coffee shops and hospitality industry generally is staffed with a high proportion of EU nationals, from both the west and east of the EU.  Yet some areas, especially around the Kent and Essex coast, have regarded immigration as a concern.

Farming has become increasingly dependent on EU nationals for harvest, be it Lincolnshire, Kent or elsewhere around the UK. In Kent, traditional reliance on people coming down from East London for the summer has been replaced by a reliance on EU nationals., This season Brexit has already made getting workers far more difficult.

One of the reasons is the devaluation of the Pound Sterling against the Euro since the referendum. Down some 15-20%.  That's a lot.  This recognises the likely negative econiomic impact of Brexit.  In practice it is helping exporters, but hitting all of us with higher prices on imported goods, especially food. There's also a practical impact on EU workers.

Any EU nationals working in the UK who are sending money home or hoping to save money to take home have been hit hard.  Those already here are moving elsewhere in the EU or planning to do so. Those who might have come here to replace them won't. The impact on hospitality, farms, the NHS and much else is only just hitting, and in some cases could be catastrophic.  Staff shortages, rising staff costs, rising sales prices and some businesses forced to close. That impacts them and us, their customers.

In that respect, Brexit could have a serious negative effect on our way of life.

 There are also two other considerations:
  • The flip side of controlling EU immigration is the EU controlling Brits in the EU.  That can restrict the young wanting to live and work on the continent.  It also impacts those who have retired to the Mediterranean and elsewhere, or are thinking of doing so.
  • Net immigration from non-EU countries alone has been running over the 100,000 a year total.  There is no evidence that having equivalent control over EU immigration would have any great impact.  That makes immigration control somewhat of a red herring 
Immigration and "control of our borders" is therefore a complex subject.  It would appear that people have tended to vote Leave/Remain according to how it would affect them personally, rather than taking a more holistic view for the country as a whole.

It was only a recent poll comparing economic matters with border control that has made the following analysis possible.


The economic issues and immigration control have been in conflict.  To be part of the Single Market has required compliance with the four fundamental freedoms of movement of goods, services, financial capital and people. The EU has made it crystal clear that due to the UK's geographical proximity to the EU, a free trade deal will require ongoing compliance with the Freedom of Movement of people (FOM).  That is their red line.  It is ultimate and at least for now to be regarded as non-negotiable.  It would apply equally to remaining in the Single Market.

There has recently been a YouGov poll for the BBC that indicates people would prefer the UK to remain in the Single Market rather than  controlling UKborders by a ratio of over two to one.  Whist some other polls have implied a different answer, YouGov's direct findings seem most credible.  In my experience realistic.

So we can cover immigration by the attitude to the Single Market in an analysis in just two dimensions, without adding the complexity of a third dimension for immigration. .

Talking to people who are "pro-EU" they generally regard this to mean the following, which is the definition adopted throughout this blog:
  • Wanting the UK to become a state within the United States of Europe
  • Adopt the Euro in place of Pound Sterling
But that's not why many people voted to Remain.  Others are somewhat euro-sceptic.  Their priority is to collaborate with the EU for economic and other mutually advantageous purposes, but never lose the Pound. For others faced with this conflict, the final decision was to Leave.

We can therefore describe this spectrum of views in six groups thus:

Single Market
Embrace the EU
Clearly Remain
A little scepticism
Mildly Remain
Some scepticism
Mildly Leave
Somewhat more sceptical
Clearly Leave

Most views will follow a standard 'normal distribution' of support.  Experience suggests this is also the case for Brexit.  The standard looks like this, with the six groups mapped against it:
On that basis, over 68% of people would be in groups C and D, and 92% in B-E.

As with any issue, it is the two extereme groups F and A, Brexiters and Pro-EU, who shout loudest.  Twitter is full of them.  Their views need to be respected, from their own individual perspectives. But both groups are relatively few in number.

It is Group D that is of most interest.  Their euro-scepticism, and perhaps their attitude to border control has overridden any considerations of the economy.  But that was the positon back in 2016.  Now the negative economic impact of Brexit is becoming clearer, both nationally and to them personally. Perhaps noticing food prices rising, or their foreign holiday being much more expensive.  Their large number means only a small shift of people from group D to C would shift the 52:48 win for Leave to a public view clearly below 50%.

A poll conducted regularly by YouGov suggests Leave/Remain support is still split roughly equally, with 45% for Leave, 45% for Remain and 10% don't know. It's the next poll that will be interesting.  The economic matters may well push Leave support clearly down below 50% overall.

It is interesting to consider not two options but three:
  1. Leave the EU
  2. Remain in the Single Market, but otherwise leave the EU
  3. Remain in the EU
The normal distribution curve would suggest between 20:60:20 and 5:90:5.  In all cases that would mean support to remain in the Single Market over 50% of the total.


There are three key implications:
  1. The public would likely support remaining in the Single Market, but otherwise leaving the EU, by over 50%.  Hence the proposal for a Half Brexit
  2. In any case support for Leave is likely to fall below that of Remain.  So it's #HalfBrexit or #Haltbrexit
  3. Support for a new purely pro-EU political party may be strong from the pro-EU minority, but not from the country as a whole.  A new party that is anti-Brexit but not pro-EU would have broader support.  The Just Party.

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