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Brexit into ORBit?


The Independent:

The campaign to take Britain out of the EU has opened up a remarkable 10-point lead over the Remain camp, according to an exclusive poll for The Independent. The survey of 2,000 people by ORB found that 55 per cent believe the UK should leave the EU (up four points since our last poll in April), while 45 per cent want it to remain (down four points). These figures are weighted to take account of people’s likelihood to vote. It is by far the biggest lead the Leave camp has enjoyed since ORB began polling the EU issue for The Independent a year ago, when it was Remain who enjoyed a 10-point lead. Now the tables have turned. Even when the findings are not weighted for turnout, Leave is on 53 per cent (up three points since April) and Remain on 47 per cent (down three). The online poll, taken on Wednesday and Thursday, suggests the Out camp has achieved momentum at the critical time ahead of the 23 June referendum.

It’s an encouraging number, not least because the poll was (it seems) largely taken before Thursday night’s Brexit debate on TV, a debate the Brexiteers are  thought to have won. But it is only one poll, and one from a polling company (ORB) that is less experienced in UK politics than many of its competitors. It was also an online poll, and those have been more likely to show a Brexit vote than their telephone equivalent. Nevertheless the trend in ORB’s polling is interesting (as a comparison of like with like) and what it shows is a swing in favor of Britain quitting the EU.

FWIW, Vote Leave (the ‘official’ Brexit campaigning group) is saying that its data suggests  that opinion divides “closer to 50-50”. Then again, it has good tactical reasons to downplay talk of a surge with almost two weeks of campaigning still to go.

What may be happening is that Labour voters are beginning to move into the Brexit camp. Labour’s leadership supports British membership of  the EU, but that’s certainly not a view shared by a portion of the party’s traditional working class supporters.  Some of them, less than thrilled by the impact of mass immigration, have been eyeing UKIP (a party that wraps euroskepticism and immigration-skepticism into one package) in recent years, a compliment that UKIP has repaid by drifting some way away from the neo-Thatcherism of its earlier years.

The Independent:

The results will heighten fears in the Remain campaign that it is losing ground among Labour supporters, who are seen as critical to securing victory for it.  According to ORB, 56 per cent of people who voted for Labour at last year’s general election now back Remain when turnout is taken into account, but a dangerously high 44 per cent support Leave. Only 38 per cent of Tory voters endorse David Cameron’s stance by backing Remain, while 62 per cent support Leave.

In a possible sign of a shifting mood, John Mann, a Labour MP not known for his fondness for Jeremy Corbyn, the party’s hard left leader (who is currently making a poor job of feigning enthusiasm for the  EU), has announced he  will vote for Brexit.


Labour MP John Mann has said he will vote to leave the EU and says Labour voters “fundamentally disagree” with the party’s official position.He told the BBC the EU was “broken” and “undemocratic” and told the Sun many Labour councillors would “shock” Westminster with their referendum vote…

But Mr Mann told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It’s not that Labour’s not getting its message across to Labour voters, it’s that Labour voters are fundamentally disagreeing on this issue.”

…He said he had tried putting the case for and against in public meetings but had “found it impossible to argue the case for because the EU’s fundamentally broken, it’s undemocratic and even when you want to get changes – as David Cameron tried – you can’t get them”

Writing in the Sun, Mr Mann said many Labour councillors would “shock” Westminster with their referendum vote and said a “people’s revolution is under way” which was about “returning power to the people”. He wrote: “It is not sustainable to have 300,000 new people added to the population every year. It has created two kinds of people in this country: the people who gain from this and the people who lose out.”

Note the reference to immigration.

Mann was joined in the Brexit camp by Dennis Skinner, a veteran MP from Labour’s hard left, who has been opposed to the EU since the days it was mis-sold in the UK as little more than a ‘Common Market’

“My opposition from the very beginning has been on the lines that fighting capitalism state-by-state is hard enough. It’s even harder when you’re fighting it on the basis of eight states, 10 states and now 28.

Okey dokey.

We’ll have to see if the ORB poll proves to be an outlier. If it does not, what it suggests is that the immigration issuing is helping the Leave campaign more (and incoherence over how a post-Brexit Britain would work is hurting it less) than might have been thought. It also suggests that Cameron’s ‘Project Fear’ (trying to scare people into the Bremain camp) has not worked as well as it might (if anything, it’s backfiring, wrecking Cameron’s credibility as it does so). Indeed, one nugget to emerge from the ORB data is the widespread acceptance that leaving the EU poses some (economic) risk, but it’s a risk that (if this poll is correct) that most voters are prepared to take.

One point to consider: Most voters continue to believe that the Remain side will win (according to the ORB poll, 52 percent feel that way). And the bookies (an essential resource in any UK campaign) are saying the same  thing.  If Brits start to believe that Brexit is becoming a  real possibility, will they start to fret more about risk?

This analysis of past British referenda  by journalist, political analyst and pollster Peter Kellner would suggests that they will.

He notes:

Some people who take an interest in the referendum issue are unhappy with the way things are and tell pollsters until the last week or two that they support change. It is a cost-free way to express dissatisfaction. (Much the same often happens in mid-term by-elections, when the government of the day suffers a big adverse swing: voters have the chance to protest without having to worry that their vote will hand power to the opposition. However, when referendum day approaches, they think not just about the status quo and what’s wrong with it, but about the alternative. Some voters decide that, on balance, change carries risks that they would prefer to avoid. They draw back from the cliff edge and vote for the status quo.

An American friend emails me from London:

Mood here: ” I’m for Brexit, but am scared and may change my mind”.

The vote is not until June 23. I’ll stick with my view of a narrowish win by Bremain in the end. Nevertheless, the notion that momentum is moving in Brexit’s way is credible, and if the ‘out’ campaign can build a consistent (say) five percentage lead in the polls, well…

And imagine if the Leave campaign could align itself with exit plans designed to reassure the nervous center…


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