Brexit: How Should Britain Vote?

The Houses of Parliament in London, Britain, February 22. Britain faces a historic choice. Luke Macgregor/Reuters

The Out campaign has peaked
Peter Kellner, President of YouGov

Support for the Out [or Leave] campaign may have peaked. Over the past year, when people have been asked how they would vote in the EU referendum, the question in their minds is: "Do you like Brussels?" And the answer for many is no. As the referendum draws closer, increasingly people will look at the alternative—what might life be like outside the EU? The perceived risks of Brexit will start to weigh more on people's minds. If you look at the results of constitutional referendum around the world, there is a clear pattern.

Normally what you see is the status quo gaining as voting day approaches. Take for example Quebec's failed 1995 bid for independence from Canada, Australia's 1999 referendum on becoming a republic, and the two referendums on Scottish independence in 1979 and 2014, and you see that when a country is divided the status quo normally triumphs. If there was a real likelihood of us exiting the EU there would need to be a double digit lead for Out now, which there isn't and I don't expect there to be. But a crisis involving the Syrian refugees or the economic woes of the eurozone could still erupt two or three weeks before votes are cast on June 23, which could leave people thinking that it's riskier to stay in the EU than it is to come out. All else being equal, I think we will vote to stay in, but I'm not fully confident that all else will be equal.

We need a third way
Yanis Varoufakis, former Greek finance minister, speaking at the launch of the Good Europe campaign.

"David Cameron came back with the mother of all euro-fudges to address…an electorate that is sick and tired of euro-fudges. So there is a delicious irony there... The Euroskeptics have a legitimate case. Those who...come to the conclusion that Britain is better off outside the European Union due to their commitment to the sovereignty of Parliament and so on, they have a very interesting case. [But] I disagree with them…because at the same time they want to be part of the single market. You cannot have a single market unless you have common industry standards. And you cannot have those common standards and a judiciary and a system of implementing those common standards unless you have pooled sovereignty.

"So in the referendum I would like to campaign for a third option, neither Brexit nor surrender to this euro-fudge of Cameron and his mates in the European Council.

"What we need to do is to explain to the average voter in this country…that either we're going to allow the disintegration of the European Union which is already happening, give it a push to happen faster…or we're going to have to create a democratic European Union.

"The third option that I would support is to stay in the European Union in order to fight tooth and nail against the anti-democratic institutions of the European Union."

Will Scotland vote tactically?
Serena Kutchinsky, Digital Editor of Newsweek Europe

The Brexit debate in Scotland unsurprisingly pivots around independence. The country's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has declared that a Leave vote would almost certainly trigger a second independence referendum if the majority of Scots had voted to stay in the EU. The polls appear to back up Sturgeon's position, with the Scots favoring remaining in Europe by a margin of around two-to-one—south of the border the race is much closer. But is there a chance that SNP supporters might vote tactically in order to achieve their end goal of independence? Despite the pro-EU message that Sturgeon is pushing, the former SNP leader, Gordon Wilson, recently said he was considering "voting strategically" for the U.K. to Leave. Taken further there are obvious contradictions between the SNP's nationalist stance and its desire to surrender sovereignty to the EU, which could persuade others to follow his lead. Regardless of the result, it looks like being a winning situation for Sturgeon and her party.

David Cameron's EU deal is all spin
Bill Cash, Conservative MP for Stone

The EU deal is a spin operation of very flimsy and insubstantial grounds. The government must accept that the renegotiation package as a whole is entirely dependent on an international agreement. That agreement is riddled with continuing legal and political uncertainties such that, because these uncertainties cannot be removed before the voters cast their vote, they will be, or feel, cheated if they rely on that package when they vote.

The bottom line is that, despite what the government says, the conclusions are not both legally binding and irreversible. There is no reference to irreversibility and that matters. It is important to read both our European Scrutiny Committee report on this matter and the evidence we took from the foreign secretary.

When the British voter goes to the polls on the basis of this package, they will want to have a guarantee that what has actually been negotiated will actually happen—and the answer is no, there is none.

After returning from Brussels, the prime minister went on to speak of the "illusion of sovereignty" when selling his renegotiation package, which is plainly inconsistent with our democracy and the sovereignty of this Parliament in the making of our laws, which under the European Communities Act are decided by an unelected commission, by majority vote of other countries, and by the European Court of Justice.

