The Brexit Debate



By Barry Edwards

The Brexit Debate

There have been various events that have occurred over the last week that have some relevance to the EU referendum debate, referred to as ‘Brexit’ by the media. Although each event is not specifically about ‘Brexit’ the decisions made do influence how people may decide to vote when the referendum finally happens.

This week the Scottish National Party (SNP) had their annual conference where the leader dismissed the likelihood of another independence referendum until there was a definite sign that those who voted ‘no’ have changed their minds. At this time, there is no sign that there has been a swing but the media immediately picked up on the point that if the UK votes to leave the EU, the SNP may hold another referendum since they would recommend staying in the EU.

Whether this suggests that tactics would be employed in the EU referendum is a moot point but it is feasible that many Scottish Nationalists would vote ‘No’ to force another referendum in Scotland. This would make Scotland fertile ground for those who wish to leave the EU and they may well achieve some success if they play this well.

Another event this week was the agreement with Turkey about managing the refugees that enter the country and attempt to cross the border to the EU. The terms have three main points; the talks that were suspended concerning the Turkish application to join the EU are to be restarted immediately. Turkish citizens will have visa privileges to enter the EU after 2016, subject to all countries agreeing, and funds to provide proper amenities in Turkey to encourage refugees to stay in the country prior to returning to Syria and other countries nearby when the conflict is over. The conditions of the agreement stipulate that any refugees accepting the support provided would agree not to enter the EU and if they did they would be repatriated back to Turkey.

The implication here is that this would eventually add another 76 million Turkish people to the EU population with the right to move to any other country they choose. It is not difficult to see how the anti EU group would manipulate this point when they discuss this subject in the debate that will precede the referendum.

The third announcement this week was from David Cameron who confirmed that he will set out the terms of his renegotiation with the other EU countries by early November ready for the EU summit in December. The EU leaders insisted they could not renegotiate without clear terms in writing which forces his hand to finally make clear what he is actually trying to achieve. Everyone has been waiting for him to do this especially the anti EU group who believe it will confirm their view that what is achievable will not satisfy those who wish to leave. Many commentators believe they are right and that it will cause a problem for the pro EU group to argue their case successfully.

For this week alone that is three nil to the ‘No’ camp in my opinion putting a lot more pressure on the ‘Yes’ camp to persuade enough people to side with them when they do start promoting their cause. It is the nature of these debates that when enough people are exposed to negative publicity, it is hard to change their minds. The pro EU campaign is going to have to be much more aggressive in their approach to counter the ‘anti’ publicity to convince people to vote ‘Yes’.

It is clear David Cameron wishes to bring forward the date for the referendum to counteract the doubt that is gradually gaining credibility amongst the electorate which has been allowed to influence public opinion. He believes that a short time frame for discussion will favour the pro campaign once the reasons for staying in are fully explained. If there are more weeks like this one the counter argument will struggle to win the day.

That’s all for this week, more observations next week.