On Monday, I wrote about the reasons to feel optimistic about Britain’s future. Put simply, this is a Great country. So, although we are currently sliding down the world rankings across a range of measures – education, manufacturing output, living standards – there is no reason why that trend could not, with the right policies, be reversed.
And top of the list of ‘right policies’ is an exit from the European Union. But can we be so sure of an imminent Brexit?
On the face of it, the polling looks encouraging. Two polls (ICM and the Independent on Sunday) back in May showed that 46% of the public are in favour of a British exit, versus 25 – 30% who would vote to stay in, with the remainder undecided. That puts the lead for the out campaign at a reasonable 16 – 21%. However, all is not quite as rosy as it seems – if some (unspecified) powers are returned to Britain, that lead drops away with 43% now favouring staying in the EU, versus just 23% who would still want to come out. These results have stayed remarkably stable despite all the debate over Europe and UKIP’s roaring success this year – a YouGov poll in June 2012 found very similar figures.
Even if renegotiation is proved to be futile, the 16 point lead is still alarmingly close. Why? Because the establishment in both government and the media will pour resources into the ‘In’ campaign, which could well make all the difference. As EUReferendum.com reminded us earlier this year:
“[A] private poll conducted for the Labour Party in August 1974, showed that, should there be a referendum on membership of the Common Market, 50 percent would vote to leave, against 32 percent who would vote to stay in, a “huge” lead of 18 points.
“At around the same time, Gallup confirmed these proportions, with a poll coming out at 47-30 percent in favour of leaving, giving a lead of 17 percent, almost exactly the same as the ICM poll. And, as we well know, nearly a year later in 1975, 67.2 percent voted to stay in the EEC, while those voting to leave had fallen to 32.8 percent – a lead of over 34 percent in favour of staying in, representing a swing of over fifty percent.”
So the Eurosceptic movement already has it’s work cut out. But further problems may yet confound the ‘Out’ campaign: namely, the infighting between eurosceptics over strategy. Cranmer possibly came on a little strong when he wrote:
“Yet until Euroscepticism speaks with one voice – or at least unifies around a single immediate objective – it cannot lead us to the Promised Land. Not least because, for some, that land is Canaan, while for others it is Palestine, and still others prefer to call it Israel, each with its own historic narrative, unique theology and socio-political expression. … The Eurosceptic ‘movement’ (if it be) is fundamentally a clash of gargantuan egos, none of whom will deign to cooperate or collaborate with their co-Eurosceptics, principally out of a lack of trust, belief or respect. … If a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand: the referendum may already be lost.”
but his scathing words are all the more caustic for containing some pertinent truths.
A casual Google of the term ‘EU referendum out campaign’ brings up results for The People’s Pledge, Better Off Out, Democracy Movement, Campaign for an Independent Britain, and more, and those are just the organisations dedicated to the EU question. On top of that, The Freedom Association, the Taxpayers Alliance, the Bruges Group, and a dozen others share in the desire for an independent Britain.
The people in these organisations work hard and are passionate about the need to leave the EU. But if all of these groups and organisations pooled their resources, financial and human, and put as much effort into working together as they do in competing with each other, we might be much further along in our efforts to secure a resounding victory for the Out campaign. So far, there is no Out campaign – or at least, not in the minds of the public, who are confused by the myriad offerings.
On the political front, this also means the Conservatives coming to terms with the fact that UKIP is a fully functioning political party, and that we’re here to stay. But in return, we UKIPers must concede that the Conservatives are, for the time being, the more entrenched party, and that we may need to work with some Conservatives on this issue if we want to secure a prosperous future for our country and our children.
I don’t support the Unite the Right campaign for one simple reason: UKIP’s manifesto differs significantly from the Conservatives on a whole slew of policy matters: education, tax, welfare, immigration, energy – the list goes on. We are two parties, and the electorate should have a full and proper menu of options in a democracy.
But Euroscepticism doesn’t of itself constitute either of our parties plaforms. It crosses party boundaries and aligns a whole slew of organisations. As the singular most important issue of out times, it deserves to unite all those who understand the need to leave the overbearing, illiberal European Union. We must stand united, or Britain will fall.