Could Greece be pushed out next?
​Vicky Pryce, chief economic adviser at the Centre for Economics and Business Research and author of "Greekonomics"

The U.K.'s renegotiation of its relationship with the rest of the EU and the referendum vote scheduled for June 23 are a test of the unity of Europe. That unity is already being tested by the migration crisis. And for the Greeks—struggling to contain the huge influx of refugees, a population objecting to yet more austerity measures imposed by its creditors, and a debt problem which they can't control—all this demonstrates that there is one rule for big countries and another one for small ones.

Italy and France are successfully pushing back the Commission's efforts to exercise tighter control over their fiscal stance. They seem able to cite pressure from increased costs from the influx of migrants, security concerns, or a combination of both but mostly because of the sheer need to get their economies moving again. From the Greek perspective it wouldn't be surprising if the U.K. concessions won by Cameron were viewed as another "big" country flexing its muscles and getting its way.

So signs of a multi-speed, "a la carte" Europe are multiplying. This might allow Greece to plead "special status" due to the migrant crisis that is threatening to overwhelm it. But the country has already been facing being shut out of Schengen in order to stop the westward march of refugees from Syria. The fear is that if Britain votes to leave this could lead to a move to a smaller, more integrated Europe without Greece and other periphery countries.

Is Greece ready to be out of the euro or the EU? Another headache for Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who is not having a particularly good time of late.

Boris Johnson's position lacks moral conviction
Sir Nicholas Soames, Conservative MP for Mid Sussex

I think it's a miracle what the European Union has achieved. At the end of the Second World War there were millions and millions of people across the continent who were displaced. Germany and most of France lay in smoking ruins. But they and the other countries of Europe have been rebuilt and now form part of the most successful trading bloc in the world. The EU can be frustrating, but it is a remarkable organization, and I wish Britain would stop shouting from the sidelines and get in there and provide a much more robust leadership position.

The main points in this upcoming referendum are not about whether we pay or don't pay benefits to Polish and Romanian people who come to work in this country. The prime minister's negotiation has worked out a perfectly satisfactory result on that. But this is about Britain's place in the world for the next 50 years. It's about our prosperity, our security, and our access to markets. Britain's reputation would be gravely damaged by us leaving.

I can't say any more than anyone else whether my grandfather Sir Winston Churchill would have voted to leave the European Union. It is extraordinarily irritating that people on both sides try to expropriate his name in support of their own case. But Churchill was an internationalist, he was a globalist, he was a passionate believer in free trade, in 1940 he even proposed that Britain and France should amalgamate their entire governments in the war. I think it's unlikely he would have thought it would be a good thing to leave.

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson's decision to campaign for a Leave vote is an extraordinary position because, as Boris has told me on many occasions, he is not an Outer. I think his position lacks any form of real moral conviction. Because of that he's going to find it very tough.

Britain has a slight crisis of confidence. It always thinks it is being done over by crafty foreigners. I want to see Britain play a much more positive leadership role in the European Union, and bring about reforms that will enable the Union to go forward in the globalized world. Fait courage.

We're better together
Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP for Brighton Pavillion

Speaking to Newsweek at the launch of the Good Europe campaign.

"I'm in favor of staying in because I think if you look at any of the big challenges we face as a country and as a world at the moment—whether that's the climate crisis, refugee crisis, [the] financial crisis—then it seems to me that we're going to be much more effective if we're working closely with our EU colleagues than if we separate off and think we can tackle those problems on our own.

"I certainly think the advantages of the EU are seen in starker relief when you've got a Conservative government that is pursuing a massively deregulatory agenda at home and is indeed trying to pursue that in Europe as well… But I would still be arguing that in terms of tackling the challenges we face today, so many of them are cross-border challenges. It is much more effective to be doing that when you're working with others.

"There needs to be a distinction between the EU institutions and the current incumbents who are primarily right-wing governments. The transatlantic trade and investment partnership [TTIP] is often used as a reason for people on the left saying we should leave the EU, and one of the things I'm pointing out is that Cameron himself is one of the biggest cheerleaders for TTIP. Indeed that investor-state dispute settlement mechanism, which is the element that people find most troubling, the idea that private corporations can take democratically elected governments to court, that is something that Cameron is trying to insert in…agreements, bilaterally anyway. So the idea that we would have this nice cuddly trade policy if we left the EU and were bilaterally negotiating I think is a fantasy.

"Yes [the EU] needs reform, it needs to be made more accountable and democratic. But you know what? So does the House of Commons. I haven't noticed any of the Brexit campaigners proposing to leave the House of Commons because it's not democratic enough. Let's work with others to reform it."

Editor's pick

Newsweek cover
  • Newsweek magazine delivered to your door
  • Unlimited access to
  • Ad free experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts
Newsweek cover
  • Unlimited access to
  • Ad free experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts