Predictions: Early EU referendum for 2016? Britain would still say no

says that he predicts no Brexit, no referendum in 2016

The UK and EU flags side by side. Image: Dave Kellam

The UK and EU flags side by side. Image: Dave Kellam

With a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union promised by David Cameron to take place before the end of 2017, unproductive negotiations have rendered a vote this year unlikely – despite what opposition figures and Tory backbenchers have proposed. Similarly, the result is looking to be just as mundane, no matter how close the polling may seem.

It took the political arena by storm in May when Andy Burnham, then the frontrunner for the Labour leadership, called on the Prime Minister to bring forward the newly mandated EU referendum to 2016. Denouncing party policy in a bid to demonstrate economic credibility, he cited the possibility of a Brexit as “the most fundamental problem facing British business right now”.

speculation runs rife, with HSBC having suggested it would vacate the UK in the event of a Brexit

There is indeed a surmounting case for an early referendum: as speculation runs rife, with HSBC having suggested it would vacate the UK in the event of a Brexit, the Prime Minister would seemingly be compelled to provide reassurance to multinationals operating in Britain. Crucially, a great number of them have become reliant on the free movement of capital within the EU.

However, renegotiations with European leaders have so far resulted in stalemates. Although the process has been held in secret, the Telegraph exclusively revealed last month that Cameron “will campaign to leave” if his demands of curbing in-work migrant benefits are not met. That the renegotiation process has already been reduced to the Prime Minister’s last resort, suggests the need for an embarrassing change of strategy as his diplomacy falters. To end the renegotiation process now would bind Cameron to abandoning his vision and legacy of a reformed Europe.

were such a referendum to take place today, trends indicate that the UK would vote to remain

Nonetheless, were such a referendum to take place today, trends indicate that the UK would vote to remain. Although polling last month by ICM put the possibility of both remaining and leaving the EU neck and neck, opinion polls tend to underestimate support for the existing status quo – as evidenced in both the Scottish Independence referendum and the general election.

So expect the expected in 2016 – no matter how anticlimactic that may be.

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