Snap referendum, but with what kind of result?


Cameron discussing with Tusk. Photo.

The President of the European Council Donald Tusk is to announce a draft deal thrashed out between EU officials and UK Prime Minister David Cameron today.

The deal is said to include a “red card” system, meaning EU laws which are objected to by 55% of national parliaments in the bloc will be halted.

If a deal is secured in the European Council Summit on 18-19 February, the likely date of an EU in-out referendum would be Thursday 23 June.

For anyone who was in Scotland during the two-and-a-half years of campaigning that was the independence referendum of 2014, a mere four months seems like a very short amount of time to build up a secure base to support either side.

Those who remember the devolution referendum of 1979 may remember the timing of the vote was quite rushed: there was no public information campaign; the campaign was held through winter; there was an economic crisis at the time; and the vote was almost a last minute decision.

This was all to encourage a relatively poor turnout in the referendum, helped by the 40% rule.

This is a similar feeling we are having now, whereby the timescale for a solid local-national campaign being very tight. Perhaps the Prime Minister hopes for a knee-jerk vote, hoping to just placate those eurosceptics in the party pressing for a referendum.

What kind of knee-jerk reaction could we expect, though? At the moment, there is very little indication as to which way the British public might vote, with the current polls indicating very little gap between either side.

The last YouGov poll showed a 4-point gap between Leave and Stay, with Leave sitting at 42%, and Stay at 38%.

It is difficult to predict the outcome, and even Cameron’s position is somewhat indefinable but for now we can assume he supports a reformed EU situation.

Of course, the information that can be conveyed to ensure an educated vote in four months is unlikely to be enough to do so. A knee-jerk vote could result in the kind of result many fear: England votes to leave, while the other three nations vote to stay.

That is a crisis situation, and goodness knows what could happen.



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