Politics Foreign Affairs Culture

‘Brexit’ Is Looking More Likely

Cameron and his allies have to start worrying that they have failed.
David Cameron

Tom Goodenough points to new polling that shows the Leave side leading the EU referendum in the U.K.:

If the polls this morning are anything to go by, the momentum for Brexit is building: an ITV poll for Good Morning Britain shows 45 per cent of voters planning on voting out, compared to 41 per cent who wanted the UK to remain in the EU. The poll is significant because it shows that in the purdah period in the final run-up to the referendum on June 23rd, the ‘Leave’ campaign’s support is growing. What’s more, a separate poll survey by TNS showed ‘Leave’ on 43 per cent compared to 41 per cent backing ‘Remain’.

He mentions later that a third poll from ICM shows Leave leading 48-43%. These are small leads, and they may not last, but they do show that the Leave campaign has gained in recent weeks. Supporters of exiting the EU have a small chance of prevailing two and a half weeks from now. The conventional wisdom is that on votes like this undecided voters tend to break for the status quo option, but so far that doesn’t seem to be the case. Remain may end up pulling ahead as the referendum draws closer, but for the moment the opposite appear to be happening. The Leave campaign has to be encouraged that its message seems to be having more appeal than Cameron’s desperate fear-mongering, but there is also the danger that this polling lead for Leave will mobilize Remain supporters that might have otherwise not voted. Both campaigns assume that low turnout will benefit the more motivated supporters of “Brexit,” and polls showing that Leave really could win will probably drive up turnout. The news that Leave is succeeding could end up causing them to lose. Even so, Leave is in a better position than they were earlier this spring, and Cameron and his allies have to start worrying that they have failed.

Personally, I am hoping that the Remain campaign loses. The EU is famously lacking in democratic accountability. If the only way to hold its institutions and leaders in check is by the threat of leaving, at some point one or more of its members has to make good on the threat to leave. Whatever the short-term economic disruption of withdrawing from the EU may be (and I assume there will be some), the case for leaving has always been a political one concerned with the ability of the governed to hold their government to account for what it does. British voters can’t fully do that right now as part of the EU. The Remain campaign has had to resort to constant fear-mongering because it cannot make a positive case for staying a part of a dysfunctional transnational organization for which almost no one feels any real loyalty or affection, and so it has to conjure up nightmare scenarios to frighten voters to their side.

Whatever the result is on June 23, the U.S. should aim to maintain good relations with the U.K. If Britain votes to leave, the U.S. should do what it can within reason to help make the transition easier, and we should do so in recognition that our relationship with the U.K. is a long, well-established, and close one that long predates the EU.



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