They called it wrong again.
‘sheet poll number cruncher Shane Heneghan writes
Firstly, in the interests of full disclosure let me just say that I was spectacularly wrong about this. I predicted a remain vote of about 52%. The voters gave me the exact opposite result.
When the dust settles, the fact that this was the second major failure in a row of the British polling industry, a country where the polls are traditionally remarkably reliable, should be dealt with but at the moment that is way down our list of considerations.
Let’s just take a step back for a minute and look at what happened.
This situation we are in now is unprecedented and no one can seriously tell you what will happen next. Anyone who says they can is a liar and probably has a very specific agenda.
But for the sake of argument ‘ll go through some of the hypothetical models of Britain’s future that have been going through my head in the past while:
The Norwegian-Icelandic Model
This involves joining the European Economic Area and would leave the UK in a close economic relationship with the EU while giving them an emergency break on freedom of movement and removing them from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. The UK would also lose it’s right to appoint a commissioner, elect MEPs and send ministers to the Council of the European Union and still have to pay handsomely into the EU budget while receiving little or no benefit.
The Swiss Model
Much the same as the above only in this case the relationship would be governed by a series of bi-lateral treaties. I think this is the most likely outcome as it gives the UK much more flexibility.
(It is important to note that the above two options involve membership of the Schengen passport free zone which I am assuming Britain will continue to avoid like the plague.)
The Singapore model
In short, this involves the UK being treated as if it were a third country completely detached from Europe. It implies that tariffs and customs inspections would again applied to goods traded between the rest of Europe and the UK. This is by far the most radical option and in many ways the least likely given the close nature of the vote.
There are a few other things to keep in mind in the next few days.
1) Corbyn has got to go
A man who leads his party in a referendum and fails to convince great swathes of his electoral base of his position will probably have to do the honourable thing sooner or later. A leadership election will almost certainly be triggered by the Parliamentary Labour party in the next few days. The shadow cabinet is already in disarray and the departure of Hilary Benn does not help.
2) This vote is not binding.
The British Parliament is literally the beginning and the end of UK democracy. Referendums have no legal status and if the House of Commons votes to ignore this referendum in the morning then it’s dead in the water. Of course, even if this is entirely legally plausible, it is more or less politically impossible and would probably lead to UKIP forming an armed militia within about six months.
A slightly more likely prospect would be if a new moderate Labour party leader won an election before the exit negotiations concluded on a platform of maintaining full membership. That may sound unlikely but there is a solid 48% voters that feel hard done by and a sliver of the winning side with buyers remorse who may back them and when you factor in that the Conservative party is almost certainly going to lurch towards the right after Cameron leaves them it just might make this scenario a runner.
3) A northern Irish border poll really is a non starter.
We have already seen how the Democratic Unionist Party have moved heaven and earth to stop gay marriage being introduced to Northern Ireland- imagine the effort they would mount to stop a vote on Irish unity. Sinn Féin can hardly be blamed for raising the idea- what else are they for? But the relative silence of the SDLP is also telling. This issue simply is not on the table at the moment despite the North’s difference of opinion with mainland Britain. Things may change if Scotland votes for independence.
4) Britain may drift ideologically into the Atlantic
Future right wing governments in Britain may not be bound by EU social legislation and may slash “red tape” such as maternity leave, paid holidays, anti discrimination rules and other such nonsense dreamed up by water cooler dictators in Brussels. In terms of foreign policy in general they will be even more dependant on the so called “special relationship” with the Americans- how reciprocal that relationship is anyone’s guess.
Finally, I don’t like historical hypotheticals but I can’t help but speculate that John Major should have held a referendum on the Maastricht treaty in 1991.
Presumably, he could have won and used it to silence “the bastards” in his party while nipping the rising tide of Euroscepticism in the bud. This would have probably solidified his premiership more so than his eventual “Back me or sack me” leadership contest.
He didn’t and UKIP was founded in 1994.
Shane Heneghan is a Brussels-based election and poll watcher. Follow Shane on Twitter