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UK: Brexit or Not? 10 Clues to Tell

Just a month to go and still no one knows whether Brexit will happen. Ten pointers to look for in revealing the outcome.

May 17, 2016

Just a month to go and still no one knows whether Brexit will happen. Ten pointers to look for in revealing the outcome.

Just a month to go and still no-one knows whether Brexit will happen. The tension, expressed by vivid exaggerated language in both camps, is palpable.

Prime Minister David Cameron says Europe could revert to war if Britain votes out. The chief Tory Brexit spokesman, Boris Johnson, says the EU like Hitler wants a superstate.

Each camp is certain of its case but neither is winning new converts. In the middle is an electorate, which is showing no interest at all in the debate.

So what the signs to look for in deciding what the outcome may be? Here are 10 pointers:

1. Forget the politicians

In the just concluded elections for the Mayor of London, Scottish Assembly and English city councils, all political leaders lost.

David Cameron was humiliated in London where he invested massively in highly personalized attacks on the new Mayor, Sadiq Khan, in the House of Commons.

Londoners ignored their Prime Minister and swung behind Khan.

In Scotland, the cradle nation of the Labour Party, voters who preferred the Tory party as the official opposition to the Scottish Nationalists, repudiated Jeremy Corbyn. But the SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon failed in getting a majority and, like for UKIP’s Nigel Farage, her vote went down. So the electorate is not exactly listening to political leaders.

2. The polls don’t tell us anything – yet

Online polls tend to show a small Brexit majority, telephone polls a win for Remain. But the pollsters have never done a vote like this before, so are sailing blind in deciding their panels.

The BBC will not do an exit poll at 10 p.m. when polls close on June 23 because their polling experts say they cannot draw up a reliable panel of people that is guaranteed to reflect the final result.

3. The BBC is no help

Its tradition of even-handed balance — offering precisely equal time to each party in political elections — does not work in an existential plebiscite. Each morning, both camps make outlandish claims and the BBC faithfully reports what either side says.

But it has given up on fact-checking, so the Leavers are allowed to say the EU makes most of UK laws.

This will surprise the Queen who will soon read out the government’s legislative program for the next 12 months and believes that the bills she says will be legislation are written in Whitehall and enacted in Westminster.

4. Go to the pubs and clubs

The London Brexit chattering class bubble gets all the attention. But the referendum will be decided by chit-chats during golf games, in working men clubs and in pubs where British political opinion is formed over a pint.

5. Tot up the column inches multiplied by readers

To be sure, social media is vital, but most of what is put on Facebook or Twitter starts with what someone had read in a paper, especially the throw-away free papers read on commuter journeys. Most of those like bold easy headlines that suits the Leavers.

Too much of the Remain camp’s output reads like an op-ed for the Financial Times or the Guardian – good for its own audience, but no further.

The big selling tabloids like the Sun and Daily Mail are filling pages with Leave news and comments, as is the best-selling broadsheet the Daily Telegraph.

6. Count the lost voters

800,000 mainly young voters have been removed from the electoral register in an over-reaction following politically hyped-up complaints about voter fraud in local elections.

A further two million UK citizens living in Europe — and the ones most directly impacted by a Brexit decision — have been denied the right to vote by British judges who have again interpreted existing voting law in a narrow and restrictive way.

7. Watch the money

The Leavers have raised more money than the Remainers. It is not much more £8.1 million to £7.6 million, but as with the 7% shift to Brexit amongst CEOs of small business in the British Chamber of Commerce, there is no sign yet of business moving en masse for Remain.

8. Pay attention to the Tory Civil War

Two of David Cameron’s predecessors as Conservative Party Leader, Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Howard, are campaigning for Brexit.

From the first day, they have sought to diminish and denigrate Cameron — so that he has no authority left as the elected leader of Britain.

Even those Euroskeptic Tories like the Home Secretary Teresa May, who is nominally loyal to the official UK government’s desire to stay in the EU, has called for a withdrawal from the European Convention of Human Rights and the Council of Europe.

Ambitious Tories are positioning for the succession battle as win or lose Cameron will not run in the next election.

9. A yellow card for Brexit?

Ten east European member states plus Denmark are objecting to a revision of the EU’s posted worker directive which says workers should be paid at the going wage rate of the country they work in.

One of the biggest reasons for left or trade union support for Brexit is to raise wage levels and stop millions of low-wage East European immigrants arriving in the UK undercutting the pay of British workers.

This so-called Yellow Card initiative is a gift to Leavians.

10. Look at age

The old are far more likely to be Leavers than the young. They also have the habit of voting and are likely to be at home to vote, while the young may have decamped to France for Euro 2016 which starts on June 10.

There is no match scheduled for referendum day June 23. Perhaps by then, England will have been booted out of Euro 2016 and voters back home can take their revenge by booting Europe out of Britain.


With just a month to go and still no-one knows whether #Brexit will happen.

In the just concluded elections for London, Scotland and English city councils, all parties lost.

The BBC is ill-equipped to report on an existential vote like Brexit, repeating all claims as fact.

Brexit opponents within the Prime Minister's own party are working to destroy any authority he has.